If you’re within the UK, you can watch Awake, starring Alex Bulmer and Margo Cargill, online for free. It’s available on BFI player as part of their groundbreaking new collection Disabled Britain on Film. And while you’re there, check out the cornucopia of other great films – narratives, docs and historical material, captioned and audio described.
Wonderful week screening Awake at FilmFest Dresden and presenting a workshop in Accessible Filmmaking. Introducing an inclusive process that started with access auditing, nine participating filmmakers were challenged to create a short film complete with access features in just three days.
Day one looked at the representation of D/deaf and disabled people in contemporary cinema, covering both bad examples (from the pitiful to the heroic) to best practice where disability is just one aspect of the characters’ identities. Through a series of writing exercises, we came up with a scenario for our visiting “talent”: British actress Margo Cargill (Awake, Birds of a Feather, White Man Van) and Maxime D. Pomerleau (Prends Moi, Fubar Age of Computer) a fantastic Québecoise actress that we met at Look & Roll in Basel. Margo is blind and Maxime uses a wheelchair, so this was an opportunity to script disabled characters, and look at how the filmmaking process could be adapted to make it accessible for both of them.
Day two was all about filming, and the participants brought all of their combined skills to the shoot. The improvised story took place in a hospital waiting room and gave us room to explore the differences in public and private health care in Germany. A row broke out! Just for the cameras, of course.
I quickly edited the footage back at my hotel room (while all the other participants attended festival parties – but I’m not bitter!) and Day 3 was about adding access features of captioning and audio description. This was the first introduction to audio description for many of the participants and they were engaged and curious how to incorporate AD into their own projects using standard or sometimes creative methods. AD was written and then recorded, each person narrating a bit to create three separate versions. It was so interesting to then compare the different approaches – proving that AD is in fact an art in itself.
The Barrier Free cinema (Kino Ohne Barrieren) programme at Dresden Filmfest was curated by Gerhard Protzchka. Coordination of the workshop was by Stefanie Forestier, FilmFest Dresden. Participating filmmakers included: Becky Hellwig, Caspar Schleicher, Christian Rabending, Pascale Grange, Franz Muller, Raoul Kevenhorster, Johannes Kurschner, Allen Lai, Hanna Prenzel.