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Woman Helps Teach the Cast of ‘Dawn of the Planet’ Proper Sign Language

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - “I thought they did an excellent job,” says Shari Bernius from the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ offices in the CBD.  “It was as realistic as possible.”

Bernius is the administrator of Catholic Charities’ Deaf Action Center.  Much of her job is dedicated to translating for the deaf community in the area.  But Bernius spoke with WGNO’s Curt Sprang about her recent work with a blockbuster film.

Bernius took her translating skills to the set of the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  In the movie, the apes communicate using sign language.  The film’s director wanted the signing to be as accurate as possible.

The special effects in the film are top-notch.  But Bernius says some of the sign language had to be tweaked simply because apes and humans have different hands.

If you haven’t seen the film, you’ve probably seen Bernius’ work just the same.  Any time a storm approaches during hurricane season, Bernius can be seen at emergency news conferences translating the instructions of parish leaders for the deaf community.

She says the film was a 13 month commitment that sometimes required her to use video chats to help the crew adjust their sign language for any last-minute changes in the script.

“And so I had to take my cell phone, put it on the dashboard of my car, and interpret the line that they gave me,” Bernius recalls of one such occasion.  “And send it to them that night on the way to dinner.”

Bernius said her only previous show biz experience dealt with translating for a deaf contestant in the Miss Louisiana pageant.  She says the special effects work in the Planet of the Apes film wowed her.

“It’s something that I just fell in love with.  I just never thought it would happen.  It did, and I’m ready for the next one.”

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