Stacey Irwin

Stacey Irwin has been creating all kinds of video and audio content since she was a little girl. She entered her first audio documentary contest when she was eleven. She has been a media production professor in higher education for thirty years, teaching television, film and radio production, writing, and editing, first at Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland, and now at Millersville University, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. Stacey feels that producing her own work allows her to be the best educator she can be. "When you are practicing your craft with passion, it inspires students to use their voices to tell their stories in a more authentic way." This is what drives Stacey's work.

Director Statement
Raising Faith is a passionate and inspirational story about how nine young people and their families conquer the reading difference called dyslexia. When my husband and I first learned that our daughter was dyslexic, we scoured the world for resources. We found photos of what part of the brain dyslexia "comes from," learned all of the "fixes," and found the names of organizations and professionals who might "diagnose" and "help" her. This was close to twenty years ago. All of the content we found was clinical and cold when we wanted hope and advice. And then we compared my daughter's results to my husband's results from the early 1970s, and learned he was dyslexic too. This was the beginning of the journey of this film. Making these connections would become so important to this passion project as we "raised" Faith. This early experience propelled our film and our journey as a family. The other families we met along the way provided comfort and care. We wanted to create that same experience for others who seek help on their dyslexic journey. As Faith's mother and a producing partner with her in the film project, I had the opportunity to explore the uniqueness that made my daughter and husband tick, while becoming a better mother, partner, filmmaker, and educator. In addition, Faith's participation as a young media producer and interviewer created a comfortable, authentic, and safe environment for honest discussion and portrayal of this experience. We grew authentically closer through the filmmaking experience and this exploration has helped me understand this learning difference much more clearly. I hope you too learn from these stories.

The team is honored by the positive reception our film has received in the indie and festival community. We are always inspired when someone reaches out to us to say, "you named my experience, this is me." Naming the dyslexic experience, giving voice to dyslexics, dyslexic awareness and dyslexic advocacy is central to our mission when we share this film. Thank you for your interest.

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Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?
Raising Faith ~ Stories About Dyslexia is a short documentary that shares real talk from nine families with dyslexic children. The film is set in the homes of families who share poignant stories, advice, strategies and struggles from experiencing the learning difference called dyslexia. This film provides hope, inspiration, and a feeling of camaraderie for families of unique learners, and those who wish to open themselves to learning new things about neurodiverse individuals. The film also discusses the genetic component of dyslexia through the experiences of Faith, a young dyslexic learner, her father, and others. Ability advocates, unique learners, and those who know and love them, will feel "heard and seen" by the end of this film. The film raises faith about dyslexic life, as Faith's parents raise her.

What are your ambitions with your project?
I think we'd just like to reach the largest audience as possible with this story. We want to advocate for dyslexic learners and share this story of hope and perseverance. Documentary is such a meaningful genre for exploring universal themes and experiences. I love that people who have seen the film say that they are inspired by the story.

Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
We worked on this film as a mother-daughter production team. That was really a great experience for me. It was also so fun to watch the footage of the different families we filmed to see how the documentary started to interweave and tell the story. It is true that collaboration makes the final project better. I am so grateful for the feedback I received from others along the way.

For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
The film is an inspirational story of perseverance and hope and a resource for dyslexic families, and those who love them.

Why should distributors buy your film?
Twenty percent, one-in-five people, are dyslexic learners. Their struggles deserve to be shared. Literacy is a universally important topic. I think that dyslexia is a compelling topic that a lot of people have an interest in learning more about. This film shares experiences through stories. It does not lecture the audience. It is educational, yes, but in an engaging way.

How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
I think that the film uses the short documentary genre to share an inspirational story with universal themes of perseverance and hope.

Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
I think that filmmaking is a rewarding way to tell a story. It has its challenges. And it is not an easy process. But it is magical when everything comes together.

Who is your role model?
This is a difficult question to answer. I am inspired by so many creative people. I have always been interested in film editors like Thelma Schoonmaker and Dede Allen. They are two of my favorite editors. I am also inspired by the Hello Sunshine production company and mission and Reese Witherspoon's part in that. I love the way the production company puts women at the center of the stories they produce and that they diversified to short series, scripted and unscripted media, and podcasts. Their collaborative model is motivating. I am also inspired by experimental filmmaker Maya Deren. Her ability to create experiences through film was stunning.

Which movies are your favorites? Why?
I like films that take me to places I've never been before. The experience can be an existential one or a visual one. I find myself emotionally invested in stories and characters so if they are strong, I know I'll enjoy the film.

Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
A beautiful painting, an amazing song, a great meal, a good book, a garden, a great conversation with friends or strangers, traveling to new places, or retuning to places I love provide inspiration.

Which topics interest you the most?
The world is full of so many interesting stories. I love learning how people persevere and then are rewarded for their effort.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
I love teaching students the storytelling process. I've been doing it for 30 years. It has been a terrific career and I'm not done yet. That is a pretty big achievement. The film has twenty-two festival wins and that has been super exciting too. I think that my greatest achievement has not happened yet.

What do you consider most important about filming?
It is a balance between being as prepared as possible and also letting the art and craft of the filmmaking process take over and breathe as well. I thought I was prepared but I still missed some things that added time to my process. I can plan and plan, but in the end, I have to remember to be in the moment with the making of the film.

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
I think that different stories lean into different techniques. Sometimes I think we need to get out of the way and let the story be told instead of defining a style or process or technique.

How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
The sky is the limit. I think that there are more opportunities than ever for storytellers, and more places to share work than ever before. It is an exciting time to be in filmmaking. More people just need to give it a try.

What can disappoint you in a movie?
Sometimes I go into viewing a film with an academic mindset. I have tried really hard to keep an open mind and climb into the filmic experience as just be. Then I am usually not disappointed.

Who supports you in your film career?
My family. . . my husband and kids have all helped along the way, with ideas, being part of my projects, or even holding a mic or lights along the way. I've also worked on projects with my students.

What are the reactions to your film? (opinion of spectators, film critics, friends, and family)
I am so honored when people watch the film and share that their experience was named in the film. And that they feel more hopeful about their child, who is a dyslexic learner, than they did before seeing the film. People have also shared that it dispels some of the stereotypes or misnomers about dyslexia. When I screen the film with college education majors, their often share their personal learning struggles so the film is a good conversation starter and helps people be vulnerable and examine their own educational experiences. It is like the film is part of a whole conversation. That is lovely.

Have you already visited any of the prestigious film festivals?
I have not but I hope to someday.

What are your future plans in filmmaking career?
I am currently raising funds for another documentary about a different side of dyslexia. I do not think that this story is finished. I have learned about something called the "school to prison pipeline," and dyslexia's roll in incarceration illiteracy. I have met so many people involved in dyslexia advocacy and dyslexia awareness that I think I have more to share on this topic. I'm working on raising funds for the project. But I'm always open to collaborating on different projects.