See What I'm Saying Movie


Sneak Preview of new cut at Arizona State University

AZ SeanThis screening was one of the best experiences this fall. Sean Furman of Arizona Deaf Theater had organized the entire event, and did a fantastic job with our workshop and screening. I was picked up at the airport by a young deaf actor named Michael, who filled me about Arizona State University. We drove straight to campus, where I taught a three-hour voicing for deaf actors workshop. We had about 15 interpreters and 5 deaf actors. The work they did was outstanding. Many of the interpreters had never voiced for theater before, and they struggled through the various challenges. It was worth it when they were finally getting the laughs in the comedic pieces by matching their deaf partners' work.

After the workshop a bunch of us went to one of the best burger places called Chuckbox. We had a great conversation at dinner with some of my old friends from AZTI whom I had met while filming Robert here two years ago (including Donna of Deaf Cactus News). AZ Hilari and DonnaI also made some new friends - Haley, Timothy, Patrick and a few others. The town was filled with tons of football fans before a big game on campus, and people were nervous about crowds coming out for the film. They had nothing to worry about. People drove in from all over Arizona for the screening. I would guess that half of the crowd was hearing and half deaf, maintaining my goal that this film is for everyone.

I was testing out some new changes in the film, and held my breath while watching the audience during the new section. They were AZ audience membersriveted, and I feel like I now have my final cut. They laughed in all the right places, cried in all the right places and participated in a lengthy and invigorating Q&A after the screening. I choked up when several people were near tears in their comments on how important this film is and needs to be seen by everyone. I felt a tremendous sense of support as the crowd vowed to get behind the film when we return to Arizona for our theatrical screening, and will be lining up to buy DVD's.

AZ group Hilari and cactusSo Arizona, my birthplace, I look forward to coming back next year. Thank you for a fantastic reception!!

Things are happening

Hello everyone -

I haven't blogged in awhile because there's a very complicated release strategy that has been at work and I haven't wanted to share the details in public while it is coming together. Some amazing things are happening, including a 25 city tour of the film and a world premiere in Los Angeles coming together very soon. Tonight, I realized that it may not be bad to be transparent.

I had the honor of listening to Ondi Timoner at an IDA seminar, the only two-time Sundance Grand Jury winner. Her film We Live In Public is opening in Los Angeles tomorrow and she has my full support.

I was approached by the IDA media after the screening (they are my fiscal sponsor for "See What I'm Saying") to give my thoughts for their article, and I decided to post my full answer here so you can get a glimpse of what I am up against. Here are my thoughts from the evening.

September 24, 2009

I have a new hero, and her name is Ondi Timoner. I came to the IDA’s seminar to hear what the only two-time winning Sundance Grand Jury winner had to say about documentary filmmaking. What I got out of the evening was so much more.

This statuesque, confident powerhouse took the stage as I settled in to hear classic documentary war-stories of long hours in the field, wading through hundreds (or in her case thousands) of hours of footage and bad distribution deal offers. What I was took away from the evening was this inspirational human being, who opened herself up for nearly three hours about her life, her motivation and her fears. Ondi’s parents sat behind me and became part of the discussion, as did her beautiful five-year old son playing with an oversized magnifying glass in the front row, a subtle mirror of his mother. Ondi’s films are truly magnified, scrutinizing her subjects so they become fully accessible to us.

To hear Ondi’s war stories of having her film Dig! privately panned by a respected colleague the night before submitting it to Sundance and then going on to not only get in but to win the Grand Jury Prize is beyond inspirational – it is a lesson in perseverance and faith. To hear how she is self distributing “We Live In Public” after winning Sundance, asking audience members to help book her on radio shows in Los Angeles the night before her theatrical debut in Los Angeles defies all logic. But to hear how she breastfed her child between filming interviews in Europe and having what must be the most well traveled child I’ve met puts a human face on this extraordinary artist.

Having graduated cum laude from Yale University and founding her own production company Interloper Films, Ondi could have come across as yet another privileged filmmaker who had many advantages above the rest of us. Yet she is subject to the same obstacles of making, selling and distributing her films highlighted by the technical difficulties of even getting her trailer to run correctly in the Kodak Screening room by professional IDA filmmaking staff. Ondi has not just survived, but thrived because of her tenacity, talent and incredible smarts. Her candor and passion are mesmerizing, as she has no qualms of sharing actual numbers, names and intimate details that most filmmakers of her stature politely steer around. After the seminar I had a chance to talk with Ondi’s mother in the lobby who told stories about Ondi’s courage even as a small child. I vow to try to be as open and accessible if I ever get the chance to sit in front of a group of filmmakers, as I left with a new-found confidence that in my isolation as a filmmaker I am not alone, and I have a new hope in this world and her name is Ondi.

Festival Journey - sneak preview screenings

This has been a whirlwind. My last few nights in Los Angeles I felt there were angels all around me - the out of town strangers who bought me dinner, the people next to me on the plane who gave me cookies. After months of struggling with re-cutting the film and the financial burden that was overwhelming coupled with that decision, I start seeing signs everywhere that this decision is supported. Our original cut (which I am considering calling the director's cut) was accepted into the Rochester Deaf Film Festival and the Philadelphia Film Festival, acting as sneak preview/work in progress screenings.

I arrived in Rochester at 1:00 AM and found the festival director had fallen asleep in the car at the airport while waiting to pick me up. I knocked on the window to make sure it was her, knowing a hearing person would have woken up, then tried calling her cell phone to see if that would work. Nothing. Bingo - it was her. Leaving little choice, I gently rocked the car to wake her up. I startled the wits out of her, which embarrassed both of us upon our first face-to-face meeting in the middle of the night. She has done an amazing job putting this festival together, and I was honored that she drove out so late to personally greet me.

We drove to RIT and I stayed in the deaf-friendly NTID dorm housing. I love my door flasher! My colleague/intern/friend Julia Dameron was already there. We chatted for at least an hour, both excited about being there for the festival. The next day was filled with filmmaker workshops and a very cool reception at a unique artist space. I met filmmakers from around the world - Israel, Amsterdam, South Africa who were at the festival with their films. I was honored to be one of the few hearing filmmakers there.

Our screening on Saturday had a great turnout considering that we couldn't do any advertising because of our sneak preview status. I was filming the day's events which I later turned into a short video journey of our festivals. My original plan was to have a deaf team of filmmakers/editors to do this with me, but we don't have any funding so I am doing it myself. Hopefully I will meet a motivated filmmaker soon to join me. It was OK to hand the camera over to various friends as I jumped in front of the camera to explain what was going on. A bit awkward - I need to figure this out. After the film Robert DeMayo, Julia and I went out with friends and other filmmakers to an Irish bar and had a chance to have fun. I had a great conversation with Ryan Commerson, a filmmaker working with Wayne Betts who is currently screening his master's thesis around the country.

The next day I took an 11-hour Amtrak ride to Boston to visit my sister Rachel. It was wonderful - reading EAT PRAY LOVE on the train having a day to relax. My second night in Boston I got a call from my new editor telling me that there was a problem burning our new cut for submission to the Los Angeles Film Festival. The deadline was the following day, and her computer had crashed. Being 3,000 miles away didn't help. It was very stressful, especially since I didn't see the final submission cut, the Fedex tracking number didn't register and I was once again waking up with panic attacks. Are we ever going to have a world premiere? After several frantic phone calls between the two of us, she found a helpful friend who came in to save the day. Hurray!

After a short stay with family, I arrived in Philadelphia a few days later. The entire festival staff and volunteers were extremely friendly and helpful and made me feel incredibly welcome. I went to the filmmakers reception, which had fantastic food and drinks, but I had a hard time mixing. This usually isn't a problem for me. Maybe it is coming from the warmth closeness of the deaf film festival and having a hard time swinging back into the hearing world.

Our first screening was at the International House. I was completely bowled over to see an entire clan from AZTI (Arizona Total Immersion sign language program) come out - Joan Hanna, Tom Driscoll and so many others. They were all wearing "I love you" handshaped headbands with Robert's photo stapled to the top. I absolutely adore these people, and felt truly honored that they came all this way to see the film. I looked over, and another surprise was in front of me: my NTD buddies Frank Dattolo and Camille Jeter!! I haven't seen them in years, and it was one of the best surprises ever. They were responsible along with Robert for planting the seed back in 1996 that I wanted to do a film on deaf entertainers.

The audience was packed. They laughed and cried in all of the right places, and at the end of the film stamped their feet sending echoes like an earthquake. It was one of the highest compliments I could have received. My dad and Renee were in the audience and told me later that they had never experienced anything like it. We went out to celebrate at Pod sushi restaurant with our own private room. Robert loved the buttons on the wall that you could punch to change the color of the room.

We had a second screening the next day at the huge Prince Theater. I wasn't sure what kind of turnout we would get since I plan on coming back to Philadelphia with the official screening. I was impressed that we had an audience. Robert was so inspiring and eloquent at the Q&A after the screening - I was glad that we got it on film (thanks, Robin Robin.)

The next day Robert and I were filming pick-up shots for the new cut when the festival called. "There is an awards ceremony tonight that we want you to be at. We can change your flight and put you up at the hotel for another night. We really think you should be there - wink wink." I was floored. This was totally unexpected, since we were supposed to be out of competition. I was too nervous about having this win somehow affect our world premiere status which I have been working so hard to protect. But my gut said I should celebrate this win, so Robert and I finished our filming, quickly changed and headed to the reception. The award ceremony was surreal - back at the Prince Theater where we were the day before. The theater was packed with about 800 people who were there for the awards and the closing night film Lymelife. I graciously received an over sized wrestling belt with BEST FEATURE FILM that the festival made for the awards. All I could think was, "How am I going to get this through security at the airport?" The enormity of the prize and the meaning behind it didn't hit me until after I got home to a sea of congratulatory emails and phone calls.

I still feel like our journey hasn't even begun yet until we have an official screening of the final cut and work towards that golden prize of a distribution deal. Luckily we have enough booking requests to carry this film independently. I return to finish up the final cut, continue to try to raise funding for post production on this new cut and try to catch up on sleep.

Changes in the film and testing at Rochester Deaf Film Festival

I've spent the last 3 months doing private test screenings and focus group screenings before any public screenings. Everyone loves the film, but we are making some changes to make the film even better. I have a great team on board helping me, including my new supervising editor Tom Miller and his editor Morgan Stiff. I love the new changes of the film! This new version will be ready very soon.

My test screenings have continued, including a small showing at the Rochester Deaf Film Festival, which showcased films done by deaf filmmakers. I got some terrific feedback and feel very strongly supported by the deaf community. I am hoping to have a formal screening of the film in Rochester in the fall of 2009 along with some educational workshops, and made some great new connections who are working with me to make this happen. The best part of the weekend was meeting deaf filmmakers from all over the world who had their films screen in Rochester, including filmmakers from Israel, South Africa and Amsterdam. I am extremely excited about what is happening in deaf cinema and strongly support these new visionaries.

I am off to Philadelphia for another test screening/sneak preview of our old cut. I am glad that these audiences are helping to shape the final vision of the film, and am grateful for all of the incredible support.

I will continue to keep everyone posted on what is happening. Thanks for following our journey!


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About Me

Hilari Scarl

Hilari Scarl
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Hilari Scarl is the director/producer of the feature film "See What I'm Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary." This blog is a journey of thoughts about the film.
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An award-winning documentary that follows four well-known entertainers in the deaf community: a comic, a drummer, an actor and a singer as they overcome personal obstacles and celebrate professional landmarks.

Running time: 90 minutes
Rated PG-13

Directed and produced by
Hilari Scarl
© 2010

Available for bookings.
The DVD is now on sale!