13-Minute Documentary Making its Worldwide Debut Wednesday, April 15 on YouTube and other Online Platforms
A new 13-minute documentary, “Spectrum of Love,” goes deep into a family’s journey through two of their sons’ Autism, and the power of love that bound the family during a challenging upbringing. The short film, produced by independent filmmaker Bo Magnussen through his production company Impact Movies, blends home video showing the progression of the children’s disorder, complemented by present day interviews with family members who talk about the experience in raw, honest and emotional terms. The result is a heartwarming, soul affirming story of the beauty that emerged out of a family’s struggle and acceptance of their sons’ development disorders. The film was directed by Zen Zadih Pace and is making its world premiere Wednesday, April 15 on YouTube and other online platforms. You can watch it HERE.
“I think people will get from this movie the power of love as medicine,” says Magnussen. “Spectrum of Love’ shows the challenges of raising Autistic children up close and personal, and I hope it encourages people to be compassionate as well as support Autism research and social services helping children. As they get older, many cannot live alone and have a job.”
Says Pace: “The message of the movie is how the language of love shifts when children with special needs enter the picture. Autism is not a tragedy. This is something we wanted to express in ‘ Spectrum of Love’ by showcasing how because of Autism, a family was able to grow into a more deeply defined unit. All parents have difficulties with their children, some harder than others, that doesn’t mean they are flawed, or ‘not-normal.’”
Magnussen was inspired to make “Spectrum of Love” after hearing his life-long friend, David Harrison, had suffered a heart attack. The near-death experience convinced Magnussen it was time to honor his friend’s struggle and sacrifice in raising sons with Autism together with his wife, Dana. “I have always admired his ability to handle a stressful and difficult situation,” Magnussen says. “I wanted to tell a story that would capture peoples’ hearts and shine a light on the challenges of Autism as well as the lessons that can be learned from it.”
The Harrison family learned their sons Adam (now 28) and Zack (25) had forms of Autism when they were toddlers. Adam had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD*3) while Zack had Asperger’s, a milder form of Autism, often described as higher functioning. The news was devastating to the family, which also includes the couple’s older son Charlie (now 30), who does not have Autism, as well as grandparents George (David’s father) and Lila (Dana’s mother).
Autism is one of medicine’s most confounding mysteries — doctors and scientists are still discovering aspects and causes of the disorder, which affects one in 59 children in the US. It is most recognized as a development disability that affects the ability to communicate and engage in social interaction, as well as controlling and expressing emotions and reactions. It is a life-long diagnosis.
Raising one child with this disorder is one of the hardest circumstances a family can face. With two, the challenges were near insurmountable. The Harrison’s experienced many of the hardships, which are shared in powerful memories of the family’s testimonials in “Spectrum of Love,” as well as photos and home videos from the children’s upbringing.
“I thought they would be a good example for other families with younger autistic kids that are going through the process,” said Magnussen. The producer and director Pace found family members unusually candid about the deeply personal experience.
“Everybody was very open and honest because they have known me since I was 15 years old and have been a part of David’s family,” Magnussen said. “I thought that Dana would be very hesitant to share her story, but I was quite surprised that when the camera started rolling, she felt at ease and really opened up honestly and shared her feelings and emotions. As well as the grandparents.”
“Spectrum of Love” was filmed over two days in the Harrison’s Sacramento, Calif. home and includes on-camera interviews with all its members, including Adam and Zack. The couple allowed cameras into the home to capture deeply personal moments, including Adam’s caretaking even as an adult.
“We also weren’t sure how Adam would react with strangers in the house and the camera, but he actually rose to the occasion and was incredible,” Magnussen says. “We had to change our story once we got the footage because we had one plan for a storyline and once we saw the various personalities and what we caught on tape we had to pivot and change the story. But I think it worked out for the better.”
“The biggest challenge was time,” says Pace. “I just wanted more time with this family. In two days, we got years of emotional life, and that is largely because sometimes as humans when we have the opportunity feel heard and seen, we open up in unexpected ways. That’s the beauty of a documentary.”
“I believe the message of the story is the power of and importance of saying ‘I love you’ so that you do not regret saying that later in life,” says Magnussen. “We all want to be loved and feel that love and that love binds families together and together love conquers all.”
Magnussen launched Impact Films in 2019 with the mission to create “short movies with a message. My goal is to use the power of movies to deliver meaningful messages that will inspire people and making the world a better place.” Its first film The Bully traced the origins of a child’s behavior through his family and showed a surprising acceptance by one of its victims. Impact has also produced “A Queer Love Story,” the music video “Saving Face,” “Love Gangster about Theo” about an elderly man who sits on a bench and spreads love to everyone, and branded content for organizations like Urban Pathways, showing stories of life beyond addiction and homelessness. A graduate of UCLA, Magnussen worked for his family’s automotive business for much of his career until pivoting to film. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Heidi, and has two daughters.
Pace is a multidisciplinary artist in New York City. Using the skills learned from the prestigious British Academy of Dramatic Arts in Oxford, England, the artist brings a skillful approach to helping artists perform in their most authentic form. The director has worked in production at BBC, Logo, Colbert Report and MSNBC and has been featured in PAPER, Huffington Post, Latinx and more. Currently, Pace is directing the Sundance finalist script FRAUD by Dana Levinson. When not directing, the artist finds time to also be the Content Director for Bloom and a life Coach for children with disabilities.