This Business Of Autism is a Strasburg Film Festival expository documentary film about the economic and societal benefits of employing young adults with autism. Spectrum Designs is a custom screen-printing and embroidery business located in Port Washington, New York. 75% of Spectrum Designs’ employees are on the autism spectrum.
Centered on the acquisition, renovation and launch of their new production facility, which will triple their production and staffing capacity, the film will address the positive impacts of developing profitable businesses while leveraging the unique capabilities of adults with autism. By confronting head-on the reality that an estimated 70% to 90% of these adults are unemployed or underemployed, these businesses can also provide large companies with an avenue for corporate social outreach, mitigate the economic impacts on local communities of housing and caring for adults with autism, and provide hope for families that their children might have sustainable, relevant and stimulating employment opportunities.
In addition to exploring the growth and success of Spectrum Designs, the film examines several other themes and initiatives from across the country. The Autism Job Club, a networking and support organization based in San Francisco, illustrates how their group has made significant progress in placing individuals on the spectrum in high-tech Silicon Valley jobs as well as other industries. Mercyhurst University’s Autism Initiative (AIM) program is helping their students acquire not only the hard skills central to their degree, but also the “soft skills” critical in networking and interviewing. The production team traveled to Erie, PA to conduct interviews with students and administrators, and then to New York City, NY to capture the team in action as they toured companies and conducted mock interviews.
Dr. Temple Grandin, a legend in the autism community, makes a special guest appearance in the film as do New York State Senator Elaine Phillips, former New York State Senator Jack Martins, Nassau County DA Madeline Singas, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, and the former California Director of Employment Development Department, Michael Bernick.
This Business of Autism will be shown on Friday, November the 9th at 1:00 PM at the Box Office Brewery. event pageTickets can be found on the film’s .
Director Biography – Stephen W. Mackey
A gifted storyteller, dynamic public speaker and Telly-award winning producer and director, Stephen has a wide range of experience in all facets of creative multimedia production. Engaged internationally as a presenter, wine composer, audio engineer and event producer, his work has taken him to six continents with entertainers such as Matchbox20, Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Ted Nugent, Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, Tanya Tucker, Midnight Oil, and Julio Iglesias. From video production, script writing, audio engineering, and production design, to software development, digital media product management, and executive technology and operations management, his wide range of experiences allow him to find the most unique elements of each story production.
Stephen is the co-founder—with wife Shannon—of Mesh Omnimedia, a creative agency with offices in Colorado Springs and Northern Virginia. He is also an internationally award-winning wine composer for Notaviva Vineyards, the world’s first winery to pair wine with music, also founded with wife Shannon. He has recently completed his first novel, “Dream. Build. Believe.” a memoir on the founding of their winery. He delights in family pursuits, enjoying any time he can find with their three young sons – from camping to music to sports to arts and crafts. Volunteering as a coach, cub scout den leader, lecturer, and community activist, his passion for creative media projects is surpassed only by his passion for his family and friends.
I was drawn to this project through my personal observations of the impeccable quality of work that the Autistic employees of Spectrum Designs produce on a daily basis. However, as I began to research the facts and themes surrounding the realities of employment opportunities for young adults on the spectrum, I realized that this story has huge implications not only for those on the spectrum and their families, but the neurotypical population as well. From re-thinking unsustainable government programs, to understanding emerging economic development models, to fostering entrepreneurism, to the understanding the role of the community and non-profits, we all have a part to play in seeing this population succeed in their efforts to achieve meaningful employment.
Producing and directing this project has been life changing on so many levels, and I know it will have a similar impact on everyone who sees the film. Having open access to the families of Spectrum’s autistic employees, hearing their stories and learning of the challenges they have had to overcome has been both humbling and inspiring. Learning the stories of the company’s founders has reinforced my belief that a driven entrepreneur can achieve anything. Meeting practitioners from across the country has shown us that there is a sea change happening, and even though Autism has moved from the shadows and into the forefront of our culture there is still so much more to do in terms of educating the general public on the capabilities of these individuals. True there are some individuals who will always need care, however there are an incredible number of people who are underutilized and perfectly capable of performing a job role well above the expectations of an employer, and in many cases performing that job better than a neurotypical employee due to their Autism.
It has been a joy to film this project, to sit with these autistic young men and women and hear their hopes and dreams in their own words. It has been a privilege to interview the families, founders, staff, practitioners and lawmakers who live in this world each and every day. I laughed with them, I cried with them, and I learned from them. I know that the heartfelt words and pure emotions that we captured on film.