Going In Blind: How the First Legally Blind Person to Write, Produce, Edit, Direct and Star in a Feature Built His Career

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You Must Trust Your Cast and Crew To Execute Your (Literal and Figurative) Vision

Being legally blind means I have to have a crew around me who I can trust. If I want a certain shot, I need to know that my cinematographer will do that shot, and not just go off on his own tangent. I do have very limited vision, so in the editing booth I can make sure the shots are what I’m after. But by then, it’s too late to change anything, as the vision has already been shot and we don’t have the budget to re-shoot. In this regard, making sure I have a supportive crew who share my vision is vital.

The same goes for the actors. I can’t see facial expressions, so I need to trust that they are giving me the looks I am after. This comes down to me being able to communicate to them what the character is feeling, and making sure they understand what it is I want. I also have a sighted guide on-set who tells me whether the actors are giving me the facial expressions I’m after, and that the scene looks good and we are good to move on.

gough shoots a scene from his short film “The Advertising Meeting” with cast and crew

The More You Listen, the Better You’ll Write Dialogue and Direct Delivery

Being legally blind actually does help with writing and directing. Because I can’t see things like facial expressions, I’m not distracted by the small things and can focus on the delivery of lines. At the end of the day, if a line of dialogue isn’t delivered by an actor just right, the joke won’t be funny or the emotional moment won’t be captured. Spending a lifetime really listening to people—mainly because I have no choice, as I can’t see body language—is a huge asset to my writing. When you spend so much time intently listening, you begin to pick up on funny ways people say things and the way the tone or inflection of someone’s voice can change the meaning of an entire sentence. Because of this, most of my scripts are dialogue-based, and that is where the comedy and drama comes from.

Overplan to Avoid Time-Wasting Distractions and Keep Cast and Crew Performances Strong On-Set

When you are blind, organization is key. I’m not just meaning in work, but in life in general. For example, I can’t just jump in the car and drive down to the shop if I forget to pick up some milk or bread—I have to make sure my kitchen is well-stocked for any situation. This carries through to my filmmaking work—knowing how long a shot will take to film, making sure people aren’t waiting around, etc. I don’t like keeping actors waiting, as they can easily become bored or distracted. Keep their performance as fresh as possible, making sure the crew know exactly how they’re shooting the action… all of this comes down to meticulous preparation.

Film Engages More Senses Than Just Sight

A major misconception about film is that it’s all visual. Just because you’re sitting and watching a film play on a screen doesn’t mean that your other senses are not being utilized. What gives you the creeps in, for example, a great horror film, is very rarely what you see, but rather what you don’t see. It’s the sound of creaking timber, a knife scraping along glass. It’s the music used and the feeling the film gives you. A great comedy film has witty dialogue that leaves you gasping for breath, and a musical is just that—all about the music, something that gets your foot tapping. It is wrong to assume that a film is all about the visual. A great film can awaken all your senses.

There is no doubt I face more struggles than others in my industry. It’s incredibly frustrating not being able to see a shot properly while filming and having to rely on others to convey my ideas. But I love what I do and have no intention of stopping now. It’s so important in life to find your passion and follow your dreams, whatever they may be. That’s exactly what I’ve done, and intend to keep on doing. MM

For more information on gough and his work, visit BeernutsProductions.com. Images courtesy of gough and Beernuts Productions.

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