**The Silent Child wins the live action short Oscar**
When British actress Rachel Shenton started writing "The Silent Child" in May 2016, she could not even remotely imagine that the short movie based on her screenplay would have such a huge impact on people all over the world.
We are very pleased to post that The Silent Child has won an Oscar for the best live action short film. We hope to post more about the making of the film when we can. In the meantime, here's the director Chris Overton and actress Rachel Shenton picking up the award.
Since its official release in August 2017, "The Silent Child" has been selected for all major short film festivals from Sydney to Los Angeles and has won no less than 15 prestigious awards.
Winning the Best Live Action Short award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival made the film eligible for the Oscars. And on January 28th came the official announcement that "The Silent Child" was one of the five nominees in the Live Action Short Film category for the 90th Academy Awards.
And yet this highly acclaimed movie started off as a community-funded project with a budget of only £10,000.
Of course we want to give you all the details on the production. Especially since it was edited with Final Cut Pro X. But most of the cast and crew for the film are in Los Angeles now for the big awards show on Sunday. So, for now, we will focus on how the movie came into existence and why its message is so important.
"The Silent Child" tells the true story of Libby, a profoundly deaf four year old girl who is born into a middle class family in rural England. Because her hearing family has no idea on how to deal with a deaf child, she lives in a world of complete silence and isolation until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication. The once withdrawn child suddenly feels connected to the world and only then does the family realize how intelligent and gifted Libby really is.
It is an insightful short story, inspired by real life events, observing one of the loneliest disabilities and the avoidable struggles that deaf children face. And it's not a coincidence that Rachel Shenton choose to make a movie about this specific topic. When she was 12, Rachel's father suddenly lost his hearing due to chemotherapy and lived the last two years of his life profoundly deaf.
Rachel has appeared on our screens for years with regular roles in shows such as "Genie in the house", "Waterloo Road" and "Hollyoaks" which won her a National Television nomination for best dramatic performance. In 2014 she made her American TV debut on the ABC Family drama "Switched at Birth", portraying the role of Lily Summers.
Between acting roles, she campaigns for equal opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people. She believes passionately that the silent disability goes unnoticed by many and misunderstood by many more. That's why she wanted to tell this story. And, as Rachel explains below, the story behind how this movie has come into being is at least as interesting as the movie itself.
Rachel: There are many issues within the deaf community but for me, none more important than access to education for deaf children. 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, so most of these parents have no experience of deafness. They have to fight for any kind of support, often not even fully understanding their child's needs.
In 2003 the British government recognized sign language as it's own language, yet 14 years later we still don't learn sign language in schools but we learn French, German, Spanish, Italian and more. So it's no surprise that deaf children are three times more likely to experience bullying, isolation and abuse or that 75% of deaf children fail to get A-C grades, despite deafness not being a learning difficulty. All of these issues are entirely avoidable with education and the right support, yet somehow it's inherently difficult to access.
And that's what gave me the impetus to put pen to paper. For me film is an extremely powerful way of conveying a message to a mainstream audience. When I'd finished writing, myself and the director (Chris Overton, who is also Rachel's fiance) were discussing how we were going to fund the movie. We talked about crowdfunding - which sounded particularly horrific to me. I've done my fair share of fundraising over the years and I know how difficult that can be.
But we moved forward and before we could properly get our heads around it we found ourselves filming the pitch video. It wasn't hugely thought through and we hadn't rehearsed anything. We just agreed to speak from the heart and explain what the project was about. We made the pitch video and posted it on Idiegogo. It was one of the most exposing things I've ever done.
I could never have envisioned what happened. We received such overwhelming support. We had letters from parents of deaf children saying the subject really touched them, deaf schools saying they were excited to see the movie, adults who were once 'silent children' themselves, and they kept coming. By October 2016 we raised the funds. But that was only the start of it.
We needed a cast and we needed it to be right. The centre piece of the entire movie is 'Libby' a profoundly deaf four year old girl - so that's what she had to be. Not only are roles for deaf actors few and far between but on top of that, hearing people often get cast to play deaf characters - which seems very unfair doesn't it? So that particular role was non negotiable for me. I knew it probably wasn't going to be easy but as the weeks past it seemed almost impossible. I remember Chris saying "what happens if we don't find exactly what we want", I said "then we don't have a movie".
After weeks and weeks of searching we needed to up our game so we did a nationwide search. We contacted every deaf charity and organization that we could find and asked them to advertise. We used social media, we went on BBC news, local newspapers, radio stations did features on us, you name it we tried it. Then on a very cold November afternoon in Central London, in walked Masie Sly. She was five years old, profoundly deaf and communicated only with sign language. She wasn't close to what we wanted, she was exactly what we wanted.
In spite of the limited budget, Rachel and Chris managed to put together a cast and crew that can rival with many high-budget productions. Rachel also plays a role in the movie as Joanne, the fresh faced social worker who teaches Libby to communicate. Mid-January 2017 they started shooting in Hartfordshire, in and around a house that is peculiarly similar to the home of the real life silent child which this story is inspired by.
The shoot went on for one week, led by Director Chris Overton and multi award winning Director of Photography Ali Farahani who has over 14 years experience in the film and television industry worldwide. The majority of principal photography was shot with a RED camera.
Emily Walder edited the movie on Final Cut Pro X and multi-award winning composer Amit Kojani wrote the movie score using the Braille writing system. He assigned the name of the characters and lines in the script to the Braille code and transferred the dots to sounds. Thanks to the personal involvement of many renowned post-production professionals, production company Slick Showreels has been able to finish "The Silent Child" in the highest possible quality standards despite the restricted budget.
Fingers crossed that "The Silent Child" will win the Oscar it deserves. But even if it does not, this compelling short movie has already touched the hearts of so many people around the world that its message will never be forgotten.
In the meantime, enjoy the trailer and the BTS video of the making of The Silent Child.
© 2018 Ronny Courtens/FCP.CO