Other People's Words

Follow up nterview with Rich Everts, director and executive producer of The United States of Autism

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on October 9, 2010

This is a transcript of Autism Women’s Network’s interview with Rich Everts, director and executive producer of the upcoming documentary The United States of Autism. The crew has wrapped up 40 days of filming.



Sharon daVanport: Good afernoon, everyone, and welcome to AWN radio. We are the Autism Women’s Network on Blogtalk. Today is Saturday, September 11, 2010. I’m your host, Sharon daVanport, and joining me now is co-host, Tricia Kenney. Hello, Trish.

Tricia Kenney: Hi, Sharon. How are you today?

Sharon daVanport: You know, I’m doing pretty good. I’ve just been a little tired. But I’m going to be honest and I have to give a quick disclaimer that if our listeners hear a lot of screaming and shouting going on, there’s a lot of neighborhood parties outside, and barbeques. A big football day today, so there’s a lot of screaming going on around here. [Laughter] You can really hear it inside my house. Just want to let everyone know that nothing terrible’s happening if they hear a lot of screaming and yelling. It’s the football parties going on.

Tricia Kenney: That’s good to know.

Sharon daVanport: I do want to just give a quick acknowledgement about it being September 11. It’s been nine years since the Twin Towers. I can’t believe it.

Tricia Kenney: I know. And it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, and every year when this day rolls around, it really churns up some emotions. For those of us who were watching it live, it really just brings back all of those feelings.

Sharon daVanport: Right. So we do want to give an acknowledgement and let everyone know that we’re thinking about the the families and everyone who was affected by the horrible tragedy that happened nine years ago.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: And today on AWN radio, I’m excited that we’re having back a very special guest: Rich Everts, the executive producer and director of the upcoming documentary, The United States of Autism. Very exciting.

Tricia Kenney: Welcome, Rich.

Rick Everts: How are you guys doing?

Tricia Kenney: Good. How are you?

Rich Everts: I’m doing good. It’s a great day.

Tricia Kenney: It is.

Sharon daVanport: It is; it is. We’re just talking [before] we went on air. It’s getting a little bit cool up north in Pennsylvania, where you live, so I’m sure it’s been nice to have a little bit of a relief from the heat wave that we seem to all have throughout the summer. And you were traveling across the country, so you really got to experience a lot of it.


Rich Everts: Oh, absolutely. It was really hot. It’d give you quite a farmer’s tan out there.


Sharon daVanport: I know it. Well, you know, Rich, I just want us to jump right into this today, because I’m sure you have so much to cover. You really did a lot in 40 days, and I wanted to ask if you would start by filling in for anyone who may not know about how the film is unique, and how the idea came about that you would do this in 40 days. If you can just start out by filling in a little bit of the beginning.

Rich Everts: Sure, absolutely. Actually, probably about seven or eight months ago now, at the end of 2009, my wife, Sugey Cruz-Everts and I sat down, and we started discussing some of the things that we thought the autism community could benefit from on a larger scale. We work with the Tommy Foundation, which is based in Pennsylvania. My wife and I co-founded that back in 2005, and we really had set out to help families locally; then it kind of grew. So we wanted to do something for the northeast region of the country.

What ended up happening is that my wife planned on writing a book, and said: “Hey, why don’t you put together a documentary?” because that’s one of my backgrounds is film, video. I do a lot of Web stuff as well. I said: “Hey, I think that’s a great idea.”

And so we tossed some ideas around off families that we knew in the northeaast to be able to put this together. And then in January of this past year, we heard about the Pepsi Refresh Project. A lot of people around the country now know about it. It’s a very, very popular contest, and back then, it was brand new and not too many people knew about it. We’re like: “Let’s do this. Let’s see what we can accomplish.”

So we applied for a grant and over a period of about 59 days we ended up collecting votes from around the nation. We ended up actually winning in the month of March, which was a fantastic time—just in time for Autism Awareness Month. We ended up putting everything together in about…after that, it takes about 15 to 30 days to get everything situated with Pepsi, so there’s a lot of work involved with that. So that took all of April for us and the film. And then in May, we were going to leave basically in the middle of June, so we had six weeks to pull together this film and everything behind it.

Sharon daVanport: Wow.

Rich Everts: It was an intense six weeks. So we decided: “Let’s make this big. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it all out.” I contacted some people that I knew who had background in film, video, and we had a producer who went to college with me. He works out of L.A. and he does all kinds of work on TV and documentaries and music videos. He had his own documentary actually picked up already by Lionsgate; it’s going to be on Animal Planet, the Oprah Network.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Rich Everts: So he had some experience getting a film out. He gave me a review straight and helped me put some of these things together over the six weeks.

Sharon daVanport: Now, is that Rene? Is that Rene?

Rich Everts: That’s Rene, yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Rich Everts: Yep. And then after that, we knew some students, some people who’d just graduated. Cassie, who just graduated—she won a number of awards. She went out to film school in Prague in Europe and came back here. She was at the top of her film class; graduated one of those cum laudes from college. One of the top students.

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] Right.

Rich Everts: So we wanted to bring her along. She knew what she was doing, and then we brought Rosleny along as a production assistant who really wanted to help out with the cause. So we had to plan out, in those six weeks, all of the things necessary to get four people out across the country. We had to book all the hotels, all the families.

We put out applications for all the families to fill out. On the website, we accepted applications from around the country, and we also got people through Facebook. People sent out applications, because they sent out through Twitter, friends of friends. We contacted military bases as well, and we got a wide group of people.

Tricia Kenney: How many applications did you get, do you think?

Rich Everts: I think we got somewhere between 50 and 100 applications for the 20 slots.

Tricia Kenney: Okay.

Rich Everts: Which, doing it for six weeks, wasn’t bad. I really wish we had a longer window to accept applications; I really did. Because we got some great applications after we were already on the road.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: Aw.

Rich Everts: I know; I know.

Sharon daVanport: You’ll have to have a Part 2, is what you’ll have to do. [Laughter]

Rich Everts: That’s true. Absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: I could see you doing this every summer, Rich. [Laughter]

Rich Everts: My wife might kill me, but yeah. So we went out and we put this together. We ended up traveling about 10,970 miles. That was the final mileage, total. We did it in 40 days, which was pretty intense. Lots of driving. My crew got wonderful tans. [Laughter] [Unknown] some of these places. We met lots of interesting people; we saw great parts of the country; we met tons of great families and individuals, and it was really an eye-opening experience. I really can’t wait to express that through the film: the diversity of what is actually out there.

And we think, in the autism community, each of us has a real subsection that we work with—something that we all focus on. There’s not too many unifying viewpoints out there, and I’m really excited to show all these different areas and what different people think, and see what we can pull together.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Now, Rich, I know you went into this project and you started on the road with your crew with an idea. You kind of had your idea of what it was going to be. Did it end up more or less turning into its own…I guess maybe took on a life of its own? Did it do that? Did it kind of grow into something different? Or did it pretty much stay with what you thought?

Rich Everts: Well, that’s an interesting question, Sharon. My original idea that I wanted to go with…I shouldn’t say “my” original idea, because actually my wife and I sat down. We really hashed this out. Our idea that we really put together kinda stayed as the central theme. However, how it particularly unfolded was totally unique. It didn’t unfold as I thought it would.

Let me give you some examples. The intensity of the emotion, I was not prepared for. Which was something that…I thought going out there, talking about autism, you know, it’s a very sensitive subject. Sometimes you’re going to get people who are laughing a lot, a lot of tears, a lot of people really just excited about different things, different topics. I thought that would be the case.

However, there’s a difference between thinking that and actually going out and experiencing it. We had tons of families who talked with us about things that they never talk about with other people. Let me give you an example. For instance, we went out to Utah and we met with a wonderful family out there. They’re a Mormon family, and we had a wonderful time out in Salt Lake City.

The Mormon church, we actually went out to film some stuff at their…like the temple, it’s like the home of the Mormons, but the biggest temple that they have. And normally, they don’t allow film crews to go in there because it’s a very sacred place, and, quite honestly, they don’t want people trashing it getting footage and stuff. But once we actually talked to security, they let us film it. It was awesome.

Sharon daVanport: Oh.

Rich Everts: They’re very warm and loving people, and one of the things that we ended up finding was that this family—there’s more information about them on the website The Cox family has a boy and girl. They boy is on the spectrum and the girl is not at this time. I didn’t think she was one of those undiagnosed girls, you know, you hear that a lot. And we do have people like that on the trip. But she wasn’t one of those particular girls. She was definitely…everything was fine with her. But she had some other challenges.Let me explain. This family is a multiracial Mormon family, which is something that you don’t hear about too often.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: The mother’s African-American and the father is white. They both have grown up Mormon their whole lives, so it wasn’t that big a deal to them.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: The thing was is that, when we sat down and talked with thsi young girl, one of the challenges that she talked about was not necessarily about her brother’s autism—though Parker does have some challenges, obviously, that she helps out with. The thing that was most interesting with this particular talk was that she began to talk about what it was like to be the only brown girl in her class.

Tricia Kenney: Oh.

Rich Everts: And it was a very emotional thing, because her mother had to leave the room during this interview because she was crying so much about this.

Tricia Kenney: Aw.

Rich Everts: It’s not something that the family talks about often.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Rich Everts: But this was a very, very emotional thing that impacts the family and the family dynamics that are going on. And that’s going to be something that affects Parker and everything else that’s going on with his condition. He’s more severe on the spectrum.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: I was not prepared for an emotional impact of talking with a young seven-year-old girl who doesn’t understand why she’s feeling so lonely [unknown] in this class with all the things that she’s doing.

Sharon daVanport: Aw.

Tricia Kenney: Aw.

Rich Everts: And that’s just one example. Let me give you one more example, because I think this is an emotional impact that really is going to come out in the film for people. I won’t be so long-winded with this one. We went to interview a family down in Orlando, Florida, and they’re a Muslim family; they’re Sunni Muslims, and Tunde is the mother. She basically takes care of two children. The boy is on the spectrum, Amin, and Sophia, the daughter, is not. The interesting thing about this family is that Amin is kind of severe. He went into cardiac arrest one day.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, my God.

Rich Everts: And this is at home.

Sharon daVanport: [Did you talk about this in the blog?]

Rich Everts: In the blog, yeah. I talked about this a little bit. Totally blew me away. So he had cardiac arrest at the home. She had to resuscitate him right there on the spot—Mom had to resuscitate her son, which is hard enough as it is. So imagine trying to resuscitate your children or else they’re going to die.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: It’s one of those moments that you never forget in your life. So she did that; the ambulance came, took him away; took him to the hospital, and [it] ended up having a Muslim doctor there. The doctor asked her: “Well, why didn’t you just let him die?”

Sharon daVanport: Huh. That’s horrible.

Rich Everts: She had no answer for him. And Tunde is a very peaceful woman. She reminds me of a Quaker, maybe—a very peaceful, “we don’t get involved in anything” kind of person. That’s how she lives her life. She says that was the closest she’s ever come in her life to becoming extremely violent with someone.

Tricia Kenney: And he said this because the child is autistic?

Rich Everts: The child is on the spectrum. And what we’re finding with a lot of families that are either first generation, that are not Hispanic, non-Hispanic first generation immigrants, and a lot in the African-American community, after talking with some of those people around the country, is that these children tend to be hidden.

Sharon daVanport: Horrible.

Rich Everts: And it’s still really not accepted in a lot of these communities.

Sharon daVanport: I’ve heard that, yeah. There’s a lot of disparity going on there.

Rich Everts: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. That’s one of the emotional things that, as a person, when you watch the film, you’re not necessarily ready to handle. You can handle the logistics. I know where to put the camera; I know how to shake people’s hands, but how do you handle those kind of—?

Sharon daVanport: You know what I think is interesting? I don’t know if this was something that was brought up in the film, but I find it interesting. I bet you that Muslim doctor wouldn’t have said that had she not been Muslim as well. You think? I don’t think that would’ve been something as a doctor….I think he probably felt he could overstep his bounds because….more or less a cultural thing. Did she perceive it that way? I can’t imagine going into a hospital and a doctor even saying that to me about one of my children. I don’t know. I wonder if he just felt he could say it because he was Muslim as well. Is that what you said? He was Muslim as well? I don’t know.

Rich Everts: Yeah, yeah. And I don’t know. For all I know, she might have taken him to a local hospital in the area that caters to Islamic families. I didn’t go into depth too much about that particular aspect. It was more the emotional impact of having a doctor talk about the…

Sharon daVanport: Right. Oh, my goodness.

Tricia Kenney: That’s just absolutely horrible. I can’t imagine somebody saying that about one of my children, and I imagine the same thing for any parent out there. They would be absolutely horrified if somebody said that to them, as if you would love your child any less or think that they could have any less of a purpose in life here on this planet, simply because they have a disability.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Wow. So you’re giving some really good examples, Rich. I’m already thinking: “Oh, my goodness! I wish this film was coming out next month.


What are some of the things you guys are doing right now with the film? Did you guys wrap up on about, was it the third of August? Is that correct?

Rich Everts: Right. We wrapped up the full 40-day filming the third of August. We did have to go back and get one more day of filming. People who were following us knew that the Brewster family in Wisconsin had an accident, so we did go back and film them to make sure that they were included in the film. After that, to be honest, I took some time off.

Tricia Kenney: Your traveling wasn’t actually done when filming was supposed to be over. You still had to go back and film some more?

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter]

Rich Everts: Yeah, yep, yep. I drove out to Wisconsin in the day. It was a 12-hour drive out, 12-hour drive back the next day.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: Wow.

Rich Everts: And now we’re in a different stage of the film. Number one, we have people contacting us about distribution. They heard about the film; they want to figure out how to help us get it out, which is great. It’s a good problem to have, when you have ten different people here who want to be able to get your message out, which is good.

Sharon daVanport: Wow. That’s awesome, Rich. [Chuckles]

Rich Everts: Now, who do we work with? Who do we talk with to be able to put this together? It’s one of those things that’s very important to us, is that we don’t want a big studio to come in, take this film and turn it into something that it shouldn’t be.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: If we don’t get a lot of money for it and instead keep the rights to be able to get the best story out, that’s more important to us and the message that we want to get out. So these are some of the things that we’re thinking of on the back end of putting this film out. There’s a lot of responsibility to stay true to the film and the families that are involved in this film.

Tricia Kenney: Absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: It’s very true. Yes, to be true to the families, because it’s scary to agree to do something like that. I’m sure that a lot of the families did feel that way to an extent. It makes you feel very vulnerable. People are trusting you, Rich. For sure. [Chuckles]

Tricia Kenney: So many autism families out there are like: “I wish somebody understood what we were going through. I wish somebody could just see, get a peek into what my life is like and understand why we need services; why we need help, we need support.” And if they final product comes out and all of that’s wiped away, they’re going to feel like there was no point.

Rich Everts: Exactly. And so these are some of the production backend things that we’re handling right now with the film. And if there’s people out there, some of your listeners who have ideas or different things that they want to be able to help with, we’re more than open to talk with them.

Sharon daVanport: What are some of those things that you’re looking for? What do you mean by that?

Rich Everts: Well, if people have an idea about how to get the idea about the film out to somebody that they know. If they know somebody who actually helps people get film distributions, or just write up articles. Maybe they know somebody who’s in a paper or in a magazine or something. If they have anything that they could help or provide with, we can make sure that we could put that story out of these families. We listen to everyone.

Now the thing is, the other stuff that we’re doing, the actual editing part. Now we’re going through and we look at each interview that’s going on with the families, and we’re going to listen again to the interview and find the couple of key points that came out of this interview for this familiy; see what footage that we took that day matches up, and we’re going to go through, family by family, building the story.

Right now we’re thinking of finishing the rough cut. We have a deadline of February 1 to have the first version of the film together with sound and music and the full edit. Then once that happens, we send it to some people, we tear it all apart and we start over.

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow.

Rich Everts: It’s like a big college paper that you have, or a big thesis. You put the best thing you can together, then have somebody who knows a ton of stuff who’s not connected to it tear it apart.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Rich Everts: And that’s what we’re doing.

Sharon daVanport: Why is it done that way, Rich? Why is it done that way? I don’t know about film, but that’s interesting to me that you explain that. So can you explain why that happens that way?

Rich Everts: Sure, sure. The thing is, when we go and edit this and we put it together, I’m going to be so emotionally involved with it that I’m going to lose all objectivity. The point is, this film, if it’s going to be shown to people who are not affected by autism in any way—this is a regular Joe Shmoe walking down the street—we have to find a way to be able to communicate with them and be able to get that message across. It’s not just for families affected, and individuals, it’s for all the people out there.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: So that’s why we want somebody to tear it apart.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, I see.

Tricia Kenney: How long is the documentary going to be? Do you have an idea?

Rich Everts: How long it’s going to be?

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, the length?

Rich Everts: Yep. Well, if we’re going to distribute to any type of television stations, we’re going to have to get it somewhere betweeen 82 and 84 minutes.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Rich Everts: If we go into film distribution, obviously, we have a little bit longer, and so we might actually create two cuts as we go into potential distributions. If we do get into film, we’ll have a longer director’s cut, and then we’ll have the shorter one that we could put on to television.

Tricia Kenney: And how much time on film do you already have? From all the families?

Rich Everts: We’ve got about 150 hours of footage.

Sharon daVanport: Oh! [Laughter] Oh, wow. I believe it, because here in Lincolin, a couple of places that originally you guys had planned on, it didn’t happen and still it was a ten-hour day. I can’t imagine, for all the…every family, the hours that you spent. My goodness! That is a lot of editing, Rich. A lot of editing. [Chuckles]

Rich Everts: Yeah. [When we’re editing?] we look through every minute of footage.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, my goodness! Yeah.

Tricia Kenney: [To whittle?] away, it’s going to be a difficult task—especially with that emotional connection that you have with all these families now.

Rich Everts: Um-hm.

Sharon daVanport: Rich, now, you’re a father to a son on the spectrum. So you went into this project, you and your wife, Sugey, with, like you said at the onset of the interview, that you kinda had an idea of what you wanted and the central themes stay true to that. Is there anything, now that the filming part is over and said and done, is there anything that you took away from this that before doing it, it wasn’t something that you even were aware of? Every autism experience is unique; you have your family. Is there anything that you actually learned that you’d like to share?

Rich Everts: Well, two things that I picked up that I thought were great: Number one, I had a blast visiting with Alex Plank. You probably know who Alex is, WrongPlanet.net. He’s considered Asperger’s; he’s a self-advocate, and he does a lot of work in the autism community. When we sat down and talked with him and kinda hung out with him throughout the day, he was a riot. He had such a great sense of humor that it totally blew me away about the depth of the life that he creates for himself, independently of—

Tricia Kenney: A diagnosis?

Rich Everts: Yes. It didn’t even phase him. It didn’t even slow him down. It was absolutely stunning: his hobbies, the funny things he does to get out of traffic tickets. I mean, this guy’s unreal. I can’t wait so you can see this.

Tricia Kenney: Do we want to know, or—? [Laughter]

Rich Everts: Uh, well. [Laughter] I don’t know if it’s exactly legal, but…

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. Do we want to approve of that? [Laughter]

Rich Everts: He just came out with so many great ideas. Really, it was an unbelievable pleasure to be able to speak with him and show what some people on the spectrum who are on a different end of the spectrum…A lot of people don’t understand. A lot of the people who are in the…more severe parents don’t understand the cure versus non-cure thing.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm. Yeah.

Rich Everts: And it’s going to be great to show this, because this is a validation of why it’s not about cure versus no cure. It’s about building the best life for all the children and individuals.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Rich Everts: And there’s a difference. So that’s one thing that I really enjoyed. The other thing that I really got out of that is when we interviewed the Neibaurers down in Philadelphia. Now, the Neibauers have two girls. One girl is on the spectrum. The other, she’s not diagnosed. I’m not sure. They do have their thoughts about it as well.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Rich Everts: But this particular family, they really just love their kids. Everyone loves their kids, but this particular family, they met in grade school.

Tricia Kenney: Aw. [Chuckles]

Rich Everts: They’re one of those families that are very lovey-dovey. They have cuddle time every night.


And these children, they really fed off of it. Holly, who’s the mom, who is a college professor, left being a college professor to become a therapist to be able to help her child. She left her whole career to start it over.

Sharon daVanport: Aw.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Rich Everts: The dedication that she has for her daughter really stuck out for me. It was something that she expected her child to do more and be more than what she was. And she wasn’t willing to accept any other alternative. That dedication was something that really inspired me. So when I came home, I tried some things with my son that I hadn’t tried before in his playroom. We worked on some things. We brought an iPad into the room for the first time, and we worked with him, and lo and behold! After about I would say 45 minutes of real dedicated work, he picked it up right away.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: All right.

Rich Everts: It was a lesson that I learned from Holly and her family, and really just sticking with something over and over again till it works.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: There’s an example of two things that I really picked up on the trip that were great.

Sharon daVanport: Wow.

Tricia Kenney: Do you think your experience and that very personal connection that you got to make with so many diverse families, do you think that will affect the way that your foundation is? Is it going to change anything in the foundation and what you’re trying to do or who you’re trying to reach? Or maybe services that you haven’t thought of before?

Rich Everts: Absolutely. We actually scheduled a board meeting [laughter] almost right after we got back to talk about the new direction that we’re going in. Some of the things we’re looking to do is looking to help individuals who are higher functioning on the spectrum to have some particular services that would be really helpful. I understood mentally, but I didn’t experience what could be helpful to these individuals.

We’re actually talking with some people who have advanced psychology…I’m not going to go into it too much, but there’s some unbelievable work that’s going on [in] the psychological field right now to help individuals learn how to read facial expressions.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, okay.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay.

Rich Everts: And this is something that we are talking a lot about with different people [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: Oh, I want to know more about that. That is my Achilles heel, let me tell you. I struggle with that, Rich. I’d love to figure that out. [Laughter] That’s really nice.

Rich Everts: Yeah, and so this is a program that we might be able to put together. The particular people who are putting this together have never used it with the special-needs community, and in particular, autism in general.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Rich Everts: So we just started talking to them and said: “Hey, let’s do this and let’s connect this dot here—these two dots here and see if we can pull something together for our community.” That’s something that we’re working on: changing how we’re viewing the spectrum itself as well. I’m very excited about it. I can’t begin to tell you how much this movie has already changed me personally. I’m really hoping that when we get out there and other people see it, they’ll catch on with the message that we’re trying to put out there about unifying and about pulling things together.

Sharon daVanport: That’s wonderful, Rich. I was also wondering about the premiers. Are you guys going to sit down and decide what cities you guys are going to have premiers in? Or is that going to be based upon maybe a production company that comes in and helps, or—? How do you guys decide that?

Rich Everts: Well, that’s going to be more when we get into the distribution end of things.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, okay.

Rich Everts: So we have to figure out how that’s going to be put together. So we don’t know exactly how we’re going to put that together.

Sharon daVanport: What would you think if HBO or Showtime came in and said: “Hey, Rich Everts. We want to pick this up. We want to do something with this.” What would you think about that, Rich? [Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: [Laughter]

Rich Everts: I’ll tell you what. I’d be really excited, that’s for sure. We want to make sure we do it right.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tricia Kenney: They seem to be doing a lot of autism-related documentaries and movies, so you never know.

Rich Everts: Sure. Yeah. Temple’s movie really opened up a lot of people’s eyes, and I think that there’s a lot more acceptance of what’s going on.

Sharon daVanport: I know you were hoping to get an interview with her. Are you going to be able to secure one for the film, or do you not know that yet or not?

Rich Everts: We had a little challenge with Temple, and we missed each other.

Sharon daVanport: She’s a hard person to track down. [Laughter]

Rich Everts: Well, yeah. There’s a lot of mix-ups going on. We actually had something scheduled and then we ended up missing her. Unfortunately, at this time, she’s not going to be in the film.

Sharon daVanport: Aw.

Rich Everts: We don’t have it in our budget to head all the way out to Colorado to get her.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: Oh.

Rich Everts: So if anyone wants to fund us getting out there for four days, we can do that.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow. To get Temple in the film. Wow.

Rich Everts: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Well, that’s good to know. You’ve put the word out there, so it’s good to know.

Tricia Kenney: How did your wife react when you got back and you had so much happen over that time? How did you express all of that to her? Is she like: “Wow! I’m married to a different man now!” [Laughter]

Rich Everts: Well, yeah. We were able to talk on the road and stuff, and I think, when we got back, there was a lot of changes. We didn’t talk necessarily about it. It’s just different actions that we took. There’s different things that we’ve done in our home since then, different things we decide about how to work with our son. How to work with our own life; how to keep things balanced. It’s been a tremendous time back together.

My wife and I are very close; we do a lot of things together. It was definitely really hard being apart. It was really good to be able to sit down and see her again—just check in with her, see how things were going over those 30 days. While I was out filming, she didn’t overload me with a lot of stuff that was going on here at the home. She took care of a lot of different things.

Tricia Kenney: Aw.

Rich Everts: So I think now we’ve finally caught up on everything. Been about a month.


Sharon daVanport: Wow. So it’s really just beginning? Oh, go ahead, Tricia.

Tricia Kenney: I was going to say, you’ve got such a unique experience that very few people, if any, will ever have by going into all these different homes that are dealing with a similar situation, but not necessarily the same. You got to see all these different lives, and I think that is a huge gift to yourself. I’m hoping that it comes across; that the rest of us will be able to get a little bit of that, so that maybe we’ll have those little sparks going off in our head, to think of different things we could be doing or see something that we never thought of before.

Rich Everts: Yeah. I’m really hoping at the end of this film that what people are going to gain from it is a different kind of perspective. In the end, this is really all that’s going to matter. We go out there; people are going to continue to do the things that they do. They’re going to continue to work their jobs; they’re going to continue to worry about finances and bills. They’re going to keep working with their families. Am I going to be able to do this? Can I not do that? But in the end, some of the most valuable things that we have is the perspective that we have as we go along on the journey.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Rich Everts: And this is something incredibly [of value?]: With a different kind of perspective, you can really live a different life. You can live a much happier, much more fulfilling life. And that’s really the gift that I’m hoping we can get through this film to all the families, all the individuals out there, maybe people who aren’t even involved in the community. Just to give them a perspective, and to be able to help them live better lives. That’s our goal, and I’m hoping we can accomplish that. We’ll see when the film comes out.

Sharon daVanport: That’s so nice. I’m thinking with such a diverse group of individuals within the families, even, I’m thinking that your film is going to be able to cover just so much, Rich. It’s going to be so nice to be able to sit down and see all of this put together. It really will be. I’m looking forward to it.

Tricia Kenney: What about the narration of it? Who’s going to be doing that?

Rich Everts: It’s a first-person narrative, so actually…The story itself is based upon my journey around the country. So most likely, it’s going to be my narration, at this point. So that’s how we’re going to originally go with it. Now, if we get into distribution and somebody wants to bring in a world-famous actor to be able to do some narration, change the story a little bit, as long as we stay true to the theme and to our families, we’ll see where we go at that point.

Tricia Kenney: Um-hm.

Sharon daVanport: You just said: “Stay true to the theme.” What would you say the theme is, if you had to define the theme?

Rich Everts: Define the theme? I had a couple thoughts this past week.


The theme for this film is that we’re really going out to find the best parts of our country through these families and individuals on the autism spectrum, or affected by the condition, and all their challengies, their tragedies and triumphs and how we can learn from their example. This is the important thing that we want to get out there: a lot of people are talking about America having some challenges these days. Talking about maybe their best days are already behind them. Maybe this is it. It’s not going to get much better; we should just accept the way things are now, and this is going to be how it’s going to be for a long time.

And families and individuals on the ASD spectrum hear that a lot as well. For some of these kids, maybe four or five years old, they may say their best days aren’t going to be ahead of them. They’re behind them. Maybe they should just accept what’s going on and not continue to try to move forward. We don’t believe that, for either of them.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Rich Everts: And I think that there’s something about the American spirit that really is tied in with a lot of these families and individuals: this idea of overcoming, of believing tomorrow’s going to be better than today. To grow from that; to get stronger because of that.

Sharon daVanport: So do you think that’s a running theme throughout the families?

Rich Everts: Yes, I really do. And that’s something that I really believe has got to come out in this film. One of the central themes is that America and these families are going to be okay. Tomorrow’s going to be better than today, and we feel we can learn from these families and individuals.

Sharon daVanport: Very nice. It is. So are you right in the thick of it now, Rich, when you talk about editing, and your part of it, has that started then, right now? And you’re doing that?

Rich Everts: Yeah. Well, we’ve gone through and made sure a couple of shots have come out. [Chuckles] Some very important shots that we know we’re going to have in the film, so we have looked at those. We’re getting knee-deep into just families and the interviews. Actually, starting tomorrow is our first day of really getting into them. So we’ll have more to report.

What we’re planning to do is, up on our blog for the film, every week we plan on posting an interview from one of the families. Not the full interview, but maybe a minute or a little bit more than that, so people can see what we’re looking at, and people can kind of follow us.

Sharon daVanport: Like a snippet. Okay.

Rich Everts: Yeah, exactly.

Tricia Kenney: That would be great.

Sharon daVanport: Okay, so the blog is still going to be active, then. Okay.

Rich Everts: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: Very nice.

Tricia Kenney: I already feel like I’m getting to know some of these families, so that’ll be really nice to see live action, you know?

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] Wow. Very good. Well, is there anything that you would like to put out there before we wrap things up, Rich, about the film that we haven’t asked, or anything you’d like to add?

Rich Everts: Well, I think we covered a lot of the different bases out there. One of the things that I really hope for all your listeners out there is that we really have worked as hard as we can to bring as much diversity and as much different thought groups out there, different thought leaders, different groups of people. There’s such a wide variety, such a wide range. And we really tried to get the best group together. It’s not going to be perfect. [Chuckles] We’re not going to have everybody in there that wanted to be in there, every viewpoint. But we’re trying to hit all the big ones.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: I’m hoping that everyone is going to get something from the film. I hope they follow us as we put it together, and maybe I’m hoping that I can meet a lot of your listeners out there when the film comes out, and we come out to all these different cities. I know you guys are around the nation now with the Autism Women’s Network. I hope to meet some of these ladies out there, and hopefully, we can help them with whatever’s going on in their lives, as well.

Tricia Kenney: Well, that’s awesome. I would love to meet you guys, if you’re ever in St. Louis.


Rich Everts: We’ll be out there someplace.

Sharon daVanport: [Chuckles] Well, I’m really looking forward to it, Rich. So we will keep up on the blog. Now, can you let everyone know the website information? Where to go to keep up with the movie?

Rich Everts: Sure. Yep. You can go to usofautism.com. There’s a link right there for the blog, and that’ll take you to all the recent things. We’re going to be leaving up there our 40-day journey, so if you want to, you can go all the way back to day one and follow from day one as we travel around the country, and be able to experience that with us again.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: Well, very nice. Okay. So that’s good. Wow, so much. Did it feel like almost a lifetime? That’s my final question. After it was all said and done, did you look back and go: “Did I really do that in 40 days?” It’s almost unimaginable to me that you did all of that, across the country, over 10,000 miles in 40 days. That’s amazing. And filmed. [Chuckles] Wow.

Rich Everts: I’ll tell you, most of 2010 has been a blur.

Sharon daVanport: I was wondering. A blur—that’s probably an appropriate way of putting it. Like, wow. You blinked and…I really have to say that I was wondering if you guys were going to post it on the blog: “Well, it’s going to be 42, 43 days.” I was really wondering if it would be 40 days. Congratulations. You did great. [Chuckles] How many speeding tickets did you get, Rich?

Rich Everts: I only got one speeding ticket.

Sharon daVanport: Only one. Okay. [Laughter]

Rich Everts: Only one. But I do want to give props out to the cops out in Alabama who, after hearing what we did, let us out of another one.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow!

Rich Everts: They’re [unknown] in Alabama.

Sharon daVanport: [Unknown,] buddy! You were down in…

Rich Everts: Those Southern cops [unknown].

Sharon daVanport: Oh, my goodness!

Tricia Kenney: Well, we do have Timothy Welsh in the chat room right now, and he just wanted to say: “Thank you, Rich. Great job,” and he would buy every minute of it if he could afford it—meaning the footage.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow. [Laughter] That’s great. I know. Tim’s family actually…

Tricia Kenney: I think it would be so interesting to actually see the whole footage from each family.

Sharon daVanport: No, no no no no no no. That wouldn’t be good, though, right, Rich? [Laughter] There’s so much.

Rich Everts: Well, it’s sounding like there’s a demand out there.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah. You guys could put together some bloopers, maybe. It’d be funny.


Rich Everts: Well, we actually do have a little thing that we’re going to put on the DVD. I’ll give you a little spoiler here.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, boy.

Rich Everts: As we traveled around the country, at each state line, we stopped and we danced in front of the sign there as a crew.


To Willie Nelson’s song, which is “On the Road Again.” That was the theme song for our trip. We have footage all around the country of us dancing in front of all these state signs. That might make it into a little video. Yeah.


Sharon daVanport: Oh, that’s great. Very good.

Tricia Kenney: A behind-the-scenes portion of it, yes.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Rich Everts: A little humor.

Sharon daVanport: Now, would you come back and let us know if you start making diffeent kinds of progress in different ways? Keep us updated, like when premiers are going to be and all this good stuff.

Rich Everts: Oh, absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: You’ll come back.

Rich Everts: Absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right. Well, listen, thank you so much, then, Rich, for coming over to the radio show again, and letting us know how everything went and what we have to look forward to.

Rich Everts: Well, thank you very much, Sharon. Thank you, Trish and thank you to all the Autism Women’s Network listeners out there. Thank you so much.

Sharon daVanport: All right. Okay. Thank you.

Tricia Kenney: All right. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Sharon daVanport: All right. Bye-bye.

Rich Everts: Bye.

[Rich Everts hangs up].

Sharon daVanport: Very nice. Okay. Wow, so Spring 2011, we have a lot to look forward to.

Tricia Kenney: Definitely. But what’s nice is we’re going to be able to see little clips of it before then, so I’m looking forward to that.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Okay. Well, I just wanted to briefly mention, before we say our goodbyes that we were off last weekend for the holiday. We took a Satuday off, so I wanted to let everyone know that next weekend on Saturday, we will have our drawing for the [b-Calm Sound] package. So if you want to go over to our website and see what that prize is, we’ll be drawing names from people who are in the chat room throughout the month. Your name has been entered automatically if you’re in the chat room, and we will draw for the winner. Then the following week after that will be our drawing again for LifePROTEKT.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. That should be great.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right. Well, from all of us to all of you, I want to thank you from the Autism Women’s Network. I’m sorry…what, Trish?

Tricia Kenney: The Pepsi contest.

Sharon daVanport: Okay, go ahead.

Tricia Kenney: I just wanted to remind everybody to take a minute if you have time and vote for us. We’re in the drawing for the Pepsi Refresh Everything contest, and we’re going for $50,000. So if you want to vote for us, you can go to RefreshEverything.com/awn and put in your vote for us every day. If you would like, you can just go ahead and text your vote in to 101500 to Pepsi, which is 73774.

Sharon daVanport: Very good. All right. So we thank everybody, too. That’s good that you did say that, Tricia, because I should say thank you to everyone who has been voting for us.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: We’ve stayed in the top 100 last month; we’re still in the top 100 going into the second week coming up. So we’re hoping we can build our voter base and get more votes in there daily, so that we can host these workshops around the country. So we’re going to host the autism workshops. That’ll be great.

Okay. All right. Well, thank you so much, Trish, and thank you to our listeners in the chat room and on the switchboard, and again, to our guest Rich Everts. We look forward to when he gets to come back and give us a little bit more information about the film as it gets closer to the release. We will be back next week with another show, so go back to our board and it’ll be posted within two to three days. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

Tricia Kenney: Bye-bye.


Update on The United States of Autism and interview with Gordon Hartman, founder of Morgan’s Wonderland accessible amusement park

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on July 20, 2010

This is a transcript of Autism Women’s Network’s interview with Sugey Cruz-Everts, autism consultant on the upcoming documentary The United States of Autism and Gordon Hartman, founder of the accesible amusement park Morgan’s Wonderland.


AWN interview with Richard Everts, director of United States of Autism documentary

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on June 23, 2010

Here’s a transcript of Autism Women’s Network’s interview with Richard Everts, the executive producer and director of the documentary The United States of Autism.