By Stephanie Choate
After spending most of his life unable to fully communicate his thoughts, Mark Utter is inviting others into his mind with his film, “I am in here.”
The film—shot this summer and co-directed by Williston-based filmmaker Jim Heltz—is set to premiere this month, after more than seven years in the making.
Utter was born with a form of autism that leaves him unable to say what he wants, said Emily Anderson, the film’s other co-director. Utter wrote the screenplay through supported typing—a slow and meticulous form of communication that requires extreme focus—with the help of Anderson, who met Utter through her work with VSA Vermont, the state organization on arts and disability.
“I am feeling full of excitement about people seeing what I wrote on the big screen and then talking about communication with them,” Utter wrote for the Observer.
The film is set to premiere March 16 at 7 p.m. at The Main Street Landing for the Performing Arts Film House in Burlington. Admission is free, and donations are accepted.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to see that things are not always the way they think they are,” Anderson said.
“I am in here.” offers a visually rich and often humorous take on a fictional day in Utter’s life, contrasting people’s perception of him and a character called “My Intelligent Mind,” played by local actor Paul Schnabel.
Heltz said the biggest challenge in making the film was making sure Utter’s vision was interpreted in “exactly the right way.”
“To see his perspective I think is going to be very enlightening,” Heltz said.
After the film screening, Utter will use supported typing to talk with the audience.
“What he really realized is he likes having conversations with people,” Anderson said. “What he has to say is really interesting and concise.”
A bowl-a-thon to raise money for the film’s post-production costs and for Utter to take the film on the road is set for March 10 at Champlain Lanes, with start times at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.vsavt.org/i-am-in-here