Catching Up with Alex and Blu Star Productions
Alex is a special educator and filmmaker from Dana Point, CA.
Alex was recently on our podcast, Adulting on the Spectrum where he talked about his work in both fields and why he is so passionate about giving back to the community that helped him become the individual he is today.
During our conversation, Alex introduced Blu Star Productions, a venture he founded to empower filmmakers with autism and neurodivergent individuals.
He describes Blu Star Productions as "a collective of artists with disabilities striving to produce content at the vanguard of the movement to create more inclusive and secure environments for all artists with disabilities."
On December 3, “Free Play” will come out. Alex is the director/producer of the documentary which is about the creation of Middle Tennessee’s largest all-inclusive playground.
Alex was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as a toddler and has been making slice-of-life documentaries during his undergraduate career.
We caught up with Alex on the documentary process.
What inspired you to make this film?
In March of 2021 I talked to a waitress and she said that her daughter went to the Susan Gray School on Vanderbilt's Peabody Campus, and they have an accessible playground. And I was like, “that's so cool. I've never heard of an accessible playground before.” And then I did some more research, and I found the amazing story of Karen West who spearheaded the Gallatin Miracle Park and we rolled from there. We just met a lot of amazing people in the Gallatin community. And I found some amazing film friends in the Nashville community and we made “Free Play,” happen based on The Miracle Park and the amazing story behind it up in Gallatin, Tennessee.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring filmmakers on the spectrum for starting out in this industry?
I think a big part of it is - and the mission of my company, Blu Star Productions - to break down those barriers because despite the raw talent of some individuals, unfortunately, there can be roadblocks and red tape in place for creators on the spectrum trying to get into meaningful roles. While I think that's kind of a bummer, times are changing and those barriers are going to hopefully dissipate.
And this could go for any filmmaker but especially those on the spectrum - don't be discouraged. If you put something out and it's not well received, if you still have the passion. Just keep going.
If you feel like it's not a good fit and your heart's not in it, move on to something else. As with any industry, your heart should be in it. Practice perseverance and you will see results. It might take some time, but you will see results and you will be proud of the journey.
Do you have a favorite moment from filming?
There's a moment where one of our subjects, a 12-year-old girl named Avery, is singing “This Girl is on Fire” by Alicia Keys. Her mom is talking to her about her hobby of singing and then it transitions into her singing and dancing. That hits me every time and I've seen the film about 20 times. She is in a state of bliss and it is such a pure moment. Even though it doesn't have to do with the park, it is amazing to watch.
Were there any special accommodations for the and crew on the spectrum during filming?
Across my crew, people like my cinematographer and my producer both have close relatives or friends that are in the disability community. I think having that personal connection helps in being sensitive to the like preferences and sensory preferences of our subjects and I think that helps make it feel comfortable. I take pride in making all my films, and especially this one, not feel like a high stress situation. I'm super happy and proud if the film gets good feedback, but I like to keep my film sets laid back and fun, that is the most important thing. It was a calming and relaxed environment.
How can people watch the film?
First, we are going to have a community screening out in Gallatin, Tennessee. From there, it is going to film festivals around the world. At some point it will be streaming on Vimeo or YouTube. Until then, if anyone would like a private link to check out, feel free to contact me and I would be happy to share.
To learn more about Blu Star Productions, check out their Instagram.