An Interview with film director and editor Bim Ajadi.

  • Bim, you are an incredible director and filmmaker, Night Shift the short film you directed is doing well in the Short Film Festivals. Please tell us your journey into film and production? What inspired you to become a director and what obstacles did you have to overcome?

I initially took up graphic design as a temporary means to earn money, my heart wasn’t set on it until I met a particular 3D animator artist. I was fortunate to meet them on a bespoke course where I had one to one training funded by the Arts Council.  Although I enjoyed the 3D animation stint, I was more interested in the editing process – so I then decided to pursue a career along those lines and started working in an edit post house. I worked my way up the ladder from being a runner to staff editor. I side stepped into directing by accident, when I was asked to direct a short music video as the original director was ill. It was then I realised I had found my true calling and I haven’t looked back since! 

Still to this day I continue to face obstacles of ignorance and discrimination. There are elements of ‘adjustment’, albeit understandable, when working through interpreters. This dynamic of communication inevitably has a transitional period for those who are not familiar with working this way. Unfortunately, you do encounter some people that have a lack of patience or the perceptiveness to adapt. However, I am finding people are becoming more aware and open to working with me as a director who happens to be deaf.

  • How did you get involved with Hear Art and what attracted you to their project?

I was approached by Cindy Sasha and Rachel Shenton – co founders of Hear Art and was attracted to the prospect of creating a film to empower deaf characters in a mainstream setting.  It was nice to have the opportunity to have full creative licence when making the short film. Having previously worked predominantly on productions broadcast on deaf media platforms, I don’t always have the freedom to make the films I want to make.  In regards to the narrative, it was refreshing to tell the story of a deaf character that doesn’t inhabit a ‘poor me’ persona that is often portrayed in mainstream film. 

  • Louise Stern wrote Night Shift, what attracted you to the script? Why did you want to shoot the film in black and white? What did you want the audience to understand and feel?

It was a dream to work with Louise Stern as she’s one of the most acclaimed deaf writers, certainly one I ticked off my bucket list. It was a real privilege and enjoyable experience collaborating with Louise. We were attracted to the idea of exploring deaf perspectives on humanity which is not often portrayed in a positive light.  We explored the idea of a deaf security guard, which in the real world may not be considered possible. We wanted to challenge that, highlighting the qualities that a deaf security guard would have compared to a hearing security guard, the ability of reading people’s body language and having a connection despite the communication differences. We were keen to show that deaf people are equals with feelings and empathy. In addition, we wanted to explore specifically the representation of a black male’s mental health, allowing them to drop the facade of always having to appear strong, especially in a females presence. 

The black and white factor was inspired and strongly influenced by La Haine, in tone and style, this film is partly paying a homage to one of my favourite films. As the film is about observation, I wanted the viewers to be immersed in the ‘deaf eye’. For me shooting it in black and white would fine-tune the audiences perspective, honing them into our characters journey and their solely visual experience navigating this world. 

Utilising strong visual film grammar, I represented the journey of our two lead characters relationship. For example, at the beginning of the film they are framed mostly with their backs to the screen and a distance apart. By the end of the film the visual composition of their relationship changes and we see them framed facing each other and closer. Throughout the film I tried to demonstrate the development of this relationship visually in a subtle way. 

  • How was your experience directing Night Shift? Did you feel supported by Hear Art throughout the process?

I had an enjoyable time directing Night Shift, despite it being a really cold outdoors on a night shoot from 6pm to 6am, which I’ve not done before. The crew and cast were brilliant and were fully on board.  I particularly enjoyed working with Kia Fern, the DoP.  We seemed to have a telepathic connection, we both shared the same vision which made my job as director so much easier.  Hear Art was really supportive throughout the whole project, their faith in me never wavered and with that they gave me full creative reign. 

Admittedly I was initially worried about my involvement in this opportunity being for ‘tokenistic’ reasons, but that was never the case. I was treated as a Director first and foremost, who just happens to be deaf. 

  • What is it like navigating the creative industry as a deaf creative? How do you think the industry can better serve deaf talent?

Simply it needs to be more open minded in working with deaf creatives. It’s always useful for hearing cast and crew to have some form of deaf awareness training beforehand as that will help them soon realise that we’re not that different to hearing creatives and there is no need to treat us any different from anyone else.

  • What advice would you give to a young inspiring director?

Keep knocking on doors despite rejection.  Believe in yourself, which is an easy thing to say as I often have self doubt – ‘Am I good enough? Would they understand me?’ Etc.  But as long as you know where your passion lies and have clarity of your vision, you will go far.  With the right people, many do listen and they want to help so don’t be afraid to approach people who have not worked with deaf creatives.  What I’ve found is many people are always keen to learn new things in their life and a collaboration with deaf creatives often enriches their work for the better.