Autistic teen filmmakers finalists for SXSW Fest

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CYPRESS, TX-- When you think of where movies are made, you think Hollywood, not Houston. But that's all changing at Langham Creek High School. A new film shot there is a finalist for Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival.

Senior Jared DeDonato directed the film after his mom gave him the idea for it. "You're seeing what the autistic kids see," says DeDonato who is autistic himself. "It's showing through the eyes of autistic kids."

Connor Slatton, who is featured in the film, says, "In a way, autism is an increase in your imagination. It's a bigger version of a normal person's imagination."

"I try to get all my students to do stories that they're passionate about," says Brandy Milson, who teaches Audio-Video Production at Langham Creek. "I knew that this could be something really special and give these boys the opportunity to share their voice with the world."

"I'm hoping that we will win," says producer Colin Kotara, whose autism causes him to speak at a slow, steady pace. "And I'm hoping that people will learn (what it means to be) autistic."

Rodolfo Castro, who is also featured in the film, says he wants people to see it but doesn't want it to make them sad, "We are like different... different like normal people. But we are the same."

"This (film) is a very big leap for us, for those with disabilities, whether it be autism, ADHD, Tourette's," says Slatton. "It's like when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, what they said when he landed: 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.'"

DeDonato agrees, "I would definitely recommend seeing the film. It'll change your perspective on what autistic kids are."

The teens will find out if SXSW accepts their five-minute film next week. If so, it will be part of festival in Austin that runs March 11 through 19.

Good luck, boys!

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