It’s a long one ….

It has taken me most of today to get over the nerves and excitement from yesterday.  Unless you work in the industry you cannot imagine the amount of work that goes into getting that show on stage. It started off being a very late one the night before battling the clock trying to get a programme together to give to guests. I eventually put the lap top down at 2am and then lay thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I’m anxious all the time anyway but this week i’ve been hyper aware of it.

Alarm went off at 6am and I hammered away at it only pausing to get Reilly off to school. 10.20 I hit send and prayed my friend at Sploshh could print it in time (straight opposite Northern Stage so terribly handy).

Into the bathroom and there’s my toothbrush accompanied by a something I’d rather not talk about that certainly didn’t belong to me. Irretrievable. What a start.

I’ll spare you the details of the inbetween things that went wrong like the allergic reaction to my handbag and the urgent antihistamines. Back to the play.

The Life of Reilly play is blessed with being an incredible set of cast and crew.  When I say crew I include the parents of the girls.  They are there for every rehearsal and help out as much as anyone on the day.  That in turn means their families must readjust for their other children etc and we are eternally grateful. There’s always an emergency pair of American Tan tights to run for for Grandma Mary and in this case a single duvet and some fairy lights.

It was really exciting for everyone for the cast to meet Paul, Nicky & Hannah (and Dani later on) from TryLife for the first time. There to start documenting the rise of Life of Reilly. Interviews, candid shots and all round greatness. Also Kieran Rose The Autistic Advocate who has been an absolute godsend giving brutal honesty on the things he has loved or loathed about the production. We have taken every piece of advice on board and it has helped the play evolve over the last year into something really special.

From arranging vans and drivers, learning scripts, techs, lighting, props, tickets, guests it’s pretty exhausting.

Yesterdays show was by invite only at Northern Stage.  Some of the regions top business/industry men and women. There were canapés (Thank you McKennas) and bubbles on arrival and the whole thing made me stand back and admire what the play has become.  I admit seeing Ian Whyte from Game of Thrones got me incredibly excited as many will tell you i’m a little bit obsessed.  I tried for spoilers for the finale but sadly I didn’t get any, I found it highly amusing that when the photographer from Luxe Magazine cane along I was dressed with makeup on and Alison was in costume (she’s usually super glam with sparkly nails and immaculate hair etc) leggings, T-shirt with Nutella on, no make up and her hair in a pony tail. She’ll suffer for her art though 😂. Also an absolute pleasure to meet was Kim Tserkezie. Anyone who has kids will know her from Balamory. A very talented lady passionate about diversity in media. We were honoured she came along.

As guests began to gather I’d catch glimpses of myself chatting and hosting and think who the hell is this imposter. How on earth is she standing there when her knees are weak and she wants to run.

The call to take seats came and I headed down to the green room to work on my speech for free the play. I could probably tell you the script word for word I’ve seen it and read it that many times. I knew what they were laughing at without seeing the gesture or hearing the words. I knew the cast would smash it. I was nervous nonetheless.

2 cups of tea and some deep breathing I’d something that resembled a speech. Half time break and the cast came to join me. Alison still tearstained from reading the poem ”My boy and me’ what I can only describe as someone standing on my heart when I hear it onstage.

There’s a brilliant bond between everyone in the show. I watched the girls doing each other’s hair completely at ease with each other and it made me think they are forming friendships that will last. Just as the parents have. Great things happening on and off stage.

I braved the second half to watch from the wings. The laughs were loud and the sobs were heavy. The cast 200% knocked it out of the park. They were brilliant! I’m not biased – there’s are many reviews that will tell you the same thing. This play is worthy of ANY stage and should be seen on every stage.

Crap they’ve done their bows. Standing ovation, rapturous applause. It’s my turn.

I totter our and almost fall into the stage after tripping on the curtain. Just what I wanted.

I introduce myself as Christine Stephenson writer of this blog. I tell the audience about the horrific stats that accompany autistic kids/adults. Dire mental health services. Struggles, fights, trials and triumphs and also why it is crucial we make the film. I nearly cried. My voice wobbled but I pulled it back. I’m just desperate you see for everyone to understand.

Paul took to the stage to talk about TryLife from Howdon to Hollywood. How he got into filmmaking from working in youth services and certainly held everyone’s attention. The introduction to these guys is what will make this film stand out in the crowd. The vision for it is off the scale. I see awards and why the hell not.

Finally Rob Armstrong stood to address the guests and gave them a little insight into why he loves the project and why everyone should get behind us and make it happen. The Armstrong’s kickstarted our find with a 10k donation! Rob is a huge supporter of Hadrian School in Newcastle’s West End. An incredible school which caters for the needs of pupils aged between two and eleven years with a range of additional needs including complex, severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties. He and Bev get it.

Many guests pledged to sponsor a page of the film script (example below). An innovative way to raise some funds for us and you never know it may be worth a small fortune when those BAFTAS roll in.

The Hilton gave is an incredible prize of an overnight stay, drinks, spa, dinner, tickets to see Marvel, transport etc which raised £765! They also donated the bottles of bubbly. Big Thankyou Lynn, Janet, Toni and the lady who I didn’t catch her name (shameful) for selling tickets and being such an enormous help.

All in all I great success. If you were lucky enough to be invited I thankyou from the bottom of my heart for the love and support we have received since. I know it resonated with many. The characters and scenarios can be identified with so easily when you live The Life of Reilly in your own home. It’s time for change.

Alison who plays Joanne and who is also the writer is up for a culture award on Thursday which in itself to be a finalist is outstanding! then we have our ball on 1st June (ask me about last remaining table or 2) so not quite ready to relax for a second.

What a journey. Stress and laughter our guides.

Alison Stanley , Kelly Best – We’ve got this! Xx

#TryLifeofReilly

If you would like to support us with sponsorship or anything else please see the funding page attached. (There are offline donations to be added to this).

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-life-of-reilly-autism-film

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12 years

12 years ago after the birth of my second son I had a breakdown. It was the worst experience of my life. I had severe post natal depression and peri-natal OCD. Peri-natal OCD is possibly the cruelest form of a mental health problem I’ve come across. This isn’t lining baby bottles up or being tidy. This is trying to make a bottle and convince yourself that you haven’t filled it with salt (obvs haven’t but you check, you check again, one more check, you throw away – just in case, you start again). It’s exhausting. You have this teeny human to care for and all you can think about is the harm that they could come to (obsession) and spend your life making sure that doesn’t happen (compulsions).

This is not a combination I would wish upon anyone, not my worst enemy. I couldn’t travel alone on a bus into Newcastle, couldn’t nip to the shops or take my oldest to school. On the rare occasions I did venture outside I wouldn’t/couldn’t speak to anyone. It was the darkest place I’ve ever been to. I ended up moving home with my parents, only they knew the true extent to how bad I actually was, taking sleeping tablets 6 nights a week for some respite from my inner turmoil while anti depressants settles themselves in as my new sidekicks (still with me, couldn’t live without them). I could no longer work in finance and found myself with no job for the first time in my life. I felt I was a failure and the world would be a better place without me.

If you’d said to me then Christine hang on in there. You are going to make a difference. You’ll play a part in saving lives through the charity. You’ll produce theatre shows and a film. I’d have christened you barmier than I was. But look what’s happened! Granted I still take meds – no shame in that, I practise mindfulness and really try to keep on top of my mental health.

When I talk about being driven you have no idea how much I’m driven. I see these opportunities as second chances. I see them as my way to cover up some of the cracks in my own walls. Being driven fuelled with anxiety on most days is bloody hard. I hate anxiety, sometimes I want to get the kids off to school and then hide but I don’t I sometimes need some encouragement to keep it moving and I do my absolute best.

The Life of Reilly is cathartic for me. I love writing when I get the chance. I love to share our experiences and feel I’ve evolved over the last 3 years of writing. I hadn’t a clue when I wrote my first blog that it would be viewed all over the world. I get thanks from countries I’ve never heard of because they feel like they aren’t the only ones ballsing this parenting lark. I get it wrong. We all do but I do my best.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that the stage play travels. I will work my nuts off to make this film. Wherever possible it will include autistic people. Acting, crew, runners. Everything in my power to make it happen. There are important issues to raise and millions to educate but I need your help to do it.

If you can help with any aspect of the film be it donation of time, sponsorship, product placement, locations, expertise then please shout. We have some great fundraisers coming your way including a Midsummer Nights Dream Ball!!

Moral to this one is no matter how shitty you feel there is hope on the horizon. Keep your chin up, seek help, take the meds, speak to the counsellors just do what you’ve got to do when times are blue. Never be afraid to speak up.

Great things could be just around the corner xx

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-life-of-reilly-film

The Life of Reilly Premiere was a success!

So the premiere was an amazing success!  I have never been quite so terrified in the days leading upto the event.  Will people like it, will people turn up and watch it, will people want to see more, what the hell will I say for my speech, why wont Reilly sleep for more than 4 hours this week?  Will Alison kill someone?  I could go on.

A lot of people who couldn’t make it (thankfully they didn’t as it was fit to burst) have asked  for more information about the ideology behind it all so here goes.

The short film was made to hi-light the distinct lack of support for families by the powers that be.  My greatest support comes from other parents, my actually autistic friends and Reilly’s teachers/school.  We have some incredible schools in the area unfortunately there are not enough places for our kids and many are shoehorned into the wrong environments.  It causes massive problems.  We certainly had a fight on our hands to ensure Reilly could get the education he deserves and is entitled to, we are not alone in that.

The film is a short and will be entered into short film festivals and used as a hook to try and secure funding for a feature film.  The short film which  you can view or download below for a very small fee (proceeds towards feature) looks at an ordinary morning with an extraordinary family.  How easy a life of rigid routine can become absolute chaos when the wrong transport arrives.  Transport can be a massive headache for SEN familes .  Alison Stanley who plays Joanne and also wrote the play The Life of Reilly and Charlie Price who plays Reilly do such an incredible job at really making the whole scenario hit very close to home.

The feature film which is already in writing will follow Reilly from conception, well actually just after as it won’t be an 18, right the way through to young man.  It will all be based on real life events and I can ensure you will be witty, entertaining, heartwarming with a little touch of heartbreaking reality I am sure many will identify with.  The film will most certainly call out the problems Reilly and others like him face on a daily basis.  Autistic actors, crew and consultants is a given for the feature film too.

We need this.  We have a chance to reach a huge audience and squash those myths, promote inclusion and to be frank get people to stop acting like dicks around these families making all our lives a little easier.  It’s about being human and education as I said on the night and I quote.

I’ve been that person rolling my eyes at the parent standing over their screaming child in the supermarket.  Mine would never do that! What a fool I was.  Thats what I saw a parent with no control over their child.  What i didn’t see was a child overwhelmed by their surroundings – of sights, smells and sound.  What I didn’t see was a parent desperate to just blend in, a parent desperate to help their child and get out of that situation.   I judged because I didn’t see.  I didn’t understand.

If you were there on the night you would have been lucky enough to hear a speech by Kieran Rose The Autistic Advocate.  It was incredible.  I hadn’t had a sneek peek at what he was going to say before hand and it really blew me away.  Focus was on responsibility to ensure the narrative is right.  Ill post Kieran’s transcript up in a separate blog post as it deserves its own platform.   The Q & A after the film with myself, Alison, Charlie, Scott and Kieran promoted some excellent discussion and enabled many of the audience to quiz Kieran about being actually autistic and Scott’s take on being an autistic actor.   Charlies answer to how was meeting the real Reilly melted by heart.  He’s an incredible kid and I know for fine fact we will be seeing so much more of him.

So please support us take this to the next level.  Take a look at the short film and please send me a review of your thoughts.

A massive thank you to everyone who took the time out to attend on Wednesday it means the world to us and  to every single person who donated, came to Reilly’s fundraiser, gave their time to help raise funds and those who shared our posts and helped spread the word.

Alison Stanley, Charlie Price, Chrissy Rock, Andy Mills, Scott Ritchie, Stephen Woods and the whole clan from Act2Cam.    Thankyou for a great experience.  I look forward to many more breakfast meetings with Alison & Kelly plotting the next. Got lots of exciting things in the pipeline.

Did I ever think i’d be hosting a film premiere and listed as an Executive Producer? Hell no. 

Did I think i’d be trying to make a difference for my boy?  Hell yes and will continue to do so. 

The Life of Reilly from ACT 2 CAM

 

The Life of Reilly short film

The trailer has landed and I couldn’t be happier!

If you want to see the full version then come along to the premiere on 13th June at Tyneside Cinema Buy Tickets  you wont be disappointed.  There will also be a talk from The Autistic Advocate, his blog posts blow my mind with his incredible insight on autism.

I loved being on set for this.  Charlie Price and Alison Stanley make for the most perfect Mother Son portrayal.  My mornings pretty much go like this. I feel a bit sorry for myself and Reilly watching it. The short film hi-lights the importance of routine and what can go wrong when you are failed by the system supposedly supporting you.

It’s tense, it’s real life.  You may see yourself in Alison’s character Joanne and you may see your child in Charlies incredible acting as Reilly.  Autistic actors (Scott Ritchie looks fetching in his dressing gown as the nosey neighbour) and crew were included in this film which is important to us.  Crissy Rock is an excellent taxi escort, her face speaks a 20thousands words, usually sweary,  along with her disinterested sidekick driver (Andy Mills), slightly bewildered by what shes been met with on an ordinary morning with an extraordinary family.

Loved being part of the Act2Cam experience.  I genuinely had no idea just how much work goes into producing a short film.

Music is North South Divide by The Longsands 🙂

 

Please  support us.  There’s so much more to do and we have a platform to educate and entertain to a much wider audience.  This is just the first step.

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The Life of Reilly – Official Trailer from DoctorChas on Vimeo.`

 

That’s a wrap!

Had such a good week. Since Sunday we’ve pretty much worked on The Life of Reilly short non stop. I feel pretty emotional about it and cannot wait to see the finished result.

Deciding to push ahead with making the film was a no brainer for me. This blog has provided much enlightenment and entertainment over the past 2 years if the feedback I’ve received is correct. We have a lot of eyes on The Life of Reilly and it just seemed such a great opportunity to spread our wings and reach a bigger audience.

I put my hands up now and say I had no idea how much work goes into making a film. After all what more can you need than the actors, a camera and someone in charge. Pffft I’ll tell you what you need. Locations, actors, scripts (John Hickman), cameras, lights, mics, sound equipment, smoke machines, props, cars, food, runners, directors, makeup, hair, green room, paperwork, drone, chaperone …. need I go on ? These people worked HARD. Local heartthrob Andy Mills played a blinder as the miserable taxi driver and Scott Ritchie in his dressing gown our nosey neighbour. Just brilliant. The actual neighbours on location too not one complaint about the madness over the last few days and even a borrow of someone’s front door. That’s Annitsford for you, all rooting for Reilly and helping us along the way.

Charlie Price from Manchester plays Reilly. He is the most adorable lad. Professional is an understatement. He knew about autism and was so keen to meet Reilly in real life. The days start early and are long, I found it difficult never mind being the ripe old age of 7. He loves it though. Loves meeting people and acting, he’s awesome just like his Mum Andrea. I believe things happen for a reason more often than not and I’m grateful this lovely family have come into my life. Andrea cried with me at some of the scenes and had really thought about the relationship between myself and Reilly. Charlie told her the first night that he loved her and she got upset that I’d never heard that, almost guilty. I’d love to hear it, I hope I do, maybe I won’t but I know it. It’s in every cuddle and stroke of my face.

Stephen Woods the director and his team Jamie, Chas, Ryan, Charlie, Jake, Cal, Marni, Chase & Sophie from Act2Cam have blown me away. I advised a lot on set and got to see them in action. The work that goes into getting these shots just right is incredible, it’s creative, it’s frustrating, it’s their passion. No second bests.

Now Alison Stanley who you will know from writing the stage play and playing Mam Joanne in The Life of Reilly has knocked it out the park. She has looked as rough as a badger for 3 days in her pjs, messy hair, no shoes or makeup. The polar opposite of how you see her on a normal day with her lovely nails and immaculate hair. Real minger this week. She’s spent hours sitting outside in no shoes or coat shooting scenes. She’s cried, she’s laughed, she became her character Joanne. It was awesome to watch. Alison has felt the frustration of having her own son failed exactly the same as some of the scenes she acted so well. She’s been there. She nailed it.

Crissy Rock what can I say. You amazing woman. You’ve made me laugh and cry. I’ve learned just how much more there is to this incredible lady. Talented with a massive heart can’t wait to meet up again.

It’s important to me that autistic people act and crew on this project and that is something we will be sticking with in the feature. The feature will see Reilly grow into a young man and we’ll see some of the difficulties thrown in his way, the failings and misunderstandings but you’ll also see the love of his family, his achievements, his awesomeness.

All I can do is thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for contributing to this project. We can make changes to attitudes by teaching empathy and understanding. A glimpse at what happens behind closed doors is sometimes all it takes. We’ve opened that door a little to you all.

I’m asked constantly what happens now. The film has to be edited and then we will have a premiere at the Tyneside Cinema with some guest speakers in June. We will enter it to short film festivals and more importantly we will use it to dangle the carrot for funding and hopefully commissioning a feature length. You will not find anyone more driven than Alphabetically Autistic (myself, Alison & Kelly) to make it happen.

I have special thanks to my little pal Lisa Bewick who signed up to let us have her home for 1 day originally and that turned into 4! Not many would have been as cool but thank god you’re Team Reilly and can see the bigger picture. Elaine and Stevie from The Bridge Inn Annitsford opened every morning before the birds were up to ale sure we had a green room and were fed and watered. Above and beyond, amazing food, amazing hospitality that won’t be forgotten xx and last but not least Ken & Pat who have looked after the real Reilly and brother Ellis xx

2018 lets have it!

I’m sat in bed writing this post after what has to have been the most boring New Year I have ever had. We don’t ever get out on NYE which doesn’t bother me one bit but we usually order food in. Watch the equivalent of Sydney Harbour fireworks kicking off from the neighbours out the window and at least acknowledge the year passing.

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NYE fun

This year the only thing I celebrating passing was the bug I had picked up from Reilly.  Bedroom bound for 2 days with frequent trips to the loo (remember I can’t go til Reilly goes first so it gets tricky).  I managed an hour downstairs with a dry bit of toast and League of Gentlemen then back into bed.  Today has been just as fun.  I’ve looked at approximately 150 holidays with Reilly who is now in holiday mode, watched Charlie and Lola ‘we can look after your dog’ 100 times and didn’t get to see 2 minutes of Dunkirk because Reilly has attached himself to me like a lovable barnacle to a rudder. Instead I retreat back upstairs and in the small amounts of time I’m permitted my phone I scroll through peoples look how amazing our NYE is posts and swear under my breath.

Seeing as I don’t like people that much it’s not the end of the world as i’ve made it sound and you’re actually welcome to NYE festivities I find it quite frankly overrated and shite and it has given me some time to reflect on 2017.  Thing that stands out the most is how much I have learned about autism.  Through researching but mostly by listening to autistic people.  Twitter is a fountain of knowledge that we as parents should be tapping into.  I will continue to do this. From the horses mouth cannot be wrong. You will be surprised and hopefully appalled at how huge the struggle is for their voices to be heard.  I want Reilly’s voice to be heard when he is ready and why shouldn’t it be?

2017 has brought lots of stress to our home.  Lack of childminders, money, anxiety, siblings, usual shit.  We continue to wade through it though. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, might be in the distance but its there.  It also brought us Tarly Dog.  Worlds naughtiest pie stealing Puppy.

2017 brought The Life of Reilly play to the stage which was an incredible experience which will repeat on March 16th at Northern Stage.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think Id be minging around backstage at the Northern Stage with the thesps.  Loved it.  Never make an actor though.  I stood on the party scene cakes, had scripts stuck to marshmallows on my converse and marked all the beautifully polished floor.

The play
Scene from the play

That post.  That viral post.  Shane’s rant that went round the world and back again.  A very angry dad venting to his nearest and dearest that I copied to twitter.  Can only take the positives from it. Thousands of messages worldwide of support, I’ve broken my heart at lots of the emails with talk of suicide in children because of exclusion and bullying. Not good enough, not acceptable.  Fact is we all came from the wrinkly old bawbag lottery.  Respect each other and we’ll go a long way.

I’ve been trolled this year for the first time.  Vile cretins, it takes all my being not to respond or to read their comments but I’m trying.

2017 gave us a party! Reillys Party which was incredible.

The film pilot which is nearing its final week for crowdfunding has been a challenge. 5k in around a month is a big ask.  I decided to throw myself at it and see if we could do it.  The pilot will be used to hopefully get a full TV film off the ground.  I’ve seen Alison read through her lines with Crissy Rock for the 10 minute pilot and it is awesome.  With only 5 main characters in the scene and I’m sure most of you can envisage it.  Mam getting Reilly ready for school best she can, you all know how my mornings go! new taxi arrives, escort knocks on the door, mam never seen her before in her life, refuses to send Reilly with strangers, ends up in council offices for a showdown.  I’ve done it. Most of us have.

The actual film will see Reilly grow.  It will dispel some myths about autism.  It’ll look at the family dynamics and Reilly’s perception of it all.  It will see him grow into a young adult.  I don’t want to say too much.  It’s awesome.  Obvs not a real life story of my Reilly because he is 6.  This story is a collective of real life scenarios with guidance from autistic people.  Featuring autistic actors and crew is an absolute given.

If you want to donate before our time runs out you can at Life of Reilly Crowdfunder.  Every penny is appreciated.  Making a difference not just a donation.  People engage through drama we know that from the stage play.  We can hit a  much wider audience if we can take it to TV.  Let’s do it!! Only a week to raise around £700 to hit target.

2018 has potential to be amazing.  Reilly will continue to grow in handsomeness and awesomeness as per usual and hopefully the general publics understanding and acceptance of autism will too.

Big thankyou to everyone who has supported us this far with The Life of Reilly blog and by donating to the crowdfunder .  210k views isn’t bad going for a blog I imagined would get about 20.

One of the many things I adore about Reilly is his outburst of spontaneous laughter.

xx

The Life of Reilly Film

I was in a meeting this week to talk about turning The Life of Reilly into a screenplay.  At first it sounds impossible but the more I learn and investigate the more I think there is a really good chance of it becoming a reality.

I had no idea how much money would be required or what it would entail.  My good friend Steve who plays Ged Reilly’s Dad in the play has a Act2Cam film school and is well connected in the industry and Alison Stanley who wrote The Life of Reilly play already has the film mapped out in her mind and in her notebook.

To dangle the carrot to distributors etc there must be a 10 minute high quality pilot professionally made.  This involves bringing in scriptwriters, a producer, a director and casting.  The scene used for the pilot will most likely be the explosive showdown between Reilly’s Mam and the local council about school transport.  We’ve all been there and can relate. I think, not that i’m an expert, that it will in a snapshot capture the everyday stresses we face.  Handing you most precious belonging over to a complete stranger, trusting them to care for your child and your child not able to relate to you whether they like this person, whether they feel safe or threatened with them is the hardest thing i’ve had to do.

I wish people knew how we truly live.  A minefield of marital disagreements bore from stress over money and time misspent, from a cocktail of sleep deprivation and anxiety, from a fear for their future that gathers a permanent black cloud of uncertainty.  The battles we have, the books we must read, the dossiers of papers we amass hi-lighting every single thing your child is ‘failing’ at to reach an unnecessary milestone to achieve a vital tick in a box to notch up the score on the SEN school lottery.  All this when all we want to do is celebrate their achievements no matter how small.  All this just to get our children to the school and the education they have every right to.

People leave the play touched by what they have seen.  It changes their perspective about autism family dynamics and I like to hope that their new found realisations are shared with friends, families and acquaintances drumming down judgement from the lookers on.   A film on TV could do so much.  NT actors working alongside autistic actors and consultants is a dream. No flowering it up just telling it like it is in all its glorious sometimes heartbreaking detail.

Please if you can support this project, click the link below.  I trust the professionals who are already lining up to do  this pilot and hopefully full length film the justice and the air time it deserves.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-life-of-reilly-film-pilot-1
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FBBCLN%2Fvideos%2F1538043862943362%2F&show_text=0&width=476