Mildly Different is a crowd-funded film project aimed at raising awareness of autism in women and girls, exploring what the condition looks and feels like in females who can often be misdiagnosed. Written and produced by Anna Czarska, who is herself autistic, the proposed narrative will portray the experience of a young girl as she struggles to adapt to a world that isn’t adapted to her. As the protagonist navigates everyday situations, such as riding the subway or sidestepping along a busy pavement, the audience will be immersed in her sensory experience.
This clever concept is an effective way of promoting awareness of autism in young women and highlights how society is inflexible in accommodating those whose neurological diversity doesn’t correlate to any visible disability. But the film also goes one step further too, showcasing how for someone who exhibits mildly different behaviours, in say, how they respond to their environments and the people in it – there is little support.
Not just in terms of services or resources, but in societal attitude. Across communities, we are missing compassion and empathy that would be welcomed by some of those with autism, whose symptoms make their actions or understanding outside of what is considered ‘normal’.
For some girls on the autistic spectrum, this is an all too common and collective experience. As these young women become aware of the fact that their condition results in exhibiting some of these behaviours, they in turn, learn to hide them. Headphones to block the sensory overwhelm of noise, sunglasses to inhibit the disorientation caused by light, opting to take quieter routes to avoid the distressing patter of people – all of these are adopted behaviours that many girls make in order to quell the turmoil caused by autistic tendencies. And because the autistic diagnostic process is geared towards recognising the most common and obvious symptoms of the condition – which are largely shown by boys – those behavioural habits being hidden by girls, mean that their condition remains hidden too.
But the hiding feels more embedded than just in the medical field. It also feels hidden in society, by society. We have all travelled on public transport when a fellow passenger has exhibited signs of distress or difficulty, we have all been in a public space when a person looks overwhelmed and overloaded by a situation or environment.
And yet, many of us too will have seen the general disregard of passers-by. Too quickly these signs of autistic neurologically diversity are dismissed as a condition that threatens public disorder, rather than one that should order public attention.
It’s part of what Mildly Different aims to highlight through its plot of having one stranger show an act of kindness. Amidst all those who turn the other way in and choose to ignore, one person shines as an example. And what a difference it makes. Through its unravelling scenes the project is set on demonstrating difference. Not just how autistic girls might be perceived as being different, but the impact that different behaviour can make. How it can alleviate anxiety and help include, rather than exclude, someone who feels continuously on the margins of society.
And that’s just it, the margins. Girls with autism so often are forced to occupy a strange purgatory inflicted by misdiagnosis. Being different enough to know that you are outside of a mainstream experience, but not different enough to be recognised as being autistic must be an incredibly difficult conflict.
Perhaps the most important motive of trailblazers such as Anna Czarska is to help neurotypical people change their behaviours so that those suffering and hiding their autism, don’t need to. This way we’d all be able to play an active role in changing the conversation and helping girls to be diagnosed sooner, without them having to take protective action so early on in their lives. It’s their hope, and ours too, that more people will begin to choose not to turn a blind eye, but instead educate their own perceptions so they can become more accustomed and alert to the neurologically diverse amongst us.
Our latest collection, Dazzling Colours of Calm is a theme dedicated to raising awareness of autism and those who experience the world through an autistic lens – see details and purchase the box here.
About the filmmaker
At Heady Mix, our focus has always been on sharing the stories of those not represented enough in mainstream literature, and so it is a great pleasure to extend this to filmmakers who are also fighting for representation. Anna Czarska and her production company Sticky Tape Films are paving the way for more diversity in the industry – and that’s a cause we will always be behind.
Anna Czarska has been involved with the film industry on and off throughout her life. She has a background in business and produces, directs, writes, and manages projects that exemplify her interest in unconventional cinema, often regarding topics involving mental health or societal matters that require greater public awareness. Anna especially likes to challenge the everyday thinker to try something new, something different; this is at the heart of where her enthusiasm lies.