Faces Behind the Screen: Cat Brewer (Sign the Show)
When Cat Brewer saw a sign language interpreter for the first time at a concert over five years ago, her passion for equal access to entertainment was born. Not long after that, she embarked on her journey as the executive producer and director of Sign the Show, a documentary which highlights the lack of equal access to entertainment for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“Entertainment brings so much joy to people’s lives.”
After speaking with people in the Deaf community, Cat learned that deaf and hard of hearing people face many barriers and challenges when trying to access live entertainment. She has since dedicated herself to creating Sign the Show in the hopes that it will raise awareness and bring positive change to the entertainment industry.
We had the privilege of interviewing Cat for Faces Behind the Screen. In her interview, she brings to light some of the issues of accessibility in entertainment and what we can do to help improve equal access. She also tells us all about Sign the Show, which she hopes to submit to film festivals later this year.
In Cat’s words, “It’s going to take a whole community. It’s going to take everyone. It’s going to take hearing people to advocate. It’s going to take deaf people to continue advocating. Because I did not start this fight on my own. I’m just doing one little piece in a way that I know how.”
In part one of Cat’s interview, she tells us the inspiration behind the documentary, Sign the Show, and describes what access to entertainment is like for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
We’d like to get to know you a little more. What’s your background?
CAT BREWER: I have been a teacher for the last 20 years. I teach communications courses at the community college level, mostly public speaking and interpersonal communication. I’ve done a lot of PR and marketing for some jazz musicians from the Bay Area, but that almost seems like a lifetime ago. And more recently, in the last five years, I started producing this documentary called Sign the Show.
What got you on this path of wanting to create a documentary and start producing and directing?
CAT BREWER: I actually never had any desire to be in entertainment. I have no knowledge or background in film whatsoever. But about five and a half years ago, I attended a concert. And for the very first time, I saw a sign language interpreter [at the concert]. I’ve been going to concerts since I was eight years old…and I was both ignorant and amazed at what I saw.
I really didn’t have much involvement in the deaf community at all. I knew a couple of deaf people, but they were peripherally in my life…I didn’t realize that deaf people could enjoy music or that they liked to go to concerts, and that’s where my ignorance came in. So I started chatting with the interpreter and then communicating with the deaf people that were there at the concert through the interpreter because I don’t sign. I didn’t back then, and I don’t sign as well as I would like to now.
Through that conversation, I learned that…deaf people do love music, that they do want to attend concerts, but that they face a lot of challenges or access to barriers when trying to go to see live entertainment…I think it just clicked in my head, like, hey, I have taken my hearing privilege for granted my entire life.
Can you describe what access to entertainment is like for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and why did that spark your desire to make Sign the Show?
CAT BREWER: If I want to go see a concert or a comedy show, I basically just go online or go purchase a ticket somewhere and go. I don’t have to jump through hoops or come up against barriers or challenges to be able to do so. And so I started thinking, like, well, that’s not fair because entertainment brings so much joy to people’s lives, whether it’s music or comedy.
And I was like, OK, well, what can I do to help make this more accessible?
I started talking to more people, and then I got an idea to write an article for the school newspaper. Like I said, I’m a teacher. And then a friend of mine who works at a big newspaper in the Bay Area was like, hey, I think this is a great idea. We’ll publish an article for you.
I started talking to another friend, and he was like, oh, you should make a documentary. And again, I have no background in this whatsoever, so I took a one-day intensive course in filmmaking at a film school in San Francisco. And I spent probably three hours in Best Buy drilling the employee there about, like, what kind of camera should I get? I’m a teacher, so I was on a budget. And I ended up buying a camera, and then I hit the ground running.
I started approaching deaf people and sign language interpreters and comedians and musicians and theater actors to try to create a story for film to tell the story of the challenges that the deaf and hard of hearing community face when trying to access live entertainment.
What has life been like for you while making Sign the Show?
CAT BREWER: Yeah. Within [the past] five years, I’ve had major life changes. I uprooted my life and moved to Las Vegas. And then I’ve still been teaching and trying to have a little bit of a life. But I had no idea [the documentary] would, one, take this long, and two, cost so much. But…I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world. I’ve met some of the most amazing people…I met Matt Maxey, and I consider him one of my dear friends. And I met interpreters [like] Holly Maniatty, who I also consider a really close friend.
Part 2 Coming Soon
Faces Behind the Screen would like to thank Cat Brewer for participating in our storytelling project. If you’re interested in sharing your story with us, fill out our nomination form.
Faces Behind the Screen is a storytelling project focusing on members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community.