Meet: Paul Miller, the Deaf animator who has just created his first play

Posted on July 31, 2015

Tell us about your work?

My work consists of illustration (children books, storyboard and character design, comic books), short films (animated and live action), graphic design (logo, banner, leaflet, activity book), and theatre directing (Love Café, Gothrella).

The animation I am working on at the moment is for Deaf comedian John Smith’s show. It’s a two minute animation of a cartoon John Smith showing on screen/projector, with a James Bond theme. It will be shown just before John Smith arrives on stage.

Paul Miller

What makes you passionate about telling stories?

When I was young I read a lot of children’s books and comic books, and I still read a lots of comic books. I have written a comic and plan to illustrate it when I find the time in the future! I have written number of stories for children books and now I make film and animation.

What was it like to make your short film Rebecca’s Wishing Stars?

This was a very good experience, although it was very challenging working with children. I had to have a licence for filming and I received the licence at the last minute. Plus I was only allowed to film the children for two days and for just 5 hours each day!

On the first day one of the children was ill with a bad cold. She said she was happy to carry on acting but after one hour I had to stop as she seem to get worse and more sleepy so I cancelled it.

So the next Sunday I only had 5 hours left to film in and I worried all week about whether I’d get everything I needed. But the children were great – they did their best to actm and I managed to shoot everything I needed.

There are a few mistakes in the film but I managed to hide them during editing. I enjoyed making this film and I was happy when film was finished and shown on the BSL Zone website. I am hoping to do more filming in future – I have some scripts ready!

What’s the play about?

The play is about a young deaf girl called Gothrella, her father has passed away and she is now living with her evil stepmother.

Gothrella can communicate with her father using British Sign Language but the stepmother hates this and forbids Gothrella to sign to her.

Gothrella loses her confidence and feels isolated. Gothrella keeps her late mother’s magic opera gloves hidden away from the wicked stepmother.

The magic opera gloves make Gothrella sign beautifully and help to build her confidence.  One day the evil stepmother sees Gothrella wearing the magic opera gloves, she is so angry and will do anything to stop Gothrella finding happiness!

(Apologies but the rest of the story is secret!)

Where did the idea come from?

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 16.39.10

Like many other deaf people’s experience being deaf within a hearing family and school, my family don’t sign to me and there was always communication breakdown throughout childhood.

At the mainstream school I attended we were forbidden to use sign language and I experienced bullying from hearing people.

This along with the animated film Cinderella and Tim Burton films such as Alice in Wonderland inspired me to write and illustrate Gothrella.

My story is not the same as Cinderella; Gothrella has a sinister twist – with no glass shoe and a more gothic theme.

I used to dress in a very gothic style myself; all black, with black finger nails and played the drums often, along with going to lots of rock punk and heavy metal bars – here I saw many different gothic styles of dress / costumes and this inspired me.

You’ve made films before. What made you create a play?

I wrote Gothrella about ten years ago. Gothrella is 53 pages long, it has eight characters within the story.

I knew this script would never be a film, as it is far too long for a short film and my thoughts were aimed more towards theatre production.

I have been waiting for the right time, to meet and network with the right people; for example my producer Nicole Vivien Watson from Surface Area Dance Theatre at Newcastle Dance City.

Nicole is a dancer and choreographer. I showed Nicole the script, my ideas and illustrations of each character, along with the costume design.  Nicole loved it and was happy to support the development of the full Gothrella show, planned to take place in 2016/2017.

When we applied for Art Council funding to develop and direct Gothrella for sharing I had to rewrite the script and condense it to eight pages – focussing on three characters/actors; the play’s duration was twenty minutes.

How was it funded?

I was funded by the Arts Council England and we are at the point of my mid-stage funding.

What was the response like?

Last February 2015, in Newcastle where I am based and reside, Gothrella was performed to an audience.

This was a great success, we received very positive feedback, an enjoyable experience was had by all and this raised a lot of Deaf awareness.

Currently I am working on progressing Gothrella to the next stage of this project; my team and I will be visiting London this year – September 2015 to deliver this sharing process again and to network with professional artists, directors and producers throughout London.

We envisage our project in London to be another great success.  My team will then begin the process of researching funding opportunities to take the full Gothrella cast on tour nationally and internationally in 2016/2017.

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