Sign Language as Dialogue

Sometimes a writer may create a character who is deaf or mute and thus needs to communicate through sign language.

Well, how is that formatted for the screen?

First, if the character is a minor one with little to say, the writer may do something like this:

With the addition of Parentheticals, the director knows to have the line delivered with sign language with subtitles so the audience will be privy to what is said.

However, if the character is a main character with lots of "speaking" parts, reading (signing; subtitled) with each of the character's Dialogue blocks will get old really quick.

In these situations, the writer can indicate how the Dialogue should be handled the first time the character is introduced within the Direction paragraph.

Look at this example:

The initial paragraph tells the reader exactly how to handle Julie's Dialogue blocks. Every time she speaks, she'll be signing, but she'll also speak well enough so that the audience does not need subtitles to understand her.

Notice I also mentioned that she reads lips. Just like that, I've made it so characters speaking to her need not know sign language to communicate.

But what if she is mute as well as deaf?

Check this out:

Pretty much all the same information, but since she is mute, the writer indicated all her Dialogue is subtitled, unless the writer indicates otherwise.

Well, how would the audience possibly know what Julie is saying without subtitles or knowing sign language?

Let's look at two examples in which the writer indicates no subtitles are necessary:

In both examples, the reader is told of Julie's signing within a Direction paragraph, indicating there will be no Dialogue directly from Julie, and thus, no need for subtitles.

In the first example, Arty translates Julie's outrage to the Landlord.

The second example is similar, except this time Arty, for the sake of the audience, repeats roughly that Julie is accusing him of leaving the TV on all night.

Scenes like this can work well if used sparingly as a means give the audience an occasional break from reading subtitles.