By Stephen Gibler
Help us shape our movie by responding via email (see below)
Whether it be shooting down alien spaceships at warp speed, hunting dragons with the knights of the round table, or winning the heart of a forbidden love, we go to the movies to live out the fantasies that we will never experience in real life. The key word in that sentence is we. We put ourselves in the shoes of the characters on the big screen and as they go through their story, we think to ourselves, “Would I have made the same decision?”
In order for this phenomenon to happen, the characters you view must be relatable. They must act and feel in ways that audiences can identify with and understand. This is one of the main reasons there has been such a strong push towards more diversity in ﬁlms. Not everyone in this world is the same, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s our job (the ﬁlmmakers who are writing this article) to present realistic, fully developed and well rounded characters from all walks of life.
That’s why we’ve set out to make our story. Stella Incarnated features a romantic, intelligent and admirable character whose autism is just part of what makes him human.
In our eﬀorts to be as honorable as possible to the autistic condition, we turn to you to help us in our research. We’ve delved into the ﬁlm and television worlds and compiled a list of some of our favorite characters who possess traits suggesting they could be on the spectrum (regardless of whether it was stated so in the ﬁlm or not). And we’d love for you to help. Are these characters on the spectrum? If so, who is most relatable and why?
So now we ask you, which Autistic character are you?
Our challenge to you is to look through our list and see which character you relate to most. For our inspiration and research, we’d love for you to reply to this article with 3 things:
1) Which character are you?
2) Why are you that character?
3) Are there additional ﬁlm or television characters who you think could be on the spectrum that didn’t make our list?
Dr. Shaun Murphy (The Good Doctor)
Summary: In the age old battle of strengths and weaknesses, his issues with human interaction and socialization is matched by his medical brilliance.
Dr. Shaun Murphy shows an incredible brain that can recall details and lements most would not remember, and has an attention to detail that few would ever notice. Shaun wanted to be a doctor since he was a young
boy and his motivation has lived with him ever since. Also at a young age he was diagnosed as on the spectrum and he has had to overcome countless obstacles to follow his dreams. What separates Murphy from other people who are autistic is that he has savant syndrome, a rare condition that gives him elevated abilities far beyond others. Murphy stands as a representative of the autism community, but also as someone who is not like other autistic people because of his abilities. Because of this, his representation on screen is a great example of a more speciﬁc experience certain individuals on the spectrum may relate to.
Summary: Amelie has a hard time ﬁtting into the world, so she creates her own.
When she doesn’t understand the world, she creates her own. From a young age, Amelie didn’t quite know how to cope with the people and the world around her, so she let her imagination create a safe and familiar space to exist. As she gets older, she embarks on an all-out mission to help those around her, in an eﬀort to cope with her own disconnect, and to give her a clear focus on the day to day. When she ﬁnds her soulmate, she cannot simply talk to him. It would be too diﬃcult. So much like the rest of her life, she creates an elaborate cat and mouse game to slowly get closer to him. By ﬁnding someone who understands her world, she is able to be herself and develop conﬁdence in her unique ways of expression.
Michael Scoﬁeld (Prison Break)
Summary: For him it’s easiest to comprehend things which have concrete results.
Quiet and reserved, he often doesn’t quite know how to interact with other people. But what he does know are maps. He has the ability to take maps and blueprints and understand the ﬁnished product in miraculous ways, just by looking at a piece of paper. Down to how things will look, how they will age, and even how a chain of events can aﬀec the integrity of a building. In addition to this, he has high levels of pattern recognition that allows him to excel in whatever he sets his mind to – from structural engineering to breaking out of prison. As good as he is at the details, Michael struggles with day to day interactions and becomes highly stressed out when his meticulous planning doesn’t go as expected.
Raymond Babbitt (Rain Man)
Summary: The classic savant archetype, who can only obtain genius by following a routine the world doesn’t follow. Often mistook as someone who is not mentally capable, including by his own brother.
Raymond is a unique soul. He’s a savant with a good heart. He has a lot of love but he often does not know how to express it. What he does know how to express is numbers. They don’t lie. He has an amazing ability to calculate quickly in his mind, faster than you could type on a calculator, and he never makes a mistake. He has patterns he absolutely must stick to
and when those patterns are broken, he simply cannot cope. When things go wrong, he can yell or be pushy to those around him, but to
him this is just a matter of persistence. When routines remain consistent, Raymond can thrive at what he knows best.
Sam Gardner (Atypical)
Summary: Very much an individual who has his own goals, his autism gives him a personality that adds to his individuality.
o be a regular person is one thing, to grow up on the spectrum is another. For Gardner, to try to understand how to grow up and be a part of the world is the core of his journey. While others will try and do what works, Gardner will go in his own way because he thinks there is a better way. He also struggles with what many on on the spectrum go through in trying to ﬁnd independance from their family while still staying bonded to them. His family fears of letting go of someone who they think may not be able to ake it on their own, but he pushes forward regardless. This back and forth harks a universal experience that can be felt – not just by those with autism – but by anyone. And it would be remiss to point out that Sam, just like veryone else, has his passions that drive him. But not many can claim the continent of Antarctica as theirs.
Alan Turing (The Imitation Game)
Summary: A genius when it comes to seeing systems, but completely disabled when it comes to his own emotions
Alan Turing is set out to do something that is almost impossible for one man to handle, to create a primitive computer system that can
break the Nazi codes and turn the tide of the war. Alan is very much the type to know more than anyone else around him, but because of that he pushes people around because they can’t match his intellect. Concurrently, his realization of his own gayness in 1940s England causes him to develop a deep emotional instability with everyone around him. He was eventually prosecuted for his homosexuality and because of his eccentric mental state, he was unable to properly ﬁght back. He eventually died from poisoning in a death initially ruled a suicide.
Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption)
Summary: His anti-social nature imprisoned him. But his hyper-focus freed him.
Andy Dufresne was charged with a double homicide for the death of his wife and her lover. His lack of emotional response to it all made it seem like he was a cold and calculated killer and he was sentenced to two life terms because of it. But he was an innocent. In prison, he suﬀered some of the worst a man could handle. However, his cold nature was one of hyper-focus, and his detachment protected and guided him. The focus and self-control he maintained helped him achieve his vision of freedom, by ﬁnding a way to break out of prison.
Wendy (Please Stand By)
Summary: She zeroes in on one activity at a time with 100% attention.
A young woman with deep fascinations in a select number of things, she sees the world through a focused lens. She is so intent on her mission – to write and submit a screenplay to a competition in Los Angeles – that everything around her seems to disappear. She is a bulldozer who doesn’t let the conﬁnes of her group home, a serious bus accident, or the unfamiliar city of Los Angeles, stray her from her goal. Even though her script is not selected as a winner, she is satisﬁed that the event she set out to do, submitting, was completed. Like many others on the spectrum, Wendy thrives with strict routines and familiarities in her day to day life, which help her maintain a job and be resourceful and creative.
Your responses will help shape our ﬁnal story – and who you want to see on the screen.
Participate by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SURVEY WITH NAMES (+ OPTIONAL COMMENT BOX WITH SUBMISSION) Survey Link here.
We plan to write a follow up based on the responses you give us, showing the world who the Autistic community embraces the most. If you’re in the ﬁlm industry and believe you can help us in any way, or if you’re interested in becoming an investor, please email us at email@example.com.
Avi Glick (Director/Writer) is a ﬁlmmaker specializing in mixed-genre omedy. Originally from Mesa Arizona, he received his Bachelors from Tulane University’s Freeman School Business. Avi worked as an assistant to a Senior Agent at ICM Partners before departing to earn his Masters from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where he is now a faculty member. His ﬁlms have played in Oscar qualifying festivals worldwide and his scripts have received high accolades in multiple prestigious writing competitions including The Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting (current ﬁnalist), Blacklist’s Real-Time Top List (top 20), Creative World Award International Script Competition (grand prize winner), and Oxaca International FilmFest (ﬁnalist for best comedy, best international screenplay, and the emerging writer’s award).
Stephen Gibler (Producer) was born with Asperger’s Syndrome and big dreams and set out to the ﬁlm industry to tell stories about both. As a Producer, Stephen has been a creator on over 50 different projects. In the past few years alone, Stephen produced or been a part of ﬁve features
(Bread and Butter, September Morning, One by One, Newness, and Pursued) and been part of the production team for several others. Stephen has worked with Ridley Scott, James Franco, Drake Doremus, Nicholaus Hoult, Molly Ringwald, James Ivory, among others. Newness premiered at Sundance and was sold to Netﬂix. He currently is a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Vanessa Pantley (Producer) is known for making successful ﬁlms, regardless of the challenges. She is an alumni of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she produced the university’s ﬁrst ever feature ﬁlm, “Don Quixote: The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha”, which premiered at Palm Springs International Film Festival. She has produced and directed multiple projects for Rabbit Bandini, James Franco’s production company, and has managed projects ranging from no-budget to 50 million dollars. Her freelance work extends to producing for McGraw Hill, Fox Studios, Condé Nast, and other large clients. Vanessa’s focus is on story, smart use of money, and creating high quality products.