This Stirring Film Takes the Viewer Into the Mind of an Autistic Girl

U.K.'s National Autistic Society Worked With Don't Panic London

Published On
Mar 31, 2017

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A new film from the U.K.'s National Autistic Society recreates the feelings of a young autistic girl as she struggles to process overwhelming information.

The charity worked with creative agency Don't Panic (known for its hard-hitting charity films and PSAs) to make the film. A real life autistic girl, 12-year-old Holly, is cast in the the lead role and the film uses visual cues to recreate how she feels when multiple people speak to her and ask her questions throughout her day, as well as how she deals with sudden noises such as a dog barking. The same people, from a bus driver who innocently asks, "Going somewhere nice today?" to a motorbike rider who almost runs her over, keep appearing throughout the film, and their words displayed on screen start blurring into each other as she tries to process everything that's going on. Tomas Mankovsky at Knucklehead directed the spot.

Christopher Ross-Kellam, creative lead on the project at Don't Panic, said in a statement: "We needed to find a way to visually represent a struggle that was otherwise invisible. To depict this battle with insufficient processing time in an emotional way, whilst staying true to the experience. We made sure that each stage of the creative process was tested on, and run by, an autistic adult and/or child.'

According to the agency, Holly used the film as a way to tell friends and classmates about her autism for the very first time, leading a school assembly showing the first ever screening of the film in time for World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

Director Mankovsky said the team cast Holly through the NAS. It so happened that her dream is to become an actress and showed skills on the set. "She was good; as soon as camera rolled she got into character immediately," he said. A body double, however, was used at certain points "to save Holly's energy and not cause her unnecessary distress."

Don't Panic's previous work for the National Autistic Society has included a virtual reality film that recreates what it's like to be autistic, and another film that put the viewer in the shoes of an autistic person going for a job interview.