The Benchwarm-NerdsAnnounces Films in Third Annual Edition, March 28–30

Marvels of Media Advisory Council members include Tony Goldwyn, Brian Grazer, Cheryl Henson, Tony Spiridakis, and other leaders in entertainment

Film festival also to include panel discussions, a VR work, and media workshop

Astoria, New York — Aziz Isham, Executive Director of Museum of the Moving Image, announced today the return of the Marvels of Media Festival, a celebration of the outstanding work created by autistic media-makers, featuring screenings, panel discussions, and a media workshop, running March 28–30, 2024. The festival kicks off with an opening night reception, welcoming remarks, and a program of short films on Thursday, March 28, and continues through Saturday, prior to Autism Acceptance Month in April. Admission to all Marvels of Media screenings and events is free with RSVP.
The third annual edition of the Marvels of Media Festival invites audiences to discover a diverse selection of 17 new films and one virtual reality project, organized in programs around the themes Unique Romances, foregrounding queer and autistic relationships; animation; and experimental films; and the feature Flying Lessons, accompanied by a short. Other festival highlights include Wilmington Escaped, a new VR work by returning artist Carrie Hawks; the world premiere of Alba Enid Garcia’s extraordinary stop-motion animated short Dangerously Ever After; and Exceptional Minds’ new collaboration with Reel Start, Tree’s Blood, featuring the voices of Ayo Edebiri and Seth Rogen. Screenings will be accompanied by special guests, including Tony Spiridakis, Lauren Melissa Ellzey, and Sydney Zarlengo; and filmmakers Dani Bowman, Tal Anderson, and Alba Enid Garcia. The full lineup of films and guests is listed below.
“March brings great films to watch. The work of Academy Award nominees and winners, and the work of neurodivergent media-makers in the Marvels of Media Festival. The dream team at Museum of the Moving Image is known for doing one-of-a-kind work,” said Josh Sapan, MoMI trustee and founder of Marvels of Media and Sapan Studio.
The festival is part of the Museum's year-round Marvels of Media initiative, which showcases, celebrates, and supports autistic media-makers of all ages and skill sets. During the festival, the Museum expands its accessibility efforts for visitors with autism through the creation of a temporary sensory-friendly space in the Media Lab, and providing complimentary sensory kits.
The 2024 program was organized with the Marvels of Media Steering Committee, including MoMI Media Educator and Access Educator Miranda Lee; MoMI Assistant Curator of Public Programs Tiffany Joy Butler; MoMI Director of Education Leonardo Santana-Zubieta; writer and comedian Maylin Pavletic; filmmaker and playwright Jackson Tucker-Meyer; President and Founder of Strokes of Genius, Inc. Rosa Martínez; and Work-Based Learning Specialist of Tech Kids Unlimited Halenur Komsul. 

The 2024 Marvels of Media Advisory Council includes: media executive William J. Abbott; executive producer Rich Battista; neurodiversity advocate Wendy Belzberg; President of Landmark College Peter Eden; media executive David Epstein; actor and director Tony Goldwyn; producer Brian Grazer; media entrepreneur John Hendricks; President of the Jim Henson Foundation Cheryl Henson; Executive Director of Pioneer Works Mara Manus; media executive Judy McGrath; CEO of CableLabs Phil McKinney; actor Sue Ann Pien; media executive Josh Sapan; journalist Paula Zahn; media entrepreneur Strauss Zelnick; and director Tony Spiridakis. 
The Marvels of Media Festival is presented with support from Sapan Studio.
This project is supported by a Market New York grant awarded to Museum of the Moving Image from Empire State Development and I LOVE NY/New York State's Division of Tourism through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. 
Marvels of Media partners include Exceptional Minds, Spectrum Laboratory, Tech Kids Unlimited, and Strokes of Genius.
Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) is the only institution in the United States that deals comprehensively with the art, technology, enjoyment, and social impact of film, television, and digital media. In its facility in Astoria, New York, the Museum presents exhibitions; screenings; discussion programs featuring actors, directors, and creative leaders; and education programs. It houses the nation’s largest collection of moving image artifacts and screens over 500 films annually. Its exhibitions—including the core exhibition Behind the Screen and The Jim Henson Exhibition—are noted for their integration of material objects, interactive experiences, and audiovisual presentations. For more information about the MoMI, visit

All programs take place at Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, NY 11106. All programs are FREE with RSVP. Full schedule below and online at
Marvels of Media Opening Night
The evening’s screening program, titled Unique Romances, will be preceded by a reception, virtual reality showcase, and opening remarks by founder of Marvels of Media Josh Sapan and Advisory Council member and director Tony Spiridakis. 
Unique Romances is a selection of short films that explore the multitude of ways autistic people navigate dating and relationships, a theme rarely represented in film. These stories traverse a range of genres, including comedy, magical realism, and fantasy. Three of these shorts depict queer characters and romances. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmakers Dani Bowman (Love on the Spectrum), Violet Gallo, Kory Mann, and producer, actor Tal Anderson, moderated by filmmaker-playwright Jackson Tucker-Meyer.
Films include:
Starcrossed Destinies (Dir. Dani Bowman. 2023, 3 mins.)
Two classmates—a human and an alien—bond over their shared passion for astronomy beneath a shimmering night sky. New York premiere
70/50 (Dir. Kory Mann. 2023, 11 mins.)
Kara, a queer, autistic high schooler, finds herself alone in a room with her long-time crush. New York premiere
Sensory & Sense-Ability (Dir. Jeremy Andrew Davis. 2023, 3 mins.)
Starring writer-director Davis, Sensory & Sense-Ability delves into the inner monologue of an autistic person working his way through conversation on a date. New York premiere
Sky and Lucia (Dir. Violet Gallo. 2022, 10 mins.)
Created as part of the program Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, this magical realist short centers on a shy high school student who disappears when faced with turbulent emotional situations.
Polyphony (Dir. Harold Hall, Jr. 2023, 5 mins.)
In this charming romantic comedy, Emily Martin, a twenty-something aspiring songwriter is perfectly content without a boyfriend. Suddenly, everything changes when she finds herself in a duet with a stranger. Starring autistic actor Tal Anderson (Atypical, As We See It). New York premiere
Wilmington Escaped (Dir. Carrie Hawks. 2023, 6 mins.) This virtual reality film, screening in the Fox Amphitheater takes guests on a ghost tour, including real accounts of enslaved people traveling to other worlds around the time of the 1898 racism-fueled insurrection of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Flying Lessons
FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 5:00 P.M.
Dir. Sarah Waldron. 2023, 84 mins. This dramatic feature follows two estranged sisters forced together by their mother’s sudden death: Beatrice, an autistic teenager, and Talia, a queer musician. With an improvised, documentary style, the story explores the unconventional ways raw emotion and feelings of loss can be communicated. Followed by a Q&A with director Sarah Waldron, moderated by actor, dramaturg, disability/accessibility educator Sydney Zarlengo.
Preceded by Oreo (Dir. Cashmere Jasmine. 2021, 18 mins.), a dark-comic, surrealist short featuring four vignettes, each depicting a Black woman at a different age and life stage as she experiences moments of being on the "outside."
Magnificently Awesome Animations: Four Shorts
Perfect for audiences of all ages, this shorts program takes viewers into fantastical, vibrant worlds. Followed by a panel discussion with filmmakers Nicholas Amodio, Alba Enid Garcia, and puppeteer Julio Garay, moderated by advocate, activist, and author Lauren Melissa Ellzey, focused on the techniques used in these films, including stop-motion and digital animation, and how one's autistic identity comes into play when creating.
Films include:
Dangerously Ever After (Dir. Alba Enid Garcia. 2023, 12 mins.)
In this stop-motion fairy tale, a young princess who loves the strange and the morbid meets a shy prince who comes upon her castle. Autistic animator and puppeteer Julio Garay has crafted a unique world, characters, and creatures. World premiere
Cat Hunter (Dir. Nicholas Amodio. 2023, 2 mins.)
A cat is determined to make a meal out of an elusive creature known as the Cheesebeetle in Armodio’s colorful, comedic short. 
The Kazuki Toons: Babysitting an Egg (Dir. Kazuki Conover. 2023, 7 mins.)
This silly, well-crafted short shows the growing friendship between Kazuki, his creation Blendy, and the Easter Bunny’s adopted son, Edward the Easter Egg.
Twoot Newt (Dir. Jackie Snyder. 2021, 4 mins.)
Newt struggles with jealousy over Salamander’s musical talent before coming to accept her unique toot.

Bending Conventions: Five Shorts 
Innovative experimental film techniques and unique storylines unite this program, featuring films created by autistic directors and the organizations Exceptional Minds and Spectrum Laboratory, which are dedicated to uplifting neurodivergent media-makers. Followed by a panel discussion with filmmakers Madison Cahill, Daniel Oliver Lee, and Samara Huckvale about the excitement of experimenting with cinematic forms and how they approached making their films.
Films include:
build me through the image / constrúyanme a través de la imagen (Dir. Paula Hung. 2023, 8 mins. In Spanish with English subtitles.)
This experimental documentary short explores the intricacies and complexities of being transmarginal Latine, multiracial, and queer. With narration describing the experiences of a father, mother, and daughter, and visuals mixing archival film footage, this film engages and deconstructs the cinematic form in dynamic, beautiful ways while analyzing media representation. New York premiere
Fox Box Follies (Dir. Daniel Oliver Lee. 2023, 4 mins.)
In this surrealistic, folkloric short, a fox tries to sneak his way into a boxing ring disguised as a chicken. 
Mean Mr. Mustache (Dir. Madison Cahill. 2021, 4 mins.)
This riveting animated music video for the band PENIX features a car chase and lots of explosions.
The Benchwarm-Nerds! (Dir. Jason Weissbrod. 2023, 15 mins.)
Through music, puppetry, and comedy, this delightful film, created by filmmakers at Spectrum Laboratory, follows three outcasts who meet and combine their talents to create the most epic sci-fi saga of all time.
Ocean’s 24/7 (Dir. Samara Huckvale. 2024, 3 mins.)
Parodying heist films and the French New Wave, this stoner's revenge comedy centers on two twenty-something amateurs who decide to rob a local grocery store chain with the help of 24 people in seven days after a store employee publicly embarrasses them. Ocean’s 24/7 features Black, autistic artists on-screen and behind the scenes. World premiere
Tree’s Blood (Dirs. Zion Ballard Balewa, Sarah Breiche, Nathan Dana, Miles Hawkins, Hilaria Litton, Sophia Oh, Jorge Ramirez, Christopher Rubinstein, Kayla Nataly Verdugo, Eden Wolfenson, Abigail Zamora of Reel Start. 2024, 8 mins. With voices of Ayo Edebiri, Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen.)
A social media influencer realizes the importance of taking care of the environment when her search for fame quite literally puts her world at stake. This short was animated by artists at Exceptional Minds including Kate “Kae” McSpadden, Becca David, Liam Brosnan, Christian Keithley, Sam Hardin, Craig Hills, Andrew Turney, Dylan Carbonell, C. Idd, Dean Julien, Jack Meigs, Dustin Noriyuki, Ludwig Tan, Michael Shiu, Stephen Storti, Kyle Grossart, Aaron Trost, Autumn Schneider, Shad Wilde, and David Miles.

Collage Animation Workshop 
Instructed by artist David Karasow, this two-hour media workshop open to autistic visitors and media-makers focuses on creating collage art with paper, which is then animated to create a stop-motion animation short (between 10 and 20 seconds). Co-presented by Strokes of Genius. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Press contacts: 
Tomoko Kawamoto,, 718 777 6830
Jayna Zelman, Rubenstein,

Image: The Benchwarm-Nerds! (courtesy of Spectrum Labs) Press gallery.



Hours: Thursday, 2:00–6:00 p.m. Friday, 2:00–8:00 p.m. Saturday–Sunday, 12:00–6:00 p.m. Plus holiday hours.
General Museum Admission: $20 adults, $12 senior citizens (ages 65+) and students (ages 18+) with ID, $10 youth (ages 3–17). Children under 3 and Museum members are admitted free. General admission is free every Thursday, 2:00–6:00 p.m.
Address: 36-01 35 Avenue (at 37 Street), Astoria (Queens), NY, 11106
Subway: R to Steinway Street. W (weekdays only) or N to 36 Ave.
Program Information: Telephone: 718 777 6888; Website:
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Film Screenings: Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, and as scheduled. Unless noted, tickets are $15 adults / $11 students and seniors / $9 youth (ages 3–17) / free or discounted for Museum members. Advance online purchase is recommended.

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Museum of the Moving Image is housed in a building owned by the City of New York and has received significant support from the following public agencies: New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York City Council; New York City Economic Development Corporation; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; Institute of Museum and Library Services; National Endowment for the Humanities; National Endowment for the Arts; and Natural Heritage Trust (administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation). For more information, please visit