“Raising Faith: Stories about Dyslexia” is a documentary developed by many people from Millersville University, and envisioned mainly by Dr. Stacey Irwin and her daughter and Millersville student, Faith Irwin. It is an account of the life stories of people growing up with dyslexia that became a family learning experience for its producers.
The film began its production in the Autumn of 2012, during a sabbatical that Dr. Irwin took initially to broaden her expertise with some new filming equipment that the department of media and broadcasting was given. The usage of the new equipment began through the lens of the documentary “Raising Faith,” as Dr. Irwin wanted to learn more about it because both her husband and daughter Faith live with the diagnosis. The sabbatical on learning about technical equipment became a family collaboration, and would soon involve more people from Millersville University, Lancaster County, and one family from Milton, Massachusetts.
Soon after the decision was made to make the documentary Dr. Irwin began to network with many organizations, including the Children’s Dyslexic Center of Lancaster, American Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Association International, and more. Over the course of the next five years, alumni from Millersville University and families from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were contacted to be interviewed for the documentary.
Dr. Irwin took the helm as the director, executive producer, editor, and cinematographer for the film. There would be camera assistance from Daniel Irwin, and music composition by Alexander Sumoski, both of whom are Millersville students. Faith Irwin became the producer, as well as the prominent interviewer for the documentary. Dr. Irwin admitted that she believed that she would not have come up with the questions that her daughter did.
Faith stated, “I think it was a learning experience as [Dr. Irwin] made the film.” Faith further explained that there were some ideas that her mom had in mind, to which she would she would tell her, “Hold on. We need to chat about this. We need to chat with a dyslexic about this, and then move on.” The film would take the viewpoint of those with dyslexia, and a focus on who they are as people.
Dr. Irwin wanted to frame this documentary in a comfortable, family-oriented way. She explained, “I wanted to create something like someone was sitting in the living room. Like me and my husband and I sat in the living room, and tried to learn what dyslexia was with our daughter.” This idea for the framework stuck.
In every interview between Faith and the many families and individuals with dyslexia, the setting was within their home comforts. Each conversation would go into personal stories and experiences for both the family as a whole, and the individuals with dyslexia. There was a consensus of perseverance, and all families wanted to emphasize that, as Dr. Irwin stated “but this is our strength, his strength, her strength.” These comments always came before Faith Irwin got the chance to inquire about them.
So far, there have been two showings, while a sneak preview of the film happened last January 2019 during the Demystifying Dyslexia Event on the campus of Millersville University. In April of 2019, Dr. Irwin went to Dr. Thomas Neuville, who runs the Disability Film Festival that takes place every semester, about showcasing the film. After reviewing its preview, his response was that it would be the first film shown during the fall semester of 2019, which occurred last month on September 17.
To celebrate Dyslexia Awareness Month, the film will be doing another screening this upcoming Sunday, October 27. It is free for everyone, and will be shown at the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Lancaster on 213 West Chestnut St in Lancaster City at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. Both Dr. Irwin and Faith hope this documentary will continue to gain a wider audience, and hope that helps families and individuals with the diagnosis to get a better understanding of dyslexia. Faith Irwin summed up the film when she stated, “It was made in a way in which a dyslexic hopefully would be able to sit through and learn about it without being expected to read a book.”