Utilizing #deaftalent: The Making of a Deaf-Friendly Webisode

Posted by: Staff Writer on Feb. 25, 2015

Are you tired of seeing production companies and theaters in Hollywood and beyond using hearing people casted as Deaf characters? Roles that Deaf individuals could portray and perhaps even better? We are! That’s why at deaffriendly we knew when we made the right choice, the only choice really, to use #deaftalent during the making of our first webisode released in late January “#deaffriendly or #deafchallenged? Let’s Find out” starring John Maucere

Shortly before the websiode release, the #deaftalent movement began as a fiery response to the New York Daily News article featuring hearing actress Catalina Sandino Moreno and her comments about playing a Deaf role in the movie Medeas. The conversation was sparked, Deaf folks flamed the conversation with a flurry of vlogs, art collages, social media shares, and comments online. It spread all over the Internet, and the conversation has grown to include the important messages by Jade Bryan and Rosa Lee Timm on the importance of also including Deaf People of Color. As a result, #POCDeafTalent hashtag has caught on as well. During this, we’ve had lots of conversations at deaffriendly about the importance of supporting other Deaf owned businesses, and the importance of working together.

Elise Whitworth, the webisodes producer is also the co-owner of Deaf-owned creative services company, Satdaya Studios along with husband Lee Whitworth. She emphasizes the value of working with other community members. “When Deaf owned companies work together, it boosts our economy. Keeping the money in the family, it creates more jobs and training opportunities. As those companies turn around and work with hearing owned companies and hearing customers, they learn what it means to be #deaffriendly.”

Elise oversaw the production from start to finish, never forgetting the importance of the message. Elise states the best part of the project was, “…we succeeded in the message. We got the message right! It could be the crappiest, low-quality video, the most important thing is the message. We're just beyond the moon that the quality is there, too.”

And that quality is due in large part to the expertise of director Jules Dameron. Also Deaf, she is a passionate, well-respected, award-winning Deaf director with multiple directing credits under her belt including most recent, an ASL music video, “Let It Go” and a Norwegian TV series Møkkakaffe (Bad Coffee) among many others. She was hired to develop the script, direct and edit the webisode and she was on fire from the start, to bring to life the #deaffriendly and #deafchallenged stories from our community.  

The wildfire with which #deaftalent has spread is something that Jules has long pushed for. She explains, “It’s like I’ve often been saying, we flourish the more we push on getting deaf people paid for their work. The more deaf people we pay, the more we flourish in the work we do. And that helps the deaf community as a whole. I’m a huge supporter of the deaf economy.”

Sometimes that innate drive and fire translated into capturing some dramatic behind-the-scene moments, Jule’s recounts, “The day before, when we were scouting the location, there was a big garbage fire in the alley, and our sound guy, David, went to their rescue and we couldn’t help but film the event, with the fire truck and everything. It was a big fire! Quite memorable, that”

That wasn’t the only dramatic crisis during production.  Melissa “echo” Greenlee, the founder of deaffriendly had a medical emergency that nearly halted the production:

“I have to give a huge shout-out to Elise and Lee Whitworth of Satdaya Studios. The weekend of the shoot, I was recovering from an emergency C-section and was unable to fly down to Los Angeles. The project we had relentlessly worked on for months and months was at a risk of not happening. Elise and I were texting from my hospital bed at all hours and she literally, saved this project from not happening. Their passion and commitment to this project from the beginning was 150%. From scouting locations, gathering interviews, creating contracts, adding captions, to working tirelessly with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). They really were the glue that kept everything together. Without them, this project would not have been possible.”

echo chimes in on using #deaftalent: “Using #deaftalent was always the intention of this project. Deaf characters have the true experience of what it is like as a Deaf person. They can convey that through heart and passion of their own existence in this world. They are best fitted to play deaf roles. Period.“  

One of the biggest benefits in harnessing #deaftalent is getting to work with some of the best in the business. A crucial part to the success of the webisode were people most of us don’t notice because they were behind the camera. Lee had this to share, “I was, and continue to be, significantly impressed with the camerawork of Ruan DuPlessis. With the #deaffriendly shoot, we were aiming for a rougher, ad-hoc interviewing on the street-feel, and despite not having done this type of work before, I thought Ruan did an excellent job pulling it off.” Elise adds, “The rest of the team including Shannon Rusnak and Lee Whitworth were also critical in its success, making sure there was food, all the paperwork was filled out, I’s dotted and T’s crossed.”

Actor John Maurcere, known for his role in SuperDeafy, displayed his usual charm and dynamic energy on screen as he engaged real-life Deaf people (not actors) and their real-life #deafchallenged and #deaffriendly stories. Jules says about John, “This was the first project I officially worked on with John Maucere. I loved working with him. His work ethic and professionalism is the best. I respect him for that.”  John’s chemistry with William Fidail, the hearing owner of Viscous Dogs where much of the filming took place, was fun, upbeat, and positive. Watching their relationship unfold is the perfect example of Deaf and hearing people working together to create a more #deaffriendly world. By the end, one of the webisode’s best moments was completely unscripted and spontaneous.

Willie takes the black and white #deaffriendly sticker, walks outside his restaurant, and slaps it on the door with a huge grin.  Now that’s what we’re talking about.

Watch the webisode below and don’t forget to plug in your #deaffriendly and #deafchallenged reviews on deaffriendly.com

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Comment Policy

We’re aware that issues facing the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Community can become quite passionate and divided. What can we say, we’re a group of passionate people! While we fully support a community full of passion, we also require that comments are respectful. We think negative attitudes and disrespect are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with people, you just need to do it respectfully. We reserve the right to delete or edit any comments we feel are judgmental, rude, or of attacking nature.

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