Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Descriptive Video Works

Last week I shot and edited this short behind-the-scenes spot for Descriptive Video Works.

As one of their many writers/describers, I've been a part of the Descriptive Video Works family for several years now and not only are they a wonderful group of people, but they do high quality and important work making hundreds and hundreds of hours of television and movies accessible to the vision impaired and blind.

I was brought into the fold by my friend and fellow screenwriter, Robert Chomiak, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity - it's been great to have consistent writing work when the screenwriting, story consulting and directing oasis is running dry. Also, working at Descriptive Video Works has made me a better writer.

Writing audio description might seem like something that is easy to do but this is far from the truth. It takes significant attention to detail to recognize what a vision impaired audience needs described in order to understand the story, recognize characters and be as emotionally engaged in the experience as a sighted audience member might be. In addition, it must be extremely economic. In terms of how this translates to my screenwriting, it's made my scene description skills stronger and, from listening to what is being said on screen in order to best describe what ISN'T being said, it's improved my dialogue writing.

I've described many, many hours of television and movies during my time at Descriptive Video Works. Some of these shows were easier than others (such as the game show "Cash Cab" and the CTV current affairs show "W5") and some were incredibly entertaining shows I'd never seen before like the classic "I Love Lucy" of which I described over 30 episodes. Perhaps most challenging are some of the full length feature films I've worked on... "Die Hard" required a LOT of work, but being one of my favourite action movies of all-time, it was also immense fun. "Leaving Las Vegas" on the other hand took a serious emotional toll on me for several days thanks to its hard to watch subject matter - It's a tough movie to watch once never mind over and over and over describing what at times is very graphic content. If I'm ever asked to describe "Requiem For A Dream" I think I might have to pass it on to a braver soul!

Click here for some great demos of work done by Descriptive Video Works.

Thanks to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act that was signed by President  Obama in 2010 and which comes into effect on July 1st, all affiliates of the Big Four broadcast networks will be required to provide at least 4hrs/week of audio description. Before working at Descriptive Video Works, those times when I stumbled upon a TV show where someone was talking over the images and describing them were something I never really understood the point of - "Blind people watching TV? That's just silly..."  However, now that I've seen firsthand the difference it makes in the lives of those with vision impairment, for them to be able to enjoy the same things we take for granted, I hope that the mandatory 4hrs/week quota is just the beginning.

If you know of anyone who suffers from vision impairment, do let them know about the service. If you're a filmmaker, producer or production company, I hope you're planning on providing descriptive video on all your content. There are over 20 million people in the U.S. alone who suffer from serious vision impairment and that's an audience I certainly wouldn't want to ignore.

Check out Descriptive Video Works, follow them on Twitter, on Facebook or check out their Blog.

Until next time folks!