Film camp for young people with disabilities held at St. Mary's College

MORAGA, Calif. (KTVU) - Summer is a time when many kids across the Bay Area go to camp.

In the East Bay, there's a camp this week that's unlike any other because of who the campers are and what they're learning. It's film camp for young people with autism and other disabilities.

On the campus of St. Mary's College in Moraga, some 50 young people are thrilled to be there, especially for this camp. "The kids are very open, and the film as well, so it's like you all have that one thing in common," said camper Lauren Quinn.

They range in age from 13 to 25. Most are autistic, but some have other disabilities. "Usually I struggle more socially than other people," added Quinn.

Here, they're learning how to make films. The camp creator is John Travolta's brother, actor-director Joey Travolta. "It gives young people with developmental disabilities a voice. It gives them what I call soft skills. It's communication, it's collaboration," he says.

The campers get to act, write scripts, and do improvisation. And in three teams, they're creating a short film.

One 16-year old camper came for the camp all the way from Ireland. "It's not just like something to keep us occupied. It's like we actually get to make something," said Adriana Conway.

Lauren Quinn's father says she is sometimes mistreated because of her autism. "Bullying, things like that. But in this situation, at this camp, there's no judging. The kids, they're on the same level," said Anthony Quinn.

The young people also learn animation from an unexpected instructor. "Being autistic is like a really, really rough start," explains Dani Bowman. She is herself autistic, but she's also an accomplished artist.

Bowman shared with her class her animated short film that's premiering this weekend at San Diego's Comic Con. "Showing all the work that I have done over the past six years since I started my animation company, and with that, if I can do it, any of the people with autism can do it," she said.

The camp is almost over, but the rest of the Hollywood experience is yet to come. In the fall, there will be a screening at St. Mary's for the campers and their work complete with family, friends and a red carpet.