Interview with Filmmaker Sarah Goolishian (SILENT RHYTHM)

SILENT RHYTHM, 36min., USA, Documentary Dance
Directed by Sarah Goolishian

This short documentary explores the relationship dancers have with music, especially when none of the dancers can hear the music. The Gallaudet Dance Company is home to a small dance studio that pushes the meaning of dance beyond the scope of sound. This year marked a specific turning point for the program, as half the dancers are graduating, their dance company director Sue Gill-Doleac is also retiring after 44 years.

Interview with Filmmaker Sarah Goolishian

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I wanted to create something, in partnership with the Gallaudet dance company, that addresses deaf people as complex and complete people with real lives and aspirations. While simultaneously creating something interesting and engaging for people who may have never had the opportunity to meet a deaf person. My intended outcomes are to have people walk away having learned more about deaf culture, deaf community, and social stigmas still in place today.

Because I grew up bilingual in American Sign Language and English I was able to explain my project to the dancers in the company. I asked them to contribute anything they wanted the larger public to know about deaf and hard of hearing people. I emphasized how much I wanted their input and involvement, since it has often been a history of storytellers deciding the narrative for this community without one, ever asking them and two, often getting it wrong.

I grew up seeing the world this way knowing I would eventually take part in it. I often wondered how I could better advocate for deaf and hard of hearing people. Now realizing my creative path, this has been a project many years in the making and it won’t be the last.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

I started preproduction and storyboarding in August and September of 2021 and started filming on the first day of dance practice with the Gallaudet Dance Company in September. I spent every week filming with the dance company until their final spring performance in April, and then edited everything together in order to graduate in May. I made a more in-depth edit and finalized the film in June of 2022.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Family and Dedication

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Time, resources, and to establish a lot of trust with the dancers to make sure I was going to be able to share their stories accurately.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was honestly so happy to see that everyone reacted so positively to the film, and a lot of what I was trying to do with this project was reiterated back to me through different reactions – so that was honestly so great. I really wanted to show deaf people as more than just deaf. I wanted to show how they have real lives, goals, and a strong community and culture.

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I started making funny short animated movies with my dad when I was 8 or 9 after I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas and kept experimenting with video more as a sideline to photography. I didn’t really start to get interested in video production until I was at Tulane University studying digital media production and assisting on larger productions that rolled through New Orlenans. Everything ultimately culminated while I was in graduate school at George Washington University in D.C. where video production became part of my final thesis. This story lent itself particularly to video since American Sign Language is entirely a visual language that it becomes difficult to document purely through photos.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, and Chef’s Table.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think you guys are doing a great job so far. I’m just excited to be a part of it.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It was a straightforward easy process, so it’s been great.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Grilled lamb chops with rosemary and garlic roasted brussel sprouts.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I think I may take a hiatus from filmmaking for a bit to focus more on my photo work both editorial and commercial, and smaller scale video production work.

Director Biography – Sarah Goolishian

Sarah is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia.

She focuses on long form stories that encompass people, place and culture. Having an older deaf brother, she is passionate about making work that challenges the notion that all deaf people are “handicapped by their deafness”. Instead, she wants to show deaf success and deaf culture to counteract current stigmas from the larger non-deaf population.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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