Interview: Ted Evans, director of The End

After making his debut short film GA last year, Ted Evans has followed it up with The End, a 24 minute drama in a documentary style charting the decline of deaf culture. The film, which he wrote and directed, will be shown on digital TV and online from Monday 20th June. Both Ted’s films were funded by the BSLBT through the Zoom and Zoom Focus schemes run by Neath Films.

This article was first published in the July edition of the Hearing Times.

Where did the idea for The End come from?

My old deaf school, which I grew up in, closed last year and it was a strange experience seeing that happen whilst still a young man. I think deaf culture is at a bit of a crossroads at the moment and naturally I think about what could happen in the future. Overall, the film came from many thoughts and influences.

How did the idea develop during the scripting phase?

I initially based the film around my ideas for the final scenes. However, my producer, James Tracy, encouraged me to open the story up more. James, along with the editor and co-producer, Tom Sharp, and the script editor, Glen Laker, were invaluable. I see filmmaking very much as a collaborative process – you’d find it very hard to make films on your own!

What were the challenges of using a documentary format for The End?

I have to be honest – at first I really wasn’t keen on the documentary idea! However as I began to write the script I very soon realised how creative you can be with it. The way you write the dialogue and what you decide to give to away is completely opened up with the documentary style. It’s a great way of telling a story.

How did the shoot go?

It was extremely hard work but immensely rewarding. So many people were involved and there were numerous filming locations to fit into the schedule. I haven’t really stopped working since completing the film… I need a long holiday!

How do you feel about the final film?

Of course, there are always things you would do slightly differently, but overall I’m pleased! Especially considering the small budget (4K) we had to work with. The premiere had a positive response and brought a few people to tears. I remember one of the hearing actors emailing me saying that he learnt a great deal just from reading the script; that was also my intention, to show the variety and also the sense of community within deaf culture.

Some people have said what happens in The End could come true. How do you feel about that?

I am concerned about the future of sign language and the culture. I really feel that education is pivotal and the way things are going, I’m sure deaf culture and its language will be very different when I’m an old man. With the advancement of science and technology, who knows what’s in store for people in the future. What I do know is that deaf people are beautiful and that deaf culture is beautiful; it’s up to us to protect it and preserve it.

What’s your next project?

I love making films and I feel very privileged to be able to work as a filmmaker. I’ll keep applying for film funding and to continue to learn and improve my craft. I hope to do another drama very shortly but we’ll just have wait and see!

You can see The End online from Monday 20th June here: http://www.bslbt.co.uk/zoom/films/zoom_focus_2011/the_end/

Film review: The End

First published in the July 2011 edition of the Hearing Times.

Ted Evans made his very promising debut short, GA, last year. The End, his second film, is a stunning step up. A drama made in a documentary style, The End spans a 60 year time frame to chart the impact of a revolutionary ‘treatment’ that offers deaf people the chance to become hearing.

With a structure that reminded me of the classic TV documentary series 7 up, we follow a group of deaf children – Arron, Sophia, Luke and Mohammed – from 1987 through to 2046.

We first meet them in school – wearing radio aids in a classroom – telling us about their aspirations as deaf people. Later, we learn how the ‘treatment’ has impacted all their lives – whether they decided to have it or not. Relationships are altered, lives change, and something very important threatens to be lost.

A key strength of the film is the way that different perspectives on the ‘treatment’ are portrayed. When we encounter the views of hearing politicians and medical companies responsible for it, the language they use made me cringe – because it subtly revealed attitudes towards deafness that I’ve witnessed in real life.

Through a mixture of interviews, observational footage and even a few special effects, The End feels utterly real. The writing and direction are completely believable and naturalistic, and there’s great cinematography too. Of the actors, Terry Edwards, Brian Duffy and Alex Nowak deserve particular praise.

In its subject matter, The End could well prove to be ahead of its time. Just weeks before I saw the film, I learned about a possible real-life treatment for deafness which sounded similar to the ‘treatment’ dramatised here. This film manages to dramatise something in just 24 minutes which is very hard to explain through words alone – what would be lost, in a world where deafness no longer exists.

The End builds up to a compelling and emotional conclusion, in particular an amazing final shot which left me stunned, and stayed in my mind long after the final credits rolled. It’s simply outstanding, and original – it fully deserves to win a number of awards. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

You can see The End in full at: http://www.bslbt.co.uk/zoom/films/zoom_focus_2011/the_end/
The End was funded by the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust as part of the Zoom Focus scheme, and was produced by Neath Films.