Mads for Success

'I am Dyslexic' a success story

In spring 2015 director Mads Johan Øgaard pitched the idea of creating a student film about dyslexia based on his childhood at school in Norway. He wanted a style inspired by the illustrator Quentin Blake. He wanted to achieve a mix between a sketchy style and simple style.  For him Blake´s style represented his childhood.
He soon set to work on developing the story and the characters, which he said was easier said than done. Even though he wanted to use Blake´s aesthetic, it took a long time for him to find something that he was satisfied with.
Early Concept Work - 'I am Dyslexic'

More frustrating was the story aspect; the idea of the book mountain was there from the beginning but Mads struggled to find a solid story around it. He also realized that he had to go more and more away from telling his own story and more towards telling a story that most dyslexic people could relate to.
Over the summer of 2015 he determined to come back with a clear and strong idea, and collaborated with a friend of his, Mari Hajem to create the music for the film. However, over time Mads found himself getting more and more frustrated with the story and the visuals, to a point where he was getting anxious about ever finishing the film!
His dyslexic struggles took over and at this point he decided not to pitch I AM DYSLEXIC to the Industry Selection Panel as a final film idea. Everyone was against him giving up until one of his classmates, Leonie, said to him a week before the pitch, “Mads! Let’s brain storm!”
So following some intense brainstorming and the occasional scratching of heads Mads got the good news that I AM DYSLEXIC was one of the selected films that year. He was shocked, exited end terrified. Senior Lecturer Georg Finch encouraged Mads with these wise words “Do yourself a favour and create the world in CGI, otherwise you will never be done!” And so they did.

First to join the project was Katie Wyman, who co-directed and co-produced.  Mads has no recollection of asking more than ten people to work with them, yet to his surprise they ended up with over sixty people helping out. They told him that they loved the idea and eventually Mads & Katie figured out that many of the crew also had a different range of learning differences. This was helpful and the film improved dramatically with their help! They created not only a film but a safe environment where they could be themselves, share their stories and struggles without fear of being judged.

It was a real challenge to work flat out and full-time, making sure that day crew and the night crew got feedback and guidance, and finding time for storyboarding and eventually animating.
At the last screening of the year at the Animation & Visual Effects hugely prestigious award night, the ‘Cecils’ the whole room was eager with excitement to see it screened properly for the first time. It was a huge relief for Mads who didn’t expect that the film was so going to be so popular!
This is what a year on 'I am Dyslexic' did to Mads!

After the film
The film is now in the middle of its festival run and Mads and Katie aim to publish the film online by the end of summer 2017. And the pair are attending as many festivals and screenings as possible! Over the last four months the film has been selected for screening in seventeen festivals around the world! It has also been screened at numerous educational talks in Mad’s home country, Norway.

So far the films has been shown at:
Selected for screening and nominated for the Best Animation Award 2016 - Crystal Palace international Film Festival, Animation category.
Selected for screening at the Marano Ragazzi Spot Festival, Italy
Selected for screening at the Short & To The Point Festival, Romania
Selected for screening at the 3rd International Coventry Film Festival
Selected for screening at the Southampton International Film Festival
Selected for screening at the Tahoe Underground Film Festival 
"Award of Recognition" for Animation Student Short at Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival
Presentation and screening at Dysleksi Norge and other educational events/screenings in Norway 

Early on in the production Mads posted some of the early concept art for the film. Only a few hours later he recievedt an email from Åsne Midtbø Aas who works with Dyslexia Norway.  She asked if Mads wanted to illustrate a book about dyslexia for children and teens together with Of course he said yes! The book will have a book launches next March.
In addition to this he was invited to meet with Dyslexia Norway to show the film and talk about giving a number of presentations. These were for Dyslexia Norway’s annual Teen Meeting, and for the 40 years’ Celebration of Dyslexia Norway. Again he said yes to it all!
The amount of feedback was and still is insane! He has been able to achieve what he wanted with the film. So many ipeople with dyslexia and other learning differences have given him wonderful feedback of how successfully the film illustrates their feeling and frustrations.

Thanks to Dyslexia Norway, the Animation & Visual Effects course at Falmouth, former schools, family, friends and the many festivals/screenings Mads has been inundated with emails pretty much every day from teachers, parents and students thanking him for making the film, asking if they can show the film, or just see it again. He is always happy to help, so now the film is being used for educational purposes and awareness in Norway, England, Finland and Iceland.
Mads said that “This year I have learned so much, in so many different ways! My life has changed a lot this year and I am grateful for that! I thank everyone who created the film with us, promoted the film, given feedback. I meet so many fantastic people this year, I am so grateful for all of you, and I hope to meet, see, and work with you in the future!”

“Thanks you so much to everyone who have helped me to be who I am today, encouraged and allowed me to do what my dreams! My dream is to help as many as possible getting through the education system, without being emotionally destroyed or left behind! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! THANK YOU SO MUCH!”
Having spent a his whole life dealing with dyslexia, helping others with learning diffrences and then making a film Mads has continued with his education and is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Special Educational Needs (SEN) at Exeter University.
The whole course team at Falmouth’s Animation & Visual Effects are immensely proud of both Mads and Katie.

For more info about the film and contact information:
Mads & Katie
Mads Johan Øgaard

Katie Noel Wyman


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