The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Bella Edmondson, Staff Editor • June 19, 2024
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SMU student wins Academy Award for documentary

Historically SMU seems to be attractive to people who go on to become famous, influential or well accomplished after graduation, including the current First Lady Laura Bush and film and television producer Aaron Spelling.

That’s exactly what happened to 2004 SMU graduate Kimby Caplan, who never thought that she would walk out of the university with both an Academy Award and her diploma.

When she was about one year old, Caplan was diagnosed as being deaf. In an interview with Speechpathology.com, she recounts the difficulties she encountered growing up as a hearing-impaired child and how that transformed into her love for film- making.

“To cope and manage these situations, I focused on the visual aspects of the world around me,” Caplan said.

The combination of these factors culminated in the production of “Listen,” her documentary on the hearing impaired. After winning first place at the Academy-accredited Black Maria Film Festival in 2004, the 60-minute film was further edited and qualified for an Academy Award.

“At 45 minutes it was the longest film in any genre that has ever been accepted into the Student Academy Awards,” Caplan said.

Nevertheless, the film ended up winning the award that Caplan describes as “very heavy, like a giant black paperweight with the Oscar emblem molded to one side” in her Speechpathology.com interview.

“Listen,” which took roughly two years to make, entailed large amounts of time and dedication from Caplan as well as the rest of the team that helped with the production.

“Our first hardship was acquiring money. We had to shoot many scenes with video instead of film due to insufficient funding,” Joicy Lu, associate producer of “Listen,” said.

“Also, although a lot of friends helped, as time passed, people began to doubt whether the film was worth the time and money she spent. She proved it with the Academy,” Lu said.

Despite these challenges, Caplan did get a lot of support, especially from her parents and family. Caplan and her family provided the funding for the making of the documentary and SMU provided help as well.

“Dr. Worland, chair of CTV, allowed me to do some editing there and Joicy Lu let me use her teaching assistant office as headquarters. SMU will be forever in my heart for the help and kindness they provided,” Caplan said.

Currently Caplan is pursuing her MFA at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and producing a follow-up to “Listen,” titled “Unexpected Voices,” which will provide a “look at the historical, geographic and social development of audio-verbal techniques in North America.”

Caplan hopes to relate the topic of impaired hearing to a broader audience with the new movie but expresses that its making would never have been possible without the first film’s success paving the way.

“I never, ever thought I would win anything. The fact that I did is testimony to the power that faith and communication have in holding the human spirit enthralled,” Caplan said.

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