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Hollyoaks' Rachel Shenton learned sign language for her dad - now she wants her Oscar-winning short to become a feature film

Mirror logo Mirror 05/03/2018 Halina Watts

Former Hollyoaks star turned Oscar winner Rachel Shenton wants to give hope to thousands of kids by turning her story about a deaf girl into a feature film.

The Silent Child, which has picked up an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, tells the tale of four-year-old Libby who is taught sign language by a social worker played by Rachel.

The 30-year-old, from Stoke-On-Trent, was inspired to write the film because of her own experience.

When she was 12 her father Geoff went deaf after having chemotherapy and could not hear for the last 18 months of his life.

Speaking ahead of the Oscars, Rachel said: “This is the first film I have written. It’s incredibly close to me so the writing of the story felt natural.

“People don’t know about this subject so ultimately I wanted people to leave the cinema feeling more educated and to spark a conversation.

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Gary Oldman shares Oscars nerves with fellow Brit nominees at pre-Academy Awards bash

“We are now screening in over 600 cinemas in the US. Now I’m working on the feature film version.”

In May Rachel will show the film in Parliament and hopes that sign language will one day be introduced to the national curriculum, a message at the end of the film.

Figures show that 78 per cent of deaf children in mainstream schools do not receive additional support. For the sake of authenticity the title role is played by a deaf girl. After a nationwide search and the auditioning of 100 children, six-year-old novice Maisie Sly, from Swindon, won the part.

Rachel said: “She is incredibly natural. She has a strange maturity for a five-year-old. She’s a total joy to be around

“We went to the Oscars luncheon with all the nominees and we met Steven Spielberg.

“That was very surreal. He said, ‘Congratulations’. Maisie wants to go to Disneyland and see Donald Duck. That’s who she is mainly concerned about meeting.

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Channel 4

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“She is so unphased by everything that is going on. She doesn’t understand the enormity of it.”

Rachel started drama and dance lessons at eight and went on to land small parts in Waterloo Road and Holby City before Hollyoaks came along in 2010 with the role of glamorous schemer Mitzeee Minniver.

During her three years in the Channel 4 soap Rachel started working with the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Her fiancé Chris Overton directed The Silent Child with a £10,000 budget from crowd funding. She said: “We had 13 crew members and a tiny budget so we are really proud to even be here.”

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