Though it was 10 years before “Temple Grandin” went from optioned memoir to award-winning HBO film, its producer, Emily Gerson Saines, readily admits she was a big part of why it took so long.
“I didn’t think we had gotten it right,” says Saines, “And I didn’t want to see it made unless it was made right. It wasn’t a sob story. It wasn’t a disability movie. It was about a human being, and the struggles of autism.”
Her fortitude in realizing the true story of Grandin, who pioneered a more humane form of livestock management, arose from Saines’ personal connection to autism. In the mid-90s, Saines’ second son was diagnosed with it at the age of 2.
“We were directionless, and then my mother gave me Temple’s book ‘Thinking in Pictures,’ and it gave me hope for his future,” says Saines, whose son is now 17. “You realize, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and I look to Temple today to help face many of the challenges I have ahead of me. Because children with autism become adults with autism, and we are by no means done with what we need to accomplish.”
Within a few years of her son’s birth, Saines co-founded the Autism Coalition for Research and Education. Though she’d had plenty of experience in dealmaking as a longtime agent at William Morris and, currently, as manager through her own Brookside Artist Management company, she found fundraising a tough job.
“You’re trying to get people to give you money without something tangible in return,” she says. “It’s selling hope.”
But her money-gathering prowess led to the coalition being one of the first organizations to join with Autism Speaks, the advocacy organization Bob and Suzanne Wright started in 2006.
“They’ve brought it to a whole other level,” says Saines. “It was one of the best decisions we could have made.”
Now that Saines has seen success with an entirely new hat as movie producer, will she try it again?
“If I believe in something a lot, I would love to,” she says. “That’s what this experience has taught me: to really love what you’re working on.”