Born Deaf Raised Hearing
Film & TV
Is it too late for this 40-year-old Deaf man to embrace his Deaf identity?
Following our multi award-winning collaborative short film, Louder Is Not Always Clearer, the iron was hot and we knew we wanted to carry on working with Deaf actor, Jonny Cotsen, and delve deeper into his personal story.
Things fit into place when the BBC made a call out for their Our Lives strand. Entering its 6th series, the strand is made up of one-off 30 minute documentaries that delve into the lives of people all over the British isles.
Over omelettes in Splott’s finest, The Imperial Cafe, we worked up an ambitious treatment with Jonny that would combine drama reconstructions of pivotal moments in his childhood, with observational moments filmed in his present life. As he asked the question, can he be part of both hearing and deaf worlds? The BBC loved the idea and it was commissioned.
We had two initial challenges: the first was to win the trust of Jonny’s Mum. She felt she might be seen in a negative light, as she hadn’t known how to give the best support to Jonny in the 1980s. We had long conversations with her about how we would approach this: we wanted her to be able to tell us what information she had at that time and how this informed her decisions. The conversations were positive and we soon had Jonny’s Mum onboard. In fact, the scene between Jonny and his Mum became some of the strongest, providing us with an emotive present-day narrative.
The second challenge was casting a Deaf child that resembled Jonny! As it happens, this turned out not to be too great a challenge: one email to the amazing Deaf Talent Collective and we had an instant response with a photograph of Alan, a talented young actor who plays a younger Jonny in the drama reconstructions.
“Filming triggered a lot of memories. On Par knew how to protect me and made sure I felt at ease in front of the camera. The response since the film was aired has been incredible.”
The edit became a fun place to play and construct the story. Working closely with two exec producers, Llinos Griffin Williams & Iwan England, as well as BBC Commissioner, Christina Macaulay, meant we had immense support in place right from the start.
The resulting film was broadcast with burnt-in subtitles and audio descriptions to make the film accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing audience members.
The film was watched by 1.3 Million people and featured in multiple national Newspapers, as well as Jonny being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 about the programme. The response from Deaf community has been really positive and has seen Jonny invited to many prestigious events to talk on behalf of the community.