THE TEAM

CJ Jones

Executive Producer

CJ was born in St. Louis, MO, one of seven hearing children born to Deaf parents who communicate in American Sign Language. At age 7 he was struck very ill with spinal meningitis, and consequently lost his hearing. After he became deaf, he attended Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD), which teaches in his native American Sign Language.  After his illness, CJ’s residual hearing was too good to qualify for MSD.  So his deaf father, Clarence, fought the MO school system to get CJ a place in the all deaf school.  In this communication rich environment he flourished from a shy hearing boy into a deaf leader.  He was class president, a cub scout, varsity football quarterback, a state pole vault record holder, and 

voted class valedictorian.

 

CJ played Joseph in the 2017 summer hit  "Baby Driver” directed by Edgar Wright and co-starring Ansel Elgort.  This role made CJ the first black deaf actor in an international Blockbuster. In 2017 he played Uriah, a leading role, in the 

indie horror film "Door in the Woods” directed by Chase Goforth. He won Best Actor in the horror movie. CJ was cast as Odin in "Castle Rock", a HULU Original production written by Stephen King. CJ was the first Creator of Na’vi Sign Language and cast in a role with James Cameron for the Avatar sequels.  CJ was on United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.

 

CJ never sits still.  He has developed 3 one man shows that have toured the US, Japan, Sweden, Australia, Ecuador, and Canada. He co-wrote and directed 6 classic fairytales for children’s television, a series called “Once Upon A Sign”. CJ produced the International Sign Language Theater Festival, which hosted theater artists from all over the US, Russia, and Mexico.  CJ’s perseverance and talent make him ready to tackle any role.

 

This year he founded Sign World Studios to write, develop, and produce movies. CJ also founded Elevate, a non profit organization. Our mission is to create post production training program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. 

 

CJ  is a legend in the deaf world, acclaimed for his humor and inspiration. He has done it all: TV, movies, educational films, and theater.  He still perform stand up comedy which is upon requested. He continues to use his never-ending passion in writing, acting, producing, and directing to give back to the deaf and sign language community.

Michelle Baron

Producer

A winner of multiple film, television, theater, and event awards and commendations, Michelle Baron honed her storytelling and production skills leading creative teams at The Walt Disney Company for twenty years.  Starting out as an actress, she became enthralled by the work of the National Theatre of the Deaf, eventually training and teaching at their headquarters at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center and later joining Deaf theater companies in Chicago and Cleveland.  She was involved in Signing In The Way at Downtown Disney. A tireless champion of diversity and inclusion, Michelle was recognized by President Obama with a Points of Light Award for her exceptional efforts in corporate philanthropy and community outreach. 

Heather Smith

Heather L. Smith is a successful deaf designer with over 20 years of experience in the Architectural and Education fields, focusing on physical model building, 3D modeling, and Client Project Visualization. She has industry experience as a physical model builder, 3-D Artist, and, most recently, as an Environmental Graphic Designer with a leading architecture firm in Rochester. After working as a full-time designer, she taught courses at the university level in the 3D Graphics field. She tutored students in the Industrial Design, Interior Design, and 3D Graphics programs at RIT. She was recognized for her skills with teaching and students by winning the Outstanding Teaching Award for Non-Tenure Track faculty at RIT in 2017. Her energy and enthusiasm for her work and teaching are infectious! She is in-demand for her skills in 3D and visual media design.
 

She currently co-owns and is the head 3D and VFX designer for One Monkey Studios, with her partner in crime, Kurt Stoskopf.  She works full-time for Sign World Studios as a lead 3D artist, animator, and VFX. As part of her role at Sign World Studios, she hosts professional skills training workshops for students and adults looking to develop their technical skills for use in the industry.

Kurt Stoskopf

Consultant

Kurt was born profoundly Deaf and grew up in a midwestern farm town where there were very few deaf people around. He developed a love of comic books, reading, writing, and drawing as an escape from the frustrations of trying to fit in a place where few people, aside from family and close friends, showed an interest in trying to communicate with him.  His parents did their best to make sure he knew what was going on and made sure that he missed no opportunity to learn and develop skills. Growing up, Kurt didn’t have time to listen to the people who said he “can’t do that!”

 

Creatively, Kurt has worked in different fields, co-owning and running a freelance design studio, One Monkey Studio, with his partner-in-crime, Heather Smith-Schmitz. He has taught at the university level for over 23 years in the drawing, graphic design, and 3D graphics areas. Kurt has worked as an illustrator for a company creating cartoon illustrations for K-12 school lunch menus for schools across the USA.  Kurt is a jack-of-all-trades, able to handle the creative, technical, and business issues for Sign World Studios. He is always coming up with solutions for the problems du jour.

 

Kurt enjoys working with ideas, helping others develop and refine their creative vision. He is known for his quiet and offbeat sense of humor. 

Krissy Lemon

Creative Director

Krissy Lemon is a Puerto Rican-American versatile actress for seven years. She became deaf at the age of 5 and her immediate family are deaf as well. 

Growing up in Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, she found her passion on stage and was involved in the dance program when she was eight years old. She was cast as Sarah Norman in “Children of a Lesser God” at a local community theatre. Afterwards, she enrolled at the Florida School of the Art and graduated with an AA degree in Acting at FLOARTS. She received “Against the Odds” LeRoy Alumni Award (voted by State of Florida collegiate) for being the only deaf student/actress in her college who pursued her dreams successfully regardless of her deafness.

In 2016, she was a traveling performer with RIT/NTID’s Sunshine 2.0 troupe. She performed at many schools in the northeastern area (deaf, mainstream and public) to educate the importance of STEM through performance and to present workshops.

Krissy worked as an assistant dance instructor at Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind [FSDB Dance Troupe]. Her responsibility includes working with individual students on their talent for their upcoming performance and overseeing class when needed. She also worked as an After-School Recreation Staff overseeing and creating fun activities ranging elementary to high school. She enjoyed teaching painting with kids. 

In 2018, She worked with CJ Jones at VSA  (Very Special Arts), for a one week  artist-in-residency workshop/performance with deaf children in a mainstream school in West Palm Beach, Florida.

 

Her previous film work was “Tacet.” She played a deaf edgy musician named Luna. At the Independent Shorts Award, she won platinum Best Acting Duo with her acting partner, Virgo Martinez in “Tacet.” The short film also won several awards such as Best LGBTQ Short and Best Women Short. The film has been selected in film festivals internationally and won other awards too.

​She was in the Deaf West’s spring production of Orphée. She played as Azrael and Clerk. 

Erika Chirino

Community & Events Coordinator

Graduated at University of Central Florida as First Generation, Erika is a Cuban-American raised by deaf parents and she is hard-of-hearing. Her adversity fitting in two world both Hearing and Deaf motivated her to bring stories to life empowering diversity and inclusion. Her parents inspired her to hone special talents designed for life's purpose despite having a disability. During her study in Professional Selling and Marketing, she worked overnight shifts at a 24/7 study lounge, served as a Vice President in a Business Professional Coed Fraternity, served as a Sales Coach for a Collegiate International Sales competition, founded and led a Google Marketing Challenge Program and a Spokesperson for an SAE International Formula One Race Competition all while being a full time student. She became a resilient, hard working independent woman with servant leadership and compassion to serve the Deaf community. Upon graduation, Erika challenged herself to create a new chapter by driving 2,700+ miles to Los Angeles and pursue a career in Sales. Little did she planned, Los Angeles shifted her path to pursue her original childhood dream that was swept away after her teachers and peers disagreed with her desire for a career path in performing arts. She was passionate in performing arts and thrived on stage from second grade until beginning High School. She chose to study marketing and sales as the closest way to connect and share stories with the audience. Meanwhile pursuing acting and music in Los Angeles, Erika is currently a Property Manager managing three apartment buildings and a Community & Events Coordinator at a nonprofit called Elevate at Sign World Studios. Her overall mission is to inspire and empower deaf community to pursue their own dreams, not other people's dreams.

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