Welcome to our latest guest post. Today we would like to introduce you to the remarkable story of Austin Riley from Jon Blacker. He also tells us about his plans for a documentary about Austin and how you can help.
Jon writes “For more than 25 years, I have been working with editorial, commercial and corporate clients in Canada and the United States as a visual storyteller expressing my creativity with both still and moving images. Among others, I have worked with The Canadian Press, Reuters, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, National Post, The Globe and Mail, Fender Musical Instruments, The Sporting News, Loucin Guitar Company, Major League Baseball Photos, Eleven Seven Music, Roadrunner Records Canada and directly with bands of all types of musicians.
Late last fall I had the opportunity to meet Jason Riley and his 15 year old son Austin over breakfast. I had the pleasure to learn about Austin and his remarkable success on the go-kart track; having only been racing for 7 seasons, Austin is already a three-time champion. In and of itself, that may not be particularly noteworthy, but it immediately became so when I learned that Austin has autism. Having started racing at age eight, Austin has been very successful in racing at the highest levels in karting, despite or perhaps to spite managing the challenges of autism. While autism is widely considered to be a disability, Austin is living proof that it does not have to be. He has been able to, and continues to compete with the best of the best and win.
Having raced in Ontario and Quebec for several seasons against the same drivers, at the same tracks, Jason had come up with the idea of taking Austin on a tour to race in places they had always wanted to race against drivers they had always wanted to compete against. That tour would begin in their hometown of Uxbridge, Ontario and travel to Florida, Texas, Louisiana, California, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba. But this is about so much more than just go kart racing.
Racing with Autism – A Documentary will follow Austin, Jason, Austin’s mechanic and driving coach Curtis Fox and Austin’s Personal Educational Assistant Jessica Benge over the course of a 12 week road trip that will see them compete. Between racing events, Jason and Austin will be giving presentations at various high schools along the tour route to heighten autism awareness and further Austin’s assertion that ‘Just because you have autism, it doesn’t mean you can’t do great things’. This film aims to heighten autism awareness and specifically tell Austin’s story, the good and the bad, and will illustrate not only what autism is, but perhaps even more importantly what autism is not.
This film will be a true representation of what it’s like to live with autism. It will, in telling Austin’s inspirational story, reflect the victories and challenges that Austin and those close to him face on a daily basis, from successes at the track to the finer nuances of managing the day-to-day demands of what many of us take for granted; deviance from schedules, sensory sensitivity, fine motor control as examples. I will be traveling with the team and will be a fly on the wall, shooting everything from time in the pits and actual races to time driving between events as well as the speaking engagements and the downtime.
As a visual storyteller, I took Austin’s story to heart immediately and am very excited to tell it. Of course one of the challenges I’m facing, certainly not anything new o anyone in their efforts to help effect change, is funding. I have a few smaller corporate sponsors on board who are a tremendous help, however there is still a long way to go. Working within a very tight budget, it is my estimate that this film will cost $90,000 to produce. This amount will cover the production of the documenting the tour itself as well as many weeks of editing and post production at the end. For a feature-length film, the budgets of which generally run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars on the low end and millions on the high end, Racing With Autism – A Documentary falls into the ‘shoestring’ class. Where $90,000 seems like (and make no mistake, I realize it is) a huge figure, it’s not impossible in much smaller bites. That is why I have launched an Indiegogo funding campaign with a target of $50,000. Combined with corporate backers whom I continue to seek out, if this target is met then this film can be made, Austin’s story can be told and untold awareness about autism can be spread. Every little bit helps and over the course of the next month when the campaign ends on March 4th, with enough smaller contributions the total can be significant.
The Indiegogo campaign for Racing With Autism – A Documentary can be found by following this link; http://bitly.com/15V9DHQ”