U R a Dial Tone Q&A

Last Updated by PBS Online Film Festival Editor on

Director, Co-Writer and Co-Editor Lauren Kinsler answers some questions from PBS about the unique setting and storyline of U R a Dial Tone, from the wardrobe to being a sign language interpreter.

PBS: How did a plot like this come to you?

Lauren Kinsler: I have worked as a sign language interpreter for over 10 years in the community and interpreting phone calls. It's a difficult job and I was interested in exploring an optimistic and hardworking woman who is trying her hardest to be professional but struggles with aspects of her job that require her to keep her personality hidden. The company Deafinity is trying very hard to be cool, while implementing increasingly oppressive tactics to making sure their employees stay in line. These two opposing forces come together to create the plot of the film.

PBS: The Dial Tones themselves look quite different from the individuals they’re communicating with. What was the inspiration behind the costumes and setting for this?

Lauren: I love sci-fi and wanted to explore how a job and a company like this could evolve in the future and the costumes were a big part of that exploration. I'm from Tampa, Florida and that is where this fictional company is set, so I used a vibrant tropical color palette to create the aesthetic of the world. I was also inspired by artists like Jeremy Blake and Yayoi Kusama, movies like "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and "Farenheit 451," as well as the aesthetic of early AOL and dial-up days.

PBS: There’s a lot of discussion between the sign language interpreter and her boss about staying neutral and not feeling any emotions for these strangers to avoid getting “sucked in.” What is the message you were hoping to send with this storyline?

I'd pop into people's lives, possibly interpret something important, then one click and we would most likely never see each other again. 

Lauren: When I first started working in a video relay service environment, interpreting phone calls for people, I struggled with the fast-paced and distant nature of the job. I'd pop into people's lives, possibly interpret something important, then one click and we would most likely never see each other again. This unique experience and feeling stuck with me and in this film, I put it under a microscope. I think many people and professions can relate to the experience of feeling familiarity and intimacy while simultaneously feeling removed.

Watch U R a Dial Tone

Watch U R a Dial Tone

A sign language interpreter is emotionally and physically sucked into her clients' lives.

Explore the Films

Explore the Films

Learn more about the films and filmmakers of the 2017 PBS Online Film Festival.

Viewing Guide

Viewing Guide

Host your own screening with our 2017 PBS Online Film Festival viewing party kit.

Support your local PBS station

Watch Anywhere

PBS is everywhere you are. Enjoy the show on your favorite streaming device.

Learn More