'It's really your hard work' - Cannock film director Chris Overton praises actress fiancée Rachel Shenton after Oscar win

By Kirsten Rawlins | Cannock | Staffordshire entertainment | Published:

Sweet success for Oscars golden couple after sale of cupcakes helped fund film

Chris Overton, left, and Rachel Shenton, pose with their Oscars

It was a script which could have come straight out of movie - as two soap stars took on Hollywood and won.

Cannock director Chris Overton and his screenwriter fiancee Rachel Shenton could hardly believe their Oscar triumph.

The couple stood with the Hollywood heavyweights with their film financed thanks to their parents raising cash by making and selling cupcakes.

Yet with Hollywood icons Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman in the audience, the couple took to the stage after scooping their gongs against the odds.

The couple won the best live action short film Oscar for The Silent Child at the star-studded ceremony in Los Angeles.

Ahead of the ceremony the couple had stepped out on the red carpet with the film's young star Maisie Sly, aged six, who is deaf.

Cannock film director Chris Overton and screenwriter and actress Rachel Shenton with, centre, Maisie Sly on the red carpet. Picture: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

In his acceptance speech, Chris, who lived in Heath Hayes and attended Kingsmead High School in Hednesford, thanked his fiancée.


He said: "It's really your hard work for the last 12 years that has really made this project authentic."

The former Hollyoaks stars, best known for playing Mitzeee Minniver and Liam McAllister in the Channel 4 show, fended off competition from short films DeKalb Elementary, The Eleven O'Clock, My Nephew Emmett, Watu Wote/All Of Us at the glittering ceremony.

Collecting the prize, Rachel delivered her speech in sign language, earning praise from the audience packed with A-list stars and tens of millions of people watching on tv across the world.

The screen star, from Caverswall, near Stoke, said: "I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I'd sign this speech.


"My hands are shaking so I apologise."

She added: "Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence.

"It's not exaggerated or sensationalised for the movie, this is happening, millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers and particularly access to education.

Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton (Chris Pizzello/PA)
Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton met cinema icon Steven Spielberg at a lunch leading up to the ceremony

"Deafness is a silent disability, I want to say the biggest of thank yous to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience."

Rachel wrote, produced and starred in the film about childhood deafness after she became passionate about the issue when her late father Geoff became deaf when she was young.

See a trailer for The Silent Child here:

The Silent Child - Official Trailer

The film focuses on a deaf four-year-old girl named Libby, played by Maisie, who lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.

Shot solely in Staffordshire, the film is currently being shown in more than 600 cinemas in America.

Chris thanked their parents for helping to raise £1,000 towards the making of the film. Chris’ parents Andy and Lynne used to run A Taste Of Cake, in Cannock.

"My mum and dad made the cupcakes and Rachel's mum and her mum's partner Nigel sold them at their work," he told reporters.

"We crowdfunded this all by ourselves and we had the support of so many people, but it was made on a shoestring."

Chris attended school in Hednesford before getting a place at Sylvia Young Theatre School in London, thanks in part to financial backing in the community.

Oatcakes and Milkshakes, based in Stone and Stafford, raised £200 by donating a £1 for each salted caramel monster shake sold.

Deaflinks Staffordshire donated money and allowed auditions to take place at its centre in Stoke.

A crowdfunder was launched on website Indiegogo, raising more than £12,000.

On what the win could do for them, Chris said: "Hopefully it will open doors, but mainly for the message of the film and what it's done for deaf awareness."

Speaking to reporters later, the pair admitted they forgot to pick up the coveted goody bag - worth around £100,000.

Midlands filmmakers Rachel Shenton, left, and Chris Overton, clutching their Oscars

Rachel said: 'We were in a bit of a whirlwind, met our parents, met Maisie, made sure they were ok.

"We went to the Governors Ball to get our Oscars engraved. It was only when we left we were like, oh, we didn't get a goody bag. I actually don't know how we've done it!"

Chris' proud brother Neil Overton, 33, said: "I have been on social media all morning. I cannot believe it. It has not sunk in yet.

"It is amazing what him and Rachel have done, I am just lost for words. The build up to it has been manic.

"I always believe Chris would win I know what he is like. He works so hard and he has grown up filming and being involved with films. I had a good feeling about it.

"He did a film 15 years ago called Get Back so I could tell from then he was going to do something big.

"The whole family are really proud of him and Rachel."

Just ahead of flying out to LA the couple had attended a special screening of their film at the Electric Palace Picture House in Cannock.

Chris Overton, who has directed film The Silent Child, with partner, Rachel Shenton, who is the film's writer and one of its stars at a screening in Cannock ahead of the Oscars
Chris Overton, who has directed film The Silent Child, with partner, Rachel Shenton, who is the film's writer and one of its stars at a screening in Cannock ahead of the Oscars with Chris' parents Lynn and Andy Poyner

Rachel is one of just a few actresses to give their Oscars acceptance speeches in sign language.

Jane Fonda signed part of her speech as she accepted the best actress award for Coming Home in 1979, as did Louise Fletcher who signed to her deaf parents when she won best actress for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest three years earlier.

Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, also signed when she won best actress for Children Of A Lesser God in 1987.

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star, Shropshire Star and Native Monster. E-mail me, or phone 01902 319368


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