Meet: Adrean Mangiardi and Mark Levin – who make music videos in American Sign Language!

Posted on December 18, 2013



A few weeks ago, we showed you an amazing American Sign Language music video, for the song ‘You brought the sunshine.’ 

Now, we can bring you a joint interview with the creative duo behind the film, Adrean Mangiardi and Mark Levin! Here goes…

Tell us about your upbringing?

Adrean:

I was born in Indiana and moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania when I was six.  We had a family of 5 and I was the youngest one!

At the age of nine months, I lost my hearing due to a high fever along with chicken pox.

At first, hearing aids helped, but after I turned 13 they stopped really working for me.  Then when I turned 15, I got my first cochlear implant. It changed my life. I could hear the crickets! And 10 years later, I decided to get the second cochlear implant.

I attended Rochester Institute of Technology and majored in film. I also learned American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with my Deaf peers.

Currently, I’m working for Deaf Professional Arts Network (D-PAN) as a Director of Film/Video Production and a freelance director for Sean Forbes and a few other artists.

 Mark:

I lost my hearing at the age of three, but it never slowed me down! I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2008 with a B.A. in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management, and I have an all-round passion for the music & entertainment industry.

For the past 5 years, I’ve worked with [Deaf rapper] Sean Forbes and D-PAN: Deaf Professional Arts Network as a Tour & Event Manager, Guitarist, and in many other roles!

I also work closely with Director Adrean Mangiardi as his Assistant Director of Film. Together Adrean and I have created over 15 music videos and want to make more!

How did you come to work with D-PAN?

Adrean:

Years before D-PAN was set up, Sean Forbes approached me with a request to shoot him performing a couple of Eminem’s songs. At the time, we were in college at RIT so I felt that it was a good opportunity so I shot and edited the videos.

After editing the videos, I gave a DVD to Sean and he took it to a recording studio in Michigan to pitch it to a group of sound engineers, musicians, producers, and Eminem. According to Sean, Eminem was rapping along as they watched the videos together, so it was a surreal moment for him.

Adrean and Mark on set

Adrean and Mark on set

Afterward, there were a moment of silence and Eminem broke it by saying, “Deaf people like music?”

So at this point, Sean and Joel Martin co founded D-PAN with the sole purpose of creating music videos and culture accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing people.

Mark:

I joined in 2008, a year before Adrean, who came aboard around 2009!

How many music videos have you made?

Adrean:

I have directed and edited over 20 music videos – including the videos with lyrics in the last four years.

Our videos have “Cool Captioning,” a termed coined by Sean and I to describe them.  “Cool Captioning” refers to phonetic captioning that follows both the lyrics and the beat of the song.

You can see most of the videos on my website (www.mangiardifilms.com). Thanks to Mark for helping make all those video shoots so successful!

Mark:

I have worked with Adrean on nearly 20 music videos. The majority have been for Sean Forbes, but Adrean and I have also done a few independent music videos with a few other bands as well!

Tell me about your approach to making a music video.

Adrean:  

As the Director, my job is to come up with some ideas for the team to review. Sean Forbes, for example, usually has a broad idea of how he wants the video to look.  As he bounces his ideas off me we finalize the concept together.

Then I create a set of story boards that illustrate my perception of our concept.  These are viewed by the team and creatively we finalize and polish the concept.  The next step is to frame and set up props for the shoot.

With Sean’s videos, I have to make sure the videos are accessible to his target audiences.  We do this by combining his poetic use of American Sign Language and Cool Captioning as part of the video.

To do this I have to create a “Deaf Space”.  For example, if the shoot is to include “Cool Captioning,” I need to position it so that there will be space to add in the words during post-production.

The hearing camera crew and other crew that work with us are educated on this and other requirements of our target audiences.

You Brought the Sunshine” was an extremely challenging project and a great learning experience. (see video below)

We felt that we wanted to push our boundaries in terms of including a new genre like gospel music. Also, at the time, I was working closely with a Detroit-based gospel group, Larry Callahan and Selected of God. That helped me understand the music and how the group performs together.

In the video, I attempted to convey a dual concept. Firstly, I wanted to emphasise the importance and influence shared between people, as well as the concept of passing down the tradition of gospel music.

I also I felt that it was important to show the viewers the language barrier between the mother and her deaf son.  She spoke to him, but he didn’t really understand her.  The mom left him with the music teacher while she went to work.

The music teacher broke through the communication barrier by using sign language and having him feel the vibration of the music by touching the speaker. To me, it’s a very powerful way to show how the boy was affected by the language and the music that he understood and passed it down to his Deaf choir. This video touched a lot of hearts – including mine!

The cast and crew of 'You brought the sunshine'

The cast and crew of ‘You brought the sunshine’

Mark:

What separates us from our hearing peers in creating a music video is from the very beginning, our thought process is “how do we make this accessible?”

From brainstorming how we make the music visual, to the framing of the shots – so we have room for the captioning Adrean creates.

The other big part that comes into play is the ASL translation. The community is very picky on that, and over the years we (D-PAN) always get a lot of feedback, both positive and negative about our translations.

This one was unique as it was a religious song with lots of religious terminology in the gospel community, as well as having a Choir Director whos job it is to lead the choir as well as cue them on point; the lead signer, and the choir.

The other added difficulty was there were many vocals that overlapped each other in the song, so it was a process of figuring out how to blend it all together and not visually overwhelm the viewer!

Why did you choose the song?

Adrean :

Our creative team felt that the song “You Brought the Sunshine,” would work for our video.  It has a good rhythm and a positive message. This song was created in Detroit by The Clark Sisters so we wanted to pay homage to Detroit and the Gospel communities.

Adrean and Mark with the Clark Sisters, who originally recorded the song

Adrean and Mark with the Clark Sisters, who originally recorded the song

Before we picked the song, we were working with Larry Callahan and Selected of God and they performed in the biggest show in Detroit. During that show, we came across an interpreter and a couple of Deaf patrons so that sparked our interest in making an ASL gospel music video. The rest is history!

How did you capture that 80s vibe?

Adrean:

I wanted to capture the 80s vibe because the song, “You Brought The Sunshine,” was released in 1981. The song was the most influential song of The Clark Sisters’ time.

I felt that it was the best way to show the dramatic change between a young boy, with a body worn hearing aid, to a grown up man with a small hearing aid in the present time.

I also wanted to show how much influence the song continues to have, even today.  My Creative Arts team helped by finding and using props and clothing from the 80s.

They spent weeks finding props from the 80s and I assure you, they loved it! To them, it was a treasure hunt because it wasn’t easy finding the props, toys, and clothes from 25 to 30 years ago!

How was it funded?

Mark:

We obtained sponsorship!

Adrean:

Right!

Was it easy to film?

Adrean:   

It is important to be very organized and have the ability to multi-task and delegate. There were a lot of tasks that needed to be done and they usually needed to be done yesterday!

There were a few surprises during the production, as there always is, but we get the job done and have fun doing it.

Pre-production is very important for collaboration with other teams in creating any video.  Pre-production time allows a group of teams to learn to work together and make sure that everything is ready to go. So, I wouldn’t say making this video was easy, they never are. I like to look at it as building character with each video!

Mark:

Yes and no! This was a tough one. As with every film set, there were many hectic moments, but in the end it all worked out. There was definitely something with us during this shoot that helped ease the issues that popped up.

Adrean and Mark check the rushes

Adrean and Mark check the rushes

Were you happy with the final result, and the response?

Adrean:

Yes, I was happy with the final result. It was extremely challenging to piece the video together with all the elements including Cool Captioning and ASL, and the end result is amazing.

It was an incredible experience to work with my crew to make this video successful, because we all worked very hard on it. I thank every one of them for putting their hearts and souls into this project and because of that, I’m extremely grateful. The response is nothing but good things. People love it and it touches their hearts. Mission accomplished.

Mark:

Totally. This is one of my proudest videos to have worked on. Adrean put together a great story, and I worked with him nearly every step of the way to help make his vision a reality. This video was a huge challenge for us, but I couldn’t be prouder of the result.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve received so many heartfelt touching messages about how this has bonded people, allowed them to share moments which they never thought possible, and the message of the video is something all of us can relate to.

For more information about D-PAN and its new released DVD including “You Brought the Sunshine” please click here. http://d-pan.org/

 

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Posted in: interviews, meet