Catherine Joell MacKinnon is a performer, filmmaker and producer. Her first live theatre experience was at the Confederation Centre for the Arts, in Charlottetown, PEI. Her mother took her to the play Johnny Belinda – the actress who played Johnny was hard of hearing. As a five-year-old child, she was thrilled to witness the partial use of sign language as part of the live theatre experience.
When Catherine started to express her interest in becoming a performer she was told it would be impossible to pursue an acting career, because she could not hear. She ignored the naysayers as her passion for acting continued. At the age of 15 she was cast on Skip to the Beat, directed by Carol Millet & produced by Lee Flemming in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Costume designer Lin Chapman said to Catherine, "You’re a shining star! Continue to act! You can do it!".
In 1996 her family moved to Mississauga and she enrolled in the Film Studies program at Ryerson University. Catherine had the privilege of studying under Alexandra Anderson, Brian Damude, the late Gerald Pratley and the late Peter Gerretson. She graduated from Ryerson University with a BFA in the School of Image Arts.
Catherine was nominated in 2004 for the Best Canadian Student Director for her short, I’m Not From Hear, at the Montreal World Film Festival. The film went on to win numerous awards in the U.K., Canada, Finland, Russia and the United States. In 2009, she co-produced The Hammer, which won eight film festival awards. Catherine performed live in the Vagina Monologues in Toronto with Rachel McAdams and Shirley Douglas. Selected credits include Kenny vs. Spenny, Voices of Chernobyl, Skip to the Beat and Are You Neutral?
Dedicated to promoting equal work opportunities in the Canadian entertainment industry, Catherine’s initiatives include the creation of ACTRA’s online Guide to Auditioning Deaf Actors, designed to educate casting decision-makers.
Catherine speaks ASL (American Sign Language) and English. She is a festival director of the biennial Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival. [*]