by Paul Hansen 10 April, 2021
Among the 2021 Oscar nominations for Best Live Action Short is Feeling Through. The film is a sensitive portrayal about an initially random but ultimately moving encounter between a New York City teen, Teerek, and Artie, a DeafBlind man played by Robert Tarango.
I posed some questions about the film to Doug Roland, who wrote and directed Feeling Through, and Steven Prescod who portrays Tereek. In addition to directing a number of shorts, Roland has appeared as an actor in such TV series as Fixer and Gray Matters. Prescod has also appeared in two feature films with Alec Baldwin - Blind and An Imperfect Murder. As noted in the interview, Feeling Through, as well as an accompanying documentary about the film can be seen at no cost at www.feelingthrough.com.
ScreenPicks: What was the impetus behind the creation of the script for Feeling Through and what issues is the film exploring?
Doug Roland: The film was inspired by a chance encounter with the first DeafBlind person I ever met late one night in New York City 10 years ago. He was holding a sign that read that he was deaf and blind and needing help crossing the street. I thought to myself that I had never met anyone who was DeafBlind before, let alone really thought about that community. I tapped him and he took out a notepad and wrote a bus stop that he needed. I took him there, and when we arrived I saw that a bus wasn’t coming for over an hour. I wanted to let him know I’d sit and wait with him, but I didn’t know how to communicate with him. Then, instinctively, I took his palm and started tracing one letter at a time on it, and he understood. We sat together and had a whole conversation that way, and I got to know this man, Artemio, as a funny, charismatic, warm-hearted guy who I felt like I had made a connection with. When his bus arrived, we gave each other a big hug goodbye.
I realized in that one interaction I went from seeing Artemio as his disability to seeing him as a friend, and that inspired the story that eventually became Feeling Through. It was important for me to create a story that had mutuality between the two characters. Ultimately, Feeling Through isn't a film about DeafBlindess, but rather the power of human connection despite our respective differences and challenges.
ScreenPicks: Was there anything particularly memorable or unpredictable that happened during the course of filming Feeling Through?
Roland: We shot Feeling Through during the winter, at night, on-location in New York City, so there were plenty of obstacles to say the least. During one scene in Chinatown, a car kept driving around the block trying to run us over (ah, New York!). We also battled cold temperatures and other inclement weather. But on a positive note, my favorite moment was when our DeafBlind actor, Robert Tarango (who was a first-time actor), nailed one of his scenes and the entire crew jumped around him in joy and celebrated.
Steven Prescod: I totally forgot about that car trying to run us over - haha. But overall, I’ll have to say all the genuine and honorable connections I’ve made with all the cast and crew on set.
ScreenPicks: Steven, you acted in two movies with Alec Baldwin - Blind and An Imperfect Murder. How do you look back on your experience in working on those movies?
Prescod: I have to say that I’m thankful I had the pleasure of playing alongside with some of Hollywood’s royalty. My first time being a part of any feature film, I can say has been “A dream come true.” I love being on sets and the more I am the more I learn and look forward to being a part of more.
ScreenPicks: What advice would you have to give to writers, directors and actors attempting to pursue a career in the film industry?
Roland: For writers and directors, I'd say stay true to the stories you want to tell. You might feel a lot of pressure to tell stories that "other people" want to see, but I think the most fulfilling careers are those that are in alignment with your deeper senses and inclinations.
Prescod: Anything you love or have a hidden passion for is worth pursuing. I’ve almost given up before I began to see any results, but as I grow in this industry I continue to realize that it’s the Journey that’s truly special. Everyone has their own path, and all I can honestly say is trust yours with pure Intent.
ScreenPicks: Is there anything in general you would like to tell audiences about Feeling Through?
Roland: We're proud that Feeling Through is the first film to star a DeafBlind actor. But moreover, we love that it has resonated with people all around the world. It has over 3 million views on YouTube in just over a couple of months, and the feedback has been tremendous. People have particularly resonated with the heartwarming message of human connection after this past year which has been so challenging and isolating for so many. We also made a companion documentary about the fascinating story behind the story of the film that people love almost as much as Feeling Through. You can watch both films for free at feelingthrough.com.
Prescod: Go Watch It!!!
ScreenPicks: Would you like to share with us what your next projects are?
Roland: We're going to make the feature film adaption of Feeling Through and we're excited!
Prescod: I am in the process of auditioning for work. On the side of that, the one man theatrical show I’ve created a while back is going to be turned into a pilot and hopefully a TV series.
ShortsTV is releasing all of the films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short and Best Documentary Short. Watch the trailer below!
Information on how to purchase tickets to view the short films can be seen here: tickets.oscar-shorts.com/tickets