Marty Elcan and Bob Hiltermann see the Signs

May, 2, 2012

Marty Elcan is a Hollywood-based Director with over 25 years of production experience, who has worked on numerous movies and television shows.  She’s always been fascinated by American Sign Language, which led her to her latest project “Shut Up and Sign.”  We caught up with Marty recently and asked her about this new venture.

Hollywood Revealed: Tell us how you got involved in Sign Language?

Marty Elcan: I was in the International singing group “Up With People” right after high school and a small group of us went to a deaf school to entertain the kids. I’m not quite sure about the logic of a singing group going to a deaf school, but the kids were so radiant and enthusiastic about us being there, and they taught us some of their songs in Sign Language. I was hooked. I studied it for a brief time many, many years ago, and then got too busy to continue it when I started working in the film industry.

HR: So what got you interested again?

Marty Elcan: I had the opportunity to work with actress Marlee Matlin on two different projects and though she was so appreciative of my efforts to communicate with her directly instead of an interpreter, I realized how rusty I was. A couple of years ago, I was “between assignments” as we say, and I decided to take a brush up class. That turned out to be a career-expanding decision!

HR: How so?

Marty Elcan:When I first entered Bob Hiltermann’s ASL (American Sign Language) class, I wondered if I had walked into an improv performance. The students were laughing out loud at the teacher’s antics, and were so fascinated by this crazy animated teacher that they all enthusiastically echoed

Marty Elcan

the signs he was teaching. A natural comedian, he made learning fun.At the beginning of some of the classes, Bob occasionally played 30-minute clips of several different Sign Language series currently on the market. Compared to Bob’s teaching style, these were deadly stodgy and boring, and almost unwatchable, so a light bulb went off. I talked to Bob about collaborating on a new Sign Language series that could incorporate his entertaining style, and he was immediately on board.

HR: Had Bob ever done anything like this before?

Marty Elcan: Well, as it turned out, besides being a teacher, Bob’s also an actor. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. He played Orin in the movie “Children of a Lesser God,” then he did another project with Marlee Matlin — the Hallmark movie “Bridge to Silence.” From there, he had a recurring role for a year on “All My Children,” a guest-starring stint on “Cold Cases,” a role in “The Hammer,” and he is one of four stars in the much acclaimed documentary “See What I’m Saying.” He’s also the drummer for the world’s only all-deaf band “Beethoven’s Nightmare” which is now well-known around the world, and he’s currently performing in the Deaf West Theater production of “Cyrano.”

HR: So how did this acting background help with Sign Language?

Marty Elcan: We set out to make learning Sign Language FUN, and with Bob, no idea was too zany to explore. We wanted a series that would teach with humor. He teaches the signs in a clear way, but we also developed a wide array of characters doing skits to reinforce the lessons, and all of those characters are played by Bob. Somewhere along the way, we decided to do a song in Sign Language for each of the dvd “episodes” and those have turned into full music video productions. In one of them, Bob plays nine characters, all floating on clouds.

HR: It’s one thing to get the idea for something like this, but another to get it made. How did you know how to do that?

Marty Elcan: I’ve worked in the Film and Television production for over 25 years. As an Assistant Director, I worked with Elizabeth Taylor, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, Kevin Costner, Brad Pitt, Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett… on shows such as “Steel Magnolias,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Mystic Pizza,” “Amazing Stories,” “Six Feet Under, “Inherit the Wind” (with George C. Scott and Jack Lemmon).  I’ve had the good fortune to work with and learn from such directors as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Bruce Beresford, Dan Petrie and Clint Eastwood. Several years ago, I started directing, and with 4 award-winning shorts and a mixture of other projects under my belt, I got to direct my first feature film “Next of Kin.”

HR: And Bob? What’s his background?

Marty Elcan: Wow. Interesting story!  He grew up in Germany. He was the tenth child of eleven. Bob was born hearing, but he had only recently discovered that he became deaf at the age of four when he had spinal meningitis. Shortly thereafter, when he was six, his family moved to Canada. Between moving to a new country and adjusting to a different life, and eleven children to care for, Bob’s parents didn’t realize Bob was deaf!!! They just thought he was “slow.” Keep in mind that not only couldn’t he hear, but everyone was now talking in a new language he didn’t know. His family just assumed he had learning disabilities. Bob wondered so himself, because he could see others communicate so easily, and it was so hard for him. It wasn’t until he was ten years old that a hearing test showed he was deaf. But by now, his family had grown accustomed to treating him as if he were mentally challenged. Knowing how smart he is, I can only imagine how frustrating this time was for him. He says his memories from the ages of ten to seventeen are far from happy.  When he was 17, a counselor suggested he go to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. There, he was first introduced to Sign Language and it changed his life. I think that’s why it’s so important to him now to share the joy of Sign Language with others.

HR: Is this series for children only?

Marty Elcan: No, not at all. The series is for anyone “from age 8 to 108.” We heard about a nine-year old addicted to video-games who watched the series and now he goes for days without talking – only signing. He’s trying to get Sign Language taught at his school! Then another customer in his sixties told us he owns every Sign Language series out there and this is the only one that clicked – he says it’s the best and most entertaining series on the market. By the way, for anyone who already knows basic Signs, we also have three “Reading Fingerspelling” practice DVDs (Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced) that are each about an hour of finger-spelled words and great reading practice.

HR: So how can someone get the DVDs?

Marty Elcan: Thanks for asking!!!  Click HERE   There’s a big sale going on right now!

You can also email Marty c/o

The Artist and George Clooney Score Big with Golden Globe Nominations

Beverly Hills, December 15, 2011

The Golden Globe Nominations for 2011 were announced this morning and a black and white silent film, The Artist led the pack with six nominations. The Descendents that some critics found to a big screen TV drama not worthy of all the award buzz also fared well, as did the southern drama, The Help. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris also become a front runner. The George Clooney directed Ides of March was recognized as was Clooney’s co-star in that film, Ryan Gosling, who received two nods. Even Brad Pitt got some love for his fine turn in Moneyball as did Michael Fassbender for his gutsy, balls out acting in Shame.

For the women, Michelle Williams was recognized for her work in My Week with Marilyn as was Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady.

The brilliantly funny Bridesmaids went to the wedding today and Charlize Theron scored with her acting in Young Adult.

But it was some of the films that did not get mentioned that will be tweeted about in Tinsel Town today.

Perhaps most notably, the complete shutout of a perceived Oscar front-runner, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a post-9/11 drama from Stephen Daldry and the producer Scott Rudin. Steven Spielberg also fared poorly, with his old-fashioned War Horse only picking up a pair of nominations and Mr. Spielberg missing from the best director category.

Here is a complete list of nominees.


Best Picture (Drama)
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March
War Horse

Best Picture (Comedy/Musical)
The Artist
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn

Best Actor in a Drama
George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Actor in a Comedy
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Ryan Gosling, Crazy Stupid Love
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

Best Actress in a Drama
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Actress in a Comedy
Jodie Foster, Carnage
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Michele Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Kate Winslet, Carnage

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shaline Woodley, The Desecendants

Best Director
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Michel Hazavanicious, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Best Screenplay
Midnight in Paris
The Ides of March
The Artist
The Descendants

Best Foreign Film
The Flowers of War
In the Land of Blood of Honey
The Kid With a Bike
A Separation
The Skin I Live In

Best Original Score
Ludovic Bource , The Artist
Abel Korzeniowski, W.E.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
Howard Shore, Hugo
John Williams, War Horse

Best Animated Feature Film
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss In Boots

Best Original Song
“Hello Hello,” Gnomeo & Juliet (Elton John)
“Lay Your Head Down,” Albert Nobbs (Sinead O’Connor)
“The Living Proof,” The Help (Mary J. Blige)
“The Keeper,” Machine Gun Preacher (Gerard Butler)
“Masterpiece,” W.E. (Madonna)


Best Drama Series
American Horror Story
Boardwalk Empire
Game of Thrones

Best Comedy Series
Modern Family
New Girl

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Cinema Verite
Downton Abbey
The Hour
Mildred Pierce
Too Big to Fail

Best Actor (Drama)
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Kelsey Grammer, Boss
Jeremy Irons, The Borgias
Damian Lewis, Homeland

Best Actress (Drama)
Claire Danes, Homeland
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Madeleine Stowe, Revenge
Callie Thorne, Necessary Roughness

Best Actor (Comedy)
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
David Duchovny, Californication
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Thomas Jane, Hung
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Best Actress (Comedy)
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Big C
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Best Actor (Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television)
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Idris Elba, Luther
William Hurt, Too Big to Fail
Bill Nighy, Page Eight
Dominic West, The Hour

Best Actress (Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television)
Romola Garai, The Hour
Diane Lane, Cinema Verite
Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey
Emily Watson, Appropriate Adult
Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Best Supporting Actor (Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce
Tim Robbins, Cinema Verite
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family

Best Support Actress (Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television)
Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”
Kelly Macdonald, “Boardwalk Empire”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Sofía Vergara, “Modern Family”
Evan Rachel Wood, “Mildred Pierce”

The Globes will be presented on January 15, 2012, and will once again be hosted by the hilarious UK comic, Ricky Gervais.



A review:

Quintin Tarantino’s latest film is a gory, delicious and highly stylized revenge fantasy that is in many ways reminiscent of the action-packed, episodic Saturday afternoon matinee films of long ago.

Inglourious Basterds begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz).

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine

Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.

Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution. Known to Nazis as “The Basterds,” Raine’s squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich.

Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus

Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus

Everything comes to a boil under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own.

Tarantino takes his time to unfold several layers of the story and at times certain scenes play out like an Agatha Christie play, with scenes that build and build as pieces of the puzzle are revealed in a explosion of gun fire.

A number of actors shine brightly. Most notably Christof Waltz as the Nazi Colonel known to his men as “The Jew Hunter.” Waltz in an Academy baiting performance is at the center of the story with his multi-lingual bad guy character who always gets him man (or woman).

Diane Kruger, oozing old-school glamor as German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark, and Daniel Bruhl as Nazi war hero Fredrick Zoller who’s about to become a star by playing himself in a propaganda film about his exploits both give excellent performances.

Perhaps the most human and sympathetic performance is by French actress, Mélanie Laurent whose beauty and vulnerability makes us squirm as she falls into “The Jew Hunter’s” trap.

Brad Pitt is fun to watch as the fearless good-ole-boy Lieutenant Aldo Raine who lets nothing stand in the way of his mission or his personal convictions.  Great cameos from Mike Myers as a stuffy old British General and Australian actor, Rod Taylor as Winston Churchill.

Cinematography by Robert Richardson is rich and beautiful. Production design by David Wasco is detailed and impressive. Sally Menke’s editing is sharp.

Inglourious Basterds is violent, colorful and thought provoking. Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction, it is certainly the most fun to be had in the cinema this summer so far.

We give it: ****