BY DEB AND TIM SMITH
The last time Dave Sluberski of Rush graced the front page of the Sentinel was in 2019 when we collaborated with him on our series about the Rush hamlets, which included the first-ever aerial shot of Golah, the spot where Honeoye Creek flows into the Genesee River. Dave took the photograph with his drone because Golah is located on private property which is not accessible to the public. This week we’re back with Dave’s next monumental achievement.
Dave is a Principal Lecturer at RIT and served as the sound advisor on the creation of a film that has taken the grand prize in the national Coca-Cola Refreshing Films (CCRF) competition. This is a very distinguished and competitive award and we want to share some of the background of the film and also of Dave Sluberski.
The name of the heartwarming film is “Say Cheese,” and it will begin screening in movie theaters across the country later this year. The authentic, cross-cultural project featured the combined creative efforts of students, faculty, and staff in RIT’s School of Film and Animation (SOFA). As the world’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, RIT is officially designated as the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), and that component of the university obviously played a key role in this production.
Co-written by Anna McClanahan, a hearing student, and Gabriel Ponte-Fleary, a deaf student, “Say Cheese” is partly based on McClanahan’s experiences at RIT, including her performances in joint hearing, deaf and hard-of-hearing productions for NTID’s Department of Performing Arts.
The commercial portrays a meet-cute story about Chris—a male, hearing college student—attempting to ask his female, deaf classmate named Jessie to the movies. Chris, an American Sign Language novice, clumsily signs a visually similar sequence of words, instead asking Jessie if she wants to go to a “cheese.” This awkward but sincere attempt wins Jessie over and the two head to the theater for their first date.
The prestigious CCRF program invites film students from across the United States to submit a script for a 60-second branded spot celebrating the movie-going experience. “Say Cheese” was among four finalists selected from 41 universities across the country. Winning for its first-ever CCRF entry, RIT was the sole East Coast university among the final four, joined by UCLA, Chapman University, and California Institute of the Arts.
“Say Cheese” and the other three finalist commercials were judged by a Red Ribbon Panel comprised of industry experts, including studios and leadership from Coca-Cola, Cinemark Theatres and AMC Theatres. McClanahan said she was “thrilled” upon learning of the win. “I think it resonated because it told a whole human story,” said the California resident and the film’s director. “While it was a collaborative production between the deaf and hearing communities, the human connection conveyed in the film is applicable to everyone’s lives and relationships. It’s just a wholesome tale.”
Shanti Thakur, SOFA’s school director and the movie’s pre-production supervisor, called the CCRF win a “gold star for our program,” adding, “it really represents what we stand for at RIT, which is students and faculty working together and supporting diversity. It’s finding commonality across cross-cultural communication for a sweet story that goes straight to the heart.”
Ponte-Fleary hopes people who see the film will “be inspired to learn American Sign Language and see deaf people as equals.” He added, “We can do anything, except hear.” You can check out “Say Cheese” on YouTube under the title of “Say Cheese / Rochester Institute of Technology – 2022 Coca-Cola Refreshing Films.” It’s definitely worth checking out.
We were first informed of this story by Dave Sluberski and his wife Sandra when they attended our book signing at Mendon 64. It was the first time we had spoken with them since they had helped us with our 2019 Rush series when Dave had volunteered the use of his drone to take the aforementioned picture of Golah.
Dave’s personal story is one we also thought worthy of sharing with our readers. He is a Principal Lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation, specializing in sound design and technology. Dave was a consultant on the design team for MAGIC Spell Studios for all state-of-the-art sound design. He was also Senior Audio Technologist at WXXI Public Broadcasting Council/NPR-PBS affiliate for 25 years.
Through his company, West Rush Media LLC, he has produced, designed and mixed audio for a wide variety of broadcast media and digital distribution networks, including independent feature films and documentaries. WRM clients include the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, WXXI Public Broadcasting Council, the University of Rochester and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as well as numerous independent filmmakers.
During the past two summers, Dave was hired by film crews from NYC and LA, and this year was hired for a production involving Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. He is also currently working on a film which will air on the History Channel in 2023.
His many awards include the coveted George Foster Peabody Award (1994), as well as numerous Telly, Gabriel and NYS Emmy awards. Dave considers himself a recreational welder; he and his wife, Dr. Sandra Boysen Sluberski, enjoy their classic cars while residing in Rush, NY. They are active with the Rush Historical Society, and volunteer as historical interpreters with the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, NY.