Haunted by the past, Elizabeth begins spying on the older, grieving Vedette from a vacant apartment across the street. When Elizabeth observes that her target is deaf, she takes to teaching herself ASL. She enrolls in Vedette's acting class. She does whatever she can in her desperation to communicate with Vedette. Once Elizabeth finally builds the courage to talk, she inadvertently forms a closer bond than she ever planned. The two women open up to each other about their anguish, only plunging Elizabeth into further inner turmoil in her struggle to come clean and reveal her darkest secret. Told almost entirely in ASL and shot on a DSLR camera, SINCE AUGUST is a uniquely intimate story of healing and redemption that bears witness to the power of visual storytelling in film. SINCE AUGUST also showcases a diverse cast and crew of international women with the representation of a deaf actress in the role of Vedette.
"After I met SABINA in 2010, I was inspired by her work and asked her if she'd be interested in working with me. I had no idea what I would write about, but I knew I wanted to work with her. So, I started playing with ideas and soon the story started telling itself."
Two months later the first draft of the script was ready. Three months after the third and final draft was complete.
"It was very important for me to cast a deaf actress for the part of Vedette, as she is deaf in the script," says the writer/director DIANA ZUROS. "I reached out to the deaf community and was pleased to meet such a talented actress as Antoinette Abbamonte.
It was a pure pleasure working with her. I remember the moment she walked into the room during a casting session, I knew right there that she was the one." I shot the film with a Canon 5D Mark ii using only natural available light, guerrilla style (just a simple shoulder mount), with a very small crew.
Diana goes on to say, "we shot entirely in Los Angeles, once or twice a week - whenever the actors and locations were available - but we were all okay with it because everyone involved loved the project. We all knew we would finish the movie no matter what. What was interesting is that, as we moved along, many people stepped in and offered help."
SINCE AUGUST, from conception to completion, is a testament to all the passionate people out there who accept no boundaries when it comes to following their path without compromising their values.
How Did You Come Up With The Story?
The whole thing started when I lived in an apartment building in HOLLYWOOD that overlooked the neighboring building. From my kitchen window I could clearly see through the neighbor’s bedroom window. I could observe this man undetected and saw his life unfold in front of my eyes. The whole idea fascinated me. As I was watching him, I realized I could understand what they were saying, if my main character was DEAF and could sign!!
From there the script just flowed. It had nothing to do with DEAF CULTURE, I'm afraid. I had never met a deaf person, let alone worked with one before this film. But then I dove into the culture and saw that the deaf communities desperately needed representation, especially among the hearing audiences, that's why it was really exciting and important for me to cast DEAF ACTORS not only for the lead roles but also for all the supporting roles.
How Did You Find Your Actors?
I had just bought a Canon 5D Mark ii and desperately wanted to shoot a feature film with it. I was in the middle of deciding which script idea to develop when I met SABINA AKHMEDOVA through a small project I was hired to do. I really loved her intensity. After seeing her acting reel, I was so taken by her talent that I decided to write something for her. Luckily she liked the idea as much as I did, and even though I had no money to pay her, she agreed to do it.
As for ANTOINETTE ABBAMONTE, I knew right from the start that I wanted a deaf actress for the role of Vedette. There were a few hearing actors who were willing to learn ASL for the role, but I strove for authenticity - plus, I wanted to give this role to a deaf actor needing a chance to shine in a hearing production. So, I asked around and a mutual friend connected me with quite a few local actresses. I auditioned about six women, but Antoinette won my heart.
How Did You Find Finncing?
Financing is a big word... I didn’t have any financing in place. I only had a little money that was raised among my friends and my family. This money was spent for gas, food, and very minimal was set aside for make-up artists. SABINA invested some of her own money and ANTOINETTE paid the daycare for her kids out of her own pocket on the days she was shooting with me.
The most money I had to spend during production was on cello scenes: I bought a hard case off of eBay so I could freely throw it off a balcony (for the flying cello effect) and then I had to rent a specific camera that was able to record in slow motion. Cello scenes ended up being the most "expensive" scenes in the film. So no, I didn’t have any financing. I only had a goal to do this film and I knew that somehow it would be possible. And it was, thanks to everyone involved.
How Did You Choose the Title?
I can say with certainty that I've been searching for a perfect title since the pre-production phase. I knew I wanted to have a boy's name in it, so I went through a rigorous search and chose TITUS originally. It turns out there are six other films with the same name, so I finally settled on the boy's name being August. And because the events in the film also happen at the end of summer, SINCE AUGUST is kind of fitting.
What Was Your Production Schedule Like?
Initially I wanted to complete the production within 3-4 weeks, but little did I know, it would stretch over 8 months. Again, due to the lack of funds I had to accommodate the actors' schedules so they could get other paying jobs and make money on the side. Both actors were troopers and went along with the "snail pace" of the production. I have nothing but gratitude for them.
What Was Your Approach Working With The Deaf Actors?
I was lucky enough to have ANTOINETTE on-board, whose intuition is so keen that one’s emotional disposition can hardly escape her radar. I planned on having an interpreter on set, but even during the audition I was able to communicate with Antoinette directly without a need for an interpreter (even though I had one present). This made my job a lot easier and more flawless.
Antoinette can pick up my thought process before I’m even able to convey it through words. In addition, I had the help of the amazing REBECCA RODICK, who is hard-of-hearing and speaks both ASL and English fluently. She had a small part in the film and on the days she was with me she would help with communicating with the rest of the actors who were deaf.
WHAT MAKES SINCE AUGUST UNIQUE
- The film is told in ASL with English subtitles. There is basically no verbal dialogue in it.
- All the deaf characters in the film are portrayed by DEAF ACTORS and it appeals to the global audience.
- We all learned some ASL during production.
- The film was shot DOGME 95 style with no special lighting and no permits, a tiny Canon 5D Mark ii camera, handheld.
- The production went on for 8 months due to lack of funds. Everyone worked for free, we just fed them. The majority of times the cast and crew consisted of 2 people each.
- The film was completely self-financed with the help of my family and close friends.
- Cast/crew consists of a very international bunch (GEORGIA, RUSSIA, POLAND, USA).
- The film is made by females and is about females, inadvertently.
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