When Program Director David Di Ianni created FilmAcademy360, a part of Spectrum360 in Livingston, NJ, he was interested in teaching students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) “high value skills for high value work.” Meaning that with appropriate training and skill development, the young adults in the program could someday attain work that is both stimulating and well paid. Students with ASD have completed the FilmAcademy360 program in advanced video editing with great success, opening doors to future professional opportunities.
The FilmAcademy360 program has three phases, beginning with introducing students to theoretical concepts of editing and basic filmmaking. Students, who visit the studio twice a week, learned things like thinking in shots and understanding the progression of shots as a basis for visual storytelling media. Di Ianni says understanding this cinematic language is “…a necessary skill for all filmmakers and digital storytellers.”
Phase two of the program includes the teaching of Adobe Premiere professional editing software. A major goal of the FilmAcademy360 program was for students to gain proficiency in 10 categories of skills using the software, demonstrated through a score of 80% or higher on assessments.
After realizing the students were very visual learners, they adapted the text-heavy Adobe Premiere curriculum and added video lessons. The video curriculum, in conjunction with their in-person classroom instruction, helped all seven students pass the skills assessments, several with perfect scores.
The third phase of the program exposed students to a professional work environment, both at the FilmAcademy360 production studio and at nearby Elm City Communications. The young adults were encouraged to develop relationships with outside producers, hopefully leading to future work opportunities. Students created their own professional showreel to submit to potential employers, along with a resume and profiles on websites like Upwork and Freelancer.com. Instructors also worked closely with the students on verbal and nonverbal communication skills, using video recordings as a learning tool.
FilmAcademy360 continues to support the professional development of all participating students. “We have an open door policy to support these students,” Di Ianni says, “If they get a freelance gig, they can come into our studio and do the work here. We intend to support their future progress to whatever degree we can.”
Career Readiness: Work opportunities in the high-value area of video and digital media production; Students have demonstrated proficient and demonstrable technical skills on the Adobe software suite through hands-on assessments; Students have completed portfolios and built professional resumes through work in our production studio;
Students have had opportunities to meet top industry professionals, including Executive Producer at PBS and editor at Pixar/Disney.
Social Communication Skills: Due to the curriculum and instruction of FilmAcademy360, school staff and parents have observed notable increased ability in students verbal communication through clearer, less affected and more modulated speech; Increased eye contact; Assertive posture; and Observed self-confidence.
As a result of these observations we piloted a study with the coordination of Peter Gerhardt, PhD, Megan Maguire BCBA and David Di Ianni, Program Director, MS. The pilot study showed a statistically significant improvement in the above areas as a result of the curriculum and instruction of the program of FilmAcademy360. We plan to repeat this study on a larger scale and publish the results. The results of the current study are available on request.