Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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The Camera’s Rolling - Adrian Esposito Turns Passion for Movies into a Career


Adrian Esposito loved movies at an early age. By the time he was 12 years old, his dream was to one day make films of his own. Fortunately, he found a way to pursue that interest, and today, Adrian is an accomplished filmmaker. He is just 20 years old, and he lives with an autism spectrum disorder.

As a child, Esposito was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Dealing with his disability became a focus for Adrian and his family for many years. Despite the challenges he faced, he began to take classes at The Animation Workshop at Animatus Studio in Rochester when he was 12 years old. This study opened a door for him.

“He found a way to express himself using the vocabulary and the medium of film,” writes journalist Jim Memmott in an article about Adrian in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Oct 18, 2008).

From that beginning, Esposito participated in various BOCES programs throughout his school years, and successfully completed the Radio and Television Broadcasting Program at Monroe No. 1 BOCES. He is currently attending a BOCES Transition program. He receives OPWDD Home and Community Based Services through the Consolidated Supports and Services Program at the Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Service Office. This program is helping him plan and pursue the life he desires and allowing him to determine the kinds of supports he needs to make that happen. Esposito receives residential habilitation services at home and also services that provide his instruction in filmmaking at the Animatus Studio, a local vocational school in animation and filmmaking. He also receives consultant assistance a few hours each month that helps him learn to handle the many issues involved in producing film products and ensuring their copyrights.

“Adrian will need ongoing help after he leaves high school,” said his mom, Kristina Nomeika. “His plan calls for him to start his own filmmaking business, which he has done. But also, we hope he can get a job in this field as well.”

Esposito has several film projects to his credit. He co-produced and starred in the film Different and Normal—My Life with Aspergers Syndrome and also created and narrated the animated short film, The South Africa Stand.

In May of 2007, he created Ethnic Hollywood—What It Used to Be as an entry for the “Raising 100,000 Voices” program sponsored by a local television station. This short film deals with the negative impact of ethnic stereotypes in movies past and present and current trends in this area.

His most ambitious project so far has been the full length film, Aging Trees of Knowledge, a documentary about the lives of five survivors of World War II. This film portrays the varied experiences of five people from different cultures and nationalities inevitably bound together by the horrors of war and the injustices committed by its warriors.

Esposito is currently working on two new films. One is a continuation of the concept of Aging Trees of Knowledge called Aging Trees of Knowledge II—Command of Sankofa—Dr. David Anderson, Servant Leader. Anderson is a respected, African American historian in Rochester, N.Y. The film focuses on Anderson’s leadership in guiding a group of teenagers in the 1960s to research the connection between lead in paint and lead poisoning that eventually led Congress to ban lead from paint and other products. Adrian is now seeking an American Indian elder to complete his Aging Trees of Knowledge series.

Esposito’s other anticipated film deals with the history of institutions for people with developmental disabilities in New York State. The film, which will be entitled We Can Shine – From Institutions to Independence, will focus on the positive changes that have occurred in the treatment of people with disabilities and on self determination in their lives. He hopes to interview Geraldo Rivera and Bernard Carabello for this film. Should he land these two interviews, he would be able to tell the story of the journalist who exposed to the world the conditions inside Willowbrook, and is credited with spawning a tremendous turnaround in the treatment of people with disabilities and also that of someone who lived in the infamous institution.

“This project is dear to my heart because I have a disability, too,” said Esposito.

In addition to these projects, Esposito’s film company, Espocinema, is open for business capturing people’s lives and passions on film. His mom helps him with the details of operating the business.

“I thought my dreams for making films weren’t realistic,” he said, “But then I realized that making documentaries is an option. It can be low budget. So, I thought, ‘This is how I should start.’”

Esposito says his Asperger Syndrome may actually help him with his filmmaking.

“People with this disorder tend to hyper focus on an area of interest. My interest areas have always been movies and history,” he said.

Esposito has turned that focus into a dream and that dream into plans for a career, something high school students across the state - those with and without disabilities – do every year as they prepare for the rest of their lives.

His message to others with disabilities: “Don’t give up hope. Keep trying. Always think you can, like the little engine that could, and possibly, you can go over that hill.”

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