AFDA | Research, Research | March 2024



It’s the beginning of a new month. New day, new challenges. We have a Group/Crew meeting on the two concepts. Speech sends us a Group message via WhatsApp:

‘I am going with Vicki’s concept as I think it will give us a challenge, a challenge that will make us all better at our crafts.’ This now means that my concept idea, ‘Thisability’, is chosen as the final ‘winner’ for this year. 


Our afternoon class is with Dr. Moodley from NMU, and her classes are always informative. Today we discuss Postcolonial Identity and Theory. We each have a chance to share when and where we felt angered by discrimination in our lives. I love the fact that our classes are so small, which means that the professors can get to know us by our names, and give direct feedback. 


I take the day off to brainstorm on my storyline for ‘Thisability’. The challenge is that it needs to fit within the crime/thriller genre, as that is what the Group/Crew wants. I realize just how important it is to stay with the concept idea; 24 minutes is extremely short, so the storyline shouldn’t be too complicated. The main focus is disability, and the Group/Crew also wants to play with the other senses, namely sound and feel. 


I am feeling a little unsure about my new concept idea. But when I watch a Law & Order episode, as well as go on social media, I receive four confirmations that I am on the right track with my concept idea. As I take a bath, I receive another eureka moment: I can combine four different storylines and make them into one seamless idea that makes sense. For the first time, I am passionate and excited about what we’re going to do. The vision is suddenly clear and I know what we need to do. 


I have a Zoom meeting with the National Institute for the Deaf. Lynette, Dirkie, and Andiswa join the meeting and we discuss the ethical dilemmas regarding using hearing actors to play deaf characters. We discuss, discuss, and discuss. It looks like no matter what we do or how we do it, we are going to offend certain people. 

I suddenly have a brain-wave and remember that when I was writing my memoir last year, I was going to put a disclaimer at the beginning of my book. This disclaimer would release me from any negative backlash from the d/Deaf community in how I portray my journey as someone with hearing loss. I realize that we can do it with the short film as well. We will do our utmost best to portray the d/Deaf characters correctly, but there will still be people who aren’t satisfied. 

After the meeting, I am energized and ready to take on the film industry. I love how I get to be in charge of the concept idea, writing the script, and being involved in the whole process from start to finish. It’s so different from when I auditioned for various acting jobs in television and film productions. You have no idea what kind of role you would be offered, and whether it would be something that would be worthwhile at all. But now I get to do it differently, and it is much more empowering this way. I can’t wait to see how the future unfolds. 


I do some research on lip-reading on YouTube. I come across this video and I am blown away by how they played with sounds and visuals. I am also inspired by Rachel Kolb, the woman who wrote the essay ‘Seeing at the Speed of Sound. It’s very rare to find someone similar to me and have had similar experiences. I send her an email singing her praises, and hope she responds soon.

I have a highly encouraging phone call from my sister from Russia. She read my concept synopsis of the script I want to write for AFDA, and she’s blown away by it:

Oh my freak, it looks so scary. I love it. They (the group) will love it. This concept was not what I expected… Wow, my mind is reeling from it. Well done.’

Part of my concept idea is to have black & white colours, and red will be the main theme. Turns out, my sister and her husband were in a hotel this previous weekend, and the art décor was the exact same theme. I see this as a sign that I’m on the right track and that this is what we should do with the short film. 

My sister also watches the National Geographic YouTube video on lipreading, and she said, ‘It’s fricking hectic. I can’t believe this is something you have to do every day… It’s a really good short documentary. I had tears in my eyes while watching it.’ 



There’s no need for me to go on campus today, so I take the whole day to write my Textual Analysis for my Core Course assignment. I have to write 2,500 words on the British film ‘Locke’. I watch the film two times, then start writing. It goes easily, although it does take me the whole day to finish it. The first draft is done; I still need to edit and polish it before submitting it. It will be part of my marks for this year as an Honours Student, so it’s an important assignment. I want it to look fantastic.


I’m in Port Elizabeth for the day, and when I get back home, my mom lets it slip that she went into my study while I was gone, and she surveyed all my writing projects that have been posted on the wall. ‘Your father always loved to sneak into your study and look at what you were doing. He was always in awe of you,’ my mom tells me. It brings tears to my eyes, and I miss my father again. 


My mom makes another comment that brings tears to my eyes again, ’Your father would’ve called you ‘Professor Vicki’, and that’s the truth. She also comments that my grandmother would’ve told the whole retirement village about her ‘grandchild who’s doing her Honours without having an undergraduate degree’. My father and grandmother were always proud of me, and they always cheered me on. I miss them immensely today.


Mieke Kotze hosts a session, with another professor from NMW. She teaches us how to work on our research proposals (pitches), and the way she simplifies it makes me realize I can actually do this. I share with her my research question/idea, and she is excited, because ‘it’s an amazing subject that hasn’t really been covered before.’ She also says that I might struggle to find academic papers that connect my research idea, so I will most probably have to read articles online and create my own database.


Today is our Concept Meeting, where the Group/Crew will decide if they like my new idea. It’s no longer called ‘Thisability’, but rather ‘Read My Lips’ and it will focus on deafness and lip-reading. I am nervous and hope the group will like it. 

We have our meeting, and possibly the highest compliment I receive is from Onica, who runs the Arts Department. She says, ‘This concept idea will fulfill and challenge every department in this group.’ This is what I’ve been aiming for when I wrote the concept. Mission accomplished. This is also our final concept meeting. Now we will move into the research and script writing stage.


I prepare my Presentation Pitch that I have to do on Monday. Thankfully, it only takes me an hour. 



The first meeting of the day is with Mr. Wilby, where we share the concept idea for ‘Read My Lips’. He has a few concerns about filming at night, and that it might be a bit too expensive to film. ‘Keep it simple’, he says.

Next on the agenda: We are four writers, and we have to try and write the script together. It’s something I’ve never done before, so it should be an interesting challenge. The first draft needs to be done by the end of this term. Thankfully, we will have a Script Camp during Week 9 of this term. We will all jump in to finish it together.

In the afternoon, we each give our presentation pitches. I’m curious to find out what the other students’ topics will be. Mine is ‘d/Deaf Persons & How They Can Be Best Represented On The Screen Through Scriptwriting.’ 


I open up a new document for my Research Project and start breaking it down into titles, chapters, research methodology, etc. I know that this is just a first draft, so it’s subject to change as I go on.

It looks easy enough, but I know it’s going to take a long time. The first draft needs to be in before the end of this term… let’s see how far I can get today. If I can take one chapter at a time, it won’t be so overwhelming.

I finish off the day by contacting a few of my d/Deaf friends, asking them if they know of any d/Deaf actors in South Africa. I want to set up a general questionnaire and send it out to as many d/Deaf actors/writers out there, to see what are the challenges and struggles they are facing, and how they can be resolved. I’m excited and I realize this research paper can add so much value to so many people’s lives…


I continue with my research project first thing this morning. I have the challenge of editing and rewriting 17 pages into 5 pages only. I work all morning, and it’s going well.

By 13:00, I’m done. I notice how much I’m enjoying doing this research. My father prophesied over me when I was 12 years old, that I would become a researcher. As a teenager, research sounded pretty boring to me. But now it’s so much fun; I’m learning so much. The first part and chapter of my thesis have been worked out as follows:

Chapter One: d/Deafness – An Overview

• How Many d/Deaf People Globally?

• How Many d/Deaf People In South Africa?

• What Is d/Deafness?

• Causes Of Hearing Loss

• Degrees of Hearing Loss

• Devices & Methods For Hearing Loss


As I tried to sleep last night, my mind started to awaken with thoughts of The Hope Prize, an Australian short story writing competition. Instagram first showed me the advert on Tuesday, and because the deadline’s today, I didn’t think I was going to make it. But still, the competition stayed on my mind, and there I was, lying in bed, thinking about what I could write. I thought about the personal notes I had made regarding my lip-reading experiences while I was researching ‘Read My Lips’, the short film that we want to make at AFDA this year. Maybe I could take those notes and make something out of it?

So I got up early this morning and started writing. Less than seven hours till the submissions close. Yikes. There’s always that moment of self-doubt before I start a new article, essay, or short story. I hate this moment, so I light a candle, bring myself to me, and simply start. I do it afraid. I write furiously, and I write in a panic. I hope I can make the deadline.

When I’m done, I submit my short story through their website with only 22 minutes to spare. Yikes, yikes, yikes. I will never write on a deadline like this again – it’s not nice for my creativity to be pushed like that. Oh my goodness. I work best in a place of safety, peace, and calmness.

My mom reads my story, and she gives her feedback: ‘It’s a heartfelt story. I can see you have grown in your writing. You’re so grown-up.’


I take the day off. It’s been a week full of research, writing, and working on my thesis. I need a break from it all. My mom and I pack up the car, pick up a family friend, and head to Kabeljous Strand. We take a walk on the beach, and notice there are dozens of fishermen; there’s a fishing competition this weekend.

We run into two dear ladies from Victory Church. They know me from last year when they invited me as a guest speaker at their over 60’s homecell group. They ask me what I’ve been up to this year, and I tell them. They get incredibly excited, and say that I should definitely write a story based on Jeffrey’s Bay and that they would love to be background actors in my story. It’s so sweet and so encouraging to see other people see the gold inside of me. I needed to have this conversation.

I also have a conversation with our family friend, and I tell her about how it seems that the other cultures in South Africa aren’t that aware of the struggles the Afrikaners are having at the moment. The farm murders (which is essentially a genocide happening in our very midst), the white townships, mass emigrations, etc. I tell her that I want to write stories that highlight the struggles of the Afrikaans identity and their uncertain futures, and she looks at me in awe and says,

‘God is not finished with you yet; your Miss Deaf South Africa years were only a small part of what God has done through you… You’re going to make films that will show the world what is going on with the Afrikaners.’


It’s already Sunday, and Speech and I still haven’t worked on or finished our 5-minute script assignment… The deadline was already this past Friday. I don’t like the fact that it’s been postponed every day.

I decide to write the script by myself. I really want to learn and grow as a writer, and that is why I’m at AFDA this year and paying an enormous amount of tuition fees…

By 2 p.m., I decide I’m no longer going to wait for Speech, and I sit down and set a timer for one hour. I start writing, and I’m done before 3 p.m., with 4 minutes left to spare. I send the email to Caleb, expectant of his feedback on my short script ‘Boy & Girl’.



It’s the last week of the month. It’s been wonderful taking a break from driving back and forth to Port Elizabeth every day. I hope that the rest of the year will be just as easy as last week, this week, and next week. If I can only come in two to three times a week, that would be fantastic.

I kick off the new week by continuing my thesis research. I decide to focus on the ‘how to represent the d/Deaf on the screen’ research part, and I enjoy it immensely.

 This document that I found basically covers the whole spectrum:

Do all deaf individuals communicate in the same way? There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to communication, nor is there a “typical” deaf person. Each individual is unique and brings their own set of communication needs and preferences, based on the setting and the purpose of the interaction.’

I also come to notice that most probably the reason why I like stories so much, is that it’s visual, and it seems that most d/Deaf persons are visually inclined, which is why they usually prefer sign language over auditory speech and communication. I had a taste of sign language when I did the theatre play Kinders van Stilte, and it came easy and naturally to me. But I still prefer speaking with my voice, probably because I grew up this way.

I also think that I need to write an essay about the different revelations that I’ve had about deafness and the Deaf culture since I started with my research. I’ve gained a renewed perspective on the whole thing. This could be a great essay to publish on my website…


On campus at AFDA, Professor Moodley from NMU gives us a class on intersectionality, which in its broadest definition is ‘how multiple identities interact to create unique patterns of oppression.’ It’s a fascinating subject, and I enjoy this class so much. During the class discussions, I realize why marriage is such a big issue for me – it’s because my Afrikaans and church culture puts great value on it, and if you’re not married, you’re basically ‘shunned’ from society. I also realize for the first time that disabilities put one at a great disadvantage, but that education and/or a degree reverses it and creates job opportunities.


I’m on campus again today, and this time it’s Ms Mieke Kotze who’s doing the session today. We have to prepare a 15-minute presentation proposal next week Thursday, and we will get marks for it. Mieke also says that my research question still needs some fine-tuning. I also tell her that when I started with my research a few weeks ago, I became so excited. I love my topic and I’m passionate about it. She answers, ‘That is the dream – that is what we want for each one of you.’ I also tell her that I’ve discovered and learned more of myself in the process, and I understand myself so much better now.


I start working on my research proposal PowerPoint. There are so many wonderful templates to choose from on Canva! I love Canva – been using it for years since I launched my website.

It takes me the whole day to work out the 15 slides, will need to do the last 5 tomorrow. Hopefully, I can finish and polish it because I will need to practice it in front of my mom. It’s difficult to sum up the PowerPoint according to Mieke’s points: 

1. Worthy topic

2. Research problem & question

3. Significant contribution

4. Motivation

5. Context

6. Rigor

7. Credibility

8. Ethics

9. Tone, style & register

10. Referencing


I know it’s Easter Weekend, but I push through and manage to finish my PowerPoint presentation before lunch. I am so proud of it, and I make short videos and send them to my family. My aunt gives encouraging feedback: 

‘Wow Vicki… Jou PowerPoint is stunning. Jou outline lyk so goed – die karaters stap saam met jou deur jou presentation. Dit is maar net die eerste kwartaal en jy is amper klaar… Jy is amazing. Fifteen minutes is net baie kort vir al die inligting… maar sy se se, die professors sal jou help. En ek dink jou topic is so interesant…. Geniet jy dit? Jy is flippen oulik.’


I watch Only Murders in the Building season 3, and I enjoy it so much. I would love to write scripts like that one day… minus the swearing, of course. I love how I’m guessing until the end of every season who’s the murderer and what’s the motive for murdering… all three seasons so far have been so clever.

Tomorrow is the 1st of April… Only two weeks left, and then the First Term is over. I’m looking forward to taking a break from research and script writing… I’ve got this book that I want to read during the holidays…

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