the shattered mind: supporting black deaf culture in film

February 14, 2014
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Hello, my name is Jade. I am an award winning film writer, producer and director of Jade Films and Entertainment. My company is based in New York City. I am the world’s FIRST Jamaican-American Deaf Filmmaker. I have been producing films for over 23 years now. I love making stuff up and turning them into reality. I consider myself to be an imaginative storyteller. Right now, I am working toward completing a short film entitled, ‘The Shattered Mind’. I have worked on this particular film for TWENTY something-years. It first started as a film student project for NYU, which I made in 1992. It won a couple awards. Then from 1992-2013, I expanded it into a feature. I’ve did so many, many rewrites that I have lost count. In between those years, I’ve written and produced other stuff. I also produced fashion shows to fund my films. Like I said, I love making stuff happen. Finally, in 2013, I brought the new version of The Shattered Mind to life! What a journey!
‘The Shattered Mind’, based in New York, is a psychodrama and surreal story about a hard-of-hearing teenager who juggles family, peer and culture conflicts while in search of her own sexual identity, freedom, and self-realization. Zhane Rain is an intense and carefree high school senior with three generations of hearing and Deaf family members who unravels family secrets behind the traumatic brain injury that caused her deafness.

By Ann Marie “Jade” Bryan, AFROPUNK Contributor

Currently, my film ‘The Shattered Mind’ is in post-production, raising finishing funds via Kickstarter. I have about 20 days left to raise at least $10,000. The post-production budget is $14,000. We raised $4,000 so far. Kickstarter’s initial goal is $3K. I plan to premiere the film once I meet my funding goal at the NYU Cantor Film Center in June.

Like the character in my film, Zhane Rain, I also endured a traumatic brain injury as a child. As a result of that injury, I also lost my hearing, so I know what it’s like dealing with family secrets, or not having to know the cause of my hearing loss until very recently. While growing up, I felt like I was living my life with a big “?” over my head every time someone would ask me how I became deaf. I’d tell them that I had no idea. The film, which I wrote and plan to direct, is fictional, but I used some of my own real-life experiences while writing the script.

Understanding My Passion, Purpose and Drive

Two years ago, I formed a Catalyst for Change in Film and Television movement, Support Black Deaf Film campaign. Check out our blog to see where we tour with our campaign:

There’s a huge lack of representation of Deaf Talents of Color in film and TV. Our goal is to spread and increase awareness that we need more Deaf Talents of Color in the mainstream movie industry and in television. That’s why as a writer, I am in process of crowdfunding another campaign via Gofundme soon for a sitcom TV pilot entitled, ‘The Two Essences, about a deaf mother and daughter relationships. Why I am doing this? Because no one is going to do it for us’. Someone has to write their stories. I expect to commence production in the fall of 2014 once all the fundings are in place. I have hope for this pilot because I want to pitch it to the network. Our goal is to share information, tell our stories, and spread and promote awareness. We’re very tired of being overlooked, marginalized and not getting our voices heard across the screen and on television. We also strive to bridge the gap between deaf and hearing films in the industry, deaf and hearing people, and all audiences of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.

Different cultures

To better understand where I come from, one needs to understand that I live my life in three different cultural worlds. My personal world is a trinity of these worlds: Deaf, Jamaican-born but living now in America, and hearing. I utilize American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, and the barrier of sound is a life-long challenge for me. This further exacerbates my life-long challenge of living in a world of sound. Therefore, I have three strikes against me as every day I fearlessly face societal, linguistic and cross-cultural barriers.

I was brought up in a mainstream society, one that had a tremendous influence on my life as a person with a hearing loss. As a filmmaker, I want to produce films about this experience. I want to tell and expose stories to audiences who will pay to see my films. I want to make films for television and the silver screen about issues from a non-traditional point of view commonly shared by Deaf people.

Through my films, I address a variety of paradoxical issues such as race, family conflicts, biracial and/or bicultural dynamics, socially conscious issues such as the inconsistently-heated debate over cochlear implants, same-sex relationships, domestic violence, rape, police brutality and mistreatment against Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, AIDS in the Deaf community, and interpersonal relationships between Deaf and hearing people who face cross-cultural and communication barriers.

Everyday, we deal with oppression, ignorance and bigotry. I tell these stories in a passionate manner with a strong urge to spread messages of love, awareness, diverse communication, education, uplifting, and peace-sharing that has been neglected by today’s ignorant and troubled world. These messages need more potency to be heard everywhere. As an artist who is deeply in touch with emotions, I respond well to human connection and the human condition; I want to tap into these emotions by making films that expose the human side of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from all backgrounds, especially people of color.

Instead of turning to others for support, I established a film production company in 2006 to produce my own work as an avenue to address these three worlds, and other human experiences as well, in today’s society. Today, I am a respected and well-versed leader and filmmaker in my own right who serves as a model to others.

Born Producer

One of my biggest challenges as a filmmaker is getting people to support my work and believe in what I set out to do. I am not a quitter. I was born to produce film. I continue to have two main challenges: The inability to hear sound when I am working on my films, and getting financing for those films.