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Behind the Scenes

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Founder & Executive Director

CJ Jones

Decades of television, film, theater, stand-up comedy and event hosting have made CJ Jones an exceptionally popular figure among Deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing Signers worldwide.  Recently, general audiences have come to recognize CJ through his highly acclaimed role as Joseph, the caring father, in Edgar Wright’s global blockbuster film, Baby Driver, in addition to his many co-starring roles on popular streaming series. CJ is also frequently on set as a Director of Sign Language (DSL), working with producers, directors and actors on series for top streamers such as HBO and Hulu, as well as on numerous commercials. Most notably, CJ created the Na'vi Sign Language (NSL) for Avatar: The Way of Water, working closely with James Cameron on and off the set. CJ is a featured part of the film's promotional campaign, introducing the world to NSL in a series of short videos.

An energetic, prolific producer, director and writer, CJ is also a leading advocate and champion for the inclusion and authentic representation of people with disabilities. This passion propelled CJ to found his own production company, SignWorld Studios, Inc., and its nonprofit subsidiary, SignLight, Inc., SIFF's producing entity.  Frequently seen on entertainment industry panels, CJ has been a featured speaker at TedX and at Gallaudet’s 2021 commencement address at which he received an honorary degree.

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Executive Producer

Michelle Baron

Michelle Baron has showcased Deaf culture, Deaf talent and the creative beauty of Sign Language on stage and screen for much of her entertainment career. Working as a National Endowment for the Arts Artist-in-Residence at a deaf residential school, she quickly became fluent in ASL and went on to interpret the first professional stage play in Chicago. After training with the National Theater of the Deaf at the O'Neill Center in Connecticut (where she first met CJ Jones), she toured with the Chicago Theater of the Deaf and Cleveland's Fairmount Theater of the Deaf. She also produced and directed the showcase event of the President’s Commission on Employment of the Handicapped gala at the Kennedy Center; introduced Deaf characters in children’s animation series, toys and books; and proudly served as Deaf West Theatre’s Board President during an exciting time of growth highlighted by their Broadway run of Spring Awakening.


A seasoned producer, director and writer, Michelle led creative development and casting teams at The Walt Disney Company, where she also produced Signin’ in the Street, a three-day celebration of creativity in the Deaf community, created in association with Disney-ABC’s Switched at Birth. As an independent producer, she's created numerous live events and has garnered several awards for children’s programming and educational films. Michelle is also a co-founder of All the People, Inc., whose major work uncovering the untold stories of the Deaf experience in World War II and the Holocaust is now a featured part of the online archive of the United States Holocaust Museum.

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Tari Hartman Squire

Tari Hartman Squire's EIN SOF Communications, is a leading strategic marketing, employment consultation, media and production company specializing in Deaf/disability-inclusive diversity. She consults on TV, film and marketing/ad campaigns for clients such as Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, ALL ARTS, Amazon MGM Studios, McDonald's, American Masters, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, BBDO, CBS, Droga5, Fox Searchlight, IMDb, Meta/Facebook, Microsoft, NBCUniversal, Nickelodeon, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Verizon Media/Getty Images and Women's eNews.

Tari established disability strategic marketing with her My Left Food campaign/DC congressional screening, aimed to support the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act to prove that ADA is a marketing opportunity. After experiencing discrimination in casting during a temporary disability, she and other disabled actors spearheaded SAG's Committee of Performers with Disabilities. EIN SOF designs strategic alliances with Deaf/disability-led organizations, corporations and foundations with its Disability Community Market Research Initiative, including The Disability Collection with Verizon, Getty Images and National Disability Leadership Alliance to create authentic Deaf/disability images in stock photos.


Tari's Lights! Camera! Access! (LCA) Career Exploration/Incubator Initiative increases work in front of and behind the camera; improves portrayals, increases accessible media and creates a Deaf/disability talent pipeline. She and producing partner Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld) established ADA Lead On Productions, hiring 100% Deaf/disabled talent. ADA Lead On won the 2021 Shorty Audience Honors Award and the 2022 Gold Anthem DEI Award. She co-authored the Ruderman TV Challenge to audition performers with disabilities; Making News: How to Get Disability Rights Coverage; and advised AP Stylebook on disability-savvy semantics. Tari is conversant in ASL.


Creative Director 

Michael Kaufer

Michael Kaufer was the innovative director of the trailblazing summer experience Deaf Film Camp from 2015 - 2021, training children ages 13-17 in the fundamental aspects of production, from concept through editing.  His tireless fundraising efforts resulted in the training of more than 600 campers, with several successfully applying their skills in a variety of careers, including entertainment. During this time, Michael built a 25-year career as a highly respected educator of Deaf, hard-of-hearing, hearing and CODA students in the New York City school system.  


Upon retiring from his teaching position in NYC, Michael's influence and advocacy flourished on a global scale.  He has been a consultant for Lights! Camera! Access! since 2015, working closely with Tari Hartman Squire to foster media and entertainment industry employment for people with disabilities.  Michael also established and continues to run his own nonprofit organization, Front Row Films, offering accessible online media training classes taught by Deaf professionals in ASL w/voice interpretation.  Believing that every deaf and hard-of-hearing child who aspires to work in media can achieve their dream, Michael founded the online Deaf Film Academy Junior to serve as an early catalyst to their success.


Michael first ventured into the world of film festivals as a two-time Judge for the world's largest Deaf creative arts festival, the prestigious Clin d'Oeil in Reims, France.  He went on to take the helm as the Film Festival Manager in 2022 and will be reprising that role in 2024.  In addition to this year's Creative Director duties with the SignLight International Film Festival, Michael also serves as a Judge for the 2023 Della Award Film Festival in Germany.


When not focused on film, Michael enjoys his "day job" as People Operations Planner for Apple's Upper West Side store.


Festival Director 

Cassandra Jones

Cassandra is a theater and movie producer in Los Angeles.  She received her BA in Theater Arts from the University of California, Davis.  She directed for film CJ Jones’ (Baby Driver) one man show What Are You…DEAF?. Her short film CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) is currently showing on Omeleto and Kanopy.  It toured nationally and internationally, playing in over 35 festivals and translated into four languages. Another short she produced, Retribution, showed at the 2021 Diversity at Cannes, and will show at the Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival.  She recently produced the supernatural thriller, Immanence, which stars Michael Beach and features Jamie McShane, and has been picked up for distribution. She is very proud of her first feature, “What?”, a black-and-white silent film starring John Maucere, which calls audiences back to an era of film making where the visual story was the star. As an actor, she has worked with Tony Award winning theater company Deaf West Theater, Tony winning writer Mark Medoff and Tony winning actress Phyllis Frelich (Children of a Lessor God), Deanne Bray, CJ Jones, and Broadway actor Jeff Carlson.  As a dancer she has worked with the Tony nominated choreographer of RENT Marlies Yearby, LA Opera choreographer Heather Lipson Bell, and Fosse specialist Suzanne Carlton.

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Director of Social Media 

Nicolette Prindiville

Nicolette Rose is a social media influencer with 1 million+ followers. She creates special effects makeup videos as well as other artistic content. Her career took off as she began to travel to local film shoots and music video shoots to promote the videos being filmed. Through successful campaigns, she has accumulated sponsorships from such companies as Warheads, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids and Toxic Waste. 

Growing up as a CODA, Nicolette has understood and been involved in the Deaf community her entire life, introduced by her mother and sibling at a very young age and learning ASL as her first language. 

Nicolette utilizes our social media pages to connect the Deaf filmmakers around the world. Using advertising strategies, brand ambassadorships and an internal understanding of the Deaf community, she shines a light on Deaf creatives.

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