Staff and Students at Stoke on Trent College had an extra reason to celebrate on Oscars night when past student Rachel Shenton picked up the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. She collected the award with partner Chris Overton for their film ‘The Silent Child’ written by Rachel herself and starring both herself and Maisie Sly who played the part of young deaf girl Libby.
Rachel’s inspiration for the film was her own family experience, as her own father Geoff spent the last 2 years of his life unable to hear. Having learned sign language to help at home, Rachel has been able to put this skill to good use in The Silent Child, playing the social worker Joanne, who interacts with deaf child Libby.
Rachel, who hails from Caverswall, attended Stoke on Trent College as a Performing Arts student, and went on from the College to gain roles in a number of TV shows including Holby City, Waterloo Road, Doctors and Blood & Bone China. She was in Hollyoaks from 2010 to 2012 playing Mitzeee Minniver and then achieved a real break in the USA when she won the role of Lily Summers in the ABC series Switched at Birth – their highest rated family show to date. It tells the story of two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched as new-borns in the hospital.
Her reputation has now been cemented in Hollywood with the incredible achievement of an Oscar for the Silent Child. She wowed the audience at the awards by signing her acceptance speech, a promise she had made to Maisie ahead of the ceremony.
As a former student, Rachel regularly returns to Stoke on Trent College to deliver workshops that help current learners get first-hand advice about the industry and help them prepare for careers on stage and screen. During her most recent visit Rachel said: “I thought it would be nice if I could give something back to help young people.
“I’m not here to teach anybody drama, but I can give industry advice. It’s things like how you get auditions and get an agent.
“I worked very hard and joined a theatre company, which toured England. I learnt by doing.
“My key advice would be to get as much work as you can, whether that’s paid or unpaid, local or amateur theatre.”
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