I finally have a quiet moment at home to upload photos and reflect back on the incredible experience this past weekend in Bremerton. It was actually a nice break to hop on a plane and escape the madness of preparing for the world premiere. I was dropped off at the airport by my new assistant (don't I feel fancy - it's usually me doing the driving) and was met in Bremerton by my hosts, Maryl and Bryan. We met the Captionfish guys, Chris Sano, Brendan Gramer and Greg Millam for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. These guys have a great thing going; with a background from Microsoft, Google and Amazon they set up the first Fandango for deaf people with listings of open captioned films.
On Friday, I taught three workshops at Olympic College - Improv/Theater Games, Behind the Scenes of See What I'm Saying, and introduction to directing/producing. These students were so hungry for a creative outlet. We had a ton of fun at each workshop, especially the improv group. I was impressed by the eagerness of all of the students to jump in and try new things.
Maryl and Bryan took me to a local seafood restaurant on the water where we met some of their friends. I learned new regional signs for Bremerton, oyster and clam, as well as some local history about Bremerton being a Navy town. The mountains are stunning, and I was lucky that it was clear and sunny for most of my stay.
Saturday - the day of the big screening was filled with so many wonderful moments. I met two gifted students - Andrea and Delaney - who traveled by ferry with their parents to interview me about what it was like to work with deaf entertainers. Their project is for the history project competition, and they were extremely prepared and exceptionally bright. I tried to give my perspective as a hearing director who had the great privilege of working in the Deaf community and steer them towards some resources. I saw a woman slip in to watch. She sat and watched most of the 30 minute interview before introducing herself. It was Mayor Patty Lent, the Honorable Mayor of Bremerton. I couldn't believe it. She was so incredibly gracious, and pinned an official Bremerton pin to my shirt. It was a great moment.
Mayor Patty Lent, Andrea, Hilari Scarl, Delaney
I went back to the lobby where hundreds of folks lined up to see the film, many of them dressed up in black tie and cocktail dress attire. I was truly flattered, and wondered if my practical choice wearing boots and slacks was enough. At the end of the evening - 7 hours later - I felt a lot better about my practical choice.
The VIP reception was wonderful. I was surprised by Nat Wilson who came to the screening. Nat has a small cameo in the documentary, performing with Howie Seago at CJ's sign language theater festival that is shown in the film. It was great to see him. Even though Howie couldn't make it (he's performing Shakespeare in Ashland), his family did. I'm such a Howie Seago fan, that it was truly a thrill to meet his family.
After a tech check, the evening got off to a great start with a fun introduction by Bryan and Stephanie, a live announcement by Sprint and a screening of the new music video of the film's title song, "See What I'm Saying" before the documentary feature. We screened to a packed house. I sat and watched this film for the 1,001st time with a big smile as the audience laughed in all of the right places, cried in all of the right places and cheered at the end. It made me so very happy.
The audience feedback during the Q&A left me speechless. Highlights include a woman in the balcony who stood up and loudly declaring, "I LOVE THIS FILM!" and a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) who came up to me afterward in tears, so overcome with emotion that she couldn't speak, but just kept signing, "Thank you thank you thank you" through her tears. I received dozens of emails over the past few days emphasizing how important it is that hearing people see this film; how isolated and misunderstood they felt until they heard TL's story; and how much everyone loves CJ and remembered him from his performance on that very same stage a few years back. It was truly a magical evening.
Thank you, Bremerton, for such a warm kick-off to our theatrical run. The warmth, friendship and generosity of your beautiful city will stay with me always. I look forward to returning to Washington State with the film.
Celebration after the screening