BEHIND THE SCENES with Jody Porter

Please describe the genesis of Planet Kaleigh ... how did you find Cindy (Kaleigh's mother) and what made you think her experience would translate for a broad audience?

Cindy pitched her idea to a (now defunct) CBC program called Outfront . I'd worked with her before and knew she had a quirky, poignant approach to parenting. Cindy's perspective on what makes Kaleigh different from other people is unique and I knew from past experience that she had the guts to take the recording and the story into territory that few parents are willing to go

Describe your role as producer vs. Cindy's as the main storyteller in the making of Planet Kaleigh ? Did Cindy record all of the tape and bring it to you to shape

Cindy and I talked before she started recording about the kind of tape that might be useful in getting such a fanciful concept across. Then she did all the recording and we had a second conversation about what she thought she'd like included in the piece. Since it's her story, I did my best to respect Cindy's wishes while keeping my ears open to my own story-telling instincts

The father seems very reticent to talk, how did his involvement impact the making of the piece

I think Cindy's husband was a willing participant but it doesn't really make sense to him to sit and talk into a microphone about what makes Kaleigh different, or the impact Kaleigh's differences have had on their lives. For him, Kaleigh is Kaleigh, end of story. I liked his role in the piece because his perspective is a complete contrast to Cindy's. I think if he was reaching as hard as Cindy for an explanation of who Kaleigh is, the broader audience might dismiss this family as too 'out there'

Cindy wrestles with her feelings of guilt in this story, did you also wrestle with how much you would include of her self-doubt

Cindy is an incredible, loving, fun, energetic mother and I wanted that to come across along with the self-doubt that perhaps(?) makes that possible. I'm still not sure I got the balance right. Cindy collected a lot of tape that made me feel like a bit of a voyeur. I so appreciate the trust she had in me to listen, and chose which parts of her life, (and her heart), to expose to a broader audience

Did Cindy approve the piece before it aired? Did she have any concerns, or ask for any changes

It was Cindy's pitch and Cindy's story, so yes, she got to approve what went to air. It's a very humbling experience to sit in someone's living room and listen together as you reveal how you took her life, her most raw emotions, and turned her into a 'character' in a 'piece'. It was like Cindy held up a mirror on her life, and I was the mirror, responsible for reflecting a true image. Fortunately, she liked it and didn't ask for any changes

Postscript: Two years after this documentary was produced, Third Coast asked Cindy how Kaleigh's doing..

Kaleigh is great. She turned 7 in November. She continues therapy - including OT, Physio and of course Speech. She has taken great leaps and bounds in her speech the last year and no longer uses any sign language and has many many spoken words. Whats that joke about waiting for your kids to walk and talk and then spending the rest of your life telling them to sit down and shut up. Well we dont do that but boy oh boy she is quite the little chatter box

And does she still think about Planet Kaleigh

The Planet Kaleigh concept still exists and comes up from time to time. A little girl that Kaleigh plays with once said "Kaleigh is really nice and very funny and kind....of course she speaks another language" We call it Kalien. Not suprising Kaleigh's favourite movie is ET....and she does a great impersonation of ET - our second favourite alien

As for me...Planet Kaleigh is probably where I live more than anyone else but I wouldn't have it any other way. It is a wonderous place to be a mommy.