Brent Weber first visited Camp Summit a camp in North Texas for special needs people of all kinds to visit his daughter who was volunteering there.
That was in 2008, and it started a labor of love project for Weber; he started filming footage with no concrete plans for it. Now, six years later, that footage has been compiled into the documentary Real Live Angels, with screenings in Oklahoma, Texas and California. It is Webers final project for his masters degree at the University of Oklahoma.
Weber moved to the Oklahoma City area when his daughter started attending college in Texas, first working for the morning news on Fox News Channel 25 and then as a sideline reporter for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their first year.
Weber had wanted to further his education for a long time. He had done some teaching in California, and he decided to pursue his masters degree.
When he visited Camp Summit to see his daughter volunteer, the experience had a profound effect on him.
Boy, it has really taken the blinders off of me, he said.
Yet it was not Webers first experience with people with severe disabilities. His cousin, Kay, had Down syndrome.
Kay was about 10 years older than Weber, and much has changed in the way people perceive disabilities than when Weber was growing up in the 60s and 70s.
They didnt have a lot of help. Theyd just tell people who had Down syndrome or disabilities, Well, you know, just make them comfortable. Just make them happy. We know so much differently now, Weber said.
This progression, this difference in attitude between when Kay was growing up and the people who attended Camp Summit, was partially what motivated Weber to make the documentary.
He learned how people, both on an individual level and a societal level, could change, and he understood that further change needed to take place.
I really do believe, in my heart, that demystifying the disabled person in our population, in the world population, is kind of the next level of social barrier that we need to get past, he said.
Camp Summit, which began in 1946, was where he saw this demystifying taking place.
Were not talking about people who want pity; they want inclusion, Weber said. They dont want you to run away from them.
Im not trying to beat something over the head or make people feel guilty. My whole thought on it is just showing people something that the ordinary citizen might consider to be an ordinary rite of passage: summer camp. I wanted to show these folks in that kind of scenario, so maybe after a half hour of watching, laughing, seeing, you just start to realize, Why am I so afraid?
Weber has dedicated the documentary to his cousin, Kay LeMay, who died last year at the age of 59.