SCM transmedia Instructor Sonja Bozic and The Forum School teacher aide Jonathan Weiner have teamed up to develop a virtual reality project titled “Chocolate Milk.” The purpose of the VR story is to allow audiences to finally experience how a person with autism experiences the world. Bozic will provide the technical side of the production. Jonathan, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was four and is now a teacher’s aide in the special needs school he attended as a child, will provide the story content and give unparalleled insights into how a person with ASD reacts to the world around them.
The two recently traveled to Nyon, Switzerland to attend the sixth annual Visions du Rèel documentary and interactive storytelling workshop. At the workshop’s closing, the two were awarded one of the event’s top prizes – an October trip to Paris to participate in the highly competitive Cross Video Days Content Market, where they will “pitch” their project to potential funders, distributors and production companies.
In the 1940s, researchers began to use the term “autism” (the word “autism” comes from the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.”) Since that time, dozens of films, many more documentaries, scores of books, thousands of articles, and organizations around the world have been created to help people to understand the mind of the person on the Autism spectrum. None has succeeded. The wall that separates the world from getting into the mind of the person with autism remains as solid and impenetrable as possible.
Bozic, who has been teaching Transmedia Projects in the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State since 2015, was inspired by a video of one Serbian person who is extremely talented but not an active member of the society due to his autism. I wanted to understand autism on a deeper level because I think that they are inspiring people with many talents.”
The final piece fell into place when Sonja met Jonathan a few months ago. Then she knew, together with Jonathan, they could finally break through that wall that has prevented anyone from understanding how a person with ASD thinks and reacts.
For additional guidance, Bozic relied upon the insights from Jonathan’s father, Larry Weiner, himself an instructor of transmedia, and Jonathan’s mother Barbara, an elementary school music teacher and an Autism Ambassador for Autism New Jersey.
The title of the project is a metaphor for Jonathan’s approach to life. Despite being a 30 year old adult, Jonathan still views the world with the simplicity, idealism and honesty one finds in children. Yet, Jonathan has an apartment, drives a car, works, and even has a girlfriend.
As part of the project’s evolution, Bozic has traveled to Belgium to attend the !Flab in Ghent, Belgium, a five day of intensive program in which she’ll work with developers and designers to help create a prototype for “Chocolate Milk.” In the fall, she will be bringing this project to her SCM students in classes as yet another powerful example of how transmedia work can empower people and help us transform our everyday reality.