ASL filmmaker shares his experience

By Miguel Gonzalez
Sports Editor

Movies aren’t simple.

It’s not easy to captivate an audience with stunning visual effects, a sophisticated screenplay and sound effects.

On Wednesday, April 19, 46-year-old director Mark Wood, who is deaf, didn’t need sound to entertain students in room 115 of the Education Building.

Wood capped off Deaf Awareness Day, hosted by Deaf Hearing Connection, as the guest speaker.ex

Wood expresses his love of filmmaking. (Miguel Gonzalez / Sports Editor)

Wood introduced himself by joking about his last name, stating his last name is not “Woods” like professional golfer Tiger Woods.

Wood discussed his childhood growing up in Berkeley, Ca. Wood was born deaf with a long history of deaf family members, his parents included. Wood said he was inspired by the Arthur Penn’s 1962 movie “The Miracle Worker,” which focused on Helen Keller’s deaf teacher, Anne Sullivan, to create movies suited for deaf and muted audiences.

“I loved watching movies, especially ones that came from projectors,” Wood said.

However, Wood’s all-time favorite film is Peter Wolf’s “Deafula” from 1975.

“It was amazing to see how people killed and sucked each other’s blood while communicating in sign language,” Wood said.

Later in 2005, Wood and his friend Mindy Moore established ASL Films to produce cinema tailored to American Sign Language audiences, according to aslfilms.com.

“Wood is the first of his kind,” said Larisa Yañez, a senior deaf education and Spanish double major. “His films have no sound, yet he is providing a strong voice for the ASL community.”

For the rest of the event, Wood briefly discussed each film ASL Films has produced. Wood recalled ASL Film’s first project, “Forget Me Not” in 2006. In the movie, a family encounters a menacing stranger after winning the lottery. Managing a small budget of $30,000, Wood endured a lot of doubts during pre-production.

Wood said he wanted to teach and demonstrate deaf culture through his films, leading him to produce “Forget Me Not” and his subsequent productions. He wanted to counter the media portrayal of people who are deaf being oppressed and miserable.

“People are too sympathetic,” Wood said. “I was frustrated with the negative perceptions. I wanted my films to show deaf people living everyday lives, not being poor, disabled people.”

ASL Film’s initial success with “Forget Me Not” led to larger productions like “Wrong Game” in 2007 and “The Legend of the Mountain Man” in 2008.

According to Wood, “The Legend of the Mountain Man” turned out be ASL Film’s most popular film because of its special effects, elaborate costumes and adventurous plot centered around three children discovering Bigfoot.

Woods talked about his struggle to maintain his health and weight while making his films. By the time ASL Film’s “Hit the Can” rolled into theaters in 2014, Wood was stressed out, so he decided to take a break. His current side project is designing exercise weights.

Wood concluded his lecture by discussing how to be a good actor and getting into the film business.

“You really have to go around and find the best actors. Some actors are too cartoonish,” Wood said. “Put it this way, I want to believe what I’m seeing. Actors need to embrace the character. For example, portraying an alcoholic. You need to think and understand an alcoholic. Maybe there was physical abuse or sleep deprivation. No one is born an alcoholic. You don’t make him or her wobbly.”

Wood recommended aspiring directors, actors and cinematographers to get involved.

“Go through the hardships and tribulation,” Wood said. “No one (comes) in and hires you. You have to network and connect with the right people.”