Friday, November 28, 2008


I have taken a little much-needed time out for Thanksgiving this week and am visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Atlanta. It's an exciting time for them, expecting their first child in April, and fun for me to see my sister pregnant.

As much as I am enjoying being with my family, I know that Sundance, which is held every January in Utah, is going to start announcing their lineup any day. I know that the film is going to find its way into the world premiere that is right for us, and Sundance may not be that place. Not only is it expensive and one of the most competitive festivals in the world, but there are threats of Sundance being boycotted by Hollywood this year over Utah's support of passing Prop 8. I doubt that will happen, but I do support gay rights include the right to marry.

So I am trying to quell Sundance fever as it is sometimes called, and staving off potential disappointment from so many supporters who have been involved in this film. I have submitted the film to 15 festivals around the world, and know that we will play in front of many wonderful audiences.

Every project has their inevitable ups and downs, and I am reminded of stories of films that get into Sundance, get ignored by distributors and the filmmakers leave the festival dejected and broke. Others were rejected by Sundance and ultimately ended up with a theatrical run.

Perhaps I am just preparing for sour grapes and the disappointment of not being one of the 16 films selected out of 1,500 documentaries submitted, but here is a quote from "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. "Sundance is the ultimate gimmick," says Parker, "there is nothing independent or artistic about it and it's ridiculous."

So this Thanksgiving I toast to independent filmmaking and getting an important message out about the talents of these entertainers that I will continue to shout and sign from the rooftops.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vizual fundraiser

I am finally getting caught up with everything that has been postponed during production. We had an incredible fundraiser in June to raise finishing funds for the documentary.

My rockin' friends Ninette and Phil opened up their home and their backyard to host Vizual, our Cirque du Soleil style fundraiser complete with aerial acts by Ninette and her Silk Sisters Buffy and Emily. The event was hosted by Gary Anthony Williams and CJ Jones, with entertainment from Kathy Buckley, Dan Thurmon, aerialist Lexi Pearl and contortionist Jacqui.

Sheena McFeely was our incredible event planner who organized a team of volunteers and helpers.

I am putting together a video of the evening. You can take a look at some of the photos on Facebook here at

Thank you to everyone who came and made the evening a success. We were able to raise enough funds to finish the film - yahoo!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Other entertainers

After I sent out the last newsletter, I received several emails from other entertainers asking if they were still in the film because they weren't mentioned by name in the newsletter. The answer is YES! It was very important to me to include as many entertainers as possible, for many reasons. First, I believe that I could have done a full documentary on any one of dozens of these talented performers, as they all have interesting and unique stories. Second, I am extremely aware of the limited opportunities these entertainers have in getting their work seen, which they so richly deserve. There are many cameos throughout the film when I was lucky enough to cross paths with such incredible performers such as Deanne Bray, Troy Kotsur, Michelle Banks, Fred Beam, Kathy Buckley, Rita Corey, John Maucere, Warren "Wawa" Snipes, Vae, SPO, Nat Wilson, Russell Harvard, Lisa Hermatz, Bernard Bragg, Adrian Blue, Ed Chevy, Steve Longo, Sheena McFeely, Megg Rose, Garrett Zuercher... the list goes on and on. I am so proud and honored to include so many people who have inspired me and influenced so many others.

Please feel free to add comments to this blog about your favorite deaf entertainer and links to their websites. I am happy to read news about upcoming performances or stories about their work. Who knows? We might even be able to feature you on the website when we come to your town with the film!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Challenges ahead

October 8, 2008

The biggest challenge the film is facing is convincing people who have never seen deaf entertainers that this film is meant for mainstream audiences. You can show your support by telling others that you want to see deaf performers featured in the media. That open captions isn't just a luxury but a necessity for almost 30 million Americans. You can help out by sending this to 10 friends and encouraging them to sign up for email newsletters on our website and getting them to come to screenings. We will need your help next year when the film comes out to show your support by packing the theaters and showing that there is a market for captioned films and a demand to see performers who happen to be deaf. That will help spread this message to even more cities and smaller, isolated communities and allow us to bring this film to every community that wishes to see it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why are there so few trained deaf filmmakers?

September 23, 2008

Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it. -Joel A. Barker.

I have been getting email requests from deaf filmmakers who want to work with me, and have brought a few on board. I encourage others to keep working and learning because the world needs you, your stories and your unique vision!

When it came time to hire crew for SEE WHAT I’M SAYING, there was only one professional deaf cinematographer - Wayne Betts, and he was pretty booked. Why couldn’t I find anyone else? [Note: I have found a few others since production began, and am happy to see deaf film festivals starting to pop up all over the world.]

It’s a tough business for everyone – actors, directors, writers and producers – and perhaps it is even harder if you’re deaf. But it is not impossible. The ones who succeed have a few things going for them. Since I get emailed for advice, here is my list of suggestions on how to succeed in this crazy business:

1. Get some training. Research film/acting/writing programs and schools and go!

2. Be aggressive. Go out and interview for the job. Any job you feel qualified for. Show you are confident, skilled and can bring a fresh perspective to the project. Don't let the word "no" stop you from trying again.

3. Don’t limit yourself to deaf projects. You will learn by pushing your boundaries and working outside of your comfort zone.

4. Don’t be shy to ask for favors. If you can’t afford an interpreter, there are plenty of interpreting students who would love the practice to accompany you to interviews, auditions and even on the job. Practice your interview or audition beforehand. The more prepared you are, the better.

5. Don’t be lazy. The successful writers I know practice their craft 10+ hours a day almost every day. If you work, take care of kids and have other responsibilities, you can still practice your craft with a little discipline. I know some parents who get up at 4:00 AM to write before their kids go to school. It all depends on how much you want it. There is no such thing as can’t!

6. Educate yourself. There are so many great DVD’s about directing, editing, acting and filmmaking out there. Try to visit film sets and rehearsals to watch how professionals work. Not many people are going to just invite you. You have to network, create relationships and be persistent. And yes, all of this takes time and a lot of work.

7. Learn how to be a producer. This is a tough business for everyone, filled with rejections, frustrations and barriers. Those who make it only see creativity, persistence and opportunity. Start creating your own projects - short films that you can post on YouTube. If they are good, you will find your audience.

8. Make it up as you go along. There is no one path to success - you just have to find what works best for you. Although other people's stories may inspire and perhaps give you ideas, each person's journey is unique. Ask yourself what skills you have, what skills you want to learn and how you can realistically create projects you envision.

9. Think positive. We all have obstacles and challenges, but the key is finding solutions and strategies. People like being around positive people, and are happy to help out if they have fun.

10. Remember that it is the journey, not the destination. If you don't enjoy the journey, it isn't worth it. Find a path that makes you happy and you will find joy and fulfillment in the work.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fan letter and "Audism" lyrics by Dave Showers

I am so flattered that I am already receiving some fan mail and stories by people finding me through our online trailer for the film and through great groups like D-Pan helping me spread the word about the film.

Here is part of an email and song lyrics that were sent to me by Dave Showers, a deaf musician in Indiana who is on a journey.

i want to introduce myself to you. i have visited the d-pan website a couple of times and last night was the first time that i saw the clip,"see what i'm saying". it really captured my eyes therefore i kept watching it over and over again! TL was the top subject in the clip! not because she's beautiful but because i can relate to her with the hearing loss and the music. i knew i wasnt alone.
my name is dave showers and i am from noblesville, indiana.i am 25 years old and i graduated at the indiana deaf school in 2003. i was born in san diego, califorina august 23rd 1983 and i was born hearing. after i was born, i had a breathing problem because my lungs were too small and the doctor had to put oxygen on me to keep me alive. eventually, my parents found that i had a hearing loss because i could not hear them when they called my name and they took me to the doctor and the doctor said that my eardrum was damaged from the oxygen and i had to wear it for a few months. it was the only way to keep me alive or else i would have died. i was still able to hear but not 100% and thats how i became hard of hearing.
all my life i grew up having problems because of my hearing loss. i took speech class when i was probably 5 or 6 years old. i had to learn how to talk and learn to hear with the hearing aids. i moved to many different states because of my dad's job and because i got kicked out of the school for misbehaving. i couldnt fit in with the students at the public school or at the deaf school because i was different from all of them. hearing people mocked me because of my voice sounded different and i could not pronounce some words right. just when i thought i talked normal but it turned out that i sounded odd. deaf people mocked me because im not deaf and that i can talk and hear. not only that, they also made racist remarks because im part mexican and part white. i suffered a lot and i pretty much was in a cage in my own world. i went counseling very often to work on my issues. i had very low self esteem and i would isolate myself from everybody. sometimes, i would detest myself for being deaf because it really put a lot of pressure on me and i couldnt find my own identity. i would pretend that im not deaf or hard of hearing and i tried to convinced myself that im hearing but they could see that im hard of hearing by reading lips and the way i talk. there was no way i was able to deny it. its all there.
when i was growing up, i was into music at the heart and still am to this very day. it became a part of my life and its also from my mom's side heritage. i have cousins and aunts and my mom and my sister that sings and plays instruments. i was into different music and my sister used to play the piano. i didn't play an instrument or write lyrics at the time. i was just a fan enjoying the sound of the music.
i was still having issues dealing with my hearing loss because im living in the real world. i had problems at work because people got irriated by me and didnt want to communicate with me. they yelled at me because i couldnt hear or couldnt understand what they were saying. from there, i decided not to talk anymore out in public so i started writing on papers whenever i go to places. it was complicated because i was trying to accept who i am. i was always talking only to my family and some people that i trust and i was always writing on papers and signing to my deaf friends. some hearing people mocked me because my voice sounded odd and it made me very angry that i lose my confidence and i felt that i have no faith or there's no hope for my future. i just went back to the cage and isolated myself from everybody again. i was still in doubt and it made me realized that i might not be able to sing because my voice is not normal than i thought it was. in my heart, i wasnt going to give that up because music is still my passion and its my life. it has been with me since i was a kid. i still want to form a band and i am not sure if it has chosen me because for me to find out, i have to make it happen. i dont know where my path is right now though.

i have talents bottled up inside of me. i dont want it go to go waste and i dont want the opportunities to pass because i still have connections with some of the bands. i want to do something thats all about passion than money. at the same time, bands have to make money because they have bills to pay. its my dream to travel the world and see different people,different culture and different environments.
when i found out about TL last night, i jumped out of my chair thinking if she can do it then i can do it and the fact that she and i have so much in common. our life is the same story but a different chapters. i listened to her music on myspace and i was impressed. i kept wondering how did she do it, how did she formed her own band.

i also like the beetoven's nightmare. the dude is insane on the drums!

i refuse to give up my dreams and my goals. i know theres hope for me and i want to do some thing with my life than be stuck working at meijer for the rest of my life. thats when i had to contact you and asked you to have TL contact me. i am getting old now and its not too late if i get help and get inspired right away. i just cant do it alone without someone supporting me. i want to bring my music and my story to life. its the matter of time and age.
i have to stop now but i could go on. talk to you soon.

dave showers

I am hoping others read his lyrics and see that they are not alone. His lyrics are posted here with permission:

[NOTE: Audism is a term used to describe discrimination or stereotypes against deaf or hard of hearing people, for example by assuming that the cultural ways of hearing people are preferable or superior to those of deaf or signing culture, or that deaf people are somehow less capable than hearing people. It also can be used to describe the opposite, deaf people who scorn those with hearing.]

"Audism" 8/29/08

I lived long enough to be
I still don't know who I am
I can never be who I never was
I'm tired of hearing the dead
When there's only a shadow

There's no reason to sign
But my voice is eerie
They can still see who I am
There's no walls to deny myself

Don't repeat another word cause
I'm afraid I'll be another mistake
No one can repair who I never was
It was never a miracle

They rejected me all my life
Cause I'm not one of them
I didn't chose to live this way
Don't say I'm not a mistake
Cause god can't take it back

I serve no purpose but death
Will not come for my soul
Its hard to believe in myself
Faith has given up my confidence
All my goals are a dead dreams
my hope will die with me

The world has rejected me
I can't find myself anymore
I will never be born again
I refused to accept who I am not
I have no sympathy for me

I don't want to know who I am
Cause I don't know who I am anymore
I don't want to know who I am
Cause I don't know who I am anymore
I don't want to know who I am
Cause I don't know who I am anymore

Dave showers

"Everybody else has touch the world
I have seen it with my eyes
I can only touch it in my dream
My life is out there somewhere
Not enough money to get me everywhere
But my talent will get me there someday"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hip Guy - Robert has a fan

I love my sound supervisor. Joe Milner at Puget sound isn't just one of the most talented sound editors and mixers around, he just happens to be one of the coolest people I have met this year.

Joe sends me fun emails that always seem to make my day. All of the post production people loved the subjects of the film, and would often comment about various entertainers. My colorist loved hearing stories about Bob, one consultant couldn't get enough of CJ, and TL always seems to have fans. My favorite comment about Robert, the Deaf Man of 1,000 Faces came from our Foley team that Joe was working with. I always knew Robert was an extremely cool, hip guy, but this came from a pro who has worked on hundreds of films.

From Joe Milner, Sound Supervisor 07/30/08

OK, Robert will like this one:

I just got the foley back from the Foley stage, and started importing the
tracks into my mixing sessions. Like a sound effect, the individual files
are named for what they are, sometimes at a very basic, almost childlike
level, ie: "Red shirt FS" (footsteps), "Guy on right", Old Man on left" etc.

Robert however, is referred to as " Hip Guy". So, we've got several cues
named "Hip Guy FS" , "Hip Guy Backpack", etc.

I just thought that Robert might like to know, that at a purely "instant
gut-reaction" level, he is thought of as "hip".