Flipping the Script on Audio Description – And the Winner Is…

There’s a lot of conversation taking place about Audio Description. While Flipping the Script is less about the mainstream AD talk, I wanted to bring some perspective to this discussion.

I invited Roy Samuelson to share some of what he has been involved in as a means of creating awareness and advancing Audio Description. We’re both pretty passionate about this subject and while we may disagree on what will be effective, it’s clear our goals align.

Our conversation actually went beyond what we both intended. This version however, is mainly focusing on some news concerning Audio Description awards outside of the blindness organizations, some interesting news regarding The EMMY’s and implications for Blind Narrators and there may even be a special appearance from a Jeanie!

For a less abbreviated version check out The Audio Description Network Alliance or ADNA.org

Getting to Know You!

We’re ready to take this podcast to the next level, but we need your help.
Please, take just a few minutes to fill out this survey.

Want to listen to this podcasts via your smart speaker?

just ask it to play the podcast Reid My Mind Radio by T.Reid on your default podcast player.

Holla Back

If you have any comments regarding this episode or any others for that matter, remember you can;
* Leave a voice mail at 570-798-7343
* Email ReidMyMindRadio at Gmail
* Comment here or @sreid on Twitter

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

– “Recording in progress!” Zoom synthesized voice announcement

— Hip Hop Beat begins…

TR:

Greetings beautiful people!
Welcome back to another episode of the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

My name is Thomas Reid and I appreciate you hanging out with me.

Today, as part of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description series, I want to pause for a moment…

— Pause in the music

and discuss some things happening today to advance Audio Description in the mainstream.

For this, I reached out to Roy Samuelson.

Roy:

Hey, I think I’m here.

TR:

Come on Roy, you know I have to kick off the theme music first!

Roy:

Oh, so excited.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro

TR:

If you watch movies with AD or you’re following the Audio Description space, chances are you know Roy. He’s a Voice Talent & Audio Description Narrator and Advocate.

We’re doing a sort of joint podcast effort here.

Roy:

Being a part of Reid My Mind Radio has been an honor from the first time that I learned about you and was a part of your conversation and in following all of the amazing podcast episodes that you released over the many years that you’ve been doing this. This is really great, I’m so glad that we’re doing this.

TR:

In addition to interviews with some of your favorite people in Audio Description, You can check out the full version of our conversation over at The Audio Description Network Alliance or ADNA.org.

Roy:

Putting a showcase on the voice, not only to celebrate those specific voice, talents, efforts, but also to give a language to people to be able to talk about audio description, quality and excellence, and give them something to anchor in on and starting with voice talents seemed like a great place to start strategically and see how that goes.

And as it grew into including writers, which it now does, as well as the engineers in the quality control specialists, it’s the audio description network Alliance. And so it’it’s become a lot more inclusive, specifically about film and TV at this point.

— Music begins – an upbeat, high energy Hip Hop beat
TR:

When it comes to Audio Description and this podcast, I want to showcase some of the interesting people and things taking place. I want to ask questions, but let me be clear,
I don’t propose to have the answers, nah, but I do have a perspective that I’d like to share. That’s as a consumer and advocate.

Advocacy, we know, takes many forms, like legislative work as in the CVAA or 21st Century Telecommunications Accessibility Act.

Roy:

I’m not speaking for anybody else, but I do feel that that mandate is an absolute necessity that having the FCC demand so many hours of broadcast television to include audio description has been so influential in where we are today. And it’s a necessity to continue being there.

TR:

Every time you inform a broadcaster, streaming provider or AD creator about your experience, you’re advocating and it makes a difference.

Remember, there’s never just one way to advocate.

Roy shares some information about some of what’s been taking place in his wheelhouse.

Roy:

SOVAS , is a society of voice arts and sciences. And they have
basically a awards for voice talents. It has nothing to do with audio description historically, but I was nominated for a SOVASS award for narration category. So it wasn’t audio description, narration, but it was an audio description narration that I was nominated for.

And over the past few years, I’ve been working with SOVASS , and specifically, this year 2021, I’ve been talking with the heads of SOVASS and sharing some of my experiences as a sighted person and what that means and to make sure that blind people are judges for audio description, when the audio description awards were a part of their categories for awards.

It’s just been amazing to see that connection, which is completely outside of the blind organizations, is now recognizing voice talents in this work. And I think that in a good way, it’s going to start bringing more quality.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
So let me just say that I’m not a big fan of awards, award shows in general.

Now, I admit it’s a great business. Move to gather the top celebrities and harness all of that attention. And brand yourself as the gatekeeper. That’s a great business move.

When I think of audio description, one of the first things that I usually apply to everything AD is, how does it impact the experience for blind people?

I realized that it could be direct at times, a one for one exchange, this happens, and then this happens. But sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s not necessarily obvious. So how does this help blind people?

Roy:

I think when it comes to celebrating the work of audio description, particularly in the SOVASS, they have found a way too, to share the performance in a way that celebrates it. And it is creating a competition in the sense of the people that are voting for the audio description, narrators are going to choose the best if there’s going to be a handful of submissions. Or if there’s going to be hundreds of submissions, they’re going to have to narrow it down and to narrow it down, they’re going to have to choose the best. And by celebrating which are the best that that’s going to impact our audiences.

This will lead to more quality, because people are going to want to have good voice talents to be able to be a part of this award ceremony, which will lead to better audio description. It’s almost a cart before the horse sort of situation.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
What I’m hearing, though, is that it’s still so dependent on for example, who’s judging? That’s a really big question in my mind, because I think the only people who should be judging audio description are the consumers really, I mean, are we the judges?

what is being judged, is it just that performance? We know that a big part of audio description also is The writing.

If we’re looking at just voice talent, well, it’s probably just going to be all the stuff that makes a good voice artist.

Roy:

The conversations that I’ve had with the leadership of SOVASS is that you can’t do this award without having blind judges, I’m assuming that the people who were invited who are blind have responded.
It is my understanding that that was specifically a part of this arrangement. That’s something that we made explicitly clear,
it’s like, because this whole Nothing about us, without us this entire audio description was created by blind people, for blind people, blind people need to be judging it that is absolutely essential.

In the same way that the ADNA started with voice talents, just to help people wrap their head around it, my understanding is that there’s going to be opportunities in the future for awards for writing, or for engineering that we can start to separate this.

When it comes to the attention being placed on the narrator. Yeah, there are narration skills that go into it. But I agree with you, it’s the writing that makes a ton of difference. And the example I like to use is let’s say, a Shakespeare play and you go through the first act, and it’s the intermission, and you’re just moved to tears by the performances that had happened in it, there’s something that really connected viscerally with the engagement of the different characters and how they were interacting with each other. And whatever thing that that story was, was telling you could be just moved to tears and almost be stuck. The same thing can happen at the end of the first act where you’re in tears, because you just want to get out of the theater. It’s the worst performance you’ve ever seen. You’re trying to figure out how to get out of seeing the second act, because it sucks so much. In both examples, the writing was equal. But there was something that happened. And it was most likely the performance.

It could have been the audio glitches that may have been happening if it for example, was in a big auditorium that had the microphones cutting out It could have been all sorts of other things that got in the way of the performance, but the writing was the same.

Audio description has so many different roles that the weakest link can make the whole audio description suck. That’s where everything has to be lifted up. And again, it is for the audience’s experience that by celebrating each of these different roles, we can celebrate audio description, excellence and quality.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I’m also concerned with the idea that when a lot of attention is placed on to who the narrator is, does that end up becoming something where again, we’re focusing on the narrator. And then we start to bring in, like, for example, celebrities to narrate. And I’ve heard that idea, floating around as though it would be of benefit. again, just taking all of that attention away from the consumer. I’m always thinking that the consumer, Blind folks should be centered in audio description. So anything that moves away from that, yeah, my Spidey senses are going up.

Roy:

I have to use my experience as a voice talent that
, celebrities never used to do commercials. Now that’s very common. Celebrities didn’t used to do animated features. And, you know, we look at Toy Story, which is now what 20 years old and there’s still a voice talents that are still voicing of animation that by having a celebrity involved in this work…

— DJ Scratch leads into “So What the Fuss” Stevie Wonder with AD Narration by Busta Rhymes

Roy:

I mean, as early as Busta Rhymes back in, what, 1520 years ago for the Stevie Wonder video with the fuss and that was the that was exquisite. The first time I heard that I’m like, Oh, this is so good. I can’t help but smile and nod my head. It’s so beautiful. It’s like, there was something that Busta Rhymes the celebrity brought to that, that brought that piece alive. Not every celebrity can do this. And if there are celebrities that do it, I would hope that the focus still remains on the audio description. But you’re right, there’s no way to control that. I don’t know how to address that.

But I do see that the possibility of that kind of exposure can only grow the quality of this.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

No shots to Busta.

— Sample: “Aight, here’s how it going down.” Busta Rhymes from So What the Fuss
— Music begins a countdown like intro to a driving slow ominous Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I think the celebrity might make a difference in terms of marketing, audio description. And again, that leads me to the place where it kind of who is this for? Hmm, this is for the blind community. This is not for others, to just come in and check out all Busta Rhymes is doing this. Oh, whoever is doing this? This is cool. Let me check this out.

That’s fine if it happens, but that’s not what audio description is for.

Roy:

What is the cost to the wide audience in the context that you’re talking about? Or maybe it’s the blind talent? I’m not sure.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Well, there’s both right. So there is the blind talent, because we’re already competing with non-celebrity talent. That’s fine. But there’s also like I said, just the quality, I’m not sure if the quality is naturally going to go up , right? Because folks can make that determination. That’s what happens with celebrity you let folks in there just to draw the name.

Roy:
Hmm.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

And it doesn’t make a difference. It may not make a difference. In some cases,

How often do celebrities want to get attached to something that just feels good, and then use it in their promo of themselves? It just gives me a really bad taste. And I don’t want to see audio description suffer because of that.

Audio description needs to stay about blind people now. You can create something else, right? So for example, when we talk about there are ways that other folks are using audio description, whether they be truck drivers, whether they be kids with autism, for example, and there may be some modifications that are needed. Absolutely. There should be that. But I don’t think it needs to come at the expense of blind people. So there’s room for all of this.

Sometimes I feel like there’s these fake choices that we’re given; Do you want more? If you do, then you’ll take this.

Why do we have to have that choice? That’s not the choice.

— Transitional sound

TR:
I’m interrupting for a public service announcement.

First, I need your help.
I want to take Reid My Mind Radio to the next level, that’s making it a sustainable venture.
But I need to know more about you, the listener.
I’d really appreciate if you could take a few moments to fill out
a quick survey. Just go to ReidMyMind.com and hit the link that says survey.
Secondly, a few people have asked how they can get this podcast on their favorite smart speaker.

In this example, I use Apple podcast as my default player, so the command would be;
“Hey device, play the podcast Reid My Mind Radio by T.Reid on Apple podcast”

Of course, you can still follow or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Transcripts and more are at ReidMyMind.com
That’s R, to the E I D
— Sample: “D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick

Like my last name

— Transition sound returns to the episode

TR in Conversation with Roy:

We want to see audio description expand. We both agree that we want to see more, and we want to see better quality. Like we’re in total agreement around that. And I think these questions and all of these things as to how do we get there, you know, are great, that they’re absolutely great. Yes. Because we have the same goal, you know, but I just think that we need to kind of think through these things. And even when we try, whatever we try, always come back to the idea of asking that question. Does this center Blind people? are we adding value for our audience? And if we’re not scrap it,

And, what about the Emmys? (Laughs)

Roy:
What about the EMMY’s Thomas? This is great.

(Thomas and Roy’s laughs fade out)

I’ve been a part of the television Academy for maybe 10 or so years. So relatively new and part of my contribution has been as performers, peer group, executive committee member, it’s basically a fancy term for all the different peer groups that represent different roles of television.

So letting them know about audio description, and how that has such an impact on television and how it can have an even greater impact.

And so those conversations have really evolved from the first time that I was approached by my mentor and saying, hey, you should really reach out here and being able to do it in a way that went from almost a dismissive Well,

you know, there’s really nothing that we can do about this, but Roy has a real passion for it. So, you know, keep in mind that whatever Roy talks about, it’s it, it’s probably not gonna happen, take it away Roy, to most recently. This is such a valuable performance, and it’s a skill and it’s an access that brings so much to so many people beyond blind and sighted people. Let’s hear about audio description. And that was the introduction, it was basically 180 degree turnaround time, simply because the culture has changed, as well as the awareness of what audio description is, and through some real advocacy within the television Academy.

The television Academy now recognizes audio description narrators as qualifying television credits to become full-fledged members to be able to vote for the Primetime Emmy Awards. And I think the implications of that are, are few First of all, again, representation, making sure that people understand about audio description, but also, as many blind people work in audio description as voice talents, this is yet another way for them to be included in this television Academy, whereas normally the opportunities might not be there as much. So that feels really huge.

TR:

Whether we’re talking about the SOVASS, the Emmys, in each case it seems to come back to increasing the awareness of Audio Description.

Roy:

Is there an audio description effect that you and I could both agree on when it comes to making sure the value is what it is. In the approach that I’m exploring, the strategy of awareness is an essential part because right now things have been so hidden, that people aren’t even aware of it. And I think as awareness grows, that that can create that very healthy competition of how great the audio description can be.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Yeah, so I think you’re right with the awareness. But when I look at awareness, I’m looking at awareness from the perspective of blind people, because I know a lot of blind folks who do not know about audio description. I know a lot of blind folks who think that audio description and television and movies are not for them because that’s the way it’s been all their lives. And then so steadily, and hopefully they’re starting to learn More about that. I think that audio description for students and looking at the results of how their learning and their sort of their involvement in the quote unquote mainstream, and their ability to relate to their peers, and those relationships that that happen.

I want to measure it by the relationships that employers and employees begin to have, because there’s more of that conversation. And then blind people are making more advancements, because we know that when you’re in a corporate environment, for example, you learn about new things, because you’re just friendlier with people, you start to trust someone else, and you just like to be around that person. You feel comfortable with that person. And so much of that happens from conversations about Game of Thrones, right? On Monday morning after Sunday.

I want to see blind people who are working as movie critics. Where it’s not just about the audio description, they’re really analyzing this stuff.

Blind people who are doing the work of audio description, blind people who are commissioning others to do that work.

Again, I’m centering Blind people in this.

I still consider myself relatively new to disability. But as far as I know, I have never heard of wheelchair users promoting wheelchairs in malls, because folks can just go ahead and walk there, you know, you get tired, so why not take a load off, just so we can increase the amount of wheelchairs, we can get better wheelchairs because more are using it.

I don’t think when captioning came out, and all the advocacy that they put into it, I don’t think they were talking about the curb cut effect before it happened. It just happened. I’m learning to trust the process, and we see it all the time, it will happen, right? We already know that. Yes, truck drivers are using it. And folks will find a purpose for it. But let it be that it doesn’t have to take away from our community, and it will happen. But let’s just build it up based on our needs. And then when we find something that will Oh, this would work for someone else. Absolutely cool. Bring it in, go do it. Go create it. Because we need to bring everybody in not just some people, we need to bring everybody in.

The technology that is available, and that is growing means we have more options, not less. So let’s not take away. Don’t try to take away my options. Nah, don’t do that! We just need to be included.

Roy:

And with that inclusion, is there a place at the table for blind people to be able to influence those decision makers.

When it comes to that, the impact of inclusion of society that is there not a case to be made, that the existing leaders when it comes specifically to television are a part of the television Academy that access to those decision makers right now specifically blind people to be included in that seems worthwhile.

Forget the awards.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Okay, I like your kung fu there. (Laughs… fade out)

Yes, we need influence. And I get that. So if a way to get that influence is to be in the room. And if a way to get in the room is through being a part of an award show.

Roy:
I can hear your voice. I can hear the way you said awards talk about intention. You go on. That was great.

(Thomas & Roy Laugh)

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I mean, that part of it absolutely makes sense.

Advocacy takes place in the room. Advocacy takes place on the streets.

Roy:
Hm.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

So there’s room for all of that. And if we’re working together in the suites and the streets (laughs…) if we’re working together, and we’re coordinated and we’re all sort of, again, centering blind people.

That could be really powerful.

— Music begins, a somber piano ballad

Roy:
Thomas, if we could go back to what you said earlier about generosity in the context that you were speaking of generosity was a negative connotation in my mind, in the sense that it’s almost a condescending talking down. It’s it. generosity, and you’re caught in the context of what we were speaking about. It’s an it’s not good. It just it smells bad. I’m not sure how else to put it. What’s the opposite of that? What’s the opposite of that? Negative generosity, that almost looking down and I’m going to be generous to blind people. What’s the opposite of that? I’ve got my own opinion. I’m just curious.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah. I mean, the first word that comes to my mind when you were saying that is disrespect.

I think about it in the real world, in real life. Think about it when walking into a store. And, or wherever, and just the difference in treatment, what you know, being in a restaurant, and someone asking the person that a blind person is with if they’re sighted, what does he or she want.

As though I can’t communicate to them.

For me, it always comes back to respect because if someone is not looking at me as an equal, wherever we are, then that problem is not necessarily with me. But I do feel it. Because I’m not getting the service, whatever that may be. I’m not getting that equitable treatment. Right. It’s just not happening because of the way they view me. And it’s that that perspective that they have around blindness around disability. That is what I think the awareness that I hope I do. That if I wanted to reach out to folks to non-disabled people, it’s really in hopes that that is the message that they get that and in fact, I mean, that happens with blind people, too. It’s ableism. It’s ableism. It’s, it’s looking at disability in a certain way, as if it is less than as it’s not normal. And it is normal. It’s absolutely normal. And there’s so much that we’re missing out. Because we don’t respect and appreciate the contributions of disabled folks. And specifically, we’re talking about blind and low vision. And so, you know, if we really want to do something about it, hopefully that’s what we’re doing.

Again, that concern comes to me when we say if others become aware of audio description, for example. It’s not really helpful if they’re just looking at it. Oh, isn’t that nice? That’s great. Oh, that’s great. That’s wonderful that they do that for the blind people. That doesn’t help. It doesn’t help at all.

Roy:

Yeah. Yeah. Neck Hmm, makes it worse. Because that respect is disrespect. I get it. Yeah, that’s really, really clear.

— Music ends to brief silence

— “I Dream of Jeanie” Intro Song

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Laughing…

I’m gonna give you a genie!

Roy:

Oh boy, oh boy!

TR in Conversation with Roy:

with one Audio description wish, something that can change something about AD whatever it is good, bad, whatever? What’s your What are you going to ask of that Genie

— Music begins, an uplifting, happy Hip Hop beat.
Roy:
Parity to sighted audiences that when it comes to audio description, the experience of a blind or low vision person is as equal to a sighted person as possible, that they’re laughing at the same time that they’re able to turn it on as easily, as a sighted person, that they’re able to watch it at the same time that it’s released as a sighted person, that they’re able to go from cinema to streaming in the same way that a sighted person does, that they’re able to get the quality and excellence of the performances of the writing of the mix of the quality control that sighted people get with their track. That parody, in the sense of as equal as possible, is a part of audio description that is done. And by the way, by blind experts being paid for their value and their service. That those two things are, in are, those two things are so linked in my head that you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have the other without the one that there is no way that audio description, quality and excellence to be in parody decided audiences can happen without blind professionals being paid for their value. Those.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah. And you see, what’s cool about that is that I could wish for what I just said about respect. And I think we end up in the same place, because I think if you got your wish, I feel like my wish was granted.

Roy:

Because I don’t think that could happen without respect.

Well, and again, look how that would filter outside of audio description. Because that’s what audio description does, right? It’s not just about the film in the movie, it always applies to something bigger.

Roy:

Yeah. And that’s the model that’s like this little microcosm of audio description and how that can have a ripple effect.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah, yeah. And it does. Like, we can look at audio description and touch on. Lots of things. Look at how race, gender, all of this stuff about identity come into play.

Roy:

Is it time to as your podcast limited series is called flip the script? Can I flip the script and ask you the same Genie question

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I would really ask the genie to, to solve this problem, this issue that happens also often. And it’s just like, I just want to be rid of it that when my family and I decide just at the spur of the moment, to sit down and watch a movie, that we don’t have to go through about a half an hour because there’s no audio description. It doesn’t fail, it does not fail. And the, the feeling that I get is the same even though I play it cool. You know, and so I’ll just go ahead and watch it. I do it all the time. And they tell me No. And now the girls are older. And so they’re more bold with the way they tell me No. (Laughs…)

I can’t do anything about it anymore. But it still feels the same. And it’s not just me because they get frustrated.

I want the genie to resolve that for us.

— Audience Applause… “America, here is your winner…

TR:

So when it comes down to it…

I’m not just talking about the Reid family or even the Reid My Mind Radio family

— Crowd applause continues “Good luck both of you” America has voted… crowd applause continues in anticipation.

TR:

I don’t know what’s going to happen y’all, but it just has to be us!

– Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!
— Applause fades out.

Hide the transcript

Leave a Reply