Samuel Dore, AKA Bursteardrum, has been working as a film-maker, cameraman and editor since 2000. Colin Hambrook asked him a few questions in preparation for his talk and workshop as part of Shape's Animate programme
You've worked as a film-maker and camera man in a wide range of genres from award-winning dramas to documentaries and music videos to information films. You've a very impressive cv. How did you face the barriers coming through education into employment? What advice would you give up-and-coming Deaf artists going through higher education about life on the other side?
I was fortunate to be a film buff from a young age. My parents encouraged me to watch lots of films especially 1950's Sci-Fi B-Movies. It was the golden age of the 1980's blockbusters and I saw Steven Spielberg's films at the cinema. It was all food for my imagination, which developed into an obsession not just about enjoying film, but finding out about how they were made.
Although I had never thought about a career in film, I already had a love for art and got my Graphic Design degree from UWE Bristol. A few years later Channel 4's brand new 'Vee-TV' asked me to make a short film for their strand promoting new deaf film-making talent.
So I leap-frogged straight into making a short film with no prior film education or experience. After making a couple more short films I found myself in a position to take on freelance film-making work. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
You have to be prepared to take on any kind of work which offers you experience. For example, being a runner means you are in the thick of any film production.
As you work your way up, you have to practice and learn about the film-making process by getting out there and making your own short films. You also have to read as much as you can and watch as many films as possible.
What appeals to you about each genre? How do you approach the work you make? Is it a mix of commission-based and work generated by yourself? I'm wondering how it works?
Personally I don't mind which genre I work on. You need to have a passion for the story, for the film to come out well. You can't work on something you don't have an iota of interest in. Again I've been very fortunate as I've been given most of my work by clients, based on my skills and experience.
I am a self-shooting director who writes and edits his own films - so that appeals to a lot of clients. I've only had to apply for a commission once - and I won that. If I find a story I am incredibly passionate about I will just go out, beg and borrow and make the film.
How do you feel about the current status of Deaf film? Your work seems to comfortably cross boundaries between Deaf film (ie work about the barriers deaf people face) and mainstream film. What challenges have you had to overcome to get to that position?
Deaf film has always been very unpredictable. There is never any stable work for Deaf film-makers like myself. We manage to carve out a living thanks to opportunities like Vee-TV, 'See Hear' and presently the 'BSLBT' but they are all short-term jobs.
We have to find other means of earning a living. I have kept my Graphic Design roots as an alternative career as I can't rely on what is currently happening in Deaf media. We struggle to get funding to make short films from mainstream film funds.
I have worked on a few commissions for clients which have nothing to do with Deafness. This was an important milestone for my career as it meant people were seeing me as a film-maker not a Deaf film-maker. This means I can develop confidence with clients from the hearing world. Getting further work is always uncertain. It takes perseverance or luck - who knows?
'Tricks' is designed to challenge the audience to think about perceptions of Deaf people. It was nominated for Best Short Film and Best Actress at the Deaf Oscars. The follow-up 'Outcall' was winner of Best Director at the Remark! Film & TV Awards 2009. What were your starting points and primary motivations for making these films?
Back in 2003 I was looking for something character-driven and thought-provoking. I came up with the 'what if' premise of a Deaf prostitute and ideas just poured out of me.
At the same time 'Vee-TV' asked me to make another short film. I suggested 'Tricks' which they loved - and I was lucky enough to be allowed to make a director's cut to be shown in film festivals.
What fascinated me about the story was the fact Chardonnay was telling people she is a sex object and saying her Deafness has nothing to do with this. It is a subtle metaphor for how Deaf people are no different from everyone else - but at the same time I wanted to tackle sexuality and disability and the perceptions of having sex with a Deaf person.
'Tricks' has been going strong for 7 years. It is something I'm immensely proud of as it is timeless and a testament to my skills as a film-maker especially with the script. The two brilliant actors asked me to consider making a sequel. It was an irresistible idea making the sequel 5 years later when everyone is older and wiser. I told them I did not want to repeat the same formula of two people in a room talking - but this time we had to introduce a stronger plot and blunt portrayals of sex.
There was something fascinating about seeing the two characters engaging in sex, something which hadn't been seen in Deaf film. Their actions were based on their characters so it was a refreshing way of making a sequel that was pushing the boundaries of sex and disability. I already have an idea for another sequel but not until 2014!
There is a precision to the camera style in your films, which is very compelling. There is something very choreographed about your approach to storytelling. Have you ever thought about making films exploring dance for camera?
Thanks to my Deafness my films have always been visual. My visual styles are based on the context of the stories the film tells.
I just want to make them as visually-pleasing as possible by working with the colour and adapting camera movement techniques. All this adds to the viewing experience. I believe in keeping the work fresh and varied.
My scripts have to be very precise and have disciplined structures to help tell a clear and coherent story. I want to reach out to as wide an audience as possible by offering something new and different.
For example 'Outcall' presents day-time scenes in colour, which are intercut with the night after scenes in black and white. The plot is given a fresh take by rearranging the structure and adds to the subtle mystery surrounding the two character's chance encounter five years later.
Thinking about dance for camera, the challenge, as a film-maker, is to represent dance in a way that is choreographed with the camera. I have spoken to one or two dancers about the possibility of working with them, but nothing has emerged yet, though it is definitely something I'd be interested in.