More than half of the revenue obtained by the leading top-grossing films made in Hollywood in the last decade comes from the translated (subtitled or dubbed) or accessible (with subtitles for the deaf or audiodescription for the blind) versions of those films, and yet only between 0.01% and 0.1% of their budgets is usually devoted to translation and accessibility. Relegated to the distribution stage as an afterthought in the filmmaking process, translators have to translate films in very limited time, for modest remuneration and with no access to the team behind creative filmmaking decisions. This is causing renowned filmmakers such as Ken Loach or Quentin Tarantino to denounce that this model often results in the alteration of their film’s vision and that, even more worryingly, they are not always aware of this.
Accessible filmmaking (AFM) aims to integrate AVT and accessibility into the filmmaking process, which requires the collaboration between the translator and the creative team of the film. Put in another way, AFM is the consideration of translation and/or accessibility during the production of audiovisual media (normally through the collaboration between the creative team and the translator) in order to provide access to content for people who cannot, or cannot properly, access them in their original form. AFM does not aim to compromise the filmmakers’ vision or constrain their freedom. Instead, it presents them with different options so that they can make choices that determine the nature of these translated/accessible versions and it helps them to see their films through different eyes.
AFM is neither time-consuming nor costly. It makes financial sense, as it helps to reach a wider and more diverse audience. It also provides better working conditions for translators and media accessibility experts, whose remuneration can be built into the main budget of the film and who, for the first time, find the opportunity to be part of a team with which to consult and share decisions. Above all, though, AFM is common sense. Just as it is now taken for granted that a toilet for disabled people should be included in the initial design of a building rather than added at the end, why shouldn’t this apply to filmmaking too? There will hopefully come a time when filmmakers will, by default, make films with not only the original audience in mind but also the audience of the translated and accessible versions; a time when AFM will be the norm, rather than an unorthodox practice. Until then, we will keep striving for a more inclusive cinema made by accessible filmmakers who are truly interested in producing films for all.
At GALMA we are engaged in research, training and professional practice in accessible filmmaking, which includes projects, publications, workshops, courses and the provision of translated and accessible versions as per the AFM model.