Ted Evans talks about Deaf filmmaking ahead of this weekend’s premiere of his new film, Retreat!

Posted on May 14, 2013

Award-winning filmmaker Ted Evans has had an incredible two years. It began when his thought-provoking film, The End, was premiered at Deaffest in 2011 and then went on to win awards at film festivals around the world. Ted also co-directed a ten-minute film for the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic games and then began work on his latest film, Retreat, which will be shown for the first time on Friday at Deaffest 2013. Andy Palmer caught up with Ted on Sunday to talk about Retreat and deaf filmmaking in general.

Ted, you’re returning to Deaffest this year after winning so many awards for The End. This year its the premiere of your new film, Retreat. How does that feel?

Retreat is the result of winning the Ben Steiner award last year at Deaffest 2012. I had £5K to make the film which is just £500 more than it took to make The End. It has been a valuable experience for me.

Although I have done quite a few films in the last couple of years, taking on Retreat, which was a very ambitious and crazy project, has taught me so much. I feel I have progressed, learning so much through the experience and I will be better filmmaker having made this film. You never stop learning, It is a never-ending journey as a filmmaker.

The End had a huge impact – what are your hopes for Retreat?

Retreat is a completely different film and people will be disappointed if they go to see it expecting to see something like The End. Back in 2011 I had no idea how The End would go down and I feel the same with Retreat. It could go either way but personally I am pleased with what we have achieved with so little time and money.

Retreat is a dark drama and is something you will not find elsewhere. If it creates a reaction, be it positive or negative, then we are successful. The objective is to entertain and tell a story that prompts people to think, feel and react. If we achieve that then I’ll be delighted. The main hope I have, is that the film breaks into a few mainstream festivals, that is something we have been aiming for.

Apart from making The Retreat – what else did you get up to in the year?

This year has been all about Retreat so far. I’ve had to keep working as a freelance filmmaker throughout the project and this has been very hard. I am now looking forward to a bit of breathing space and to re-evaluate my situation. I need a holiday .. again!

I know you want to evolve deaf film into a mainstream genre – what’s stopping you?

Money mostly. I’ve always felt that deaf films belong in the world cinema category. Foreign language films have seen a dramatic increase in popularity in recent years and I see no reason why ‘deaf films’ or deaf cultural stories can’t achieve similar success. Language is no longer a barrier. It is down to quality filmmaking and reaching the same standards as the mainstream. It’s not just our filmmaking that needs to improve, deaf actors also have to up their game as well. More development and training is needed across the board.

The money and policy that is in place for deaf filmmakers in the UK does not seem to work towards the mainstream and I think this is wrong. There still seems to be a segregation and it’s still very much us and them. A lot of the funding in place emphasises on access and developing new filmmakers, when in reality there is no career path for a deaf filmmaker unless you work for BBC See Hear or for Remark.

We need to reach larger audiences if people are going to invest in our films and this is so important because as a culture and as a community, we have so much to say. The rest of the world will be interested if we make our films and tell our stories to the standard of the mainstream. I will have to venture out in search of funding, this is going to be a long process for me and other deaf filmmakers out there but hopefully we can convince the right people to take us forward.

Do you have other projects lined-up for the rest of the year?

I am spending a bit of time developing ideas and studying. I also need to search for funding for my next project. There’s no saying when I will make another film. Retreat could be my last film, I hope it’s not and there’s more to come but you never know. There’s never any guarantees. The opportunities out there are far and few between. I’ll do all I can to make more films.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at Deaffest this year?

I am always interested to see what other films are being made. Filmmaking is becoming more and more accessible with technology advancing incredibly fast. I think you will find the next generations of filmmakers producing films that look close to the Hollywood Blockbusters. The possibilities are endless, you just need commitment and dedication. It’s a great time to be a filmmaker.

Interview by Andy Palmer, Editor-At-Large.

Retreat is not eligible for nomination for any awards at this year’s Deaffest. However, The End is nominated in four categories including Best Film and Best Director – with the winners announced on Saturday night! For information on Deaffest and all the films and performances, click here.

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