project incubator * media arts studio * movies for the web

Accessible Audio Descriptions

Any day now the short film, We Love Our School, will be released to the general public. Made for the Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB), this is the last project I produced and directed for the state while working at WaTech. I’ve LOVED making this film. All the people I worked with at WSSB are generous collaborators and deeply thoughtful educators, creators and public servants–in particular, Superintendent Scott McCallum and Principal Sean McCormick, with whom I worked most closely. The big leap for me in this collaboration was creating and privileging descriptive audio for people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired. One of my central goals in this project was to plan for and work with audio descriptions in a wholly conceived way so that they would feel fully integrated and not like after-market add-ons.
Over the last couple of years, it’s become a regular part of my production practice to ensure captions are added to videos. But prior to this project I’d never done accessible audio descriptions. I was surprised by how many creative decisions were required. I got traction with the script for the audio descriptions by sitting side-by-side with Scott and Sean and combing through the first three minutes of a well-developed rough cut of the film, talking through various approaches and the pros and cons of each. That work session gave me a well-informed sense of what would work well for our audience. It was an inspiring process. And of course, my close production collaborators on this project, Nathan Blanchard and Amber Celletti, did a stellar job of integrating the descriptions into the piece in way that feels fully integrated.  I’m excited to share the piece here as soon as it goes public. – MFreeman