Skokie hosts world premiere of film featuring actors with Down Syndrome

It was lights, camera, action in Skokie on Thursday, as the community hosted the world premiere of a unique fantasy film.

"The goal was, could we …create stories in which people with disabilities are the primary story tellers of the film. They are the focus of the film. They are the ones giving the plot and giving the action," said writer and director Orion Couling.

"Gem Seeker" is the second movie Couling has directed, both celebrating differences and hoping to make a difference that will carry into Hollywood.

"That was one of the principal motivators, was how do we create a dialogue around these very important topics for this very marginalized community," said Couling.


"Gem Seeker" is a Lord of the Rings-themed fantasy film featuring four actors with Down Syndrome and special effects by Naperville-based Hidden Catalyst.

Twenty-five-year-old Nicholas Pesce of Lake Zurich is the lead.

"I was happy," he said of his contribution.

Couling’s first film – "No Easy Target" – was a Star Wars spin-off and received numerous awards at film festivals around the world. The plot of each film is centered around social situations those in the differently-abled community often face.

For "Gem Seeker," it’s the main character grappling with friendships that last beyond a simple encounter.

"Our goal is to say, here's a person, you've had an experience with them, they are positive and wonderful, keep them in your life and make them part of your community. Don't dismiss them back to obscurity. They are a hero in his film, they can be a hero in your life," said Couling.

Couling and his cast are available to host screenings and conversations about the films. They’ve already participated in several with colleges, park districts and schools.

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