On Casting Deaf Creatives for your Project
Time have changed over a course of twenty years in the entertainment industry. Back in 1997 when I was working as Talent Liaison at Deaf Entertainment Foundation and Guild in Los Angeles, my staff and I relied on faxes, TDD calls, and sign language interpreters in handling casting calls and audition notices. In the past we would receive a breakdown through a fax and share the information with our members in our organization. In the event of an open casting call, we would share it with the public or post it on our AOL accounts and website Deaf Entertainment Online. Additionally we distributed the first Deaf Entertainment Foundation directory with a listing of deaf and hearing ASL-proficient talented professionals to studios, networks, casting agencies, and organizations within the industry. During three years I worked at my organization from 1997 to 2000, I would estimate nearly 80% of deaf faces you saw on the screen came through our office.
Since my organization closed its office in May 2000 during the time of SAG’s strike and financial difficulties, deaf creatives have turned to different means of accessing casting information and communications. Thanks to advances in technology, deaf creatives now can communicate with their peers and professionals in the industry via text, videophone, Zoom, or other applications. Casting directors and agencies can now reach deaf creatives through the same routes. Convo and Sorensen are two leading videophone applications that can be utilized for communications with deaf and hard of hearing clients. All one needs to do is dial directly a number a deaf client provides on his or her application or headshot, wait for a relay service operator to come on, and talk to the client through the operator.
The etiquette for a videophone call is simple: do not start with “please tell this person” but address the person directly. Do not engage in friendly conversation with the interpreter or talk to him or her separately from the client but focus your attention on the client. Flirting with an interpreter is a big no-no and a sure way to lose business. It happened to me one time when a casting agent thought I was female when he heard the tone of my interpreter on the phone and he started to get personal. That was when I told him I was a man and he clammed up quickly. Please show your respect for our sign language interpreters and relay services because they work very hard to translate and convey the information for you back and forth with their callers. At the end of every videophone call, always thank the interpreter and the caller and wish them a good day.
Various Facebook groups such as the one I represent, Deaf Artists Guild, are available that would gladly post casting calls for deaf creatives upon notice. More and more deaf filmmakers are now popping up all over the states, including this city of Los Angeles. More opportunities are starting to open for deaf creatives in the industry and demand is high for them, especially Black Deaf and POC talents. What is needed is for Hollywood is once again to open their doors wider for them. We are here and if you need us, let us know.
If casting directors and agencies have questions for me about casting deaf creatives, I may be reached through this website.