Helping the Deaf community express themselves through online scriptwriting tools and short films

Giving the deaf community a chance to express themselves through films is one of the reasons behind the winning solution of SilentSHOUT, at a unique social enterprise programme called Changeweekend.

The team created the Story Launcher and Story Bank online solutions for the deaf community to write scripts and motivate them into producing short films.

The solutions are accessed through a website and provide a step-by-step guide for deaf individuals to develop characters and plots for their short film scripts. A dictionary tool is also included to help the users expand on their vocabulary and support their creative process in developing a film plot.

SilentSHOUT executive producer and mentor Nurul Oyun Mohd Salleh says this online solution would make it easier for deaf individuals to develop their storylines and encourage them to be creative about producing a film.

Nurul says the deaf community are usually 'left behind' because they do not speak the 'same' language as others. "People see that they are able-bodied but don't realise they are disadvantaged because they can't communicate in the spoken language like the rest of us," she told Yahoo! Malaysia.

She says that the deaf community tend to 'fall behind' in school or work due to the lack of good interpreters or a good support system. "They can't even answer phone calls to confirm an airline booking or credit card transaction, it's as simple as that. People don't realise that this all part of the deaf culture," she added.

"We want to help the disabled, particularly the deaf. So we have to start somewhere. Film-making gives this community a chance to express themselves," Nurul explains.

Nurul and her colleagues, co-founders of SilentSHOUT Lim Chia Wei and Chee Huay Woon are passionate about supporting this disabled group. The three have learnt sign language themselves to be able to communicate with the community they serve.

Lim shared that film-making is a new field among the Malaysian Deaf community, and it takes time for the community to warm up to the practice of short film production. "SilentSHOUT encourages them to step out of their comfort zones to learn a new skill," she added.

They started the SilentSHOUT social enterprise to inspire, empower and help the hearing impaired community to develop skills and build confidence in expressing themselves. SilentSHOUT had organised two annual short film festivals since 2011 to encourage the deaf to showcase their talent and provide a voice to share their stories and successes.

The Story Launcher and Story bank online solutions were developed with the help of technological experts at Changeweekend, a 10-month programme to encourage the growth of social enterprises in Asia. The programme cum competition is organised by Social Enterprise Alliance Malaysia (SEA) and myHarapan.

Participants received training and consultation from specialists on how to improve their operations, marketing strategies and develop their services, particularly in the social sector. The winning solution from Changeweekend earned a cash prize of RM5,000. All online solutions developed from Changeweekend were retained by the organisations to be used or further developed.

Social enterprises that took part in Changeweekend were Eat, Shoots and Roots, GiftCard.My, Challenges Malaysia magazine by the disabled community, Yayasan Sejahtera and United Voice. These organisations support various causes including sustainable agriculture, volunteerism, and promote the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

SEA director Ellynita Hazlina Lamin shared that it was a fascinating process to watch how social entrepreneurs learn and develop their projects. "Social entrepreneurs developing projects, should bring back these ideas to the community to test them. This helps avoid mismatching of services and community needs," she explained.

SEA has plans to expand the scope of the programme to include entrepreneurs who are in more advance stage of developing their enterprises.