Posts Tagged ‘Production’

Lachi: Building Bigger Plans for Going Blind

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Recording Artist Lachi standing with white cane.
Lachi is a Recording Artist, Writer, producer … someone who grew up with Low Vision and now is going Blind. You may have expectations as to how someone would react to such news… You’re wrong!

Hear how the power of music and people helped Lachi expand her confidence and develop her own view of blindness and disability. And of course, there’s the music and much more!

Listen

Resources

LachiMusic.com
The Off Beat

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family.

I hope you all are doing well.
Feeling good. feeling like things are going your way.

Me? I’m good! I’m here with y’all!

Sometimes, we know, things change up.
That’s one reason for this podcast.
Where we feature compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

What we learn from the experiences of others can help us draw up our own plan

Because when things seem to fall apart you don’t just scrap your plan… nah, you just go out and make yourself some bigger plans!

Check this out!
Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

— “Not the One” Lachi, Michael Herrick

TR:

You’re listening to Not the One by Lachi and Michael Herrick. Lachi is an award nominated recording artist, writer, producer…

Lachi:

film producer, published author. I dabble in acting, I dabble in modeling. I am part of the Recording Academy advocacy Committee, which I’m very proud of. And I am also a speaker on the respectability National Women’s speaker’s bureau. I am trying to also be a YouTube star. And also do everything under the sun that anyone will allow me to do.

TR:

Allow?

As far as I can tell, I don’t think she’s waiting for anyone’s permission. Nor should she!

Lachi:

If I can give myself a really quick image description. I am an African American female. I have long hair, most of its mine, not all of it. That is curly and goes down my back with highlights. And I have big crazy, bodacious smile.

TR:

You can hear that smile when you get into a conversation with her. Even when the topic is something that most people wouldn’t smile about. Going Blind.

Lachi:

I was born legally blind. Always had to use adaptive technology. I’ve always had to sort of struggle with meeting other people that would be able to relate to me and things like that.

More recently, I did receive yet another diagnosis that is putting me on a path from low vision to no vision in a matter of years.

TR:

Her response to those who expect a different sort of reaction to the news.

Lachi:
I’ve been blind, so going from slightly blind to fully blind isn’t as traumatic for me as perhaps it might be. Or maybe I just haven’t really swallowed the pill fully. But I just been on that path already. So getting that diagnosis while it was quite a bit of a shocker. I wasn’t sitting here going, Oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to change my whole life around I mean, I already got the cane. I already got the large print, I already have sort of things that I would need to access the things I need. So the transition isn’t going to be as hard. But I will say it is a different beast. So I will acknowledge that going from low to No, is definitely a big step. And I just maybe I’m just not ready yet. Maybe I haven’t accepted it yet. And that’s where I’m at.

— Music begins and rises to a smooth beat. —

TR:

That’s where she is now.

We learn from our past, so let’s go back.

[TR in conversation with Lachi:]

Where did you grow up?

Lachi:

I tell people I grew up in the widest parts of upstate New York, the black is parts of Philly, and I Southern belt it down in North Carolina. So I’ve been all over the place. And I got all types of attitudes inside me depending on which me you get at what time and so people say, Well, you don’t have a New York accent or southern accent. I’m like, I have them all balled into one.

As much as I wish I had like childhood friends from kindergarten and this and that. I do appreciate the fact that I moved around a lot. But I have spent the last nine or so years here in New York, okay.

I’m New York to the heart but I got love for all!

TR:

Growing up with Low Vision, Lachi was the sixth of seven children.

Lachi:
The four older ones were girls. And the three younger ones were me and my two brothers. So I was really one of the boys.

We’d run around and play, we get hurt, we do whatever.

I was put into public school, I was not necessarily treated as a child with a visual impairment. Yes, we did have social workers and things like that. But I didn’t actually have the opportunity to get to know too many other people in my situation, whether it be blindness, whether it be other forms of disability.

TR:

Lachi received accommodations like extended test taking and adaptive technology such as magnifiers, CCTV’s and a monocular to see the board.

Lachi:
Because I held things really close, instead of thinking that I couldn’t see, they thought that I had maybe some other sort of other social issues or psychological issues.

It gave me sort of a complex of always trying to prove that I knew what I was doing. I was trying to prove that I was intellectually sound.

I was always sort of a creative kid. But there was never too many outlets for me to hang out with other kids and create with other kids and collaborate with other kids just because I was super shy and this and that. But I did spend a lot of time on my own just kind of drawing, writing and cultivating my musical skills really.

TR:

Being one of the youngest children in the family, Lachi benefited when her older sister lost interest in music. With access to a keyboard, Lachi found a passion.

Lachi:
I’d have all these little dolls and stuffed animals and I’d line them up, and I would make them sing all the songs I wrote. And I’d be like come on Alto section, now y’all know y’all messing up.

But they were very good listeners.

I’ve been writing and playing the piano ever since I was just, I can’t remember.

TR in Conversation with Lachi: 22:03

black families don’t necessarily always promote creativity in the arts. When I meet people who started off and seem to get that support from their family, I’m always interested in that, because back in the day, it was really like, Nah, you know, you got to go get a job And this is not going to pay…

Lachi:
You know, I mean, I did kind of glaze over a lot of that. You are, I’ll tell you right now, you are not being old school. That is definitely a real thing. Not only a black family, but most certainly in immigrant families, I identify as an immigrant family, because my parents both came over from Nigeria, in sort of the 70s 80s. And all of my older brothers and sisters are all nurses, doctors (says with over exaggeration and laughs) so I did get that as well. Part of the being blind, part of the being visually impaired, and being the only one with this visual impairment in my family did give me a little bit of leeway as the black sheep like, oh, okay, maybe she can be a little piano virtuoso, but at the same time, I was also very good at math. So I know that while my mother was very encouraging, of me just kind of doing whatever. My father was very much like, we need to cultivate this math thing you got going on, you better be you an accountant, you better be you some kind of financial, whatever.

TR:

She tried majoring in business in college for a bit.

Lachi:

I even dabbled in biology until I realized I was not going to dissect nothing. Sorry. Not with these nails.

TR:

Those nails and the artist they’re attached to had other plans – which became clear while at the University of North Carolina.

Lachi:

Every Saturday I would go down and play the piano in the dorm. And it was funny, because that began to blow up into people just always coming through Saturday evenings waiting for the piano girl to come and play the piano. It started turning into frat boys coming back from parties, or people going on dates kind of just hanging in lounging in the common area listening to me play the piano, and it really blew up in a major way.

It really did start out with me just playing. And then a friend or two would be like, hey, do you know that one song? Or do you know this and that, and then just got to a point where people are just yelling out Freebird.

TR in Conversation with Lachi:
Now now you just said which dorm you were in by the way. (

— Lachi and TR share a hearty laugh!

TR:

These Saturday night dorm performances helped increased more than Lachi’s popularity.

I started becoming more confident. Because I was sharing my talent with other people and people were going, Wow, you’re good at something. And I was like, Oh, look, I am and other people are telling me I am. I started getting that outside validation. I went to a counselor, and I was like I really want to pursue music. What do I do? And he was just like, moved to New York. You supposed to tell me to take like music theory classes or something. So I did!

TR:

Move to New York that is!

Arriving on bus in the big city, you know, sky scrapers and everythang! Her first stop.

Lachi:

I went to NYU and that’s where I started to meet some great guys out in things like Scoring for film, and things like that.

So I did get to meet a bunch of really great people. But when I say I really got into collaborating, was when I decided, look, I want to put a band together, I want to put some songwriters together. And so I really did just go out there and just start meeting people. Like it was amazing how much I just opened up as soon as I moved to the city, and would just be able to go up to people and go, hey, let’s you and me work together. And, and things began to kind of blossom.

TR in Conversation with Lachi: 17:05

You started off earlier, though, by saying you were shy. What’s the relationship between being shy? And then that creative spirit? Like, was that just that strong? Or was there a process? Because I think that, people adjusting to blindness, that could make somebody shy.

Lachi:

Yeah!

Whether you are born visually impaired, or whether you lose it later in life. And you don’t know other people in your space, you don’t know other people in your situation, you feel different, you feel misunderstood, you kind of feel alone

, you feel like you can’t really relate to others,

no matter how good people are trying to be to you, no matter how inclusive and everything, if they’re not really similar to your story,

the first place you go is well, you don’t really get it. And so you kind of coop up. And so that’s kind of where I was, like I did have friends, I did have a lot of support at home. And people you know, I was bullied, like everybody’s bullied. And I have some pretty crazy bully stories. But I can’t just sit here and complain too much. I did have some love. And regardless I was still putting myself in a shell. And that shell just could not stick when it came to me creating music. No matter how hard I tried to box it in, it brought me out

I was playing the piano in college for myself.

TR:

It’s so important to have something we enjoy doing. We’ll do it more and therefore, we get better. The result, confidence!

Now add the power that comes from meeting other people with disabilities.

I’m especially talking about those you can relate to. Those who share your interests.

For Lachi, it started with Visions.
Visions Center on Blindness that is…

Lachi:

It’s a camp. So you do all sorts of different activities, not just learning technology. I got to meet a bunch of people. Myself, being a musician, it was great to meet other musicians with blindness. And a lot came out of that.

TR:

Like the chance to create.

Lachi:

He played guitar. We were collaborating so much together. We decided we were just going to go to South by Southwest.

TR:

That’s the annual music , film and cultural festival that serves as a way of really introducing new artists to both fans and executives.

Lachi:

Right before we left, I ended up writing to a bunch of labels to be like, Hey, we’re going to South by Southwest, you should check out our show. Don’t ask how I got your email just come through. (Laughing…) And of course, I got no responses. But we went to South by Southwest, we played a few bars, it was a lot of fun. And funnily enough, at one of the shows we did, some guy came up to me and was like, I really loved what you guys just did, even though it was just vocals and guitar. Here’s my card. Call me when you get back to New York.

It turns out he was an A & R for a label under EMI. And it was just amazing. We had our meetings, we had another meeting, we had a third meeting, and then we eventually got signed.

TR:

In addition to being an artist, Lachi’s a producer with her own studio.

Lachi:

I am a Pro Tools girl. I use sort of a bunch of Antares plugins. I am a girl that has my computer, right at the edge of that desk, and I am two inches away from my screen. And it’s so funny because people will come in of all sorts. I mean, people have high celebrity to just independent artists will come into my studio, and the first thing they think is, uh, okay, let’s see how this goes.

— “Go”, Lachi
Lachi:

Couple years ago, when I first started really opening up my studio to other people, they would come in and then they would be a little alarmed.

I did get to a point where I did preface it with people. As soon as they came to my studio, I’d be like look I’m just going to tell you right now, I’m visually impaired and legally blind. But you came here because you heard my samples.

I will be all up in the screen, but I do use all shortcuts. Everything is shortcuts shortcut shortcut shortcut.

TR:

She makes it work for her. It’s not about the process, rather, it’s all about the art she’s making.

Lachi:

Ever since 2016, you’re going to get EDM, you’re going to get dance, you’re going to get trance, you’re going to get pop dance, you’re going to get things of that nature. But if you start listening to some of my older music, you’re going to get sort of more general pop, or pop rock.

As I got more confident, my music gets more confident, my messages get more confident. I don’t know, I really started to enjoy the whole, like, badass female sort of perspective. And I started to identify that way. And so my music kind of takes that journey.

TR:

I was curious if Lachi had ideas on how she would adapt to non visually making music. Yet, I was hesitant to ask because when she first brought up her diagnosis, she admitted that she wasn’t giving it too much thought. She later added that the gradual nature of the loss may also be a factor.

Lachi:

I don’t even notice it until I, you know, go into my doctor every six months, and he’s like, dang, girl, you really can’t see the big E.

TR:

The actual sight loss is gradual. Some other things become apparent when it’s gone.

Lachi:

it’s not really something that has hit my, my inner realm. I can’t necessarily tell you why. But I am sitting here trying to, you know, trying to psychologically figure that out myself, I actually think that that’s a very interesting thing about myself that I’m not freaking out about it. But I’m looking at it from a business perspective, instead of from a personal perspective.

TR in Conversation with Lachi:

And you know, you can do both.

All I guess I really want to tell you is that you know, you do your thing. But I want you to know that you have lots of options.

Right? That’s what I want you to know. You have lots of options.

You gone be fine!

TR:

Honestly, I think Lachi already knows that. Meeting a variety of people with all different degrees of blindness and disability ever since attending the camp in upstate New York.

But some things are relatively new.

Lachi:

I decided to incorporate my vision loss and my need for accessibility into my career path.

TR:

That includes her work with the Recording Academy advocacy committee.

Lachi:

I am putting together a number of inclusion and accessibility talks with the Grammys.

Anytime I’m in front of anybody from the board membership or anybody from any of these committees, I am talking about inclusion, I am talking about accessibility, and my voice is getting heard.

We’re talking a lot about Hollywood inclusion, we’re not really talking enough about music inclusion. And so I’m getting in front of these boards and talking. And they are coming to me and going, you know what, let’s go ahead and have you do some panels Lachi, you’re the expert on this.

TR:

Be on the lookout for some panel discussions around accessibility and inclusion in the music industry.

Lachi:
another thing that I wanted to mention, my manager Ben price of harbor side management, got an amazing grant from the UK Arts Council to do a huge sort of study slash article on music and its future when it comes to disabilities.

He’s out there having some great conversations with people when it comes to not just showcasing artists with disabilities, but also, with the accessibility of venues.

When we start opening up the city, when we start opening up the nation in the world. This is something we need if we’re starting from ground zero. If you’re just reopening, why don’t you add that ramp, add that handle, add that bar, do what you got to do to make your space accessible, because guess what? 2021 and 2022 is going to be Lachi out here calling you out!

TR:

She’s currently building a platform that could provide the space to amplify these issues and more. It’s on YouTube and it’s called The Off Beat.

— The Off Beat promo

Lachi:

I am a quirky little offbeat musician and I’m also just an offbeat person.

it’s going to be a series that Chronicles me, a black girl going blind, just trying to keep up with the sort of fabulous lifestyle.

Everything from, makeup, skincare and wardrobe, to Little things like learning how to fold a shirt to just getting my taxes right to even trying to figure out how to make a YouTube series like let’s be real meta and learn that together.

TR:

She’s partnering up with brands who want to support her message.

Lachi:

I’m also really interested in speaking with influencers and top folks in not only the blind space, but in the disability space in general. And even other margins like transgender, LGBTQ non binary. Just kind of calling on names in that space, to ask them how they handle different transitions as well.

I’m excited to share it with you, and anyone who will listen, that we are going on this journey, and that we are doing it from my perspective of I think it’s important for me to mention that is from the perspective of a black woman losing her vision and not just have a woman losing her vision.
— “We’re Not Done… Check this Out” From “You Must Learn” Boogie Down productions
— “Bigger Plans”, Lachi

TR:

And just when you thought it was over, you learn about her “Bigger Plans” …

Lachi:

That is actually the song where we are putting out our AD version of the music video that we put together. And so we’re very excited about that.

TR:

In the meantime…

Lachi:

We put this music video together with that song. We ended up getting backed by a company that does diversity styling, and
we shot the video and the company’s called diversity styling. We ended up shooting it in a space called positive exposure, which is a gallery that only showcases art from underrepresented groups. In the video, they had a bunch of pictures hanging from students with different disabilities. And the song as you can see, was written by a woman with a disability and the video was produced and directed by myself. And the diversity stylings woman, and then the star of the video is Zazell, gosh, she’s good!

She ended up sort of dancing in the video, and she starts out with a cane. And she’s unsure then she throws the cane away, and she starts dancing, and it’s so empowering. But by the end of the video, she actually picks the cane back up and continues to dance with it. Because that’s that’s her whole her.

The whole video from top to bottom is just made by folks with disabilities. And we’ve been entering it into all sorts of contests and all sorts of things.

We just literally won Best Music Video at the International Film forum New York. New York, Neil gallery.

TR:

We all need some wins every now and then, don’t we?

Lachi:

I’m always doing these little radio interviews, whatever, this little thing here, this little thing there. This is probably one of my favorites. Look we’re sitting here talking man. I’m not being rushed. We’re not trying to hurry up and plug something. I don’t have like, you know, my show notes. Like, let me make sure I hit this. I can tell that we are having an A and B conversation. It’s not just you reading a quick question and then just kind of scrolling through something while I’m trying to insert it.

TR in Conversation with Lachi:

Yeah. Definitely.

Lachi:

I really appreciate your perspective. I really love this show. When Ben sent me the link. I was like, Oh, God, I gotta get on this show. As I really love it, and everything that you come through and say up in the club is always just so insightful. So I just did want to throw that out to you as well.

TR:

Nah, it’s still Covid out here. Lachi and I haven’t popped bottles in the club just yet! She’s talking about Club House.

The audio only social gathering space.

I’m an Admin with the 15 percent Club, which is all about disability – as in 15 percent of the world’s population has a disability.

Lachi moderates a room on Thursday’s called The Blind Side. It’s poppin! All sorts of conversations around blindness. My personal favorite so far was the room highlighting Blind women. There were plenty of proud Blind women who know they are all that! That’s something I support!

TR in Conversation with Lachi:
I appreciate that. But this is about you. This is all about you. So you need to understand that once you come on Reid My Mind Radio. I need to tell you Lachi you are now an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

— Official
— Airhorns!

Lachi:

Oh my god
I love it!

TR:

You can find Lachi on all social media at LachiMusic. If you’re on Club House don’t forget to check her out on Thursday’s. I might be working the door, but if I’m not let her know you’re part of the Reid My Mind
radio Family and I’m sure you’ll get the VIP treatment!

(Visually Impaired Player!)

Of course, go on over and follow Lachi’s YouTube series, The Off Beat and show your love!

If you like what you hear, please follow this podcast where ever you like to listen. We outchere!

Don’t forget we have transcripts and links over at ReidMyMind.com. If you’ve been rocking with me, you know how this goes, but some don’t… I’m gonna do it real slow!
that’s R to the E I D…
(“D, and that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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Audio Description with IDC: Good Enough is Not Good Enough!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

IDC LogoWhen it comes to Audio Description, “Good enough, isn’t good enough”, says Eric Wickstrom, Director of Audio Description at International Digital center or IDC. As AD Advocates, this has to be our message.

In this episode we feature Eric & IDC’s Head Audio Description Writer Liz Gutman. We learn about their process, the industry and more all through the lens of consumers advocating for #AudioDescription. Plus if you believe Blind people should be involved in the creation of AD, you’ll want to hear what IDC is doing about this.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Welcome to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.
This podcast brings you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

I’m Thomas Reid, your host and producer. Occasionally, I feature stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult. Today, we’re continuing with our ongoing look at Audio Description.

Reid My Mind Radio has several episodes exploring the topic. They range from consumer perspective discussions and opinions to profiles of those in the field. In fact, you can go back to when ReidMyMind was solely a blog; I’ve been writing & thinking about the topic for a minute y’all.

Today we’re bringing you a conversation with some Audio Description professionals, through the lends of consumers as advocates. What can we learn from their process and experience about AD that can help improve our advocacy efforts?

The answers and more are up next.

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Eric:

My name is Eric Wickstrom. I am the Director of Audio Description for International Digital Center otherwise known as IDC, based out of New York City.

I run everything from the initial order through the delivery of AD projects.

TR:

Eric got his start in AD about 10 years ago while working at the USA Network. this was shortly after President Obama signed the 21st Century Telecommunications Accessibility Act now known as the CVAA. This mandates that major broadcast companies including some cable stations like USA, are required to provide a minimum number of hours of described programming each quarter. Over time, this number increases with a goal of 100 percent.

Eric:

I stepped up at that point and kind of offered to help spearhead the charge. Working with the heads of my department we were able to figure it out pretty quickly and get started building a library, got in compliance with the FCC. I did that for about 4 to 5 years. By the time I left we had the biggest library on broadcast television in North America.

TR:

About four years ago, Eric left USA and began working for IDC.

Eric:

We do everything from editorial stuff, color correction, quality control, media processing conversions audio mixing sub titling and all sorts of localizations. We have a full service dubbing department now that will do English to foreign language dubbing or the reverse. Pretty much A to Z anything you need we do

TR:

I wanted to speak with Eric to learn a bit more about their process specifically as it relates to us as consumers who are advocates.

We start with identifying some barriers to Audio Description which fall into two categories; quantity & quality.

First, budgets.

Audio: Music…

Eric:
It’s a very, very small part. Depending on the size of the production I mean there are cable networks that spend 12 to 15 million dollars an episode on productions and I can tell you in those cases your AD budget would be a percentage of one percent. The cost of producing a good , I’m talking about a good AD track; hiring the right people and getting it done the right way, your average AD track’s going to cost you less than like the Kraft’s service table does for a production of a T.V show.

Audio: Sound of a Adding Machine

TR:

We’re talking about a few thousand dollars.

Definitely not an amount to consider as a burden on the production of a television or film project.

So let’s not even call budget a challenge to AD.

Eric:

I just generally believe a lot of people don’t know what it is. My father and step mother were asking me three weeks ago about what AD is and I’ve been doing this for 10 years. If they don’t know by now…

[TR in conversation with Eric:]

Well, that’s just parents! Laughs…

Eric:

You know!

TR:

Truth is its much more than parents. I’m sure we’ve all encounter someone who has no idea about Audio Description. And like the good advocates we are, we explain it and probably encourage them to give it a try. The more awareness the better. But really, we need those in positions of power to be aware.

[TR in conversation with Eric:]

How is it that, production companies aren’t that aware of Audio Description at this time in 2020?

Eric:

A lot of production companies are aware of it now, the bigger production companies. They work with the bigger networks, the ones that would be mandated based on rating. Smaller production companies that traditionally work for like an HGTV or History Channel it wouldn’t surprise me that a year and a half ago when they were finally mandated to provide it, people looked at each other and said what is this. It wouldn’t shock me. If you haven’t been exposed to it you wouldn’t know about it.

TR:

It’s true, most major films are released with Audio Description. However, what about the older content that seems to remain undescribed?

Eric:

Well that’s changing. I know that like Paramount I believe did a big push two years back for AD to get it included on all the DVD releases. That back filled a lot of content that hadn’t been previously described.

Audio: Music ends in reverse.

TR:

Who watches on DVD anymore? We’re streaming.

Eric:

The problem with the streaming services is not all of them require AD. At least not for everything they air.

TR:

The issue is licensing. Streaming companies pay movie studios and television networks fees for the right to run these films and shows.

Eric:

They only have the rights for a year or two and then it goes away.

TR:

So if streaming network X pays to add AD, when it moves to streaming network Y…

Eric:

That service would have to commission their own AD track.

I think the answer there would be if every streaming service required AD, across the board then these companies that are selling the rights for these things would have to commission a track and then the track would follow that piece of material from service to service.

TR:

There’s different reasons for content not beings described. As advocates, an understanding of these can help direct our energy. In general when we find content has no description at all.

Eric:

You’d want to reach out directly to the studio itself. As far as television programming goes that would be a conversation for the network. If it became an issue about quality, it might be a conversation with the network, but then that conversation would have to happen with the production company that provided the show in the first place.

TR:

The push for quantity doesn’t automatically lead to improve quality.

Eric:

A lot of AD is mandated by the Federal government and a lot of networks look upon it as they have to do as opposed to something they want to do. That’s unfortunate because I think that’s where you lose a lot of opportunity for quality or conversations about the best way to do it.

TR:

As consumers, we want both; quality and quantity.

Eric:

It’s like anything. If I give you a gig bowl of frost bitten ice cream, yeah, it’s a bowl of ice cream but… a giant bowl of Ben & Jerry’s or Haggen Daaz that’s the difference. As more and more networks are pressured into providing the service, I’m hoping that they take a moment and say hey let’s give them ben & Jerry’s.

TR:

Shout out to Ben & Jerry’s!

Doing it right consists of three components;
The script (Audio: “Word”)
Narration (Audio: “Aw Yeh”)
And the mix (Audio: “In the Mix”) or making sure you can comfortably hear both the film’s dialog and AD narration.

Eric:

It’s all about the writing in my opinion. Without a great script you’re never going to create a great track of Audio Description. I don’t care if you get a James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman to come in and read the thing.

If I were going to make a pie chart, the scripting would be about 80 to 85 percent. That’s how important the script is.

Audio: Music

TR:

Breaking it down further, here are the ingredients for a good Audio Description script.

Audio: Sounds of typing. ” What are you doing? “I’m writing.” – From Finding Forrester

Eric:

It has to identify the right things, it has to keep the character names right, not over explain things. You don’t need to write he shoots the guy, you hear a gunshot you know what happened. That’s a big failure with Audio Description is the overwriting of scripts and the over explaining of things.

TR:

Developing a staff of writers for Eric comes down to deciding whether to recruit or train?

Eric:

I have found over the years and this is just my experience, this goes back to my years coaching youth basketball 20 years ago, I coached young kids, 4th and 5th graders who never picked up a basketball in their lives and I so much prefer coaching those kids because it’s so much easier to teach somebody from the ground up than to break them out of bad habits they already developed.

TR:

Eric has seen a lot of bad habits from writers with years of experience.

Eric:

There’s too much good enough is good enough. For us and our standards at IDC, no we’re not striving for good we’re striving for great!

TR:

I agree the script is that important. So I spoke with head Audio Description Writer at IDC, Liz Gutman.

She first heard about Audio Description from a podcast. No, it wasn’t this one that would have made for a fantastic segue. The podcast is called 20,000 Hertz.

Audio: Music ends in reverse.

Liz:

It’s a great podcast. There was an interview with a woman named Colleen Connor who runs a training retreat in North Carolina. She is blind. She has theater training; she’s a performer and a creative person herself. She and this other woman Jan Vulgaropulos, who’s been a describer for a number of years, run this training retreat. I had never heard of Audio Description before, I didn’t know what it was and hearing Colleen talk about it, explain what it was and the purpose it served and what’s good Audio Description and what’s not good Audio Description. My mind was completely blown.

TR:

It wasn’t just Audio Description that blew her mind open.

Liz:

I’m a non-disabled sighted white lady and I have never really had to examine my own biases, my own assumptions, the way I move through the world. The way I perceive others to move through the world. I’d never really had to challenge that from a nondisabled point of view before that weekend. It was a profound experience.

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

That really does fall right in line with what we do at Reid My Mind Radio. I mean it’s all about adjusting and examining our misperceptions. Can you tell me what that was like?

Liz:

Yeh, absolutely. At the risk of sounding like a total jerk I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what was okay to say or ask… Should I offer to help or not. Is it okay to say Blind? All this stuff that now seems very 101 to me, I was lucky to be amongst a group of very kind open people who encouraged me to ask questions and were very open about answering them

TR:

Ready for more, Liz completed the AD Retreat and attended ACB’s Audio description project training. There she was paired with a Blind Mentor.

Liz:

Her name is Myra. She’s great! I’ve gotten to go on described museum tours with her. She took me to see a described performance of Waiting for Gadot. That was excellent. She’s also taught me a lot about experiencing culture in different ways and that helps me become a better describer. Understanding what goes in to theater description and what goes into museums and art description. All of those things inform each other, I think in real important ways.

TR:

Soon after attending her trainings, Liz began freelancing with an Audio Description provider.

Liz:

Not too long after that I really lucked out and was referred by a guy who’s now a friend who I met at ACB who worked at this company IDC who was hiring a full time writer. I went in and chatted with them and as they say the rest was history. I’ve been at IDC since August of 2018.

Audio: Music

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

So you’ve only been doing Audio Description for two years?

Liz:

Yeh… (Laughs)

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

Laughs… Oh boy! Wow! Aw man.

Liz:

I know, it’s wild. I have a lot of impostor syndrome to get over.

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

Laughs…, Yeh, Well, you’re definitely not an impostor, c’mon!

Liz:

Laughing… Oh, thank you!

At the risk of sounding big headed I do think I’m good at my job. I would not consider myself an expert by any means, but I am very curious and I do love, I love, love love this work. I sort of intensively been reading and talking to people, watching stuff with Audio Description and kind of immersing myself as much as possible. Which has just been so rewarding. Not just because I love the work, but this community is just unbelievable. Describers and consumers of Audio Description alike. I’m just like floored and grateful always to be doing this.

TR:

It’s said it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any given field. But what about the related skills that comes from prior experience? That has to account for something, right?

Liz:

My first job out of college was watching T.v. and writing trivia questions about it that would then be linked to product placement. So basically gathering marketing information to sell to advertisers.

(Laughs…) I’ll just put it this way; I couldn’t watch any T.V. or movies without noticing products. (Laughs along with TR)

That brands of cars, that brand of soda (laughs) Oh he’s wearing that brand of that t-shirt. I couldn’t unsee it.

TR:

That attention to detail serves a purpose today. Add a minor in creative writing in college, publishing a cook book, writing for a well-known food blog and running her own business for 10 years, Liz has a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw from. She wrote about chocolate for goodness sake!

I’m not sure how many ways you can describe mm delicious!

Audio: Music ends

That’s quality AD – language that succinctly evokes an image.

At IDC, writers are selected for a project based on their specialties or specific interest.

Liz:

One guy just sort of tends to usually do a lot of the fantasy actiony stuff. Someone else does a lot of reality stuff.

Our department head will kind of weigh all of those things between scheduling and who might be best suited to write it and assign it to the writer.

TR:

Just because there are specializations, doesn’t mean you’re working alone.

Liz:

What I love about working at IDC is that it’s really collaborative and we all ask each other questions. We get the best of everybody. If you get stuck on a phrase or can’t decide how to deal with a certain thing and you want to describe all of the stuff but you only have time for one thing or help prioritize.
A lot of what we’ll do is take a poll. Do you guys know what this word means? If more than half of us do then we’ll use it!

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

I’m wondering when instances of cultural competence come into play, how that works through in the writer’s room. So what does your writer’s room look like and how does that play? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Liz:

Yeh, absolutely. And that’s a really important question and one that we’re constantly considering and making sure we take into account. We’ve had conversations about the finer points of a person in a wheel chair, person using a wheel chair, and why the phrase wheel chair bound is not okay. All the finer points of describing someone who is different from you in any way.

TR:

Differences like race or skin tone. Yet, the AD guidelines specifically call for excluding race or color.

Liz:

Unless it’s crucial to understanding the plot. And if so, everyone’s race, ethnicity needs to be called out and mentioned specifically.

I do think representation is super important and I do think it’s important to mention it just so that a Blind Asian kid or a Blind Black kid so they can know oh cool, just in all the ways that representation matters right?

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

Yeh, 100 percent. I think it’s important for a Blind white kid to know that too. To say hey these people are in this movie.

Liz:

Right, and to not make the assumption.

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

Absolutely.

Liz:

If you say like oh, a tall woman and a short woman and a Black woman then you’re making the assumption that everyone else is white and white becomes the default.

TR:

As advocates believing in inclusion for one group, I’d hope that means inclusion for all.

If so, we should absolutely promote diverse writer’s rooms. That diversity should include the widest range of identities; race, ethnicity, gender, disability and LGBTQ plus representation.

Audio Description is all about providing access to information that isn’t conveyed audibly. Sighted people have this access and process it individually. Some may choose to question the casting choices and others may find them empowering. No matter how one chooses to use that information, Blind people deserve that same level of access.

Liz:

We also struggle with as describers, having enough time to include any of this stuff. Sometimes you don’t get to add any description to somebody before they’re named or even after they’re named if it’s something really dialogue heavy.

TR:

This lack of time is extremely important. This has to be a part of our awareness conversation. It’s not enough that networks and studios have to provide AD. We need them to understand the value and make it an equitable experience. Creating the space for AD in their projects makes that possible.

I’ve been ranting for years about making use of pre-show AD.

Liz, who in addition to writing also narrates and directs AD sessions at IDC, agrees, it just makes sense. Especially in the fantasy genre where the imagery is unlike anything people would be familiar with.

Liz:

When a creator builds this entire world from scratch for the audience and I only have the spaces between the dialogue to describe it, I do my best, but there’s no way I can do justice to the scope of that. So I’d love to have an extra 15 to 20 minutes to just talk about the world; each village, each type of character and all of that stuff because it’s so integral to really enjoying the series.

Eric:

That’s the writing and from there you talk about voicing.

TR:

Eric’s referring to narration – the second of three components required in Audio Description.

Eric:

When I say the writing is 85 percent of it, that’s not to imply that the voicing is not important. The voicing is extremely important. You can certainly ruin a great AD track with a bad voice. We’ve seen it happen.

Audio: “Do you hear the words coming out of my mouth?” Chris Tucker in Rush hour

Eric:

Finding the right voice for the track itself to try to match the story to the VO (Voice Over) as much as possible. But also just you want to make sure you get the right tone. Some places use a one size fits all approach to voicing where the same voice person will do a wide array of projects. Nothing wrong with that it’s a creative decision, a creative approach. We try to really fine tune every choice of voice with the script. That’s usually a conversation between me and the writers as they get into a project, maybe half way through I’ll have a conversation with that writer and say hey who do you think. That’s a benefit of having a team that’s been together for years. They sometimes have an idea before I even do about who’s going to voice something.

The last part of the process which again, very important and generally overlooked is the mix.

Audio: “As you hear it, pump up the volume!” Eric B & Rakim, I Know You Got Soul.

Eric:

A lot of times you hear AD tracks and you hear a really jarring shift in volume? That’s because the company’s feeding through an automated program. It’s a cost cutting move. It doesn’t save that much money. It really hurts the quality. I don’t like it. We won’t use it. Period!

Eric:

The last part of our process is a full QC pass.

TR:

QC or Quality Control. Checking the final production for all sorts of inaccuracies.

Eric:

If we’re misidentifying a character and this happens often. You’re writing thousands of words, it’s easy to type Bob instead of Mark. Bob enters the room. Bob leaves. Well maybe that was Mark.

TR:

Additionally there’s checking the levels of the mix, listening for mouth clicks and pronunciations.

Eric:

When that track leaves our facility it’s gone through quite a production line of work.
[TR in conversation with Eric:]

Would you employ Blind folks for the quality control part of it?

Eric:

You know that’s something we definitely discussed. We would. As far as the quality of the mix, the overall experience of the AD, yes!

TR:

IDC already holds regular focus groups bringing their writers together with AD consumers.

Eric:

That’s a very important part of what we do. We’re not making unilateral decisions about what the Blind community likes. All of our decisions are informed by the Blind community.

TR:

Audio Description advocacy needs to include creating opportunities for Blind people in as many possible paid positions throughout the production process.

By possible, I don’t mean based on the current process. There are many ways to get something done.

Eric:

Covid especially added another level of stress because everybody was scattered. We were used to writing as a team in a room together. Like a regular writer’s room in any television show we’d sit there and bounce ideas off each other. That’s taken on the form of daily Zoom.

As far as the Voice Over people goes, a lot of our VO people work in New York City. We use a very diverse roster of people. I had to figure out how dozens of people were going to be able to record VO. Some of them are already actors and Voice actors that have their own setup, but many of them didn’t

TR:

The pandemic demanded job accommodations and a new workflow which can be beneficial to the disabled community.

Eric:

One of the things we said this year at IDC we wanted to do, we wanted to get some Blind people involved directly with the narration of Audio Description tracks. The challenge of that was that we didn’t do a lot of remote recording. We weren’t setup for it.

TR:

. Since this interview IDC has made some progress on that goal. I reached out to Eric for an update on his progress.

Eric:

I can tell you it’s going very well. You could speak from personal experience. You were nice enough to be the first person to jump in with us and help develop some workflows. I was very happy with how the quality of the track turned out. The feedback we received through social media and through the clients at Netflix., they were very happy as well. We’ve already launched our second project on Netflix with a Blind Narrator. The third one’s in the works. We’ve onboarded two other Blind Narrators and I have three more on deck.

TR:

I’m excited for the opportunities this presents for all Blind and disabled people intrested in AD Narration.

Eric:

Kelly McDonald who we used on the second project that just launched, Sam Jay’s Three in the Morning on Netflix. He’s a radio host up in Canada. In fact, his co-host Romnea was onboarded as well. They have a unique ability because they’ve done radio for so long and I think Thomas you said you have this ability as well from podcasting all these years to be able to actually hear a track in their ear and repeat it in real time. At the same pace, same inflection. Originally we thought using Blind Narrators is going to be something that’s gonna be easy to do with reality shows like the one you worked on SkinDecision. Stand up specials like the one Kelly worked on.

TR:

It’s a matter of being vocal about our abilities.

Eric:

We’re not the first studio using Blind Narrators. That’s not accurate if people are thinking that. There’s plenty of narrators out there that have been working for years doing narration and podcasting, radio broadcasting. So the talent is out there.

TR:

With that said, if you’re interested and have the ability to record professional sounding audio, stay tuned and I’ll let you know how to contact Eric.

Eric:

We’re putting our best foot forward as a company in trying to be inclusive and accessible using as many talented people as we can.

There’s no excuse based on what we’ve discovered over the last few months, every studio creating Audio Description should be using Blind Narrators to voice the material they’re putting out. And in addition to that we’ve onboarded some Blind people from the community to work in our QC process as well.

TR:

These conversations with Eric & Liz helped shed light on the challenges to AD right now and the future.

Company’s cutting costs by automating the mix and employing synthetic speech are underbidding for jobs. Multiple people in the business have said how this has directly impacted the fees other AD production companies are able to charge. How soon before other companies are forced to cut corners in order to stay afloat?

It’s imperative that as consumers and advocates we demand quality – not that cheap sort of accessibility that gets slapped on at the end in order to comply with a federal mandate.

Eric:

That has to be the push of the community to develop universal standards. There’s no approved vendor list per se like universally, everybody’s kind of left on their own. It doesn’t take much more effort to do it right.

TR:

AD unfortunately, is viewed as an expense and not one that generates revenue.

Eric:

And that’s wrong. There’s 6 to 8 million visually impaired people in America at the last estimate. Every year as people live longer that number goes up. Those 6 to 8 million people are part of families. Families are using Audio Description so everybody in the household can enjoy watching television together. Especially now in this time.

That track is made for 6 to 8 million people but its impacting tens of millions of more people.

TR:

Remember, the AD budget is a few thousand dollars. Your annual streaming network subscription will set a family back over $150.

Eric:

. If that encourages a family of four to subscribe to your streaming service or pay extra for cable it’s more than paying for itself. You really don’t have to draw that many families to break even and then to turn a profit it’s just a few more.
just left on their own. It doesn’t take much more effort to do it right.

TR:

Making sure AD is done right inevitably comes down to the Blind community.

Eric:

If you hear a track either on a streaming service and you like what we did or you didn’t like what we did, reach out and let us know. I’m always open to feedback.

Audio: Music

TR:

Feedback should be a gift, so make it constructive.

Eric:

Don’t just say hey you suck!

Well, thanks, that doesn’t really help!

We’re trying to provide a service. We love this we want to make sure we’re doing it right. I always say if I want positive I would just ask my mother what she thinks.

TR:

Do you have a project that would be a lot better with Audio Description?

Are you interested in getting involved with AD as a narrator and have the ability to produce a high quality recording?
Do you have some comments on a specific project with IDC produced AD?

Reach out…

Eric:

I’m always happy to talk about AD. It’s a passion for us. It doesn’t have to just be business inquiries. Anything you have to say feedback otherwise … you can find us at IDCDigital.com. You can search for Audio Description, fill out the form and it will get to me.

TR:

You can also get to both Eric and Liz on Twitter:
@IDC_Eric
@ Liz_IDC

TR:

I hope this episode contributes to moving the conversation around Audio Description advocacy to be more about good & bad Audio Description, the ways it could be improved and the inclusion of more Blind people at every point in the workflow.

We know why AD is important to us as consumers. It goes beyond watching movies, television and theater. It’s relationships that come from these shared experiences. It’s opportunities for conversation, education, entertainment, imagination building and more.

What about the perspective of those producing AD?

[TR in conversation with Liz:]

When you speak about it you’re very passionate about Audio Description. Why?

Liz:

That’s a really good question. (Long Pause) Selfishly, it plays to my skill sets really well. It requires a large vocabulary, I’ve been a bookworm my entire life, but it also has really strict parameters. Audio Description provides that framework I find challenging in a really stimulating way. And on top of that it provides a service. That creates meaning for me.I go to work every day and I get to write, think hard about the best way, the most vivid and concise way to convey something that’s on screen. So that someone’s who’s listening to it will get the same feeling that I have watching it. And to help bring us all in to the same level. Especially since I have become more familiar with the Disabled and Blind and Low vision community. I have friends in that community now. I care about their experience.

Audio: Stay Golden

TR:

Eric expressed a very similar sentiment and noted that he really appreciates the feedback from the community. He shares his wish about AD in the future.

Eric:

I look forward to the day where I don’t get as much appreciation. Because it just becomes the norm. I look forward to the day where Blind consumers become pretty complacent about it. Oh yeh it’s got AD, great! It shouldn’t be something special and quality shouldn’t be something that’s special.

TR:

A big Shout out to Eric Wickstrom, Liz Gutman and the entire Audio Description team over at IDC. It’s official; you all are now part of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Eric was a really kind coach. After submitting my first draft he shared his comments which were incredibly helpful and I think go beyond AD narration.

Eric:

You suck!

TR:

That really isn’t helpful!

You know this isn’t the last you will hear on this topic. In fact, I have some more coming up soon so stay tuned. In order to do that may I suggest you subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Remember transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com. And yes, tell them that’s R to the E ID
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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