Thirteen-year-old Wilmette resident Jack Yonover will tell you that having a tree nut allergy is not much fun, but he turned that negative experience into something positive when he created his own documentary film about food allergies from a kid’s perspective. The movie is called That Bites! and it will debut at the Wilmette Theatre on April 16, with all proceeds from the movie benefiting the nonprofit Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).
As far as food allergies go, Yonover was somewhat of a late bloomer. He didn’t develop his allergy to cashews and pistachios until he was almost eleven years old. But the transition from living freely without a food allergy to carrying an EpiPen everywhere and reading food labels made Yonover realize how few people understand what it is like to suffer from a food allergy. With that in mind, Yonover decided to create a documentary film about food allergies from a kid’s perspective to help raise understanding and awareness of the issue.
“[The movie] is about the fears and frustrations of food allergies,” Yonover said.
With no experience in film making but a passion to make a difference and an interest in film, he took a course at Chicago’s Facets film school to learn the basics. Upon completing the class he had an understanding of film making but owned no equipment. Not discouraged, Yonover turned to Kickstarter – a crowd funding platform for creative projects – with the goal of raising $5,400. Initially friends and relatives donated money to his cause, but when the food allergy community got wind of his idea, the project went viral and Yonover raised $8,000 in almost two days.
“[The project] struck a cord because it was being told by a kid,” explained his mother, Jill Yonover.
With his dad acting as assistant, Yonover spent all of the money on film equipment and devoted the next year to making a film about food allergies. In addition to a Northwestern University allergist, he interviewed eight children from around the country with food allergies ranging in age from six to 18 years old. Each child shared their individual story while answering Yonover’s questions. He also filmed a mock birthday party, dining in a restaurant and Halloween, to show what everyday reality is like for kids with allergies in these situations.
Making a documentary film was challenging for Yonover. He found editing the movie difficult and time consuming, and he spent many hours at Old Orchard’s Apple store learning how to use the editing program. He not only developed the questions and interviewed the children, but he also wrote the script and narrated the movie himself. But the end reward surpassed the challenges.
“I think it was worth it in the end. Hopefully I will reach my goal of educating the world about food allergies,” Yonover said.
Since then he has entered his film in more than 65 film festivals and hopes that school districts will show the movie to raise awareness among students and teachers. So far he has heard from four festivals – the film will be in the Eureka Springs Indie Film Festival in Arkansas, The New Haven International Film Festival in Connecticut, and the Riverside International Film Festival in California.
Check out www.that-bites.org to learn more about That Bites!, watch a preview of the movie, or buy tickets to the April 16th showing at the Wilmette Theatre.