Mike McNally, 28, loves movies.

Some of his favorite films include “Casper” and “Spiderman,” and nearly any superhero movie. All of his movies are arranged by production studios, like Disney or Warner Brothers.

But McNally, a graduate of Bellevue East High School, does more than just watch films. A short film directed by him, titled “The Flower,” was selected for presentation at the first international Ethan Saylor Memorial Film Festival in Annapolis, Md., on Jan. 14 and 15.

 All 14 films featured in the festival were written, directed or starring people with Down syndrome, such as McNally.

McNally’s film tells the story of a husband, played by Scott Kurz, desperately in search of the perfect anniversary gift for his wife, played by Kirstin Kluver. The husband can’t afford a bouquet of flowers, so he buys his wife a single seed, which over time blossoms into a beautiful flower.

“The Flower” was previously selected for the Omaha Film Festival and the Iowa Film Festival in 2013. The movie was shot over three days. To prepare for the film, McNally drew all the scenes and arranged them in a storyboard.

After several takes, he would pick out his favorite.

“He was in control of the direction the whole time,” Mike’s mother Shirley McNally said. “They just did whatever he said.”

The McNally family has a lot of artistic talent and interest in film. His brother, sister and brother-in-law, Patrick McNally, Molly Zavitz and Aaron Zavitz, respectively, were all involved in the production. All of them work in the film industry and played a part filming, editing, writing and producing “The Flower.”

In his free time, Mike loves to draw, which he often turns into storyboards featuring many of his favorite characters. His drawings and storyboards usually have a positive message, featuring many characters with disabilities that transform into superheroes, such as Blind Woman, Skateboard Girl and Watch Kid.

Like Mike, these characters don’t let a disability stand in their way.

“Sometimes I’ll have him verbalize a story for me and I’ll write it down,” Shirley said. “He’s just got I don’t know how many hundreds of storylines.”

Although Mike has countless drawings and storyboards, this is the second film he’s directed. His first film was “Two Sisters,” starring his two Shih Tzus. The short film featured one dog going for a walk, while the other dog patiently waited at the window for the other to return.

The film won third place in the teen division during the 2004 Omaha Hot Shops Film Festival.

“It appeared that the one had been gone for who knows how long,” Shirley said. “It had a cute message.”

For Shirley, the film festivals have been a great opportunity to show off some of the artistic and creative talent of many people with Down syndrome.

“Having Down syndrome has never been an issue. They’re a pretty creative bunch. Very insightful, so much more so than anyone would ever imagine,” Shirley said.

Since 2011, Mike has worked at North Sea Film Studios in Omaha as a custodian. He lives at Sheltering Tree Community in Bellevue, which provides home for people with disabilities, a community which was founded by Mike’s parents, Tom and Shirley.

His film “The Flower” can be seen online at shelteringtreecommunity.org under the News/Events tab.

Story from the Bellevue Leader http://www.omaha.com/sarpy/bellevue/bellevue-filmmaker-competes-in-maryland-film-festival/article_b1e7d07b-f723-51a3-a36c-0b756a5defee.html