I was fortunate enough to be able to make an internationally award winning film, WAITING FOR RONALD, that came straight from my heart. I wrote the script which was about a 37 year old developmentally disabled man who finally leaves the institution where he has spent most of his years, takes his suitcase, fear and humor to meet his best friend and start a new life. I have a graduate degree in psychology from Antioch University, so the subject matter was extremely interesting to me. One of my objectives was to show how all peoples are important and how society should be a blended society…everyone fitting in, in their own way. This came about because I had a cousin who felt he didn’t belong in society and had a very unhappy isolated life…very sad…since he had qualities he could share with people, but thought he would not be accepted.
When casting the movie I opened it up to anybody…disabled and non-disabled. It was incredible to see what the public thought what disabled looked like. I hired Jody Clark who was developmentally disabled and at 6’7” was a gentle giant. Casting was a challenge because of what some of the non-disabled actors thought what disabled looked like. Something like a Saturday Night Live skit. Finally I brought in a friend, wonderful actor and he and Jody clicked. I hired Jody to play the lead Ronald. Michael who is not disabled to play the best friend, Edgar. Ronald’s friend at the institution went to Patrick Cooper who is autistic. And another friend in the film went to Blair Underwood who is Down Syndrome. I was lucky enough to have had Bruno Kirby as the counselor. I had a blended cast, which was exactly what I was saying about society. Everyone involved with the project knew it was a very special experience. The cast was very close and we all learned from each other.
I was afraid because this was the first film I was going to direct. Jody and Patrick had never acted before and Michel Luckerman had never played a disabled character before.
So the playing field was leveled and all was good. Rehearsals were quite wonderful. The shoot went incredibly well. So much love and support on the shoot. The film won many AWARDS, but the real REWARD was being able to show the film at different institutions and centers and schools for disabled. The response was incredible. I would take Jody with me and show the film. After the film I would open up for any questions and discussions. The audience consisted of the population that lived there or went to school there. There were the counselors and the parents. The people would come forward with thoughts and feelings that some had never expressed before.
I would take copies of a few scenes and had some of the people come forward and read the scene together…having them do something that they might not thought they could do and showing them yes they can. We would work the scenes and talk about how that effected them, what it made them think of and that would bring on more discussion. The discussions were personal and emotional. The sharing and the confidence building was a true joy to behold.
Many parents and also counselors came up and let me know that they had not heard their child’s intimate thoughts, dreams and feelings before. Everyone was very touched by the experience. It was so rewarding for every one that I took that seminar to as many places as I could. Everyone who saw the film had an experience that enlightened them and touched their heart….What a win!