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Department Of Theatre And Media Arts

Seen and Heard: Blind Music Teacher Celebrated in BYU Documentary

BYU Film Student Camille Gottscheck Created a Documentary that Focuses on Music Educator Kyle Woodruff

When Camille Gottscheck brainstormed for a documentary film assignment at BYU, she decided to explore what it meant to be a blind musician. An internet search led her to the Facebook page of Kyle Woodruff, a Utah music teacher who is blind. When Gottscheck contacted him, Woodruff was happy to share his story with her.

“Less than 5 minutes after I sent the message, he answered positively and agreed to talk more,” Gottscheck said. “A few days later, we had our first interaction over Zoom. As I got to know Kyle and his story, I just knew a film needed to be done about him.”

Woodruff teaches music at Ascent Academies of Utah in Lehi. Gottscheck’s film documents the family support that sustained Woodruff through years of unemployment, largely due to prejudice. Gottscheck’s initial proposal stated, “This film is intended to be seen by all, particularly those with biases, preconceived notions and misunderstandings about disabled communities. It is also targeted at people with disabilities, to help them feel heard, to allow them to be part of a community and to help them know that their experiences can be shared.”

Both Woodruff’s frustrations and successes served this purpose. At one point in the film Woodruff said, “The biggest problems people with disabilities face are ignorance and prejudice.” He supported this thought by sharing his experiences in trying to find employment. Woodruff noticed a clear difference between what questions were asked and how his responses were received during phone interviews versus in-person interviews.

Gottscheck said that her purpose in filming didn’t change in the process though new opportunities to document Woodruff’s success did. In addition to learning about Woodruff’s growth from a toddler with perfect pitch to a music teacher, Gottscheck got to film his acceptance to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and his first rehearsals. Like his wait for a teaching position, his wait for singing in the choir required patience and perseverance—he was rejected two times.

Gottscheck was able to film the story because it was accepted for production in BYU’s Department of Theatre and Media Arts Advance Film Production (AFP) class. The competitive application requires an extensive proposal about theme, crew, production and film festival submissions. Gottscheck, along with Ailed Cazares, Joseph Duque, Nate Judd and Grant Weber, were granted funds to create a film about Woodruff that both explored misconceptions about people with disabilities and included captions and audio descriptions.

Film festivals across North America have responded positively to the documentary. Though Gottscheck graduated in June of 2023, the film has had screenings as recently as March 2024, when the film was shown at the American Documentary And Animation Film Festival and Film Fund. Other appearances and selections include Chagrin Documentary Film Festival (October 2023), Student Film Awards (January 2024), Toronto International Women Film Festival (September 2023), DOC NYC (November 2023) and Utah Film Festival (February 2024). The film is not yet available to the public, but Gottscheck said it may be released for streaming this summer.

Faculty mentor Brad Barber said this is the first student film from BYU’s Theatre and Media Arts Department to make it into DOC NYC, which he says is “one of the top documentary film festivals in the world.” He said the film has done so well because its main subject, KyleWoodruff is appealing to audiences, and the content is uplifting. “People really connect with Woodruff in the film. He talks about his different challenges with humor,” he said. Barber called the film “an inspiring glimpse at a family and how it supports dreams.” He continued, “It makes you feel better about people in general. It shows you what can happen when people are a little bit kinder to each other.”

Since graduating, Gottscheck does post-production for Kaleidoscope Pictures and works as a contractor for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Music and the Spoken Word program.

Gottscheck has been able to attend six screenings of “Do You See Me?” while pursuing a career in film. “My favorite [screening] was the one we created with audio description, with Kyle and his family present, during one of the TMA screenings in September,” she said. “Being able to hear people's reaction and their admiration for Kyle after the screening was so touching. It appeared to me that the message that I so dearly wanted to transmit was heard and, most importantly, felt.”