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UBC Okanagan prof working with big-name Hollywood producers on new documentary

UBC professor Christine Schreyer, (second from right) has combined her passion for restoring languages with her Hollywood connections. While working on her new documentary, she brought film director Britton Watkins, cinematographer Josh Feldman together with Nicole Gordon and Louise Gordon with the Taku River Tlingit.
Image Credit: Contributed/UBC Okanagan
July 28, 2016 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - What does a UBC Okanagan anthropology professor have in common with producers from The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and Game of Thrones? They all are experts in creating new languages.

Christine Schreyer, linguistic anthropologist and instructor at UBC Okanagan spent the last year as an executive producer on Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues a documentary focused on the art of creating language, according to a media release.

Schreyer collaborated with a team of producers who are best known for inventing and working on languages for big name Hollywood films:

  • Executive producer David Salo worked on Elvish for The Lord of the Rings movies.
  • Executive producer David J. Peterson is known for creating the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for the television series Game of Thrones.
  • Associate producer Paul R. Frommer invented the Na’vi language spoken in James Cameron’s Avatar.
  • Associate producer Marc Okrand created Klingon for the Star Trek series.
  • Director Britton Watkins, was the language consultant for Star Trek Into Darkness.

“This film, created by a really talented group of people, raises awareness about why conlanging is relevant in our society,” Schreyer said in the release. “New languages are important since they are a fascinating way to explore the wide range of human creativity.”

Despite working with producers from these big films, Schreyer is no stranger to tinseltown. She worked on Man of Steel in 2013 helpng to develop the Kryptonian language.

Schreyer hopes that Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues will raise awareness about the importance of new and constructed languages.

“People often question why we should care about fake languages when there are numerous languages in the world in danger of disappearing,” Schreyer said. “But it’s possible that endangered language communities might be able to model some of the practices that fan communities have used to acquire new speakers quickly.”

With all the disappearing and endangered First Nations languages in B.C., Schreyer keeps busy with research and projects.

In 2013 Schreyer, developed Tlingit language board games and online materials while working with the Taku River Tlingit First Nation from Atlin, B.C.

These materials were similar to the what speakers of the invented languages for Hollywood films use.

They are currently running a crowd-funding campaign to raise awareness about the documentary and support the final stages of the film’s production.

Students can gain insight on language in class with Schreyer. She is teaching her course on new languages this fall at UBC Okanagan. It's called Pidgins, Creoles and Created Languages.


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