Janis Cole (Phd.) Culture, Language, Literature & Literacy educator and consultant; Diversity Facilitator, ASL/English CDI interpreter, International Sign interpreter, Creative arts consultant, actor, director and producer and CEO - LesDeux2 Productions. Janis was a faculty member with the ASL/Deaf Studies Department at Gallaudet University and currently, she is an adjunct professor at Gallaudet University and a Phd candidate, Translation/Interpretation (pedagogy/research) at Gallaudet University as well. She has done work at Boston University with the ASL/Deaf Studies/Deaf Education program. Janis was with National Theatre of the Deaf - The Three Musketeers, on Broadway Children of a Lesser God as well as in Chicago and Buffalo, NY. Janis has had numerous experiences working as an ASL consultant for various shows. Janis was the co-founder of Hands-on Theatre in NYC in 1980 including several Broadway (The Elephant Man with David Bowie; Annie; The Who’s Tommy; The Pirates of Penzance; Fiddler on the Roof, just to name a few) and Off- Broadway shows; Broadway in Boston, The Huntington Theatre Company; The Wang Center: RENT, The Phantom Opera, Miss Saigon to name a few as well.
Tim has been involved in various aspects of the Deaf community for over 35 years. He has also been involved in a wide variety of initiatives involving “differing needs”, including workshops in education, inclusive technology and accessible media. Interest in these areas started when during Tim’s childhood, his father ran an Easter Seals camp for special needs children. Tim’s wife runs a sign language interpreting agency and his father in law graduated from Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and appears in photographs in the campus museum. Tim has also spent time in media production with experience ranging from film, television, live events and credited roles in feature length films. In the past, Tim has worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation, Walt Disney Imagineering, Harcourt School Publishers and University of Central Florida. Tim now leads a national team of creative experts for a major consumer electronics company. He holds a Masters degree in Education Leadership and a Bachelors degree in Organizational Leadership and sits on the board of directors for one of the fastest growing private K-12 schools in Central Florida.
Gary hails from Connecticut and is new to the South Bay.
Gary currently is employed at El Camino College as the Director of the Special Resource Center/ASL/Interpreter Training Programs.
Prior to coming to California, Gary, a Nationally Certified Interpreter, has worked as an Interpreter within a variety of settings. His passion is Theatrical Interpreting having interpreted for The Bushnell Memorial Performing Arts Center in Hartford, CT., The Yale Reparatory Theatre in New Haven, CT., The Shubert Theatre, New Haven, CT., as well as having interpreted for The National Theatre of the Deaf, (NTD). Gary is also a Board member of NTD-CT.
Gary has worked overseeing support services for students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing working as the Director/Program Coordinator of the Collegiate Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing/ASL/Interpreter Preparation Programs at Northwestern Conn. Community College in Winsted, CT. Prior to working at Northwestern Conn. Community College, (his alma mater), Gary worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation/Rehabilitation Counselor/for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, with the State of Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services for 14 years, as well as being a Licensed Professional Counselor by the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Gary, a native signer is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), and his wife, Rose who is Deaf now reside in the South Bay with their son Marcus who is a 5th generation alumnus from the American School for the Deaf, who is a Film Maker majoring in Film at El Camino College. Gary is excited to be a part of this journey with Sign World Studios.
Manny Johnson | ASL Nook
Originally made in Georgia, Manny is finally living in the weirdest city – the beloved Austin, Texas. He is a feminist dad to two crazy, adventurous girls. Sometimes his wife feels like Manny is the third kid. Manny is quite the joker, sweet potato lover, and chameleon who blends in with all kinds of people.
You may recognize Manny from ASL Nook, a web series lasting 5 years, Deaf Out Loud documentary, or even, the viral Disney Commercial. Manny is the father of emerging Deaf actress Shaylee Mansfield who recently appeared in Noelle by Disney+ (2019), Bunk'D by Disney Channel (2020), Feel the Beat by Netflix (2020), and 13 Minutes (TBD).
Manny is a fierce advocate for authentic representation on and behind the screen including our very own Deaf talent.
Michael Kaufer | Deaf Film Camp
Michael Kaufer is the Director of the Deaf Film Camp (DFC) program at Camp Mark 7 and has been a long-time supporter of CM7 by raising funds since 2010. He was an educator of Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing (HOH), Hearing and KODA children for more than 25 years, most of them at New York City public schools. Upon retiring from teaching, he became an Apple Specialist where he works with different type of customers.
Since 2015, Michael also 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 media.
In addition to his incredible list of involvement, Michael was asked to be one of the judges for Clin d’Oeil during the summer of 2019 and was a part of the running committee for OIOL 2020 Film Festival in Washington DC.
Finally, Michael believes that every Deaf/HOH child who aspire to be in the media, absolutely can achieve their dreams. As a Director for DFC, he knew how important it was to recognize those young children's dreams and to propel it into reality. In a way, you can say that he is one of the most active advocate for future Deaf/HOH filmmakers.
Kansas City native, graduate of Yale University, resident of Brooklyn, New York, and proud Ravenclaw.
26 years of advertising work earned JD Michaels Titanium Lions, Black Pencils, Gold of many shapes (including three ADCOLOR awards) and the AAF MOSAIC award; but his combined positions as EVP Director of Creative Engineering and EVP Director of Diversity for BBDO New York gave him the chance to combine dynamic creativity with active social dignity.
And now, Jd serves as the distinguished-grey half of michaels.adams., a worldwide arts and technology house, where he and Casey Adams head an international collective of creative professionals that combine technology, traditional crafts, fine art, (and often duct tape) to realize innovative art, education, and community service initiatives. Season One of their StoriesAboutUs™ publishing imprint features fiction from the American Disability community, available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Audible.
Specialties: Management, Engineering, Education, Magic, Production, Design, Orchestral Composition, Communication (Mass and Interpersonal), Live Performance, Realization of the Impossible, Inclusion and Tangible Harmony, and an Actually Quite Delicious Homemade Cauliflower Based Pizza Crust.
Jean Marie Russo
“It's about people. It's about making a difference. It's about being the difference.”
Each of us should have a Mantra to live by; to be remembered by; to embrace and share the thoughts and words you are most passionate about, as it defines you when you are no longer here, leaving a legacy and continuing to makes a difference.
For Jean Marie (Jeannie) Russo life is all about people, appreciating and living every moment; appreciating people and never taking for granted the people you meet in life; and being an advocate and the voice of others. She is blessed as a Mom to an amazing and inspiring son; a beautiful and intelligent daughter-in-law; and the proud Nana of three; a Mentor, Coach, Speaker’s Agent and Literary Agent; Writer, Consultant and a Caregiver for 20+ years.
It’s about people. Giving back is what life is all about. Jeannie was on the Board and active in pioneering the first Woman’s Leadership Organization and created and served on the first Disability & Inclusion Board and Team at Abbott Laboratories. She was on the Board of Directors for the Domestic Violence Project for 8+ years; she held various Officer capacities on the Board of Directors with various Organizations and Associations, such as: North American Benefit Association, known as: Women’s Life Association for 15+ years; Kenosha Woman’s Network (A Woman’s Business Network), and held various capacities, being active in her church, serving on the Worship, Ministry of Care, CCD Instructor, RCIA Instructor, and Renew Group Leader.
It’s about making a difference. Diversity & Inclusion, Education. Impacting lives of those with whom we meet is a daily opportunity. Throughout Jean’s career she held various positions with Diversity and Inclusion, including involvement with Corporate HR, Diversity & Inclusion with Abbott Laboratories, creating and serving on the Disability Board at Abbott Laboratories; submitting, maintaining EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) records and documents; working directly with editors and publishers of news media journals, submitting creating Cover Stories on Leadership Diversity & Inclusion articles for Diversity Journals on behalf of Abbott Laboratories; Working directly with
Working Mother Magazine, coordinating; providing information and completing a 500 page document to achieving #1 the Best Of List status for the first time of Working Mother Magazine. Diversity & Inclusion crosses over all areas of the business, not just HR.
It’s about being a difference. Education and knowledge make the difference. Jeannie received her Paralegal Certification from Carthage College, Kenosha, WI; she holds a Degree in Executive, Medical, Legal Administration; Public Relations; and Modeling.
She shared her pearls of wisdom with 25+ years in the Global Corporate world, along with her competencies: skills, knowledge and experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry, working with Corporations such as Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie Inc., E.I. DuPont, Baxter Travenol and American Hospital Supply Corporation in various capacities: Operations, Engineering, Technology, IT Security, Sales, Marketing, Business Insights, Diversity & Inclusion, Human Resources, Training and Development; Global Corporate Meeting and Event Planning. Life changed after caring for and the passing of both her parents; she decided to take early retirement to embark on the next chapter in her life, sharing her Pearls of Wisdom, focusing on her writing, and being a Speaker and Literary Agent for 23 Global Influential Speakers.
Jeannie works with Corporations, Trade Associations, Organizations, Media, Entertainment and Event Promotion Companies Worldwide to inspire and empower audiences promoting and booking exclusively webinars, Virtual Meetings, Virtual Summits promoting the top tier talent of her Speakers, Authors, and Global Experts in their various platforms and highlighting the "Speaking of Success, Inc" family of speakers, entertainers, musicians, entrepreneurs, actors, military veterans, professionals; bar none, excelling at what they do best. She is currently in the process of writing books her own as well as being a Ghost Writer and Co-Hosting a Global Radio Broadcast on WGLRO, the Donny Walker Morning Show, “Speaking of Success Live” highlighting her Global Influential Speakers. Truly, Jeannie is humbled and excited to be a part of the Advisory Board of Sign World Media as continues to stand and live by her Mantra: It's all about people, making a difference, being the difference.
Storm Smith | Producer, BBDO Los Angeles
Advocate and Thought Leader
Storm Smith is a producer at BBDO Los Angeles - with the lead of Diversity Inclusion and Accessibility function within the production unit for AT&T. She’s also the first Deaf woman to have been recruited by BBDO through the agency’s Creative Residency program, offering
multicultural professionals an introduction to advertising via residency at BBDO. She continues in roles of creative director for collaborative projects, motivational speakers on larger scale events, and a thought leader for change in the creative and advertising industry.
Storm joined BBDO Worldwide in 2017 as an art director. Her storytelling work immediately helped shine a positive light on critical societal issues such as people with disabilities, gender equality and people of color. For example, she worked on the “It’s Time to Redefine” campaign as part of International Women’s Day, which sought to change the online dictionary definition of woman.
She’s also worked closely with the Ford Foundation on Roadmap for Inclusion report and thought leaders in the industry to push for greater change in the representation of diversity and disability in the media. Collaborations have included working with Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin, Tony Award nominee and Marvel’s Eternal’s actress Lauren Ridloff for the Deaf non-profit organization and Harlem Globetrotter Crissa Jackson on behalf of her advocacy for young girls in sports, Gallaudet University on the most recent “We Belong” campaign and co-wrote with Netflix’s Politician’s actress and advocate Natasha Ofili in rare visual storytelling of “Am I Next?” featuring Black Deaf Community for the historic Black Lives Matter movement. Storm have served her role at Deaf Film Camp to support the diverse Deaf youth and teach an effective storytelling in post- production. She appointed as an advisor for Crip Camp x Adobe Fellowship program (follow by the impact campaign for Award-winning Netflix Documentary’s Crip Camp).
Storm’s tireless efforts to promote diversity, accessibility and inclusion have earned her a prestigious award from the City of Los Angeles, as well as numerous major publications featured in PopSugar, Billboard, Muse by CLIO, Campaign, TV Guide, Adweek, AdAge and more.
Local 600 Camera Operator
Neil Watson is a Director, Producer, Writer and Director of Photography living in Los Angeles. He was born and raised in the town of Aguadilla on the north west coast of Puerto Rico. At a very young age, Neil was filming surfing and skating videos with his friends, telling stories of his youth in a small town. Life took over and he left his passion in order to work and make a living as a bartender and a variety of other jobs. He moved to Florida to make a life for himself. After many years of moving around the east coast and working different jobs, Neil found the opportunity to realize his dream as a filmmaker. He attended Full Sail University and shortly after began working as Production Assistant and later Camera Assistant on many spanish tv shows. Georgia was next and there he moved up and worked on many shows as a Camera Operator including Sharknado 3 and American Ninja Warrior. Wanting to tell his own stories, Neil decided to make the move to Los Angeles 4 years ago, where he continues to work as a Local 600 Camera Operator on independent feature films as well as big studio features like James Cameron's Avatar Sequels. He has written and directed award winning short films and commercials in addition to music videos and is currently writing his first feature film. In 2019 Neil and his partner Veronica Smith set up their production company called Film Dreams Inc. where they produce films, music videos, commercials, sizzle reels, etc. from concept to final product.