Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Going Social

Kensuke Nakamura wanted to write Audio Description but couldn’t seem to get in the door with any post production companies. Rather than sitting around waiting for things to change, they decided to just start writing.

Soon after starting this journey, they were introduced to other similarly motivated people including Voice Talent Barbara Faison and a Blind AD Writer, Robert Kingett.

Yes, I said a Blind Audio Description Writer…

Add two more voice talents (both Blind by the way) and you have Social Audio Description.

A perfect way to kick off the first of our 2021 Flipping the Script on Audio Description series.

Listen

Resources

Social Audio Description
All About Image Descriptions

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Record being rewind
— Impeach the President Beat.
— “Ladies & Gentlemen”

TR:

Greetings! And welcome back to the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by blindness and disability.

As part of this conversation, we’ve been talking about Audio Description in some capacity since 2015.
It began when Netflix launched Daredevil.
It continued with topics like;
Critiquing the selection of narrators,
promoting the idea of using pre-show for film and television
Introducing you to several narrators, writers,AD Directors and technology developers.

Over the next several weeks I want to go beyond the surface conversations and explore how AD is so much more than entertainment. More than a voice in your headphones. More than access!

So it’s time, for Flipping the Script on Audio Description!

— “Check it out y’all, check it out…”
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

Episode Intro
— Sound of theater environment

TR:

Remember going to the movies?

I mean actually going to a theater, purchasing your ticket and getting the Audio Description receiver and headphones. Maybe getting your favorite snacks (unless you’re like me and bring your own. Don’t judge me for being a conscious consumer!)

You head into the theater and find some seats.

(No not that aisle, the floor is way too sticky)

you try to hold off on the snacks because you want to enjoy them while you watch the movie.

Suddenly, the trailers for upcoming films begin. So all your attention is directed at the screen.

— Trailer without Audio Description

Despite all of your movie going experience, for a quick second, you just know that finally, this time, the trailers will be described.

— Trailer without Audio Description

Then you realize, they’re not. You struggle to figure out exactly what’s going on, you lean back in your seat and play with the Audio Description equipment just hoping it’s working properly. Again, experience may have left you a bit traumitized from all the mishaps in the past.

With nothing left to do but wait for the film, you grab your snacks and hope you don’t finish before the movie begins.

(Ah man! I finished my Nestle Bunch a Crunch!)

Ken:
My name is Kensuke Nakamura, I use they them pronouns. I’m light skinned, slightly masculine presenting person with dyed red hair to about my cheeks. I’ve got about an inch of dark roots coming in. I’m just wearing a black hoodie. And I’m an Audio Description writer and editor.

TR:

Ken saw a need for description on movie trailers. They soon began providing that description and eventually grew a team of people to help with the process.

But we have to begin with their introduction to Audio Description.

Ken:
I got interested in audio description for selfish reasons, I met this very cool person at a party. And I became friends with him on Facebook, and was wanting to get to know them better. And one of the first things they posted on Facebook was that if I was going to be friends with them on Facebook, everyone needs to post image descriptions on all of their pictures. And that was just a price of entry. I was like, Okay, I need to learn about the image descriptions.

TR:

And that’s what they did. Their friend actually posted an article titled All About Image Descriptions, (You can find a link to that on Reid My Mind .com)

Eventually, Ken and their friend began going on dates. These included of course, going to movies. As many of us know, some times the AD doesn’t work.

Ken:

I ended up doing a lot of extemporaneous audio description in the person’s ear. Or sometimes we’d watch one of my movies like at home that did not have audio descriptions. So I got a lot of experience doing just fly by the seat of my pants, audio description.

About a year ago, during quarantine, I realized that I wanted to try to do audio description professionally.

I started off by just trying to do some scripts. So I picked several movies that didn’t have audio descriptions, and just wrote some audio descriptions for them full length on a Google Doc.

TR:

Wait! we must be missing a step. There’s no mention of approvals or permission. Maybe the fancy software?

Interested in writing AD as a job, Ken submitted samples to different Audio Description creators. Unfortunately, none of them responded.

Ken sought a way to continue developing the skills while possibly making a name for them self.

Ken:

it was around the time that the trailer for the Batman came out after DC fandom. And I saw that trailer and I was like, Oh, this is a very good, very interesting trailer showing us a new take on Batman showing how this one’s going to be different from the ones that came previously.

There was just a lot of really good visual elements. I was like this needs to be audio described. And of course, I checked in it wasn’t.

@-from later in section

At the time I would search you’d find maybe a handful of audio described trailers for the past several years.

trailers are something I’ve loved for a long time.

I remember the trailer for Spider Man, two early Alien vs. Predator, I probably watched a couple dozen times just really picking it apart. So it was something I was already interested in any way.

TR:

These trailers, are no longer just relegated to in theater or during television commercial breaks. There on YouTube and and available any time.

— The Batman Trailer Described by Ken

Ken:

I started off doing just the trailers. I don’t have any interest in becoming a actual narrator or voice talent. So at first, I was just doing it by myself, because it was easier. I didn’t have to schedule with anyone, but I’m not particularly good at it.

Barbara:
My name is Barbara j Faison. I am a mindfulness and meditation ambassador and voice talent and audio description voice talent.

I am a middle aged African American woman with short salt and pepper hair very close cropped.

TR:

Officially, Barbara’s been doing Voice Over work since 2018. However she’s been using her voice for years. Whether in the performing arts in school, Toastmasters and as a 10 year volunteer for the Georgia Radio Reading service.
Yet, like for so many people, it often begins with the one question. In Barbara’s case, it was a neighbor who asked.

Barbara:
Have you considered voiceover?

If you decide you want to do it, I’ve got a coach for you.

TR:

At the time, Barbara was on a sabattical from her corporate job. Her husband suggested she use the time to investigate if this was something she’d like doing.

Barbara:

I had this conversation with God. And I said, Okay, listen, God, if this is something I’m supposed to do, you have to give me a really big sign. I meditate everyday, but you need to hit me upside the head. So I said, I need you to give me a big sign.

TR:

Soon after, Barbara drives about 45 minutes for her first meeting with a coach, upon arriving the coach says:

Barbara:

Barbara, I just got an audition for an African American woman. 50 Plus, you want to audition? I’ll coach you.

I auditioned. That was Friday. Monday, we got an email. The person wanted to have me come in I recorded on Tuesday, I was done in 15 minutes.

TR in Conversation with Barbara: 08:27
Wow.

TR:

That sign she was looking for soon became her open for business sign in 2018.

— possibly somthing here to separate…

Barbara learned of Audio Description after her husband asked her about a narration he heard accompanying a show he was watching. She did a bit of research and found out it was called Audio Description. Further research led her to Roy Samuelson and ADNA.org the Audio Description Network Alliance

Barbara:

I reached out to Roy and it was like, I want to do this because it reminds me so much of my radio reading service days, and I had forgotten how much I really enjoyed doing that volunteer work, right. Although, of course, I want to get paid to do this as well. I just enjoyed that service and being able to offer something with my voice that was beneficial because my personal mission is to use my voice to heal, educate and inspire not just sell stuff.

TR:

She completed the AD Retreats training with Reid My Mind Radio alumni Colleen Connor.

Roy later suggested that she reach out to Ken to possibly contribute her voice to the effort of creating AD trailers.

Barbara:
I was like, Okay.

Ken:

And so she reached out and said, Hey, I’m interested in getting into audio description narration Can I work with you on these trailers? And I was like, Oh, yeah, absolutely love to have that work, take it off my plate. And that it that made it so much easier, because I would just write it up and then send it over to her. And then like a day or two later, it would come back. And she did, she did it in so many fewer takes. So it was a lot easier to edit her sound quality was much better. So I really loved working with her.

Barbara:

We did Aunty Donna’s big ol funhouse, which was hilarious.

The hillbilly elegy, definitely more of a somber tone versus anti Donnas funhouse versus the 355, which was an action adventure. So we also did the witches, which you know, was kind of more of a fun kids kind of thing. But you still had a little bit of foreboding in some of it. So I tried to have those tones, but not over play, you know, because I think of audio description as I’m walking you into a door, and here’s what’s going on, and the things that you can’t necessarily take from what you’re hearing, I want to just add a little bit of dimension to that for the listener.

TR:

The team continued to grow. It now includes two additional narrators, both of whom are Blind.

Ken:

There’s been a lot more awareness made of audio description, as you know, as a service as something that people can get and as something that people can do as a profession. So I think there’s a lot of people who are interested in getting into it. And I’m really glad that there’s a lot of blind folks who are interested in participating as well, because it shouldn’t be something that like sighted people do without the input or the hard work of blind folks.

TR:

This seems like a great time to either inform or remind you… Blind people created Audio Description and have been involved from the beginning.

That involvement can go as far as our own ingenuity. I’ve said in the past, Blind people can write Audio Description.

(Silence)

Yes, that’s often the response, silence! But maybe you just don’t have the right perspective.

Robert:

My name is Robert Kingett I am a white male, I am five feet six inches.
My pronouns are he him or them, whichever you prefer.
I’m a avid reader and writer of short fiction and novels, which I think really benefits me in the writers room when working on these audio description scripts.

TR:

Robert was introduced to Audio Description as a student at The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

He was assigned the task of writing essays where he would discuss the plots and themes of described movies.

Robert:

I didn’t know it was a career path that I could genuinely pursue. Number one because I do have a speech disability. So, I thought that I could never become a narrator. And number two, I thought that you had to have a perfect 2020 vision to write the audio description scripts, so I thought that I could never get in to the industry.

At the time I wanted to become a movie critic. So I would write mock reviews of audio described documentaries.

At the same time, I also thought that I could not make this into a long standing career. because I learned very quickly that the general population did not know aboutAudio Description.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

tell me how you actually started working with Ken.

Robert:

I wrote them on Facebook. Because I atempted to reach out to a lot of Audio Description companies. I asked them if I could become either a script writer or a script editor.

TR in Conversation with Robert:
So you said, you told them you were blind at that point? Why did you choose to do that?

Robert:

I chose to do that, because I thought that the Audio Description industry was relying too heavily on sighted experts.

I was hoping that these companies would kind of make the leap from providing a service for the blind and visually impaired to let’s hire a blind or visually impaired person to work with us to him prove our product. That did not happen.

The only person who wrote me back was Eric at IDC and we talked for quite a bit.

TR:

Unfortunately, there were real budget constraintsthat prevented Robert from being hire. With no other responses, robert took that as a sign.

Robert:

Okay, they don’t want me as a Blind writer, so why don’t I try to form some independent experiment.

So Ken was doing trailers, and I just had a hunch that they would accept me so I wrote them without any expectations at all. And they wrote me back and said, Yeah, sure!

TR:

The addition of Robert brings the Social Audio Description Team to five people.

Team Process>
Ken

I think of it as a cooperative, and I would like it to be like a non hierarchical collage collaborative. I currently do the writing with Robert. I’ll do a pass on it, and then send it over to Robert, and he’ll send me suggestions or corrections.

Then I send it along to the voiceover artist. They’ll record the narration on their own. And occasionally, I might send some things back and say, like, Hey, I just need to another pass of these lines. And then I do the editing, but I’m currently thinking about getting some other writers and editors maybe to join in.

TR:

I asked Ken, Barbara and Robert to describe what they would like to see come out of this work both for the group and for them individually.

First Ken, who says it began with a way to both practice and get his name out there, but describing trailers can have a real benefit.
Ken:

Blind audiences should have just as much access to trailers as a way of gauging whether they want to spend $20, $5, depending on where you’re seeing it on a movie, and spending, like, you know, 90 minutes, two hours of their lives watching a film.

There’s so many movies and TV shows that I’ve never seen, but I know plenty about and I have a general idea of what the story is, what the tone is, who the characters are, like lines from the movie, and I can get meems . I can participate in conversations . situations where like, if somebody makes some sort of reference to a thing, I can generally understand what they’re talking about. And it creates like a sense of camaraderie.

TR:

For Ken, this is also about starting a trend, but not just for his own benefit.

I don’t want to have a monopoly on this. I would love for like movie studios to pick up like, first of all, I love for them to hire me. But if not, that I would love for them to just be like, we’re just going to take what they’re doing and do that ourselves.

TR:

You hear that, the Social Audio Description team is open for business.

In fact, they’ve been hired to produce description for a webinar series and hopefully more to come.

Next up, Barbara.

Barbara:

What I would like to see from us as a team is us to become a team that is a resource for people that are interested in having projects audio described, I mean, I think we all know that there is a ton of available projects that could happen so I would love to see us as a team take on some more projects across the board from education to film and television.

I would love to get more exposure and experience and have some projects where I am working with people that are really looking at making audio description the best it can be because people deserve to have the accessibility that people who have vision have. So, plug anyone needing an audio description voice over talent (laughs) reach out to me because I would love to be involved with some projects.

TR:

Stay tuned, I’ll have contact information coming up. First, Robert.

Robert:

I would like to see our guidelines, same techniques used across the industry. I want us to sort of be the innovators of Audio Description.

I want content creators to think about accessibility as they’re creating the content.

I also want quality to become more of a conversation

I want the creator to be excited about soon hiring a very skilled visually impaired Audio Describer to make their content accessible.

TR in Conversation with Robert:
Now because you yourself are visually impaired? Correct?

Robert:

Yes.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

Okay,

Robert:
totally blind.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

Can you be given a film/some sort of content and write it independently?

Robert:

Given the chance Yes, I absolutely could write a full length Audio description script.

Okay, how would you do that?

Robert:

I would use my Wordsmith ability to mesh a bunch of amateur descriptions.

What I mean by that is a sighted person and I would watch the movie together I find that three people is an ideal number for me.

TR:

These are three friends. Think of it sort of like when you ask some friends to help you paint a room or move some furniture. You cover the cost of beer and pizza and they help you do some lifting. In this case their watching some content.

While their watching, Robert pauses the film and asks what they see. He records all of their answers.

Robert:

I would take all those amateur descriptions and then craft a sentence that fits in to that time code.

TR:

Robert ended up reaching out to another Audio Description provider, X Tracks and has since worked on multiple projects available on Netflix;
Brian Regan On the Rocks
Tiffany Haddish Presents They Ready
Fearless

Also happy to report that since recording these converssations, Ken has written an AD script for Good on Paper currently streaming on Netflix.

TR:

Three people, all from very different backgrounds. Each with a genuine interest in creating Audio Description but for whatever reason, unable to get access. So they do it themselves. At first, it sounds like that classic pull yourself up by your own bootstraps ideology. But it’s not that.

Rather, it’s team work. Each playing a position with a common goal. Yet, individually, they each have the chance to work on their strengths. Plus, they bring all of their experiences from marginilized groups which to me means even more added value for the final product.

Robert:

We all work collectively together. We provide Audio Description that reflects the real world.

For example, whereas others may refrain from describing ethnicity or skin tone we absolutely describe skin tone and ethnicity.

We tried to be as conscientious of our biases as humanly possible.

Ken
Obviously, I’m not the first person there are like other companies who are, you know, hiring blind voice talent and blind writers to help out with the creation of audio description. You know, they say nothing about us without us and I think It’s important, and I’m glad I can be part of that. And hopefully, you know, giving, giving marginalized folks the same stepping stone that I’m having to hopefully get into the industry.

TR:

That right there!

That’s what I respect and appreciate!

A big shout out to the Social Audio Description team. Ken, Barbara, Robert you know you each are official,
— Audio – Airhorn!

Reid My Mind Radio Family!

If you want to submit a suggestion for a trailer to be described or maybe you want to hire the Social Audio Description team to add value to your project, you can do that via the Audio Description Discussion Group on Facebook or via Twitter or YouTube.

Ken:

My Twitter handle and my YouTube handle is Kensukevic K E N as in Nancy S as in Sally, U K E v I C. And that’s a combination of my Japanese first name and my Polish heritage.

TR:

There’s Barbara

Barbara:

B A R B A R A F A I S O N S V O I C E.com that’s my website and
they can reach me at Barbara at Barbara faces voice anytime they’d like to I’m happy to talk with them.

TR:

And Robert.

Robert:

The social audio description, our website is
ADComrade.word press.com.

My web site is is blindjournalist.wordpress.com.

TR:

The Social Audio Description team, well they flipped the script didn’t they. They saw a need and began filling it. While they continue to do that, we as consumers need to support this effort by watching the videos.

I’m sure many Blind consumers are so used to not having access to movie trailers that you may not see the value of including Audio Description.

But consider sitting in that theater. If you want to feel fully included throughout the experience, supporting the effort of The Social Audio Description team could be a part of making that happen.

To make sure you don’t miss any of the upcoming episodes in the Flipping the Script series, be sure you follow or subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.

Transcripts and more are available at ReidMyMind.com.

And yes, that’s R to the E I D…
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be.)
Like my last name.

— Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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