#DeafSuccess: Michael Epstein, Graphic Designer

Mar 18, 2021

Michael Epstein is a #deaf Graphic Designer in the film and television industry in Hollywood, California. In his #DeafSuccess story, Epstein explains his key to success as taking the time to establish rapport and connection with colleagues, as well as maintaining a healthy attitude to lifelong learning — making sure to balance a long-term view with short-term gains. Epstein’s approach has paid off, having worked for television series on MTV and Showtime, including the first live-action series in the Star Wars franchise, The Mandalorian.

Full video description: https://tinyurl.com/y4c85xta

Video Description:

Michael, a white man with short, wavy red hair, beard and mustache sits in a narrow room. He sits between a brown couch and desk with a computer and tablet on it.   The back wall is full of windows. Micheal is wearing a baseball tee shirt with comic book iconic words like “BOOM!!” “POW” and “BANG.”

Michael signs.


I’m a graphic designer for TV and film. I am a member of the ADG which is the Art Directors Guild here in Los Angeles and I work in Hollywood.

I design within the art department for different movies and TV shows.


Micheal is in a dark room at the computer, using the mouse. The glow from the computer screen lights his face. Then back to Michael in his office.


Production Design, art direction, that sort of thing, those are skill sets I studied in school. I created a portfolio with photos of different things I’ve worked on.  When I went to my first job interview, I showed my work, talked about my work, and I got that  job.


The video cuts to Michael working at a computer screen with a geometric, 3D design. Then, from over Michael’s shoulder, he’s working on side-by-side computer screens, one with an abstract design and the other with video editing software open. Back to Michael is his office.


When I’m designing, I’m telling a story.  I get the script, and then try to create something to help build this world.

Oftentimes, people I interact with have never worked with a deaf person before; they’ve never worked with anyone with a disability at all.  They start to imagine what that means, the struggles, complexities.   I’d rather they meet me first. There are many ways I can communicate without an interpreter or without sign. If I have to, I try to establish a connection first.  Part of the reason I like my job is because it’s mostly one-on-one or I spend a lot of time working independently.


Michael working at his computer. Then a tablet open to a satellite view of a coastal city. Now Michael draws with a stylus on the tablet.


During a tech meeting, we typically walk through the script, go over each scene, check that everyone understands the shot list, check if there are any interdepartmental concerns. Typically, I try to resolve all problems before that.

For example I’ll have to remind people when there is a complicated video element in the shot, that it will be greenscreen or a virtual element, making sure that gets discussed and everyone is made aware of it. Sometimes I’ll have to discuss more in depth after the tech meeting to resolve everything between departments.

Some weeks or days it gets incredibly complicated and busy working 14 hour days. I’d complete a task and get asked to change it at the last minute. It happens a lot. And that’s the job. I knew what I signed up for, knew that would happen. You really just have to roll with it — You know, it’s an ongoing learning process.


A series of movie posters display on the screen.

First for Star Wars, the Mandalorian. A character walks away from a spaceship, across a sunny desert landscape. White text: Disney Plus, Seasons 1 and 2 Graphic Design.

Then, red lettering on a black background, MTV The Challenge Final Reckoning. MTV. White text: Season 32 Graphic Design.

Next, Showtime, The Affair, What Are You Holding On To? June 17.  A blurry image of two figures in bed. They embrace, covered by white sheets.

White text: Showtime Season 4 Graphic Design.

Then, pink handwritten lettering “Sweet Vicious.” White text: MTV Season 1 Playback Graphics. Who white girls, one with blue hair and one with blonde hair, lean against a large column, a look of terror on their faces.

Next, ANIMAL KINGDOM, TNT Season 2 Graphic Designer.  5 men and one woman with serious expressions sit on a couch in front of a window revealing a jungle scene.

Back to Michael in his office.


I think there are a lot of other jobs accessible to Deaf people in Hollywood, it’s just no one has tried it before.  Even if you feel you’re not sure you’re able to do this or don’t have the skills yet, try to present yourself and say you can do this. You can figure out how.

Sometimes we have to really evaluate each situation. Sometimes you have to play the long game. You have to keep the future in mind. Maybe there is something you can tolerate for the short term, and not complain about, but eventually you will be able to stand up and advocate for yourself later

I think a lot of people I work with now, maybe 5 years ago they would have said they couldn’t imagine hiring a deaf person.  And now they’ve worked with me, they’ve worked with someone deaf, with someone with a disability. They’re now comfortable and know it’s not a problem and that there is always a way to figure things out.  

Part of my worldview is that if I’m successful, other deaf people can be successful, too.


In black and white, Michael sits at his computer working. White text on a teal banner appears: #DeafSuccess.

NDC Logo appears above text, black lettering on a white background: nationaldeafcenter.org

“This video was developed under a jointly-funded grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) #HD326D160001. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the federal government.”

Next to it, three logos appear. The first reads “IDEAs that Work” with an arrow drawing a circle from “IDEAs” to “Work” and the words “U.S. Office of Special Education Programs”. The second logo shows a red-and-blue star with text next to it that reads “TA&D”. The third logo shows a blue circle around a tree. In the blue circle are the words “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.”

Subtitles available in English and Spanish | Subtítulos disponibles en español y inglés

Watch more Deaf Success stories: https://tinyurl.com/y3gkhtjw

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© National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes
Video licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International

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Topic(s): #DeafSuccess
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