Behind the Scenes: Filming BC SRC welcome video in American Sign Language

Early one morning in August, as part of our initiative to increase language accessibility to the BC Summer Reading Club, a small crew of people gathered at a BC library to film a “welcome” video in American Sign Language (ASL).  This video will be a permanent feature on the BC SRC staff website, and each year will be linked to the kid’s site. The experience was both fascinating and a tremendous learning opportunity. I thought you might enjoy a behind-the-scenes peak!

Through Tess Prendergast (our Consultant, Inclusion Review Team), we were put in touch with ASL signer, Zoée Montpetit. 

Meet Zoée Montpetit, our ASL signer

Zoée is a self-professed “grammar nerd” and took painstaking efforts to understand what we were trying to communicate about the BC SRC. Text messages and emails flew back and forth as she worked to determine the best way to say things in American Sign Language. As ASL has no official written form, she used English gloss to represent certain signs to help me understand the process. Glossing is not a translation, but rather a description of what is being signed, including important body language. And because ASL and English are very different languages, complete with different grammars, the English gloss script Zoée showed me was a fascinating “view” into some of those differences. 

Here’s an example:

English and ASL GLoss

Our welcome video also includes captions in English. I learned that as part of Bilingual-Bicultural education, this gives Deaf children a chance to learn English as they watch ASL. Very cool!

Zoée signing “Hello!”

On the day of the shoot, interpreter Denise Sedran arrived. Her first job was to facilitate communication between Zoée, myself, and the crew. I learned that when Denise spoke directly to me in English, she was typically “in” Zoée’s voice. So a simple request from Denise, such as “May I have a glass of water?”, was in fact a request from Zoée.

Denise’s second job was to do a voiceover in English. Syncing an audio recording to someone signing can be challenging, especially if you are trying to capture nuance and tone. It was decided that from the sidelines, with the camera “rolling”,  Denise would read the English script aloud, while carefully watching Zoée sign, in order to match her pacing. It was very cool to observe the dynamic connection between Zoée and Denise. 

Zoée and Denise working out timing and phrasing. Samuel on sound. TJ at the camera.

Our film crew was made up of Samuel Wong and TJ Galmut.  Their calm and friendly demeanour, along with plenty of reassurances that we would be able to do as many takes as necessary, made it a fun experience for everyone. 

Gathered around the camera to watch the footage. Of particular concern, was to ensure that none of Zoée’s signs had been cut off in the frame.

What an amazing experience to work with this group of people! Can’t wait for you to see the video. I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as it is up!

Many thanks to Julie Iannacone and Erie Maestro and the staff at Vancouver Public Library’s Kensington branch for letting us “borrow” their children’s department early one morning! And an extra big thanks to  Ministry of Education, Libraries Branch, for their funding to increase language accessibility to the BC Sumemr Reading Club!

In case you’d like to learn more:

Zoée Montpetit has been an American Sign Language educator for a decade and is passionate about introducing ASL and Deaf Culture with an emphasis on social justice. She created Queer ASL, an ASL & Deaf Culture program, which focuses on creating a more accessible, affordable, and safer space for queer & transgender folk and their allies who want to learn ASL in Vancouver, BC. She has been currently expanding Queer ASL to include workshops, event promotions in ASL, and is excited to collaborate with organizations on projects. To contact Zoée, please email her at queerasl@gmail.com and more information about Queer ASL can be found at queerasl.com.

Denise Sedran is a certified interpreter who has been working in the field for over thirty years. She is passionate about fostering capacity and competence in interpreters to ensure the highest quality of service provision. Throughout her career she has been a practitioner, mentor, educator, consultant and leader. She currently works full-time as a Professional Development Specialist with Sorenson Communications and when time permits, she enjoys interpreting in the community.  She can be reached at dmsedran@me.com or 604-616-9007. 

Samuel Wong  is a graphic designer who specializes in motion graphics, illustration, packaging and film. To contact Samuel or to see more of his work please visit samuelwong.myportfolio.com

TJ Galmut is a cinematographer from Chilliwack, BC. As a freelance filmmaker he films promos, commercials, and live events. On his free time he journeys into the outdoors to abandoned places and mountain peaks.

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