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[Interview] – Rachel Shenton – ‘The Silent Child’ – A Short Film

 

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Posted January 7, 2018 by

 
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*Update – Rachel has recently been nominated for an Oscar! Congratulations!

Rachel Shenton’s heartfelt tale of a deaf child who is struggling to communicate was brought to life by Director Chris Overton. Writer and Actress Shenton (Switched at Birth) stars in the film, alongside, newcomer Maisie Sly and Rachel Fielding (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) The Silent Child has won over twenty awards since its world premiere at Rhode Island International Film Festival and has now been shortlisted for an Academy Award.

The Silent Child centres around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.

Interview:

To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘The Silent Child’…

The Silent Child film centres around a profoundly deaf four year old girl (Libby) who’s born to hearing parents who have no experience of deafness – which is sadly very common.  Libby is bought up in a world of total isolation and silence and the age of 4 has no communication until a social worker enters the story and teaches her sign language – we then see what was once a very withdrawn troubled child transform into a vibrant intelligent little girl. It’s an important, human story about the power of communication and a family who are simply trying their best.

Is there are particular reason you wanted to write this film? Is the narrative something close to you personally?

Yes this story is extremely close to my heart. My lovely dad – who passed away when I was 14 lived the last two years of his life profoundly deaf so I learnt about deafness from a very young age and I saw first hand just how impactful it is on a family. That gave me the impetus to learn sign language and I quickly fell in love with it. Learning about deafness I’ve seen so many needless struggles that deaf children encounter and many are simply from a a lack of education. Deafness is a silent disability, you can’t see it and it’s not life threatening, so it can easily go unnoticed – and too often it does. For me film in the most powerful medium to portray a message.

You are both the writer, and one of the actresses in the film – tell us about the director?

Chris is brilliant. From first handing him the script he grasped the heart of the story and when he explained his vision for certain elements of the project – it was exactly how I’d imagined. Our film was a labour of love and we didn’t have much of a budget so schedule was pretty tight but Chris had a unique ability to create the illusion of time and keep everyone relaxed, which was crucial when telling such an emotive story.

Tell us about the other cast members, who else is starring in ‘The Silent Child’?

We’re very lucky we have a great cast. Phillip York plays Paul, Rachel Fielding plays Sue and of course our leading lady is Maisie Sly. As the writer I had such a clear picture of these characters and wondered if it was even possible to match what I had in my mind. Rachel and Phillip are well accomplished actors and i’d admired their work long before asking them to read for The Silent Child. During their auditions they delivered such truthful layered performances that I knew almost instantly they were the parents.

On paper Libby’s character was going to be the hardest to cast because the brief was so specific, authenticity in casting is something I feel strongly about, that role had to be played by a profoundly deaf child. So we actually did a nationwide search to find our lead and thankfully it paid off. Again, my mind was mind up very quickly after meeting Maisie.

What are your influences as a writer/actress?

As a British actress I was bought up watching Julie Walters and Judy Dench so both of those have been influential in my career.

As a writer I’m a big fan of Stephan King and Aaron Sorkin – I actually completed his master class sometime ago, his ability to tell a story and capture and audience is something very special.

What advice would you give any up-and-coming filmmakers trying to crack the industry?

Have a go. I think to get ahead you first have to get started and that’s often the hardest part. So if I’m even qualified to give any advice (which I suspect I’m probably not) it would be to keep creating and keep having a go.

When and where can we expect to see ‘The Silent Child’?

Well right now we’re still on our festival run so it’s not in any public domain just yet but I know our next screening is on the 16th of January at the BFI as part of London Short film festival and we post all screenings on our Facebook page.

What is the next step for you, do you have any other films in production?

I’m currently developing The Silent Child’ feature film and working on another short film idea. I’m very excited about both.

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Interviewed By:

Adam Snowden
@FilmDebate
Company Founder & Managing Director

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