LightKitchen hopes to bring together fellow filmmakers

Originally appeared in Silent News, November 2000.

A group of students at Gallaudet University has formed a group, LightKitchen, in hopes of becoming a film company eventually. Ryan Commerson, one of the founders, said, “We gave birth to LightKitchen at XandO’s, a coffee house in Washington, D.C., after hours and hours of hard labor. So, right now, we are taking small steps towards the goal by producing few short works such as those shown on www.lightkitchen.com.”

According to the group, light is essential for any film or video production, while the kitchen tends to be the preferred gathering place for deaf people: well-lit, easy to communicate, and warm.

Rene Visco, another founder and the webmaster of the LightKitchen website, said, “To me, LightKitchen means saying, ‘I’ll make me a world.’  A world that people around the world can join in and watch. They laugh at our follies, beam at our successes, awed by our complex human natures, and cry with us in our darkest hours. The important thing is that they will understand what Deafness is and means.”

Commerson agreed with Visco, saying, “It’s clear that pushing for higher education [for deaf people] can’t do it all, or even politics – something is missing to make the connections with all of the major fields – entertainment. It’s the major element [of the deaf community] that has been largely neglected.”

On the site, visitors can view three entertaining videos: Daniele Le Rose’s ominous Millennium, Wayne Betts’ humorous Mr. V, or Ryan Commerson’s emotional Soulmate. Visco explained, “Soon in the near future, it is possible that LightKitchen’s website will be revamped again, this time with dynamic Flash content and more QuickTime clips. It will be a powerful visual medium for any Internet user. I aim and strive to make LightKitchen’s website a cutting-edge website that is front of the pack in the Internet.” Visco also hopes to make the site multilingual, including Spanish and Italian translations.

Currently, the group is working on Commerson’s rock climbing project, along with screenings of works by various deaf filmmakers such as Charles Krauel, Julianna Fjeld, and Peter Wolf. “We’ll have discussions on filmmaking aesthetics, approaches, and so on. We also will study why deaf moviemakers in the past have failed, and how we can learn from their struggles, and discuss aspects such as framing our language. Often shots of deaf people talking don’t look so great — why? What can we do to change that? How can we create a movie that can be enjoyed by millions—not only the deaf—and so on,” Commerson said.

The group is also planning a film festival of sorts. “We are planning to be a big sponsor for Gallaudet’s T.V., Photography and Digital Media’s MOS Fest (visual works without audio tracks), which Facundo Montenegro [the third founder of the group] will be preparing for next fall,” Visco said. This will enable the group to establish an annual film festival that will encourage deaf moviemakers on an international basis to participate.

Visco said, “Right now, LightKitchen is a profit-making business. I believe we will spin off a non-profit LightKitchen foundation so that we can influence the future generations of Deaf filmmakers, actors, actresses, and crew members around the world.”

Le Rose, who is visiting the United States as a Fulbright/Mason-Perkins Deafness Fund Scholar from Italy, hopes to be able to bring a branch of this organization back to his home country. He said, “LightKitchen is beneficial to me because I am able to share ideas and goals with others who have common goals. With this, I will be able to develop my skills and techniques for future use in Italy. For example, I would like to produce videotapes for distribution in Italy related to the arts, education, and culture of deaf people. I’d also like to produce movies. This will help expose the hearing community to our Deaf community.”

When asked about the struggles that the organization may face in its establishment, Commerson said, “Some believe in Deaf advancement by means of education. Some believe in Deaf advancement by means of political empowerment. We believe in Deaf advancement by means of entertainment. Without inspiration, tears, fears, or laughter. . .we’re facing the yellow hex sign that says Dead End.”

The group, which also includes Wayne Betts, has been using both individually owned equipment and loaned equipment. The acquisition of necessary equipment is another goal the group has.

The website may be viewed at www.lightkitchen.com.

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