Celebrating Inclusivity With The Philly Friendship Circle

Live from Philadelphia (and its suburbs)…

…it’s “The Magic of Being Uniquely You!” Brought to you by the Philly Friendship Circle, this video series was a unique way to share the stories of some pretty incredible young people, and we had a blast being a part of it.

We’ve been working with the folks over at Philly Friendship Circle for several years. They pair kids with special needs with neurotypical teens to form friendships. That’s it. They promote friendship! Unfortunately for many kids, teens, and young adults with special needs fostering friendship can be difficult. Take Ally, for example, a nonverbal teenager whose mother discussed life before the Friendship Circle:

“I always knew Ally was a really smart girl. Even when she was really little, she kind of just had this old soul about her. Because Ally is nonverbal, unfortunately, kids her age don’t really talk to her very much. I think, maybe, it’s because they feel she wouldn’t understand what they have to say, or be interested.”

– Jen; Philly Friendship Circle Mom

The Philly Friendship Circle helps foster friendships and allow for inclusiveness, which has a surprising effect on everyone who is involved. Their cause is something that caught our attention, and we have only grown more fond of the organization as time has gone on.

“This is what the Friendship Circle is about. It’s a culture where typical kids pay attention and read between the lines as to what can be communicated without words. And being heard means the world to kids like Ally who spend their lives being largely ignored.”

 – Jen

Each year the Philly Friendship Circle hosts its annual gala/fundraiser. For the last few years we’ve collaborated with Sheri Resnik and Joan Denenberg (the event producers) to develop the creative. The goal each year is to enhance the experience in the room and to help bring in donations to benefit the organization.

After a bit of brainstorming, Sheri and the team at Philly Friendship Circle came up with the idea of staging the entire event as a late night talk show. They would have couches and chairs, similar to what you’d see on Jimmy Fallon from “The Tonight Show.” The show would be called, “The Magic of Being Uniquely You.” Each of the “guests” would come on stage and talk to the “gala hosts,” Nancy and Marty Black, about what made them unique, much like an actor would visit a late night show to talk about their latest film project. Except our films were mini documentaries that highlighted friendship, inclusivity, and all that makes the Philly Friendship Circle great.

To set the stage, we made a very creative intro in a style similar to what you would see on your favorite late night show or Saturday Night Live, and then made sure all the other videos we produced carried that consistent aesthetic.

The Magic of Being Uniquely You – Intro

The first guest on the “show” was Sophie, a neurotypical teenager about to submit her college applications. Sophie had learned to hone in on something that was really unique about her: her ability to make conversation and communicate verbally.

She wrote about this skill in her college essay, and incorporated a unique twist; while exploring the ways that her verbal communication skills had helped her succeed in life, she was able to highlight how the Philly Friendship Circle had impacted her. Specifically, how her beautiful friendship with her nonverbal friend, Ally, had taught her a whole new way of communicating.

When we read Sophie’s college essay, the inspiration for her being included in the program – we thought what better way to script this than to use her words that told the story so eloquently.

We also interviewed Ally and her mom. Ally is nonverbal and able to communicate through an iPad. We thought her words spoken through the text-to-talk speech feature on her tablet were really powerful, and allowing them to take up the entire frame was a way to demonstrate her abilities, not disabilities.

The Magic of Being Uniquely You – Ally & Sophie

Our next video was about Ryan. Ryan is a young boy with autism who, through the Philly Friendship Circle, discovered his passion for photography.

This is a really beautiful story, especially for us as cinematographers and storytellers. We were essentially witnessing a new member join our ranks, becoming a person responsible for capturing images of the world around us. It was lots of fun working with Ryan, especially when we had the chance to interview him.

After Ryan sat in the interview chair and answered a few questions for us about his photography and Instagram feed, his parents walked in. They were amazed as they looked at Ryan sitting on the couch, and said, ” Did Ryan just sit down for an interview, willingly?”

We told them he had answered our questions and was pretty straightforward with his replies. They both smiled and said, “That is the first time in history that Ryan has done that…”

Since so much of Ryan’s work is featured online (some of his photos have been used on the Philly Friendship Circle website, and have even made their way onto Instagram,) it was really fun to take a “social” approach in this video. We filled it with several of Ryan’s incredible shots, and had fun using Bitmojis to represent several team members from the Philly Friendship Circle.

The Magic of Being Uniquely You – Ryan & Sarah

This was truly a project that our entire team is proud to be a part of. We spent lots of time researching popular shows like Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, and The Late Show to get inspiration, and all of the components really came together nicely. We’re so honored that the Philly Friendship Circle asked us to work with them on this project, and can’t wait to see what other incredible things they accomplish in the years to come.