The Experienced Beginner
At the start Christa would tell people “I’ve never done anything like this.” And it’s a compelling notion—that a Mom with an idea for a children’s television show could make her own pilot from scratch.
She had to be reminded that she wasn’t a complete novice.¹
As a student at Northwestern University in the late 1980s, Christa was immersed in a culture of film and video makers, in a dorm that touted its own video editing facilities. Most every week offered the opportunity to work on (or act in) the no-budget brainchild of a film student down the hall.
Christa’s first project as producer and director was a comedic travelogue, taped with two friends at the Minnesota State Fair.
But by that time she had already appeared as a performer in more than a dozen projects by other people, including: a children’s television pilot.
Part 1: From Our Family to Yours
Our kid is sweet, smart, and funny. He’s also on the autism spectrum.
All we knew was he was awesome and he was ours.
Key to the boy’s core curriculum—starting from this early age—was an emphasis on social skills. This wasn’t instruction on courtesy or manners; it was something called social pragmatics. A cognitive approach to the kinds of social interactions that come naturally to
most many. Establishing eye contact. Taking turns in conversations. Greeting someone when they enter the room.
And because we loved talking about our child, and because this actually was pretty interesting stuff, we’d share details of what he was learning, and parents of other, “typical” children would say why doesn’t my child get that. My child could use that.
Around this time, too, Christa began blogging about our family and hyperlexia, about echolalia, about invisible disabilities, and about how hard it is to survive a birthday party with an autistic preschooler sometimes.
And so many parents—strangers she’d never met—responded in comments or privately, via email, saying that’s us too. Thank you for helping us realize we’re not alone in this.
We know that many struggle with forms of autism that separate them from the world around them, across chasms of language and awareness. But with who our son is, and how he is in the world, we were discovering new kinds of connection, with other kids, and other families.
And who he is is a little Abed Nadir. Decoding his interactions and relationships in life by referencing dialogue or moments from TV shows and movies that he loves.
And Christa wished out loud for a show that he could draw upon, for context and handy quotations to apply in his normal life, where there were relatively few steam engines, or spooky mysteries to solve, or swordsmen or wizards or Sith lords.
And she would want it to be a comedy. Because long before the word autism entered our house, our family had kept close through laughter.
She imagined that other families might connect to a show like this, too. Those who had diagnoses or labels, as well as those who struggled without them.
And she realized she would have to make it herself.
Continue reading Part 2, in which I share a bit Christa’s journey on the road to Executive Producer.