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See Hear Weekend: Promoting and finding deaf talent

William Mager

Series Producer, See Hear

The third See Hear Weekend is almost upon us. The event, which is returning to Watershed in Bristol on 24 and 25 February, will be a special weekend of events to mark the contribution deaf people make to the film and television industry. The creative industry is brimming with talent from the deaf community and this is going to be a brilliant way for us to proudly showcase just some of the amazing work being produced.

Across the packed schedule of events, we’ll have feature screenings, workshops, and panels showcasing the best programmes and short films starring deaf talent, both behind and in front of the camera. This year we’ve even got a couple of potential Oscar winners.

See Hear, which broadcasts on BBC Two each month, is one of the longest running deaf programmes in the world. Each month, we highlight the issues affecting the deaf community and what better way of showing audiences the important role the programme plays than opening up the discussion to a wider group of people.

The See Hear Weekend was born in 2015, when See Hear’s Executive Producer Roger Farrant had the idea of staging a one-off event celebrating sign language in film and television. We had a brilliant response and since then the event has grown and grown. One of just many highlights of that first weekend was an exclusive premiere of an episode of Doctor Who starring deaf actress Sophie Stone, followed by a fascinating Q&A with the cast and crew.

Since we first started, the BBC in the South West has heavily supported the event, highlighting the BBC’s commitment to diversity and representation on and off screen.

The focus this year is centred around deaf talent in film and television.

One of the many highlights will be a screening of The Silent Child, a short film starring a deaf girl from Swindon, Maisie Sly, which has been nominated for a prestigious Oscar award. The Shape of Water also looks set to take an award or two. Then there’s Wonderstruck, which we’re previewing ahead of its release in April. All three films use deaf talent and sign language in different ways and we’ll also be showing these films because we want to encourage discussion around the use of deaf talent in film and television.

We also want to highlight talent closer to home. Seb Cunliffe, the director of our See Hear on Tour series, will be sharing his experiences of making the programmes. The series followed the adventures of young deaf traveller Rosie Benn as she made her way around Europe. The aim was to make a travel show with a difference - with a deaf presenter, a deaf director, deaf picture editors, deaf animators, deaf tour guides… and all in sign language.

Deaf filmmaker Louis Neethling will revisit the drama series he made for the BBC - Switch and Camilla Arnold will be telling audiences how she made her Channel 4 documentary Extraordinary Teens: School of Life and Deaf. All of these people are incredibly talented - and they’ve all worked for See Hear at one time or another.

The See Hear Weekend has also been a great platform for finding up-and-coming deaf talent of its own. At the first event we ran a filmmaking workshop for young people. One of the attendees was Rosie Benn, then a student at Wolverhampton University. She’s since graduated and come to work for See Hear as a presenter and researcher. She’s now been nominated for an RTS West award for best New on Screen Talent for her work on See Hear on Tour.

There’s a wealth of things to do across the weekend and there’s definitely something for everyone. Perhaps we’ll find the future presenters, directors and series producers? And who knows, we might even inspire a new generation of deaf journalists, filmmakers and even animators! All the screenings and workshops are free and tickets are available from the Bristol Watershed website. We look forward to seeing you there!

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