A film involving the first date for two teenagers with Autism who communicate through the help of their parents.

Influence is an independent film by Michael Bergmann.

First dates are always delicate, but for two teenagers with Autism, who communicate mainly by spelling with the help of their parents, it’s particularly tricky. The parents have their own agendas, nostalgias and attractions… how much of what the teenagers are saying to each other can they trust? What do they really want, and how can they tell each other? “Our thoughts, are they our own?”

With the momentum of success at several film festivals, Influence is being marketed to film distributors.

Cast & Creative

JAMES KACEY (Francis) is trained with Alan Gordon Studios, Michael Luggio at NY Theatre Academy and Alison McBryde. Recent roles include The Artist’s Assistant, and the award winning To Redemption. James has acquired international acclaim for his starring role in the Korean film, Pudditorium. His television roles include, James Dean, in Mysteries at the Museum, Scorned, and a brief appearance in Law & Order. James’ stage work includes, Brilliant Traces, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, The Seagull, and House of Madame Clicot. He has also played a major character in the award winning video of the year, Justin Timberlake’s, Mirrors. James has found working with Michael Bergmann on Influence one of his most challenging and rewarding roles to date.

RACHEL ZEIGER-HAAG (Laura) Credits include the Spike Lee produced feature Mania Days, the pilot Mozart in the Jungle, created by Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola, and the short Any Day Now, written and directed by Albert Uria. You can catch her in the feature film Cold in July directed by Jim Mickle, now playing at IFC. She holds a BFA in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College.

JOE ROLAND (Gabriel) is an actor and playwright. Films include Charlie Wilson’s War, Sex and Violence, and Welcome to Me. He has appeared on Broadway in The Country Girl, directed by Mike Nichols, and Off-Broadway in his own play, On the Line, which was produced by Mr. Nichols. On the Line won the 2013 Cleveland Critics Circle award for best production. His plays have been read at the Public Theater, Lincoln Center, and Manhattan Theater Club. Mr. Roland teaches playwriting to working men and women through The Working Theater’s TheaterWorks! program

KIM CRISTO (Stephanie) previously worked with Michael Bergmann as Loretta in his feature film Tied to a Chair. Her prior film and TV credits include Out There, Frogs for Snakes, Freak Talks About Sex and roles on Hope & Faith, All My Children and Another World. Kim studied acting with Kevin O’Connor, and Shakespeare with Claire Bloom. Kim is also an autism advocate and mother of two. Her eldest daughter was diagnosed with autism at eighteen months.

SHERYL LOUISE MOLLER (Helen) has previously worked with Michael Bergmann in the film La Primavera. Other films include the Academy Award nominated The Last Day of June directed by Kalina Ivanov, Sex and Violence directed by John Zibell, Trial By Jury directed by Lori Huck, and Welcome To Dopeland. She is a founding member of Common Ground Theater Company and the Water Theater Company. With the Water Theater Company, Sheryl performed in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Pilgrims directed by Shira Piven, which was produced by Mike Nichols at the Tribeca Playhouse and Still Waiting For Lefty. Among Sheryl’s favorites with Common Ground were The Julia Project and Motherland. Other theater credits include Footfalls/Not I directed by Andre Gregory, Juno and the Paycock at the Blackstone Theater in Chicago, and Sister Strata at the Ohio Theater.

MICHAEL BERGMANN (Writer, Director, Editor) is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He makes films that are “sexy, surreal and entirely original,” (Sam Maser, Program director of the Hamptons International Film festival.) Bergmann’s first full-length feature film, Milk and Money (1995), “a treat to see,” according to the New York Times, featured performances by Calista Flockhart, Margaret Colin, Marin Hinkle, Olympia Dukakis and Dina Merrill. Trifling With Fate with Bridget Moynahan followed in 2000 (“unafraid to be both smart and silly,” – Lisa Nesselson, Variety), followed by The Reality Trap (2003) and Tied to a Chair (2011) (“One of the more exotic and enticing new independent films” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker). He and his son invented iMean, an inexpensive iPad app that helps autistic and deaf people, as well as stroke victims, spell out and remember their thoughts.



An Interview with the Director

An Interview with award-winning actress Rachel Zeiger-Haag

INFLUENCE had its first Private Screening on Sunday February 8th at the SVA Theatre.



INFLUENCE made its WORLD PREMIERE at the Worldfest Film Festival in Houston, TX

Winner of the Platinum Award for Best Feature Film, Docudrama Category

INFLUENCE was presented at the International Film Festival of World Cinema in Nice, France

Winner of Best Cinematography in a Feature Film

Nominated for Best Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing of a Feature Film

Winner of the Merit Award for Awareness at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles, October 2016


America Magazine
Freeing the Sacred Self

Radio Guests: Gayle Waxenberg (The Telling Company) & Michael Bergman (“INFLUENCE”)

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August 26, 2014 By MICHAEL LEON   I had been working quite happily on the basic biology of the brain when a good friend of mine called for advice about his daughter, who had just been diagnosed with autism. I could hear the anguish and fear in his voice when he asked me whether there…

The Kids Who Beat Autism

July 31, 2014 by Ruth Padawer Mark Macluskie, 16, who is no longer autistic. Credit Mark Peckmezian for The New York Times At first, everything about L.’s baby boy seemed normal. He met every developmental milestone and delighted in every discovery. But at around 12 months, B. seemed to regress, and by age 2, he…

Autism, Like Race, Complicates Almost Everything

April 12, 2014 By Alicia Montgomery From NPR “Children have tantrums. They yell and grab at things that they should ask for nicely. And when a child has autism, like my son, these episodes can be epic: toys hurled across a room, screaming fits that last hours, and flurries of hitting that get triggered by…

For a donation of $25 of more to The Telling Company, we will happily ship you a DVD copy of Influence.