"I like things that save lives, and skateboarding saved mine, and continues to each year." Ben Duffy, Director/Producer
HeartChild is the remarkable story of Crys Worley, a young mother who advocates for her autistic child while struggling with her own health issues.
Committed to her son, and inspired by the challenges facing parents of autistic children, Worley started a non-profit organization called A.Skate ("Autism. Skateboarding with Kids through Acceptance, Therapy, and Education"). This innovative program teaches children throughout the autism spectrum how to skateboard, and in the process increases their self-worth, sense of identity, and social interaction skills.
HeartChild is 22-year-old filmmaker Ben Duffy's second documentary production.
Ben is a 22-year-old filmmaker from New York who has been making films since he was 13. Ben went on to attend film school at the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2007, but left after his freshman year to do camera work with professional skateboarders, and to fulfill his dream of making a feature-length skateboard documentary. After a year and a half, Ben fulfilled that dream, and produced/directed/filmed/co-edited We Are Skateboarders, which premiered in 27 venues around the world and gained worldwide DVD and I-Tunes distribution.
Photo credit: Marty Tannenbaum.
Please donate to help us raise the money to complete this film at:
Interview with Ben Duffy by Steffie Kinglake
t21: What inspired you to make Heart Child?br />
Ben: I almost don't even know where to start. I've been around autism, literally my whole life, and my ADHD and behavioral issues were so ridiculous when I was younger, that I have always been able to relate to not being in control of yourself. My mom and stepfather were occupational therapists, and they would take me to work often and I would help out with the kids on the spectrum, and my mom would also do private sessions at our house. She helped me to understand that autism is a gift to the world, because it helps people to accept unique perspectives, and being very different myself, that helped me to understand and appreciate who I was. I feel forever indebted to autism and skateboarding, so deciding to make this film was really a no brainer for me.
t21: What was the biggest obstacle in making it?
Ben: I can honestly say there has not been one obstacle in the year and one month I have been making this film. I say this only because I know the obstacles have yet to come. As soon as money gets involved, things get screwed up. That's just human nature. This would be the second feature-length documentary that I have made completely for free, my own money and initiative, and I am 100 percent sure that's what allows me to be the best filmmaker I can be. I can just stay in my zone and make my art. Also, working with Crys Worley has been a dream come true for a director because she is cooler then the other side of the pillow, any pillow in the world.
t21: How did you first connect with the individuals that you feature in the film?
Ben: I was in the selling/editing stages of my last film, We Are Skateboarders, and I was looking around on skateboarding.com, and I saw a post about the A.Skate foundation. I was so burnt out from my film that I just said, this looks great, bookmarked it, and left it alone for six months. Then the time came when I wanted to get involved, so I just called the number on the website. We talked, we related, she said the crew was coming to NYC in a couple of months. Peter and Crys came and stayed with me at Mike's place, and I brought my camera to the clinic. I made an 8-minute little segment, and everyone seemed to be happy with it. I asked her if I could do a feature on her, and she said yes. So Mike and myself went to Alabama and stayed in her house in Alabama for ten days, and made our film. Nothing really too exciting about that answer I gave, but I'm happy about that. Making my last film was an absolute nightmare, and I'm so glad this film, HeartChild, was just so clearly meant to be and went smoothly. Sometimes all a good project takes is intuition and a will to follow it, and to have very little expectation. I had filmed two clinics in California prior to Alabama, but after spending two days with Crys Worley in her home environment with her children, I knew this would be something special. I haven't had any concerns since.
t21: What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
Ben: Be the change you want to see. Love, love, love your life and everyone in it, especially if they're different.
t21: What did you learn about autism through working on the film?
Ben: Like I said, I've been learning about autism since day one, so there was only so much I didn't know prior to working on this film. Sasha definitely shined some light on me, but it was Crys who I learned the most from. She helped me to realize that you can be a diehard passionate person, but still be a great person. I really hated the person I was becoming for a few years there, and Crys was definitely one of the few people in my life who inspired me to turn myself around. I just watched and learned.
t21: Do you skateboard? If so, what do you like most about it?
Ben: Yes, I skateboard. Nine years deep. I like things that save lives, and skateboarding saved mine, and continues to each year.