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.