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Meet the Deaf Filmmaker Who Started a Movement

Meet Jade Bryan, the deaf filmmaker who started a movement.

Meet the Deaf Filmmaker Who Started a Movement

Video Transcript: Meet the Deaf filmmaker who started a movement

JADE BRYAN: Hi, my name is Jade Bryan. I’m a filmmaker. I went to NYU to study film production. I acquired my BFA degree. I was in the program from 1989 – 1993. I remember at that time, there were three filmmakers. Understand, I was the first black deaf filmmaker to enrol in Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. I only knew of two other filmmakers who were white. It was before the advance of technology, before Apple, before Mac, before digital videos, all of that. We were working on 16mm films and betacams. We edited on Steenbeck flatbed editing tables to splice the film strips. We did that at Tisch. The program is challenging and tough. You have to… You have to be on their level. It was a beautiful experience, a beautiful journey for me as a deaf filmmaker. So… Funny, I consider myself a pioneer… I am a woman of many firsts.

Like I just mentioned, I am the first black deaf filmmaker and while I was at NYU, they did not have any other deaf filmmakers in the program. There were none. I was the only one who graduated with a BFA degree. Up until now, it’s 2018, still to that day, to my knowledge, there has not been other deaf filmmakers to enrol in the film program or graduate. Of course, I had several aspiring deaf filmmakers who wanted to get in the program ask me to write letters of recommendation for them. And I gladly did it for them. And of course, they were not accepted. Wow… How did I get to be so blessed? It felt like, I was chosen for the program and film picked me. Amazing, huh?

Now, I’d like to talk about #POCDeafTalent. I formed that movement in 2012 while I was working on another project called The Shattered Mind. It’s about a deaf family. The main character constantly suffers from nightmares. She is lost and has identity issues. She is confused and she keeps having flashbacks about what happened to her when she was a little girl. So… Around that time during 2012, I was crowdfunding trying to raise funding for my project. The next thing I did, I gathered some people, especially my talents, and my creative team, to get involved with the movement. We went to several studios with the placards and signs with different statements and powerful messages on them. We wanted to share the message that we are visible. We are here! We have talent. Because in TV and film, there’s almost no deaf actors on TV except for maybe one or two that would appear in a movie or show. That’s not much. We need more exposure, more recognition. This should not be something that… Just happens scarcely or sporadically when there is an opportunity for deaf roles. We need to see an influx of people of color who are talents on TV or in the movies. That’s why we did that. We went to BET. We went to NBC, Tyler Perry, MTV studios. We held up our signs for them to see. We were there for about four hours. Even in the rain, holding up the signs. People were walking by, passing us by and noticing us. We wore shirts that said, “Support Black Deaf Film” or “Black Deaf Talent.” We wore them with pride and held up the signs. All we want is to be recognized for our work and our talents. Now, I am shifting to television as well as digital television, like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. So I have decided, “Why not start the movement again?” This time with #POCDeafTalent onTVNow.

We’re not going back in the streets or to the studios where we did before. We’re using Twitter. We did that in 2012. We tried to get the press attention by interviewing us and talking about why we are doing the movement. We tried to get the exposure. We didn’t get one. Actually, we did get a few, but not the major ones. So this year, we want to do that but this time with more noise because I feel it’s time that our stuff, our content, be on television, because I happen to be a content creator. I write. I produce. I direct. I have vision. I have ideas. I want to become a show runner. It means someone with power. Someone who can open the doors for different people with different skills, like writing, directing, producing, I mean, all of that. And the industry still has a hard time opening that door for us. If it gets one person like myself as a content creator to do this, then, I might as well try that. That’s why we’re doing this through Twitter to get people involved in the movement. It’s not an easy thing to do. We won’t give up.

My pilot, the new one is called The Two Essences, it’s about a mother and daughter. It’s a sitcom. It’s supposed to be funny. We’re trying something different for television. I am trying to make it more relatable that way everyone will enjoy and laugh. My goal is to avoid any deaf nuances because they are not ready for that. So, I think it’s really important that the executives start paying attention and start opening the doors to us. We have stories to tell, experience to share.

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