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We were lucky enough to recently sit down for an interview with the co-directors of the Deaf Talent Collective (DTC); a consultancy service dedicated to connecting D/deaf actors, BSL interpreters, BSL and D/deaf consultants, script consultants, and bespoke D/deaf awareness training with productions and events.
We previously collaborated with the DTC for a hugely successful and inspiring event as part of our 2023 Spring Screenings programme in March, which featured two short films made by the DTC - The Riley Sisters and By Hand - as well as a brilliant talk and a screening of Wonderstruck.
Our chat with founder, Tobi St.Clair and D/deaf awareness coordinator, Aimee Campbell-Nottage covered a wide range of topics, from the DTC's mission and their advice for D/deaf young people to their thoughts on how the industry can become more accessible and why film/TV are such great mediums to tell D/deaf stories. Check out our highlights video at the top of the article and the full transcribed interview below.
Deaf Talent Collective Interview - Highlights Video Descriptive Transcript
Some D/deaf children feel that their sign language levels aren't good enough so they can't have a D/deaf actor's role or job but it doesn't matter if you're oral, you use Sign Supported English (SSL) or you're a full British Sign Language (BSL) user because you are part of us and you are part of our community.DTC co-director and D/deaf awareness coordinator, Aimee Campbell-Nottage
Tobi St.Clair: The Deaf Talent Collective is a one-stop shop for all things related to working with D/deaf talent, so we provide D/deaf actors for productions. We also work with productions to make sure their sets are accessible, they've got the right team onboard and just to make sure it's a nice experience for everyone involved. I set up the Deaf Talent Collective because my mum was actually a D/deaf actor and growing up, I would see her as an amazing talented actress struggle to get into the industry. I've also seen it working as an interpreter that the industry wants to learn but they just don't have the tools to do so.
Aimee Campbell-Nottage: The Deaf Talent Collective is a way to bridge the gap between the hearing community and the D/deaf community so that we can work together.
Tobi: Most recently, we've been working with the Lionesses (the England women's national football team) to teach them BSL (British Sign Language). We've also worked with Eastenders, Sex Education, Grantchester, as well as Netflix, Apple TV, BT Sport etc.
Aimee: To date, we have worked on a variety of projects including the Queen's Jubilee, Strictly Come Dancing and SignHealth.
Tobi: As a young D/deaf person, you can do any role that you want within the industry, whether you want to be a director, actor, editor, writer etc. Any role is open to you, it's just about working out what interests you the most.
Aimee: If you're D/deaf and you would love to get involved in the film industry, we would encourage you to go to a variety of workshops and gain some experience/acting skills. You can also offer your services as volunteer just to get a sense of what is in the industry and what you would actually like to do in the future.
Aimee: You may feel unsure about whether the film industry is for you but there are such a variety of roles. You could start as a runner and get to see what role actually suits you and what you're interested in. What's really important is not to give up - you may come across rejections and barriers but remember, people that are successful have also experienced those.
Tobi: The media industry is definitely changing - it's still not 100% but it's getting there. There's more roles for D/deaf actors, there's more roles for behind-the-scenes and casting directors are becoming more aware of how to cast D/deaf actors, which is really good.
Aimee: For companies that bring in D/deaf actors, what's really important is that you initially undertake some D/deaf awareness training. Once you have that, it just means that the D/deaf people within your company can relax and focus on their role.
Aimee: Not everyone knows a D/deaf person and haven't had the experience of meeting one so probably have different perceptions. For example, there's a lot of people out there who think D/deaf people can't drive or do other normal everyday things, so by seeing these stories, they start to understand that we're just like you. It's a good way to raise awareness and make others realise we are just normal people.
Aimee: My favourite part was meeting young D/deaf people - they were so inspired and they asked so many questions. They probably don't know who to ask these questions and don't have role models in their language so events like this open up their world and broaden their horizons. Showing them screenings of films with D/deaf actors gives them the possibility that they can do the same thing and act on TV/film.
Tobi: My favourite part from the screening was when we showed them The Riley Sisters and Aimee asked at the end, which one of the actors did you think was D/deaf? They all said the same person but actually, they were both D/deaf - one just spoke and one signed. So, it's nice to know that even if they speak and they can't sign, there's still roles for them within the industry.
Aimee: Definitely - some D/deaf children feel that their sign language levels aren't good enough so they can't have a D/deaf actor's role or job but it doesn't matter if you're oral, you use Sign Supported English (SSL) or you're a full British Sign Language (BSL) user because you are part of us and you are part of our community - those films really showed that.
A massive thanks to Tobi and Aimee for chatting to us! If you're interested in taking a deeper dive into this subject, head to our No Barriers to Cinema article, which looked at the importance of subtitled cinema. Meanwhile, our D/deaf and Hard of Hearing film list includes a wide variety of themes, characters and stories that may resonate with these communities.
Exploring the importance of subtitled cinema in the first of a series of articles in support of audiences with accessibility requirements.
Reading time 6 mins
A list of films that share themes, characters and stories that may resonate with d/deaf or hard of hearing audiences.
Suitable forAll ages
No. of films12
Two special guest writers discuss how to create your own Into Film Club and series of screenings for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Reading time 6 mins
Our Club of the Month for January 2023 is Meadows Primary from Telford, England. Their leader discusses the club's love of film festivals, Into Film+ and more.
Reading time 4 mins
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