Posts Tagged ‘Team’

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Going Social

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

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!

Hide the transcript

Taking A Ride with Planes Trains and Canes

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

A logo features a square with  a black plane flying over it and a black train coming out of the globe. In white lettering at the top reads Planes Trains and Canes.

2019 Holman Prize winner, Dr. Mona Minkara along with her production team from Planes Trains & Canes. join me to talk about the documentary series. The show which is available on YouTube follows Mona as she travels alone to five different cities around the world using only public transportation.

The series highlights many of the challenges those with vision loss experience on a daily basis. If you pay close attention you even learn some useful skills for managing these experiences. For Mona the trip was about independence, freedom and more.

The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelts sign so hit play and get ready for take off!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
Hey Y’all.

I try to produce this podcast several weeks in advance of the release. I don’t always have as much lead time as I’d like.
In this particular case, I did.

With the latest police murder of George Floyd and the world wide protest that followed, I don’t feel comfortable releasing an episode without acknowledging this senseless and shameful killing.

I love producing this podcast and I truly think what you’re about to hear is a great episode,
but as a Black man I can’t help but feel like my focus should be on fighting for change. Truth is though, it’s not just Black people who should be fighting.
It’s all of our responsibility and if I’m being honest, I think the burden should be less on the Black community.
If you have the urge to inform me that there are white people fighting, please don’t. I know that. I’d ask you to consider your own role as I’m trying to figure out mine.

Not acknowledging the pain just felt like it would add even more.

Rest in Peace & Power to Mr. George Floyd and the rest of those murdered by the Police.

Thank you Reid My Mind Radio Family and I hope you understand why that was necessary.

Now, let’s shift gears and get into what I think is a goodie!

Audio: Sounds of airport fades into the inside of a plane.

From the planes PA System…
Flight Attendant:

Good day passengers.
Welcome aboard flight 99 to a better place!

Inflight service will be coming around soon with snacks!
In the meantime, please sit back, relax and enjoy your trip.
We now have a message from the captain.

From the planes PA System:

Music begins…

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Welcome aboard the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss from low vision to total blindness.

Every now and then, when inspired, I bring you stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

My name is Thomas Reid and I’m not only your pilot, but I’m traveling on this journey with you.

Now if you are new to blindness and have some reservations about this flight I can tell you the ground control has approved us for takeoff. the forecasts a mix of clear skies with some possible thunderstorms. We are expected to hit a bit of turbulence along the way, but don’t worry, I got you!

Wheels up baby, let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

TR:

In 2017 & 18 , this podcast featured profiles of each of the Holman Prize winners. If you haven’t checked out those episodes I definitely want to encourage you to go back and give them a listen.

While I decided not to produce Holman prize episodes in 2019, early this year, I came across one of the 2019 winners, Dr. Mona Minkara. She’s a Bio Engineering professor at North Eastern University and the host and producer of Planes, Trains and Canes.

MM:

Which is a documentary series on YouTube showing me traveling to five different cities around the world and using only public transportation on my own.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

So the first show that I started to watch, that was your first one when you were headed out of Boston to and going to South Africa. I’m trying to figure out, what is this feeling that I have. I said wow, I think this is a little anxiety. I’m like wow, this is good though, this is really good.

My podcast, I really like to reach out to those who are adjusting to being Blind. That’s my target audience. And so I’m thinking they’re going to feel what I feel but for different reasons. I travel independently, not necessarily like you’re doing. I’m watching because I thought about doing some of the things you’re doing where you’re walking through an airport and not getting the guide and I’m like wow this is exactly how I thought I would do it but I wasn’t sure if there was a different way. People who are new to blindness need to see it because I think some of the stuff like the constant questioning that you’re doing, the constant asking and figuring it out, people need to know that that is ok. And I love that!
So that’s why I contacted you.

MM:

That so awesome to hear you say that, so awesome because I’m going to be honest with you, I feel like this project actually even pushed me even more than I normally push myself. I would have never risked on my own a two hour layover in Atlanta going by myself to the gate. I would have never risked that on my own. But I did for the sake of this project. Like uh, we’ll see what happens.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Oh my god, I’m so glad you said that because people need to know that. people definitely need to know that

MM:

I completely agree. And then what’s the worst thing that could happen. I think what’s really important to discuss with something like this is being flexible. I was willing and ok and at peace with getting lost. I told myself Mona it’s ok if I get lost, it’s ok if it takes me like three hours … it’s ok!

[TR in conversation with MM:]

The other thing that I like about what you’re doing and we’re going to get in to the questions in just a second but…

TR:

Ok, fine, I was excited! I don’t usually include me geeking out over my guests but it definitely happens.
I knew this would be a comfortable conversation from the start.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

How are you doing Mona?

MM:

Good, how are you Thomas?

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Good, I’m good. Do you prefer Dr. Minkara? My bad.

MM:

No, no not at all. I’ve been told I probably should but no!

TR:

I’m not really into formalities, but I realize she earned that PHD and. When she’s on that campus, at those conferences put some respect on her name! Especially considering the early advice given to her mother when learning Mona would be Blind.

MM:

I had a doctor tell my mom that it wasn’t going to be worth spending a penny on my education. The bright future that I had was over with that sentence. But it wasn’t. (laughs) My life is great! (Laughs)

TR:

From an early age, Mona was interested in pursuing science and knew she wanted to be a professor.

Audio: Magic School Bus/Bill Nye

MM:

even though a lot of times I got people discouraging me because it wasn’t very practical for a Blind person to be a scientist.
I’m probably a scientist because of Magic School Bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Shout out to Bill Nye!

MM:

Yes! I am a PBS Kid!

Audio: PBS Kid

I think a part of who I am is I truly just follow my passion and I really value freedom and independence. That kind of carried over to Planes Trains & Canes because it was the ultimate test of my independence to allow me to have my freedom.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

What came first, was it the Holman prize or was this a dream to kind of do this?

MM:

That’s as good question a very good question. I was a judge for the first year of Holman Prize. I remember going out there and helping to judge the applicant pool and being taken by this concept. Even the story of James Holman and why these people were applying.

TR:

James Holman AKA, the Blind traveler, completed a series of solo journeys taking him to all inhabited continents.
The competition is sponsored by the San Francisco Lighthouse. $25,000
is given to each of the winners who are all legally blind and in their own way exhibit the adventurous spirit and attitude of James Holman

Following that first year, Mona had a thought.

MM:

I’d like to apply one day. What is it that I like to do? I realized, I really love public transportation.

Public transportation is a tool that is under appreciated by a lot of people but it’s a tool for me that really gives me freedom.

TR:

Currently living in Boston, the third city where she’s lived on her own as an adult. Each of these cities having a completely different public transportation system.

MM:

And then it just clicked, the concept for Planes Trains and Canes. Traveling on my own using public transportation.

TR:

In addition, she sought out cities on different continents which meant diverse cultures.

MM:

I didn’t have a deeply scientific method other than I also wanted to go to cities that I didn’t speak the language. It’s another barrier right. You feel like you might be more lost in an non English speaking place.
It was fascinating, you can see in my upcoming episode for Istanbul, you don’t really need the language. It was mind blowing for me to realize how easy it was to still navigate in a city like Istanbul or Tokyo.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Laughs… It’s funny to hear the Scientist say that there was no scientific method about… (Laughing)

MM:

Laughs… I mean I knew London
[TR in conversation with MM:]

From the videos, it doesn’t seem like you spend that much time there. How much time do you spend in each place?

MM:

It was like four days.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

To go all the way to South Africa for 4 days is like damn!

MM:

I know, I had to squeeze them with my new job it was insane. I just started being a professor.

TR:

In addition to Istanbul & Tokyo that’s four days in Johannesburg, South Africa, London and Singapore.
While Planes Trains & Canes is all about independent travel, making the videos requires a team.

MM:

I remember thinking like 3 years ago that whoever I did this with I have to have a Videographer that was somebody I could easily travel with , a solid person. And somebody who’s really not going to break character.

NG:
Hello

[TR in conversation with NG:]

Hello Natalie?

NG:

Hi, Thomas, how are you?

[TR in conversation with NG:]

Good, how are you doing?

NG:

Good!

TR:

During my initial conversation with Mona, she suggested I speak to her entire team. And I did. First up Natalie Guzi.

NG:

I’m a Camera Woman for Planes Trains & Canes. I’m 23 and this was my first time doing anything camera work related.

[TR in conversation with NG:]

That was one of my first questions. (Laughs)

NG:

(Laughs)
Cool, ok!

[TR in conversation with NG:]

From my understanding you were a friend or a co-worker of Mona’s?

NG:

Co-worker turned really good friend

So, I went to school to be a technical writing major and I saw an open position. One of those pull tabs job posts with a number and email. Mona had put up signs for that. the interview went well I guess. Laughs…

TR:
In a way, working as an Access Assistant for Mona, helped Natalie develop one of the most important skills for the videographer role in Planes Trains & Canes.

[TR in conversation with NG:]

You ask any Blind person and they’re pretty much going to have a similar experience about being with someone who is sighted going somewhere and then having the person who is sighted being talked to as if the Blind person wasn’t there. When did you first experience that ?

NG:

The first time I experienced that was at a Chemistry conference, like an international conference where I was Mona’s access assistant. it must have been like just checking into a hotel. it’s under Mona’s name, Mona’s the PhD Scientist, I’m the 23 year old, but the person checking her in was looking at me.

TR:
This experience isn’t exclusive to those who are Blind. I hear the same from others with different disabilities too. There’s two components; first, directing the conversation away from the person with a disability and then there’s the gaze. Focusing the eye contact towards the non-disabled person.
Now, check the technique!

Audio: Musical intro…

NG:

How we work together with that kind of an issue is that I would just make eye contact with Mona so if you’re trying to look at me my gaze, then that’s going to get redirected to her. So they know where I’m looking and they should be looking. Sometimes people would pick up that and make that adjustment. Sometimes not. Or if we were talking and there was no counter between us then I would almost step over to their side so I was also facing Mona.

TR:

As the videographer, Natalie has to make sure it remains about Mona.

NG:

I tried to be as fly on the wall as possible. (Laughs) Which is a little bit hard. It wasn’t like an undercover operation. (Laughs) It was like someone following a blind woman with a camera. There were a lot of like stares and or questions about why the camera. people addressing me that I shouldn’t film even though Mona was the subject.

[TR in conversation with NG:]

They didn’t know that she was a part of it they thought you were just following her or something?

NG:

Yeh. They would like wave their hand in front of the camera.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

And then you would have to explain things?

NG:

It depended on the situation. That’s a great question too. I’m remembering a time when at a train station in Johannesburg. I was trying to capture footage of Mona buying her train ticket. One of the staff there came up and told me I couldn’t be filming although all I really wanted to do was film the interaction of Mona buying a ticket. No, no, like here’s the business card we’re filming a documentary. We’re not mapping out your train system for any weird purpose.

[TR in conversation with NG:]

That seems stressful to me. Can you talk about that.

NG:

Sure. By nature I lean towards wanting to make people happy and feel comfortable and welcomed. And when you’re walking around with a camera and people don’t know why that’s not really a possibility.
It’s difficult having those eyes and feeling those emotions from other people coming your way and having to remind yourself of the situation and the mission in that moment.

[TR in conversation with NG:]

Did that get easier?

NG:

We had the opportunity to go to lots of different countries and experience different cultures so it shifted every place that we went. Like people would in Istanbul, being like welcome and we love it and come to our store as we were walking by trying to get video.
In comparison, the experience in the London tube wasn’t as welcoming.

TR:

These are the things making Natalie the right person for the job.

NG:

A thick skin. You got to have that self-confidence and confidence in the mission and in the team too.
I think Mona and I’s relationship we just always have each other’s back. So I think that trust and that collaboration really was like the heart of the whole project that kept us going.

TR:

That trust could even mean stepping in and putting yourself at risk.

NG:

In Johannesburg, Mona was crossing the street and this car was taking a corner really fast. I had to jump into the street and like put my arms out. I just thought that car was going way too fast. I wanted them to see two people in the street at least like saying stop.

TR:

Mona and Natalie have the foundation making up a real team.

NG:

We kind of work together. She gave me the feedback on what worked in different situations. It was nice to have a collaborator with that too and just follow Mona’s lead.

TR:

After watching Planes Trains & Canes and then having the chance to speak with Mona, it’s apparent, what you see is what you get.

MM:

I’m pretty assertive I would say as a person, but I understand not everybody has that personality. When I’m tired and exhausted and getting off a 16 hour flight I’m not the sharpest. I’m just like excuse me (said lethargically) my energy’s low. I could be ignored more easily in that situation verses when I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed , I’m like hello!

[TR in conversation with MM:]

You’re quick not to give off any pity vibe or anything like that.

MM:

Yeh, cause I don’t want your pity. I want you to treat me like any other human being. I just happened to be Blind. Sighted people ask for directions all the time. All the time! Just adjust yourself , just a little bit by verbalizing your directions. I appreciate it, thank you!

Audio Bumper for editors

TR:

In order to win the prize enabling Mona to start her adventure she would have to first accumulate enough likes on her Holman prize entry video.

Contestant’s seeking the 25 G’s must first posts their videos to YouTube. The videos need to explain their ambition and cannot exceed 90 seconds. Mona and Natalie paired up to shoot the video with Natalie taking her first shot at editing. The video foreshadowed some of the reactions they’d eventually receive while traveling.
Audio: Clip Planes Trains & Canes Ambition Video

TR:

Winning the prize enabled them to purchase a camera and wireless
microphone.

Natalie and Mona learned more than expected from editing that first 90 second ambition video;

MM:

How much work editing would be.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Chuckles…

TR:

Mona recruited Anxhela (Angela) Becolli
, her current Access Assistant at Northeastern.

MM:

She actually was the one who edited Johannesburg. She’s actually with me right now and…. Ok, I’m bringing her in…

AB:

I wasn’t expecting to be on the call…

[TR in conversation with AB:]

So that was your first shot at editing?

AB:

I had done editing a little bit before. In college I studied Photography in China and there I had done a few projects in videography but mainly photography. This was my first full paid project.

TR:

The thing about creating a documentary series such as Planes Trains & Canes is that you don’t know what your story is until it happens.

MM:

We recorded with no story line in mind. Recording as life unfolds in front of you and then extracting the story. So there’s an element of being able to story tell what you lived as opposed to the other way around – you are building the story and then you record the story.

You don’t know what life is going to give you.

As I was living it I remember taking mental notes like oh my God this would be really interesting to share with the audience.

TR:

Construction takes place in the editing room.

AB:

The main part is the story part. When Mona and Natalie give me the videos they also gave me this list of what they wanted the story to look like. What there idea was and what they wanted to portray to the viewers. What the most important parts were. What parts were light hearted. What parts were very specific to being Blind, to traveling and what needed to be kept in no matter what quality the video or audio was.

TR:

Mona is clearly directing all aspects of this project.

MM:

This part needs to be sped up and it’s kind of boring. I think we should add more of this part. I would say ok, let’s find music that represents the fact that I was feeling fearful or excited. I only used music connected to whatever city I was in. So all the music in the Johannesburg episode in part two, is from musicians from Johannesburg.

I personally have a certain vision for the vive and what was happening and Angela would work with me and hear what I have to say and implement it.

TR:

Creating content like this means investing real time.

AB:

If you have 40 hours of video you’re taking about 60 hours to watch the videos because you’re going to make notes, you’re going to cut things and you’ll re-watch those.

TR:

Angela was already committed to other projects so Mona had to find another editor.

Ted:

I’m Ted Jimenez, I’m the second editor put on the team to work on the new episodes; London, Istanbul, Singapore and Tokyo.

I am a self-taught editor. I worked with small independent studios before back in my home the Philippines I worked for States Sessions. It was a company that put on productions for Indy musicians in the Philippines. I did music videos for them. Promotional videos for them. Now I’m in Boston.

TR:

Where he too works at Northeastern making psychological self-help videos.

Mona decided early on that Planes Trains & Canes would not be a narrated style documentary.

Ted:

This is where Mona and I have conflicting views. I was going in with like my script saying oh Mona could you narrate this portion for us. And she is more of a fan of in the moment. I’m not going to pre-record a script that tells a story I’d rather the audience live through the story because it tells the Blind experience more naturally than if it was just said by her.

TR:

Show, not tell!

Mona’s voice over narrations that you hear in the series are sort of a means of accentuating specific moments.

Ted:

And it’s also to make it lighthearted.

MM:

I wanted comedy to be a main element. I want people to laugh while watching this because I want my message to really be heard and it’s going to be heard more through a comedic tone than through a lecturing serious tone.

TR:

Lighthearted may be the goal, but come on traveling Blind just like living Blind, you will have some encounters.

Audio: London…

[TR in conversation with MM:]

So you know where I’m going now. We’re going to London! You know the episode. (Laugh fades out) you were told that you had to register.

MM:

Yeh, yeh, yeh! I had no choice.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

So my anxiety woo, went through the roof! Mona, I’m going to tell you, I’m not that good at that situation. I’m from the Bronx Mona, I get a little aggressive. Ok! (Laugh fades out)

MM:

Laughing…

Dude, I’m going to tell you honestly, I held myself together because I didn’t even know if Natalie was videotaping me or not. But just in case she was I was like I need to make this point clear.

TR:

That point is at the core of this project; independence and freedom.

Ted:

I really like London as an example about how we kind of tell that story.

First, Mona getting off the plane into the subway. We foreshadow that Mona likes the choice of being able to ask for assistance or not ask for assistance.

In the second section of London where she’s coming from the airport to the Metro, that’s when we see that whole belief that she has of accepting or not accepting assistance.

TR:

You’re going to have to head on over to YouTube and check out the series to find out more.

Audio: Next time on Planes Trains & Canes…

TR:

Planes Trains & Canes is all about perspective.

It’s filmed from the perspective of a woman who is Blind and enjoys traveling independently and values her choice.

Along the way she interacts with people who may view the world differently.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Wait up. You said he was nice?

MM:

I’m saying he was nice yes. (Laughing)

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Did you feel that way in the beginning? From the video, I took this guy like he was being condescending.

MM:

Oh, he was totally being condescending. I think it’s just the norm there to kind of treat people with disabilities like we are a bunch of 5 year olds. An underlying patronizing vibe!

TR:

As we each bring our individual perspective to the series, chances are there will be opposing points of view.

MM:

Did you see some of the comments that were on YouTube. Let me tell you. There was this one person who goes by SocietySister she wrote that I was selfish for not accepting help.

TR:

probably the same type of person to find the inclusion of Audio Description as a default in the series videos to be selfish.

MM:

I really wanted to make every video we create accessible to both Blind and Deaf individuals.

TR:

That’s a pretty inclusive approach giving a variety of viewers a chance to benefit from Mona’s experiences.

What did the production team take away from this experience? First, Natalie.

NG:

People are people wherever you go. They’re curious, they’ll probably want to know what’s going on if you walk into a new situation. maybe concerned if they see something new if they see something different. No matter where you go people do want to understand and to and connect. Also, trust and partnership with Mona . Just a profound sense of gratitude for working together for collaborating for trusting me to capture her experience and to be an observer.

TR:

Angela, who edited the first two episodes from Johannesburg, had hours of video to review. This gave her the chance to really see what Mona experiences.

AB:

I had a lot of moments where I went what I can’t, what why I can’t believe someone would do that. I can’t believe someone would say that. Why would someone treat you like that. Mona mentioned that Natalie was able to keep her calm, I’m the kind of person that would be like no what are you doing, you can’t do that. You can’t treat someone like that. Yeh, I’m not someone that would be able to keep her cool. (Laughs)

[TR in conversation with AB:]

Laughs.

TR:

I could see Angela and I teaming up in some bar fights together.

Ted, the editor of the remaining episodes, it should be noted is not only editing, but he’s doing all the Audio description and captioning. As someone making a career as an editor I had to ask him if he’d become a proponent for Audio Description.

[TR in conversation with Ted:]

You’re working with, I don’t know Steven Spielberg. You’re like Steven we got to put some Audio Description on this man… (Laughs)

Ted:

Laughing… Hey Steven! (Said in a serious tone)

Oh yes of course. Right now it’s normalized for me to kind of like say well what are the options for everybody if I’m viewing piece of media. Mona has made it specifically clear that the deadlines are the deadlines for everything. The captioning, the Audio Description. The video, It needs to be accessible to everyone.

TR:

Planes Trains & Canes was Mona’s way to not only highlight the benefits that public transportation affords her, but also show the ingenuity and abilities of those who are Blind.

Mona’s travels reveal lots of valuable lessons for those adjusting to blindness.

MM:

Even though I am 32 years old, I feel like I am more at peace with it then I have ever been. I don’t know if I want to share this with the world but yeh (laughing…)

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Well, let me just say something to you right now Again, it’s totally, totally fine if you don’t want to share.

MM:

Yeh!

[TR in conversation with MM:]

But that right there, again, think about it from the person who’s adjusting.

MM:

Yeh! No, I think it’s good I’ll explain why I say this.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

yeh!

MM:

I thought I was at peace. I used to take comments of you look sighted as compliments. I realize the detriment of that, only until like last year. Why should that be a compliment, you know? And I realized that I had built up all these techniques to almost compensate for blindness as opposed to work with it.

I had internalized this concept of blindness as weakness. I think it’s really important for Blind people to realize, we are inherently better problem solvers because we have to work around a lot of things. Blindness is not weakness. And to truly believe that I don’t know if I’m a hundred percent there.

TR:

I so respect and appreciate that honesty. It’s what I personally believe, adjusting to blindness is a continuous process. And if that’s ok for this Bio Engineer professor, well, I’m just saying, she’s doing something right.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

What have you taken away from this whole experience?

MM:

I think I pushed myself more than I would have for the sake of the videos. I learned that there’s a lot of good out there and there’s a lot of like negatives that we need to fix and that’s ok.

I don’t know how to explain this feeling. it’s almost an internal shift where I want to go to Mongolia, I can go to Mongolia. Where maybe before I’d be like well I really don’t know how I would go to Mongolia. I need to find somebody to go with me or whatever. And now it’s like this state of mind. If I want to go I can go!

[TR in conversation with MM:]

It sounds like, like you’re free.

MM:

Exactly! Exactly I obtained more freedom than I ever thought I could. And I think I have more freedom than the average person gets to mentally experience and what a privilege.

[TR in conversation with MM:]

And it’s attainable. You did it one specific way but that’s not the only way to attain that level of freedom and access.

MM:

Yeh. It’s like I learned it from my travels but I feel like it’s not about the travels, right. You can learn it in your own backyard. it’s about the mindset… you want it, go for it!

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Mona, this was better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be great, but this was even better. (Laughs…)

MM:

Laughs…

[TR in conversation with MM:]

One hundred percent!

Congratulations! I’m going to keep watching. I want to make sure other people watch. So you got a fan over here ok, I just want you to know that.
MM:

Thank you very much, I’m a fan of yours too!

TR:

Please welcome the latest members of the Reid My Mind Radio Family. Planes Trains & Canes, that’s Natalie Guzi, Angela Becolli , Benjamin Ted Jimenez and leading the way with her white cane in hand;

Audio: Put some respect on my name!

Dr. Mona Minkara!

[TR in conversation with MM:]

where can people check out Planes Trains & Canes and also where can they learn more about you Mona?

MM:

They can go to PlanesTrainsAndCanes.com or go to YouTube and type Planes Trains & Canes or you can go to MonaMinkara.com to learn more about me. If you want to learn about my research check out MinkaraCombineLab.com.

If you’re on Twitter follow @PlaneTrainCane (singular) and @Mona_Minkara

You can subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
Transcripts, resources and more are over at ReidMyMind.com. And yes, that’s R to the E I D (Audio: “D, and that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick)

Like my last name

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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