Wishing you a happy New Year, one week on… 2016 was bittersweet. 2017 is a new hope.
Last summer I embarked upon the exciting and enlightening journey into documentary filmmaking; self-producing Access Granted, a video pilot about audio described performances in theatre.
2017 brings Access Granted version 2.0
The project originally brought together elements of my life and line of work: a foundation performing/producing/studying/working in theatre; a Masters degree in Television Production; partial-sight in my right-eye. Each factor formed the basis of my research and development (R&D) when I started looking into this niche subject area, and since creating the documentary pilot, the concept and content has evolved extraordinarily.
Audio description (often referred to as ‘AD’) is used in many different forms for various services. I won’t go into the particulars – at this point I just wish to share with you my journey and what I envision for this project. I also wish to thank a great many kind people in various guises who have helped along the way.
If you have not yet watched my documentary pilot Access Granted then I urge you to please give 20 minutes of your time to see where this project currently stands and maybe learn something new!
My dream is to eventually create a series of documentaries that focus on the range of access services provided by and for the arts (and beyond), but I had to start somewhere, and that starting point needed to be something I could personally identify with.
Ever since my first conversation with the team at VocalEyes they have been excellent supporters for this project. Because of this, the Access Granted pilot includes more contributors than I could have hoped for. There were time-constraints in place to produce the 20+ minute pilot, I was thankfully able to schedule filming at a few theatres; the access teams at the Almeida Theatre and Birmingham Hippodrome both galvanised their FOH staff, production companies and audiences to arrange filming in and around their respective establishments during the touch tours for Richard III and Mamma Mia!
Other contributors included representatives from the Ambassador Theatre Group at the London Playhouse Theatre and Bristol Hippodrome, Tom Morris at the Bristol Old Vic, the access team at Shakespeare’s Globe, professional storyteller Giles Abbott, actor Madeleine MacMahon, and audio describers from VocalEyes and Sightlines, as well as interviews with audience members at the aforementioned theatre productions. Each interviewee was excited by the potential positive impact for this documentary, even in its pilot stage.
It has been a genuine pleasure working, collaborating and engaging with so many people involved in the arts and audio description; sharing knowledge and discussing the past, present and future of AD and how my documentary could help bring more awareness to accessibility.
Following the finished documentary pilot, I have continued a working relationship with these theatres and have since been filming at Shakespeare’s Globe, the Bristol Old Vic and National Theatre in the immediate development of Access Granted v2.0, which is also set to include contributors from many other performance and art spaces.
Whilst my R&D is ongoing, the video pilot was offered two private screenings, first for VocalEyes and then for the Audio Description Association. From these audiences (and other solo viewings) I have received some very positive and constructive feedback on the content and style, which supports the development of a longer and more in-depth piece. Numerous questions have since surfaced, and I am also conversing with theatre-makers who engage with AD in different ways, including companies such as Extant and Graeae.
In 2017 I hope to develop on these conversations and broaden the scope of the documentary to encompass all aspects of AD in theatre; speaking with more audiences and advocates for accessibility and AD; filming more content with examples of how AD works and how it can be employed. Because this is a presenter-led production, I will also be exploring my personal “journey of discovery” into the realm of visual-impairment and theatre by looking at the physiological make-up of my partially-sighted right eye; speaking with medical professionals about blindness and sight-loss.
There is much to be done moving forward, and 2017 promises many great adventures in the making of this documentary. As the project progresses, and there is more opportunity to share elements of the video, I hope that you will join me on this expedition. I have hope for Access Granted v2.0 to receive a television broadcast commission and/or video-on-demand before this year is finished; let us bring better awareness to accessibility in the arts.
Thank you for your interest and taking the time to read this! I am most grateful for your support and encouragement. TM