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One in a Crowd: 'U R a Dial Tone'

UT grad's new project sings a song for the deaf

By Richard Whittaker, 9:00AM, Fri. Aug. 1

See hear: New sci-fi short
See hear: New sci-fi short "U R a Dial Tone" needs your help.

Big news, loyal Kickstart Your Weekend backers: We're changing the name of our weekly crowdfunding spotlight to One in a Crowd. To celebrate this change, we've got a local film project that is all about the spirit of communication.

"U R a Dial Tone" is a science-fiction short, set to be shot in Austin. It follows the adventures of Sylvia (Claire Morrison), a sign language interpreter. Her job is to bridge the gap in phone calls between hearing and deaf participants. When her bosses at Deafinity, Inc. start making their staff wear a new monitoring device, the Earfinity 3K, she is faced with a new challenge: How engaged can she become in her clients' most intimate moments?

Writer/director Lauren Kinsler has drawn from her own experiences as a real-life Sylvia. As an undergrad at UT, she studied both filmmaking and sign language. Then, in 2007, she took a job as a phone interpreter. She explained, "I would jump in and out of people’s lives and commit to their emotions as if they were my own. Then the calls would end and it would be just me, sitting alone in my cube."

Kinsler already has a great track record with her shorts, including winning an Austin Film Society Grant for 2013's "King Bling." She has also worked hard to mix her dual passions of cinema and signing, working with VSA ARTS of Texas and AMC Theatres to help get Rear Window Captioning and Descriptive Video Service into local cinemas. She's also blended her experiences as an interpreter with her filmmaking passions with an earlier documentary, "Calvin's World," about a boy who is the first hearing member of a family in three generations. The short film concentrates on his experiences growing up bilingual in English and sign language, and how that made him both special in and separate from his family.

Now "U R a Dialtone" takes a dramatic, sci-fi spin on the subject, and will also serve as Kinsler's graduate thesis for her MFA in Film from UT. She's also working on a feature-length version of the script. First, here's her explanation of the project:

Kinsler hopes to raise $4,999 by Aug. 16 You can become a backer through the film's Kickstarter page, and find out more about her films at www.laurenkinsler.com.


One in a Crowd (formerly Kickstart Your Weekend) is a series intended to showcase Texas film and tech projects that are crowdfunding their way to a goal, be it distribution, a prototype, or production costs. If you have a project that we should know about, email us at filmflam@austinchronicle.com.

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