After an accident leaves her without her hearing, a young woman is challenged to accept her disability with the help of her ASL instructor and the support of the hearing impaired community.
Hi Jack, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Fantastic, thanks for chatting with me!
Silence is part of the 48 Hour Film Project selection what does it mean to be bringing your film to Cannes?
It's an incredible honour. Having a film that I directed screen at Cannes is an absolute dream, something I've thought about since I first started making films. I also love that Silence is representing Los Angeles for the 48 Hour Film Festival, which is an incredible showcase for LA's highly talented filmmakers.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
Nervousness, anxiousness, excitement, disbelief, you name it and I've probably felt it! Really some days I can't believe we're heading to Cannes. This is what we've worked so hard for and we're really proud to show it off to another audience at one of the most famous and prestigious festivals in the world.
What do you hope to take away from your time at Cannes?
Definitely looking to make some new connections in the industry. The goal is to eventually direct a feature film, and finding some new connections towards funding would be a productive step to take there. Besides that, getting more feedback from an international audience is definitely positive.
Can you tell me a little bit about Silence, how did this film come about?
In the 48 Hour Film Project, you randomly draw a genre to make a film within well, 48 hours. We picked Silent Film and I think the go-to idea for that genre is a Chaplin-esque comedy, but we wanted to approach it from a different angle. The idea of a woman dealing with her new reality of having lost her hearing allowed a lot of new creative choices within that genre, like playing with our sound design, that made the process all the more exciting.
What was it about this screenplay that connected with you as a director?
For one, the story itself. The idea of losing something that could be so central to yourself one day and then having to adapt to your new way of life is a scary thought. Elaina (our lead) really nailed the resistance, fear, and eventual acceptance so well. The other aspect is the creative decisions that had to be made since we were making a silent film. There are points in the film where there isn't any sound at all, not even room tone. The soundtrack is also incredibly minimal in use. Watching it in the theatre at these points of silence is almost uncomfortable. We wanted the audio of the film to mirror our lead's new reality as much as possible.
What was the most challenging part of bringing Silence to life?
First and foremost it was figuring out how to tell the story without trivializing any aspect of the subject matter, being real about and respectful towards the deaf and hard of hearing community. The second challenge was having Elaina and Drew learn sign language for the film. With only having 48 hours to make this film, they needed to pick up enough of American Sign Language for the script about an hour before we started shooting. They both learned what was needed so quickly and so well that I think it comes off completely natural. They're both amazing actors and I wouldn't have expected anything less from them. To help them with their roles we had an ASL instructor, Misty Lee, on set to teach them what they needed to know.
"Figure out the story you want to tell and start telling it."
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
There was a video project I did when I was about 13 that started to push me in the direction of the film, but I remember the exact moment the idea really clicked. It was when I first saw "A Clockwork Orange" in high school. That was the moment I gained a sense of the power and scope of filmmaking and never looked back. I still remember everything about that evening, it was one of the most impactful moments of my life. That was over twenty years ago, and I still have that same love, and awe, of the art and process.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
I think the idea of telling a story visually has grown as I've learned more about the language of film, what works for me personally in storytelling, as well as how to work with actors and what they expect of me. But honestly, one thing that hasn't changed is a tinge of nervousness before starting every new project. Will it come out the way I want it? Will it build on my previous creative choices? Will what is on-screen match the film in my mind? These questions keep me on edge and challenge me. They help me to work towards the film I hope to create.
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
It would be hard to pin down one exact piece of advice, as I've had a lot of great collaborators and mentors over the years. But I think the best one would just, to be honest with the film you're trying to make. Keep honest to the story you're trying to tell and that honesty will drive you and the film forward.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Find a team of other creatives to work with that you can trust fully. Every single person who worked on this film is so incredibly talented, that without them, it would not be the same or as impactful as it is. Also, do not be afraid to hear criticism or suggestions from your fellow filmmakers. Internalize it and see if it's working towards the best film possible. Your creative partners want to succeed just as much as you do.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Silence?
I hope that people feel empathy for our lead and they get a sense that any new adversity in life can and should be approached bravely and head on.