Deaf Film Camp Director
Michael Kaufer is a long time educator of Deaf, Hard of Hearing and KODA children for more than 25 years. Michael is director of the Deaf Film Camp (DFC) and has raised more than $150,000 for CM7 since 2010. Since 2015, Michael has worked closely with Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0, a non profit organization that provides training and resources for people with disabilities to gain employment in the media field.
Michael is also a certified Apple Expert where he provides workshops and training on Apple software commonly used at DFC. He strongly supports the DFC's mission, and believes every deaf and hard-of-hearing child can maximize their full potential in filmmaking, photography and acting. He hopes to eventually build a DFC studio at Camp Mark 7.
Deaf Film Camp Assistant Director
Lauren Ridloff’s first cinematic experience took place in her mind, reading books about places that did not exist, people who flew and time traveled. Her love of books and film took her beyond her hometown of Chicago to Washington D.C. and New York City. After exploring theater and majoring in Creative Writing at CSUN, she worked as a teacher in Manhattan, teaching children that they can dream and strive to make those dreams come true. Lauren co-directed Sign Me Alice for NYDT, hosted and directed NYC’s first Deaf rendition of The Vagina Monologues and went on to play a hearing maid in the upcoming, soon-to-be-released movie Wonderstruck. Today she works as a family liaison at Lexington School for the Deaf. Lauren is a true believer of the magic of expressing oneself through creative mediums, be it writing, acting or filmmaking. She believes that Deaf Film Camp is a haven for those who dream.
Storm Smith is known as a visionary storyteller through her work. Storm did not limit herself to only films, but rather expanded her horizons by producing and directing a variety of music videos, sports promotional videos, commercials, including ABC Family Switched at Birth, webinars and interviews. In addition, Storm is a motivational speaker across the nation. She delivered presentations regarding film theories and topics related to the power of passions, identity, and visual storytelling at Harvard University, UCLA, Boston University, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and many more. Storm graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Gallaudet University and she will receive a Master’s Degree in Media Entrepreneurship at American University in May 2016. Currently, Storm is working as a Video Producer/Director specializing in Creative Marketing for the University Communications at Gallaudet University. Aside from living her dreams and making her passions a reality, she continues to be a vibrant role model for all members of the Deaf community, particularly for Deaf people of color. Storm also leads as an example for the hearing community, finding the courage to live a creative life.
Jay Kowalczyk was born in Florida, raised in New York, educated in Maryland and Washington, DC, lived in California and now lives in Austin, TX. He graduated from Gallaudet University with a degree in Social Work, and now serves as a media producer for Convo Communications. His training in Social Work has served him well in this seemingly different role, where his creativity has been allowed to flourish under the tutelage of Wayne Betts, Jr. and with Jarrod Musano's support. Recent works such as Nyle DiMarco - Beyoutiful and Austin - Our Community that Jay helped create at Convo are proof of his talent and the supportive environment in which he works.
Jay considers Deaf Film Camp at Camp Mark Seven to be his second home because he loves both hiking and filming! Camp Mark Seven is surrounded by the stunning Adirondack Mountains and Fourth Lake, and Deaf Film Camp teems with talented filmmakers.... what a perfect place for Jay to spend his summer!
Braam Jordaan consistently inspires others through his involvement in the Deaf community. He sets high standards in his work while drawing inspiration from the very community he is a part of. Uplifting the communities through his visual work, portraying strong messages of hope and happiness is a true reflection of the cultural pride he inherited as a Deaf person.
With over 30 major international awards under his belt for film and animation work, he advocates tirelessly to promote sign language and human rights for Deaf people around the world through his colorful spectrum of work. He works with the United Nations and is a council member of the UNICEF Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities. He has published three children’s books with Cambridge University Press. He is the Director of Creative Marketing for Convo Communications.
Daniel Durant grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, and makes his home wherever his work takes him – which is usually New York, Detroit and LA. As an experienced actor on stage, screen, and social media, Daniel made his Broadway debut in 2015 and continued to shine on Broadway into 2016 as the co-lead role of “Moritz” in Spring Awakening. Daniel has received numerous accolades for this work, being featured in “The 12 Best Broadway Debuts of 2015” (TheatreMania), “Top 10 Best Theatrical Performances of 2015” (Huffington Post) and in the New York Times (“Daniel N. Durant: Telling Stories with His Hands”). Daniel has starred in several Deaf West productions, including the Off-Broadway productions of Spring Awakening (Moritz), Flowers for Algernon (Charlie) and the 2012 production of Cyrano (Bill). Daniel is also a recurring co-star in ABC Family’s Switched at Birth,playing the character of “Matthew” and co-starring in their 2013 Peabody-winning episode entitled “Uprising.”
Daniel is a passionate advocate for the Deaf community, with a life mission of supporting Deaf youth at every opportunity.
Erik Akervall is a master-educated TV-producer from Film and Media at Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. I believe that a production is bor three times, first as an idea, then when its captured on film, and fially at the editing stage. As a producer I'm looking for the core of the story, what make us feel? If we dont feel, something is wrong.I've been course manager for a tv-course: "Television on Swedish Sign Language" and that class is today breaking barriers in Sweden with new TV-formats on European Song Contest. I'm in my fifth year as a self-employed entrepreneur where I've been working as both producer and director for aorund 15 shortfilms and 6 TV-shows, 7 episodes each. Last summer I directed a big TV-show in Norway, for Døves Media (Norwegian Deaf TV) where the format were different; a kind of directed documentary with lots of beautiful drone shots as I'm a drone pilot, too.
I'm also the first deaf person coming up with an international streaming platform with worldwide sign language content, called mondaze.tv - where we provide the opportunity for deaf filmmakers to distribute their work, and still keep the rights of the work.
During my 13 year long career, there's some questions make me strive forward: what does audience really want to see? How can we satisfy an audience who always are in a constant change and movement when it's coming to language and identity? How can I entertain the audience through the visual format, same time I include a kind of public-welfare.
This is what you need to know about Douglas Ridloff. He is a proud resident of Brooklyn, USA. He likes: black coffee, street art and denim. He does: poetry, storytelling and freestyling, all in Sign Language. He is: a fearless visual artist, a poet, a performer, the owner and executive director of ASL SLAM, a monthly open mic event that is much more than just open mic. Ridloff co-produced and performed in ASL in the Raw, a “blue” two-man show. He followed up Jack of All ASL with Capital D, a mixed-media show that was shown nationally. He believes: that Sign Language is something that can be done straight or way out there—doesn’t matter, as long there’s a stage/camera and language freedom.
Ridloff is also co-founder and Chief Executive Director of Start-up business called CineSigns.
Sophia Ballester, passionate about Art and creations: paintings, sculptures, special effects, photographs and cinemas. All these forms relate to her job as a make- up artist specializing in special effects. Sophia's many projects are to participate in short / feature films, TV, photography sessions, theater, fashion and dance. She graduated from the Perth College of Beauty Therapy in Western Australia, and the Métamorphoses School of Make-up Special Effects in Strasbourg, France. She trained with world-renowned make-up artists with Kazuhiro Tsuji and Jordu Schell.
Clare Cassidy is a mother, teacher and photographer. Born Deaf, alongside with her identical twin sister, they both grew up taking photos and making short films. Their love for photography is still very evident nowadays. Clare's first and foremost love of her life would be her three boys, of course her husband and her cat, too. Her three boys are what motivates Clare to pursue her dream to be a traveling photographer. She hopes that her boys see her example and follow suit whenever they discover their dreams. She is always up for challenges, especially when it comes to creating artistic photos of children. Portraiture is her favorite genre, as well as Lifestyle photography. She does weddings, family sessions, birth photography and newborns. She likes to call herself a moments chaser, as she always look for the in-between moments to capture and forever pause through photos.
Originally from Mexico City, Omar Guzman moved to California at the age of 9. His passion for art began early on and is evident in every design he creates. Not only does he work for Convo as their Visual Designer, he also continues working with several Deaf individuals and businesses to produce superior works of art. He enjoys being a role model for the Deaf youth, helping them find their own potential through art and building their confidence to follow their dreams. In his spare time, you can find him going camping! He is truly honored to be a part of Deaf Film Camp and looks forward to joining their stellar team.
DFC would like to recognize two devoted and hardworking individuals/volunteers who have made a significant impact on this unique program from 2013-2015. A special thanks goes to: