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Thursday, Apr 18, 2024

Yellow House Community short film screened at Town Hall Theater

The Town Hall Theater hosted a public screening of a short film highlighting the Yellow House Community, a residential home for adults with disabilities, this past Thursday. With two evening showings, the event brought in over 200 people who came to show support for the film and learn more about Yellow House’s program. Complete with a red carpet for the actors, a cocktail bar and a standing ovation, the event was meaningful for the residents, their families and the filmmakers alike.

Yellow House Community was founded in 2019 by Joe Brown ’90, Kristen Brown ’90, Andrea Murray and Chris Murray, two families planning the futures of their children with special needs. Located at 29 Seminary Street, its purpose is to provide adults with disabilities a structured and safe environment that allows them to live alongside others outside of their close family. It houses 3–4 residents — called “Friends” — at a time and staff to care for them.

Produced by Sundog Creation, the 10-minute short film features narrations by the founding couples, Representative Amy Sheldon D-Addison, Executive Director Elise Haydon, and Scott Bourne, program director at Middlebury Parks & Recreation. Its intention is to inform prospective residents, staff and donors to figure out if Yellow House Community is the right fit for them.

Through responses to a series of interview questions posed by the filmmakers, the founders expressed the inspiration behind Yellow House and its importance in their lives. They spoke about raising children with disabilities and their apprehension about the lack of social and interactive facilities for them as they age into adulthood.

The founders’ mission with Yellow House is to cultivate a space that values interconnectedness and programming that celebrates the Friends’ abilities. They recognize the value of socialization and genuine friendships in the Friend’s lives, which other facilities for adults with disabilities often don’t take into account.

The film also provides a glimpse into what everyday life in Yellow House is like. Introduced with the text “Boom & Woah!: The Making of a Community within a Community,” the film includes a montage of clips of its staff and the house’s Friends Jeb, Owen, Pierce, Hillary and Bip, interacting outside on the lawn, visiting Wiley Side Farm, cooking together in the house kitchen, visiting the Middlebury Co-op, and participating in activities in the community. According to the film, these activities create a healthy routine for the Friends and allow the broader community to become more comfortable interacting with people with disabilities.

Executive Director Elise Haydon ’04 began meeting with Dana Ambrose, co-founder and owner of Sundog Creations, last spring to discuss the project and how they wanted to tell the story of Yellow House. Filming with the Friends lasted four days in addition to the long interview portion, followed by an intense editing process.

“We had hours of footage and interviews, and our process was distilling that down into bits and pieces that told the story,” Ambrose told The Campus. He and his business partner, Jake Dombek, worked to create multiple versions of the film until it felt as natural and authentic as possible.

Co-founder Tom Brown found that speaking and answering the filmmaker’s questions came naturally to him. “These are things you’ve thought about for a long time, and, when you’re in the middle of it, it feels like a top-of-mind kind of thing,” he said. “The other piece about it is that it’s rather emotional — it’s about building a family.”

Brown and Haydon both anticipated an audience of about 100 at the Town Hall Theater screening and were extremely pleased with the 200-person turnout and the community’s enthusiasm, which they said exceeded their expectations. The Friends were met with a standing ovation from a loud and joyful crowd when they entered the room, walked the red carpet and sat in special seats for viewing. People stuck around after the screenings finished to talk and ask questions.

“We decided to have the largest party for the smallest film, really almost as just a funny thing to bring some joy,” Brown said. “We really just did this to celebrate the residents — once special needs kids leave high school, there’s no more proms, there’s very little pageantry that they’ll have in their lives with those big events.”

The Browns moved back to Middlebury from Ohio in 2019 where they met the Murrays and co-founded Yellow House, which has been staffed by a number of Middlebury alumni since, including Haydon.

“We really value our relationship with the college,” Haydon noted, in reference to their student interns and Yellow House Community Club members. “It’s a connection that will serve us in years to come. College students are young and our friends are young at heart.”

The short film is posted online for viewing at https://yellowhousecommunity.com/.

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Madeleine Kaptein

Madeleine Kaptein '25.5 (she/her) is a local editor and previously served as a copy editor. 

A Comparative Literature major and German minor, Madeleine enjoys reading, biking and hanging out with her cats. She is also an editor for Clover Magazine.


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