There’s a saying that we’ve all heard a thousand times over, that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. This resonates with visual artists when ensuring that the visuals they convey will provoke the right tone and message to the many words and feelings that they will portray and intend for their story.
Now this concept isn’t new to most you and it’s just what good storytellers and filmmakers should be doing right?! I mean, what artist doesn’t put their heart and soul in infusing their vision into their film, spending years moulding the experience their audience will have and to tell the story they want to tell, that their audience will enjoy?
Well, before we get too caught up in that statement, which I’m sure many of you agree with. I’m going to ask all of you to join me and everyone else at this exact same moment kindly taking the time to read this, to take a few moments and think about a scene from one of your favourite movies. What was it that you liked about it? I bet you can imagine the brilliant character design, the little things about their expressions, what they wore and how they carried themselves that make them a character you love. Or how about the amazing set design and cinematography, all those things that evoked a certain vibe within you and gave you a feeling of being grounded in the story, the surroundings and the emotion.
Now I want you to imagine that you’re blind…
Audio description is an additional audio sound track that is overlayed onto your film or show that describes key elements of action, design and tone in between dialogue and other key sound elements. A picture is worth a thousand words, but to the visually impaired who equally want to enjoy your film, it is the words you have chosen for your pictures that make all the difference and here are 4 reasons to have audio description on your film:
Remember earlier when we were talking about how much hard work filmmakers put into telling the best and right version of their story, putting in the time and passion, to then put it out into the world so that everyone who would potentially enjoy their film could access it? Well, there’s a huge population that want to watch your film and that want to enjoy and experience the story you want to tell but can’t without an audio description track available. Currently there’s 275 million people globally with low vision or who are completely blind and over the next 30 years this is expected to rise to just over 700 million. In the US and UK alone there are approximately 10 million who are visually impaired.
For many that don’t know, when you go shopping your film around to hopefully get a deal to distribute your film, there are usually fees involved for that distributor to charge for the creation of things like subtitling, closed captions and sometimes, although much less so, audio description. Now the problems with filmmakers either not being aware of things like audio description or not including the creation of it in their filmmaking or post production process are the following:
We now live in a much more diverse and inclusive world but unfortunately disability such as blindness or deafness still hasn’t quite reached the same awareness and drive like gender and racial inclusivity has. There are however some pretty exciting organizations in the film industry that are taking notice and driving this and that may be worth you also taking notice of and taking part in.
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Sundance advocated and held a panel about audio description on films and accessibility and they accept films at their festival to be screened with the AD track available to visually impaired audience members. Paus TV, is a relatively new short film streaming platform that allows the audience to watch the films for free but also allows people to tip and donate to their favorite films and filmmakers. I recently spoke with Paus about including AD on their platform and they have steamed ahead in creating an audio description collection of films on their platform that are already available.
We all love to consume content and entertainment in multiple ways and in multiple formats, whether that’s because we prefer it in certain ways, we need it in certain ways or for certain situations it’s more convenient. For instance, our story might have started as a book, then an audiobook, then a film which you can view digitally or have the physical DVD of. Creating more options of your film being accessed, like through audio description is not only most importantly needed by a huge part of the population that is starved of this content but can actually be beneficial to sighted audiences too. Several people accidentally have come across audio description on films and then like to use it to watch a film that they can’t always keep their eyes on all the time and even pick up on things in the audio description that they actually never noticed when physically watching the film. Companies like Netflix for example have picked up on this and have launched audio only play modes for people to enjoy their films and shows while doing things like driving on long journeys and commuting.
So there you have it, 4 reasons to have audio description on your film and hopefully some insights and understanding to those that had never heard of audio description before reading this today. I hadn’t heard of audio description 3 months ago but discovering it really opened me up to a lot of possibilities, a lot of education and a lot of amazing people and if you want to see some examples of AD on films then please check out the short film audio description collection on Paus TV. I’m creating AD on all of my films and would love to help out anyone who wants to know more about this space or just to generally connect.
Jaye Adams is an award-winning UK Horror Filmmaker and lifelong lover and nerd of the genre. Her first horror short UNSEEING EVIL, won multiple awards in the 2020 festival circuit about a young blind boy befriended by a sinister entity and is now streaming on Paus TV as part of their collection launch of Audio Described Films. It was through research for the film about the visually impaired community where she discovered audio description and became a huge advocate in this space including building a wonderful and growing community of horror fans both blind and sighted on the Facebook group “Audio Description Horror Films”
She’s currently developing Unseeing Evil into a feature, writing a horror fantasy TV Pilot, developing more shorts and POC's and writing a short form Christmas Horror limited series in similar vain to Tales From The Crypt.
Email – email@example.com
Twitter - https://twitter.com/jayeadams89
Clubhouse - @jaye.adams
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