Even as he sauntered from red carpet to red carpet this spring, promoting the Oscar-winning "Coda," Duluth actor Daniel Durant already had his next project completed.
Durant is one of the leads in the short film "Millstone," which features an all-Deaf cast. It fulfills a desire he expressed last August in an interview with the Star Tribune: to appear in a film where deafness is just one element of the story.
"'Millstone' was a lot of fun because it was a totally different character for me to dive into. It was a new experience for me working on a small set and it was intimate," said Durant, who played the brother of the protagonist of "Coda" and shared in the film's best ensemble trophy at the Screen Actors Guild awards. "It is always a great experience telling a new story where our being Deaf is not a focus."
Durant, who answered questions by e-mail, and Bellamie Bachleda play parents of a child who was killed in a hit-and-run accident before "Millstone" begins. They've agreed to unorthodox therapy that brings up unsettling truths over the course of the dark thriller's 16 minutes.
"It's a story where these characters happen to be Deaf and they're full, rich characters who are having these experiences. And the language they use happens to be sign language," said Peter Kimball, the writer/director, whose son is Deaf and who connected with Durant via mutual friends at Washington, D.C.-based Gallaudet University, where Durant was once a student.
Kimball and Durant developed a bond that went beyond work, with the actor filming a video for the director's 3-year-old son, welcoming him to the Deaf community.
"Millstone" is in the process of entering film festivals, hoping to secure competition spots and distribution (it is not yet publicly available). Kimball thinks films such as "Coda" and even "Parasite," the South Korean drama that won the best picture Oscar in 2020, helped clear a path for his subtitled work.
"This is a film you don't think of as about disability. It happens to be in another language, just like if it were in Korean," Kimball said.
Durant is looking forward to audiences experiencing the surprises of "Millstone." Meanwhile, he's taking meetings for future films and coming down from March's Oscar high.
"I am still reliving Oscar night, I got to bring both of my moms to all of the after-parties! It was a blast! And yes now things are definitely brewing," Durant said. "I have a lot of meetings to get to and projects I am eager to get started on."
Who knows? If things go well, he could find himself on the red carpets again next year, for "Millstone" rather than "Coda."