Documentary about Flame honored

JOHNSTOWN – An Ithaca College student-director’s short documentary film about Lexington Center’s soft-rock group Flame, whose members have developmental disabilities, was the recent recipient of the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship in Los Angeles.

Lexington Center officials said Kristin Leffler’s 11-minute documentary, “Following Flame,” was recognized at the 35th College Television Academy Awards on April 23.

Leffler became interested in filming a documentary about Flame for her documentary journalism class after hearing about the band from a friend who had booked it to perform at Ithaca College, officials said. Flame’s focus on ability rather than disability resonated with Leffler, whose sister has both physical and mental disabilities, according to Lexington Center Director of Communications Katherine Ehle.

“Flame’s music and positive message have proven to be a true inspiration for both Leffler sisters,” Ehle said.

Flame Manager Maria Nestle said Leffler “watched her parents struggle in similar stories to what the [Flame] band members have.”

Center Division Director for Business and Community Development Wally Hart said the documentary shows “abilities are limitless” for the developmentally disabled.

“It certainly is a great recognition of the message Flame sends when they sing,” Hart said.

The documentary can be viewed online at

The 10-member Flame group, led by singer Michelle King, was formed in 2003. King couldn’t be reached for comment.

Flame has played worldwide. Upcoming shows in May include several in the Northeast, including in Oneonta, Davenport, Scotia and Sherborn, Mass.

Nestle said Flame’s popularity goes in “spurts.” She noted the band will play in October in North Carolina, the first time Flame has played there.

Ehle noted the film shows the effect the band has had on the lives of its members and sheds light on how people with disabilities are often treated and viewed in the United States. Using performance clips and interviews with band members, their families, Nestle, Sound Manager George Spencer and Disabilities Advocate Larry Roberts from the Finger Lakes Independence Center, the film shares the story of Flame’s success, Ehle said.

Ehle said many television industry professionals attended the “prestigious awards ceremony,” which was held at the television academy’s Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre.

She said the Arbus Scholarship was presented by actor Robert David Hall, who commented that “Following Flame” was “incredibly well done. As a musician, I was moved by the band’s talents.”

The Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship recognizes a young talent whose work sheds light on people with disabilities, helps emerging artists gain recognition and increases visibility for artists with disabilities. The scholarship is presented to student writers, producers or directors with disabilities, producers of content focused on people with disabilities or to a piece that features one or more actors with disabilities.

The College Television Academy recognizes excellence in college student-produced video, digital and film work.

ABC’s “Good Morning America” first stoked the national fires of interest in Flame with a Nov. 27, 2009, segment about the music group, bringing a surge in CD sales, bookings and website hits.

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Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at