A former University of West London student is living the dream in Hollywood after a film she produced won an Oscar nomination at this year’s Academy Awards, taking place on Sunday (4 March).
Video Production and Film Studies graduate Rebecca Harris, 25, called the experience ‘surreal’, after judges at the movie industry’s highest-profile awards included ‘The Silent Child’ on the Short Film category shortlist.
Rebecca is the producer of the film about a profoundly deaf girl’s adventure from isolation to achieving connection with the world around her, with the leading role played by a young actress with deafness. It is the first time in 31 years that a film featuring a deaf person has made the Academy Awards’ shortlist.
Speaking from Los Angeles ahead of the Awards, Rebecca said: ‘It’s beyond surreal. It has been such a huge team effort and I’ve always felt extremely lucky to be one of the many people entrusted with this project. We’re all incredibly proud of what the film itself and the Oscar nomination has achieved.
‘Studying at UWL helped me work out what I was good at, introduced me to the right people and it definitely gave me the tools to help start off my career.’
Paul Lohneis, Head of UWL’s London School of Film, Media and Design, said: ‘Congratulations to Rebecca for this Oscar nomination, which is richly deserved. She was an exemplary student when she studied here and it’s great to see her talent being recognised by an awards as prestigious as the Oscars. This is exceptional news for the School and we’re all very proud.’
As part of promotional efforts for the film, a viral campaign is taking place with a message of ‘disability is diversity’, aimed at raising the profile of disability as a key ingredient of diversity. The cast and crew of the film and youngsters at local schools have taken part so far – and also UWL’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience), Sara Raybould.
On the campaign to raise awareness about deafness, Rebecca said: ‘This is a year of diversity with a huge spot-light on gender and race. We think it’s important to remember that disability should also be included in the diversity bracket and deafness in film is hugely under represented.’
It is not the first time a UWL graduate has been in line for an Oscar. In 2013, an animation by former Film Production student Fohla Cronin-O’Reilly was nominated in the Best Animated Short Film category and also racked up a number of other industry awards.
Set in rural England and inspired by real events, The Silent Child centres upon a profoundly deaf four-year-old girl named Libby. With the help of a social worker, this once withdrawn girl suddenly feels connected to the world as the relationship between them blossoms. Inspired by real-life events, the film observes one of the loneliest disabilities and the avoidable struggles that deaf children face.
This year’s Academy Awards takes place on 4 March.