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Ethical Accessible Filmmaking - A Behind The Scenes

International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) calls to elevate the voices of people with disabilities worldwide. People with disabilities are more likely to experience poverty and face barriers in accessing health services, employment, and education, and are at higher risk of displacement or death due to extreme climate events - despite being the least responsible for causing emissions. Today signifies our societal responsibility to listen to, and act upon the needs and priorities of people with disabilities to ensure no one is left behind.

Portrait photographs of Suprihatin, Isireli, Sujimanto, Lusiana and Nia from Indonesia and Fiji.

We’re proud to have worked alongside CBM Australia again this year, to produce five films for the disability-inclusion organisation’s IDPD campaign. To celebrate IDPD, we’re taking you behind the scenes of filming the primary campaign film and the four accompanying thematic films on: climate change, accessibilityequity and inclusion and gender

In September, we travelled to Indonesia and Fiji to gather stories from people with disabilities who were invited to speak into themes relevant to them and share their thoughts on bettering support for people with disabilities. Our process with these films was to create one version that is accessible for all, including subtitles, audio descriptions and on-screen sign language translation.

Leading up to the trips, we spent several weeks virtually collaborating with local partners and interviewees on pre-production essentials and logistics to build rapport, answer any questions and describe how the filming process would unfold when we arrived.

For our shoots in Fiji and Indonesia, a full day of filming was allocated to each interviewee, each of whom graciously welcomed us into their homes, their lives and their experiences – with kind meal offerings, incredible stories and plenty of giggles shared. Working with people with disabilities and discussing sensitive subject matter, not to mention in a cross-lingual setting – involves slowly paced shoots which take into account communication and cultural barriers, and allow time to foster relationships between everyone on set.

01 - Warm welcomes from Sugeng, 02 - Local Fijian film crew catering thanks to Luci and her family, 03 Isireli speaking to us from his family home in Fiji. 

At the beginning of each shoot, the interviewee was taken through an informed-consent process that we have developed over many years in collaboration with CBM. Having a protocol in place is important, though every shoot is different and we always take time to adapt on location; adhering to a format and schedule that feels right for the interviewee and their family. At the same time we of course want interviewees to have fun with the process! After conducting the interviews, we sat down with the participants to talk about what they like to do, what is important to them and how they would like that to be shown – drawing this out with them as a storyboard. They also had the option to film themselves in selfie format with go pros and mobile phones, directing their own story.

1-2 Sugeng filming himself on his bike. 3-4 Trimah filming on her phone. 5-6 Trimah storyboarding her story. 7 Sugeng storyboarding his story. 8 Storyboarding with Suprihatin about her peanut business.

Back in the studio for post-production, we began the process of creating all accessibility formats. The translation process was extensive for the Indonesian content as it required translation of seven interviews, although it was helpfully assisted by the on-location interpretation. We also worked closely with our wonderful translator, Elsa to apply accurate English subtitles and prepare it for post-production editing.

For each film, we developed a detailed and accurate audio description, which is an auditory narration of what is happening on-screen and is played during gaps in dialogue. It involves slowing footage down and also shifting the timing of overlay footage. This enables the films to be accessible to people who are blind or vision-impaired and people with learning or cognitive disabilities. These scripts were written in-house, sent to CBM for sign off on correct terminology, then recorded in our studio and integrated into each film. 

For the sign language process, we teamed up with our friends at Expression Australia. Their Auslan interpretation and filming was swiftly produced and passed back onto us at Room3 to key and integrate the on-screen translations.

Upon completion of all accessibility formats, each interviewee had the opportunity to provide feedback on how their story was presented and retract any of their content as per our informed consent process. This process can take many weeks and is always factored into production. Our films were very well-received by all involved and thus the final touches, like audio mastering and footage grading were completed.

A huge thank you to the Pusat Rehabilitasi YAKKUM crew that supported our shoots in #Yogyakarta, Indonesia; coordinating interviews, showing us around and going above and beyond to ensure everything ran smoothly. 

Haekal, the CBM representative for the project, was a vital part in ensuring interviewees felt comfortable, everything was communicated accordingly and that nothing was confused in translation. Our onsite interpreter and translator to the stars, Elsa, was our right-hand woman! She facilitated communication between our team and the interviewees who were Bahasa-speaking. This included introductions and formalities, communicating what the day would entail and immediate onsite interpretation of interview questions in a way that was tailored to the person. Huge gratitude to Anggrek and Elsie who were pivotal in orchestrating communications between the Yakkum team, participants, CBM and our team. 

A big thank you to Jay, the wonderful Program Coordinator and member of the Disaster Risk Reduction Unit, and Solo, Communications & Branch Development Officer from the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation who were our support on the ground in Fiji. And thank you to Emma and Conor from CBM Australia who we worked alongside to produce these impactful films!

Happy International Day of People with Disabilities!

You can learn more about International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) here:

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