www.yourlocalcinema.com
 
'Hearing Times' article, 2009.

The founder of 'Your Local Cinema .com' has recently been voted winner of the Daily Mail 'Enterprising Young Brits: People’s Choice Award', at a ceremony honouring the outstanding contributions of young people.

1) How did you feel pitching your idea to the judges?

I was very, very nervous. I don't like the limelight, prefer to keep my head down, doing my work, behind the scenes. I knew what to expect because I had been a finalist in the Enterprising Young Brits two years ago, but still, it was scary!

2) What made you want to start the service?

Back in 2000 my parents happened to notice, publicised in a local paper, a subtitled screening of the Aardman animation Chicken Run at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, London. This was the first English language film to be subtitled in a UK cinema, produced as a trial by the cinema industry to see if there was any interest in such a screening. So we went along, were the only people there, and it was... amazing. As a deaf person, I could finally enjoy the cinema experience. So after the film I asked my mum and dad why there weren't more films with subtitles at cinemas? Good question, we all thought, let's look into it.

So we looked into it, came across a new technology in development - a 'cinema subtitling system' on an American film cinema news website, realised that with equipment like that, there could be lots of subtitled shows and thought maybe they could be well attended, if people were aware of the screenings.

Back then, in 2000, there was no English-language subtitled cinema. The only way deaf people could enjoy cinema was to watch a foreign-language film. Ridiculous! TV had subtitles, via teletext. Video tapes had subtitles (accessed via an inexpensive add-on box). DVD discs had subtitles, accessed via the remote control. But cinemas did not, even though cinema is at the start of the movie 'chain'.

So with the help of my parents I set up a website and email discussion board, and started campaigning to create awareness of this new system, and 'accessible' cinema in general. It appeared to be the perfect solution. We just needed to ensure that the UK cinema industry heard about it, liked it, bought it, installed it and used it!

3) What help, if any, have you received so far?

In 2004, after more than three years of campaigning for better access, but not just moaning - actually working with the film industry - my company was hired by the film industry to be the 'marketing arm' of cinema access. My job is to round up people and get them into subtitled shows. The main cinema companies and film distributors, as well as a few technology companies and the UK Film Council sponsor my service now.

4) Have you received any feedback from members of the public?

All of the time! We work on behalf of the film industry, but are also advocates for the public. We deal with representatives of the cinema/film business on their behalf. We are members of the film industry's 'Disability Working Group', a collection of representatives from cinema, distribution and technology companies, as well as representatives from the main charities for people with hearing or sight problems. This group meets regularly to review and plan the future of 'accessible' cinema. Feedback from the public helps us to decide the future of accessible cinema.

I'd like more people to visit our feedback page, read some of the letters and moans, and please leave some feedback: http://www.yourlocalcinema.com/quotes.more.html

5) Do you have any plans to expand the service? If so, what are they?

This year we will be upgrading the website to include more subtitled trailers and clips, delivered more smoothly, via flash technology, rather than our current quicktime standard, as well as including many more audio described clips. We don't have enough at the moment. We will also be adding better search features.

But the website is just a part of our service. We have been talking to industry contacts about providing accessible versions of official movie websites. Mini-sites that contain subtitled and audio described trailers, complete subtitled and described UK listings, text accessible to blind people, voiceovers etc. We are also looking into making audio described soundtracks as common as audio books, available on iTunes etc.

But our biggest challenge and goal is to invent subtitle spectacles'! Like 3-D specs - lightweight, throwaway, but rather than provide a 3-D effect, they provide subtitles, on the specs, which only the wearer can see. The subtitles are on the cinema screen, but so faint that they can't be seen. Only wearers of special 'polarised' spectacles can see them. Something like this would enable a person with hearing problems to attend a choice of many more subtitled shows. A film can screen four or five times a day in say, screen number one, of a cinema. It would be unacceptable to have many of those shows subtitled - most people simply don't like subtitles, that's a fact. So most cinemas only show one or two subtitled shows a week. 'Subtitle spectacles' would mean that all shows, all day, all week could be subtitled.

6) You are still in college, what are you studying, and what do you want to do when you finish?

I attend college three days a week and am studying computer games design. I like video games just as much as movies, so learning how they are put together is really interesting to me. Some people think it's a nerdy pastime, but video games are expected to outsell music and movies in the home entertainment business very soon. I'm preparing for the future!

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