It was standing-room only recently at the International Family Film Festival in Los Angeles for the premier of “Piehead: (A Kinda True Story)"—and the former resident who helped write and produce it couldn’t have been more delighted.
To her knowledge, it’s the first film of its kind: A family-friendly flick that not only centers around autism, but also features cast and crew members with autism.
And you can see it at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Destinta Theaters in Bridgeville.
Admission is free for the screening event, which will also be a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Autism Speaks.
Louann Petrucci co-wrote and produced the movie with her daughter, Hollis Zemany-McLachlan, who also directed and stars in the film.
The basis of the script was inspired by her youngest son, Gregory, who has autism—and who always had an almost obsessive love for movies.
That love of movies helped the family decide to transplant themselves from Canonsburg to sunny California when Hollis graduated from Washington & Jefferson College—where she in part studied theater—and moved there to pursue her Silver Screen dreams.
Petrucci said her leaving was “traumatic and dramatic” for the family, and Greg specifically.
And so “Piehead” (the family’s nickname for Hollis) was born.
“Gregory's, and our family's, struggles to live with—and ultimately overcome—the intense challenges of this neuro-biological disorder inspired me to write ‘Pie Head: (A Kinda' True Story)’ and his innate wit was a significant contribution to the writing process,” Petrucci said in an email.
She and Hollis embraced the young woman’s “coming-of-age/road trip concept as representative of a life journey living successfully with a special-needs sibling, and as a comedy no less.”
Described as being in the vein of “Little Miss Sunshine,” she said it’s “essentially a mockumentary” of their own lives—a fictional tale that was partially shot in Washington County.
Petrucci invites local folks to come enjoy the movie, while learning a bit more about autism, what it looks like and how it affects the different people who are diagnosed with it.
“People don’t understand autism—it really looks different in each individual,” she said, adding that her Gregory was “very verbal and very charming.”
And she’s proud not only of the movie, but all those special-needs cast and crew members who helped make it a success.
“So many people who are on the autism spectrum are amazing writers and very creative people,” Petrucci added.
What are your thoughts on this film project? Tell us in the comments.
This article first appeared on Canon-McMillan Patch.