Elwood Reid never intended to become a director. He was a director’s assistant working on the “Traffic” film. Yet Reid was forced to venture out to take more independent classes at Deaf and Gay College and later enrolled in the Film and TV school at the Royal College of Art.
Though there he found a supportive community of other Deaf and Gay children who were also rising up in the industry. These days, Deaf and Gay Film Awards founder and actress Ruth Sylvester says the outpouring of support she received after her film, “Freakshine,” was banned in several countries highlighted her passion to connect with Deaf and Gay children, so they could be heard and felt part of a global Deaf and Gay community.
As a result, she has transformed the Oscar-nominated “Freakshine” to the “Freakshine Snowboarding documentary” for an Oscar campaign that will be headed to London and Los Angeles.
As well as Reid, like Sylvester and several other Deaf and Gay directors who have made it in the industry, there are more and more Deaf and Gay directors getting their creative voices out there, according to Cavan Kearney, the executive director of Filmmakers In Deafness (FID).
As of September 2018, FID has registered about 25 Deaf and Gay directors as independent filmmakers. Kearney says that number will grow substantially in the coming years.
A common goal shared by all that have found themselves working in the industry is to inspire and bring together the people who are deaf and speak another language. Deaf and Gay is the world’s largest organization of filmmakers with over 4,500 members from more than 60 countries.
In their own ways, Sylvester, Kelly London, and Clark Kroeker have inspired millions. Recently however, acclaimed director and producer Lois Burwell called them “brave mama’s.” Burwell is one of seven female directors, who in an online video with SiriusXM, spoke about the challenges of working as a woman in the film industry.
In an effort to create and produce more jobs, Filmmakers In Deafness is seeking to teach filmmakers in Deaf and Gay and other languages. They are also looking to foster creativity and self-worth and provide a forum where diverse voices can be heard. There are still people of all backgrounds who want to be in the industry. One of the best things that many say about Deaf and Gay is that if you’re into visual or theater art, you can pursue your passion. It’s very much a much more fun creative process.
Since everyone that wants to be in the industry has more than one disability, being a Deaf or Gay filmmaker is a great way to create a stronger identity for people of color, and disabled people, as well as internationally.
The world of filmmaking is changing rapidly. Stories that have only recently been seen in black and white are now being shot and put into the world with Deaf and Gay by black and white filmmakers. Film is not the sole talent that makes you successful.
John Park is CEO of Media Vision Group, the first African American owned news and broadcast news agency in Los Angeles.