PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Jillian Howell and Zane Hutchison have been friends since the 4th grade.
“We used to hang out every day and she sat with me and helped me with my work,” said Zane. “We had a good time at school.”
“Zane is just always really optimistic,” said Jillian, ‘he’s very sweet and he has his little quirks that make him really charming and funny.”
It’s a friendship that has stood the test of time, even distance couldn’t keep them apart.
“It’s funny, because since I left West Virginia, I don’t keep in touch with a ton of people here, but I hear from Zane all the time,” said Jillian.
Zane has special needs, and despite his desire to work, has struggled to find employment. Jillian, now a filmmaker in Los Angeles, CA, left West Virginia to pursue her dreams but said her heart has always been in Appalachia.
She even had plans to do a character piece on Zane, documenting his time working at Lowe’s, but fate had other plans.
“When we set up the first interview, Zane had just lost his job at Lowe’s 2 months earlier,” said Jillian.
If anything, the change compelled her to share his story more, hoping to show the challenges many people with special needs may face as they strive for independence. While in L.A., a crew of West Virginia artists followed Zane for 3 years, seeing firsthand his mother’s advocacy and tireless efforts to open doors for her son.
“There are a lot of people out there that don’t have an advocate like Zane’s mom to be able to propel them into success, so how can we act on their behalf, an act as an advocate,” said Jillian.
Zane, who’s currently employed with Putnam County Schools doing custodial work, is being featured in the new documentary, “Zane.”
Jillian hopes the film will change the public’s perception of those with special needs, as well as employers.
“Our friendship has taught me a lot about acceptance and a lot about helping make a Waze for people that might be a little bit more difficult because all it takes is some accommodations and some patience.”
A showing of the documentary will take place on April 29 at 5 p.m. at Teays Valley Church of God. You can show your support for those who helped create the documentary, click HERE.