Marlee Matlin’s new reality show, My Deaf Family

View original article here.

When Hollywood came knocking, the Firl family of Livermore opened their door and let in a film crew to document their lives for a new reality TV series.

The family was asked to do just what they normally do on a weekend. No easy task, especially when one of the Tinseltown team members in their home was Academy Award-winning actress and fledgling producer Marlee Matlin. Matlin’s production company, Solo One, selected Leslie Firl and Bridgetta Bourne-Firl and their four children to be the subject of a new show called “My Deaf Family.”

“It was hilarious,” Bourne-Firl said of the experience. “We were supposed to do things like we normally do, except with three sign language interpreters, two cameramen, one sound man and three producers, including the celebrity Marlee Matlin, following us around.”

What makes the Firl family unique is that the parents and two children are deaf, while two other children are hearing. The premise of the series is to closely examine how deaf and hearing family members get along under the same roof and interact with the outside world. Each is given screen time to show and tell of the joys and challenges of being in a family in which some members hear and some don’t.

Matlin and crew came to the Bay Area from L.A. this past January and shot 16 hours of footage. The cameras followed the Firls to a basketball tournament at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, where Bridgetta works as the outreach department director and Leslie is a high school teacher.

As well as being behind the camera, Matlin also is on screen, serving as an interviewer, asking questions and joining in on activities. A pilot episode has been shown to network TV executives and is posted on YouTube.

At this time, no network has picked up the show, but Matlin is hoping that by posting the pilot on the Web, enough enthusiastic Web viewers (more than 90,000 at this writing) will influence a TV broadcaster to add the show to the network’s roster.

When asked why they were willing to have their lives exposed to thousands or possibly millions of viewers, Bourne-Firl said, “It’s the magnitude of awareness that may happen. In my work, I have been among the first deaf adults whom hearing parents with newly identified deaf or hard-of-hearing babies have ever met. But if they were to see my deaf children, Sabrina and Gideon, they would then know that there’s really nothing their deaf children cannot do.

“We hope to show the world the reality of our lives. We’re as normal as our neighbors, except that we are bilingual, using American Sign Language and written/spoken English at home.”

The nine-minute pilot can be viewed at www.youtube.com/mydeaffamily.

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