www.yourlocalcinema.com
 
'Positive News' article 2, 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.

 

How did you manage to fit this around going to school? - how many hours a week did you spend campaigning?

'Your Local Cinema .com' wasn't always a busy, national information service. Only in the last few years has it really become popular. So while I was at school I was able to manage it - working a few hours after school, and sometimes at the weekend. Probably only 10 hours a week to start with.

In a nutshell, I started a petition, in the hope that I would get a few thousand names - people that agreed that the cinema industry should install a subtitle system in some cinemas and enable people with hearing problems to enjoy the cinema experience. I trialed the petition in my school, with a dozen deaf students. The petition got over a thousand names from that school alone. So my parents and I launched the 'Your Local Cinema .com' website to publicise the petition nationally.

Are you still in education or is this your full time job now?

I am studying at College now for half the week, and working for 'Your Local Cinema .com' for the the other half. So it's a part-time job. My younger brother, Dad and Mum help out too. If they didn't help I would have to work full time, and couldn't attend College, so I'm very grateful for any help I get.

Did you ever imagine that yourlocalcinema.com would be so successful?

I didn't expect my involvement to go further than taking the petition to the UK Film Council (who spend millions of pounds annually on film-related projects). The plan was to persuade them to seriously investigate subtitled cinema. I was quite prepared to say to myself "Well, I've done my best, showed the film industry that there are people out there, like me, who need a little help to enjoy cinema".

But then I became a little concerned that things may not move quick enough, or stall, or nothing may happen at all, so I decided to keep on campaigning, building up contacts etc.
Eventually the UK Film Council hired the BFI to look into the matter, held focus groups, meetings, worked out costs and eventually produced a report which recommended that around a hundred cinemas - around a fifth of the UK total - should purchase and install a subtitle system. They also recommended that my website and information service - which by now had become 'the' place for all things 'accessible cinema' related - be supported and funded by the film industry.

So 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 industry to be the 'marketing arm' of cinema access. It's our job to round up people and get them into subtitled shows.

What are your plans now? have you achieved everything you set out to do? What does the future hold?

Today more than 300 UK cinemas have a subtitle & audio description system. There are around 500 subtitled (and thousands of audio described) shows a week nationwide - all the latest films. It's been a collaborative effort. My company has worked with many areas of the film industry, as well as the main organisations representing people with hearing or sight problems to ensure the UK leads the world in this area.

But according to feedback from the public there is still a LOT to do. My service receives a lot of great feedback from the public. It works on behalf of the film industry, but is also an advocate 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. The top feedback item is, and always has been 'not enough subtitled shows'. So we need to work on solving that issue.

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

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.

More related news/media items HERE

 

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