It's 4:30AM in Los Angeles as I'm still shaking off jet lag from a week in Melbourne with SEE WHAT I'M SAYING at The Other Film Festival. It was an extraordinary experience, and an honor to be in one of the premiere disability film festivals as the inaugural deaf program. This all-inclusive festival had Auslan interpreters (Australian Sign Language), ASL interpreters, audio description and captions for all of the films. We screened to a packed house at the Melbourne Museum. CJ and I did a Q&A after the film, and I was part of a panel discussion on directing deaf actors moderated by Ross Onley-Zerkel with Clayton Jacobson and his award-winning cast of I LOVE U. Highlights of the festival included getting to hang out with Academy Award winning director Adam Elliot, festival director and our host Rick Randall, the incredible festival staff (Dominque, Emily, Simone and others.) The other filmmakers' work were beyond inspirational, and it was an honor to meet Stella Young ("Carbon Whore"), Rob Spence ("Eyeborg"), Genevieve Clay ("Be My Brother") and the creators from the Restless Dance Company. The film that took home the festival award was "Nobody's Perfect," a mind-blowing documentary about 12 people affected by Thalidomide deciding to pose naked for a calendar. SEE WHAT I'M SAYING received an honorable mention at the awards ceremony, which was a huge compliment.
It was my first time in Australia, and I had an opportunity to pet kangaroos and hang out with the koalas at the Healesville Sanctuary. My new Australian friends taught me local expressions ("not to whing if I'm being shouted a flat white, lest I be bottled on Saturday arvo." - translated as "don't whine if someone buys me a cappuccino or someone will cut me with a bottle on Saturday afternoon." ) CJ had a chance to perform his comedy live at the Charcoal Lane restaurant after our screening to an appreciative crowd. I had an opportunity to audio describe SEE WHAT I'M SAYING to a sighted-impaired judge Tony, which was an incredible experience for me, as he was testing a theory that audio description is richer when coming from the director, although it was a unique challenge of balancing our subtitles while describing the action.
It was a great festival, a memorable week and an unforgettable experience. I'm already looking at ways to return with the film and more performers soon.
I realize I am a little behind in my blog. I've tried to keep up with posting all the news on our Facebook fan page and on Twitter, but since this is a holiday weekend and I have a few moments to reflect, I wanted to post a little update here.
These past few months have been unbelievable. After our breathtaking fairytale world premiere in Hollywood, we rolled right into two weeks of screenings at the Laemmle Theater in Los Angeles. My favorite part were all of the guests who showed up - all of the aerialists and musicians from the rock band Powder, Deaf West Theater, SAG, AIDS Service LA, actors, award-winning cinematographers, the deaf bikers who rode in from Arizona, the couple who drove up from Mexico, all of our volunteers and interpreters... and so many, many more.
I left the day after we closed for a month in New York, which was as thrilling as it was exhausting. I miss NYC! We had a great run at the Village East Cinema with crowds coming in from everywhere. I had the opportunity to visit several deaf schools and give short presentations, including the Lexington School for the Deaf, "47" and met with administrators at the St. Joseph School for the Deaf in the Bronx. SEE WHAT I'M SAYING beat out Avatar at the theater our opening day, but we were clobbered the day Dr. Who fans showed up for their sneak preview. Maybe we could get Robert to wear a long scarf next time.
My journey around the country after NYC gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most extraordinary people working tirelessly on a daily basis within their communities. Each city was uniquely different: Syracuse brought in CJ to join me to teach a day of workshops before the screening, filled with more laughter than should be allowed; Santa Rosa screened us at the Rialto Theater, the cutest little art house movie theater ever, and arranged for superstar performer Sherry Hicks to interpret for me; AFI Theater in Silver Springs, MD had our name scrolling on the marquee in lights... before Akira Kurosawa (the last place that will ever happen); New Jersey screened us in the student center on a foldout screen, folding chairs and a red carpet (for real - someone had taped a carpet that was red in the aisle leading up to the screen. Priceless.) And Sean Forbes had a great screening in Michigan and was able to hook me up via videophone from Los Angeles for the Q&A after the screening. I was projected on the big screen and was thrilled to have 300 people in my living room. It was magical.
I have also had my share of challenges, headaches and disappointments, which is par for the course. I don't usually blog/post about these since I want to focus on the positive. But anyone who envisions that this is the glamorous life needs to come out and spend a day with me. You'd probably find me still in my pajamas at my computer trying to iron out some dilemma. These challenges have forced me to grow professionally and personally, and hopefully I'm getting better at problem solving with grace, although I don't always succeed. But I'm trying.
The most recent accomplishments include getting a request for the film's transcripts by the Academy of Arts & Sciences ("I'd like to thank the Academy..."); having a screening at DreamWorks... twice (for the animation department and for the live action folks who work half way across town); getting a solid distribution deal for our DVD and some fantastic leads for television; receiving invitations to screen the film in Moscow, Hong Kong, Australia and the Korean Demilitarized Zone; and watching CJ, Robert, TL and Bob all continue to blossom and inspire with their various projects this past year.
Thank you, everyone, who has been part of this incredible adventure. The journey continues. Have a safe 4th of July holiday weekend everyone.