Q&A with ACB Banquet Speaker Roy Samuelson

At our 2020 ACB Conference, Audio Description Narrator and advocate Roy Samuelson in his keynote address announced Kevins Process. (you can listen to it here). We followed up with Roy on a few specific points about Kevin.

You mentioned meeting Kevin online, and how an organic relationship grew from that. Can you give us some details?

For years, most of this audio description work was pretty much isolated from the entertainment industry. It’s only recently some of the major streaming services had even existed, let alone offered it!

So back then, my experience as a narrator was limited to getting a call from a scheduler, going into record a tv series or movie in a studio booth, then going home. That was it!

Then a few years ago, I had the advice from a mentor in the entertainment industry, specifically on the voice over side, who encouraged me to step out. I reached out to a few people, and I started to talk about audio description publicly, dipping my toes into social media.

And that’s when I met Kevin. He was one of the first people to reach out to me. He heard my credit on a tv show, and sent an introductory message, saying how he’s constantly spreading the word about audio description, asking if there was anything he could do to help the cause. Kevin said how important it was for the narrator of audio description to pull him into the story, and how audio description helps a lot, especially when there are a lot of things that occur without dialogue. He confirmed a lot of suspicions – and the tables had turned in the best way possible, the connection was a two way street!

I felt so good to connect with someone who had actually heard the audio description. I was really moved that he cared enough to reach out, and give some appreciation, support, and suggestions – it felt good, of course – but it also gave me the opportunity to connect with a consumer directly. One of the first messages I asked of him him was about participating in facebook groups about a discussion about audio description. A few months later that Audio Description Discussion group was set up on facebook. And with that feedback, we were getting results! For example, in an audio description script, the archaic phrase “guide cane” was changed to “white cane” – the first of a few useful examples of blind audiences giving welcomed feedback to the audio description process.

He asked a few questions about the process behind the scenes.

He told me he was blind since birth, and shared how he had been watching tv shows and movies without audio description, and all the cues that he picks up on. I was flattered he said he heard my voice “about 172 times, give or take.”

As we continued the conversation, each of our replies got longer and longer. Our friendship grew from afar, like pen pals. In addition to talking about audio description, he opened up more about his own life, the independence his mom gave him. She shared a story with me about his school bus not available one day, and how they both took the train to school. She said he had insisted on walking the rest of the way from the train stop, and she said she’d allow it. But she told me she followed him from a distance as he stopped at red lights, and made his way to the school. When he got to school, his teacher said “You know you’re mom’s been following you?” and he’s like, “Yeah, of course. I could smell her cologne.”

He shared stories of his love of top 40 radio, of dates that went right and went wrong. And one of several of my favorites: a server at a restaurant who approached his table, with a meek “knock knock?” greeting. It still makes me laugh.

You’ve been on Blind Pride International calls, and interviewed on talk shows. What’s it like? Do you feel like you are repeating the same information?

With every interview I’ve been a part of, the interviewer has a slightly different approach. While I do have messages that I like to emphasize (specifically quality and excellence in audio description, bridging the gap between audiences and the entertainment industry, and elevating blind voices), each approach from the interviewer gives me a chance to explore these topics from different angles. I learn from the questions and the conversations, too. I’ve been privileged to be able to share stories, and when I do I want to make sure the spotlight is on these core messages. The essence of these stories are important to get out, and I enjoy learning more about different approaches to the messages; that keeps it fresh. And for the banquet keynote speech, I rehearsed it about 2 dozen times, with blind friends and others listening in to help guide the clarity of the mesage.

You’ve mentioned “nothing about us without us” in the context of blind advisors of audio description and also talents. Can you talk more about that?

Rick Boggs has a wealth of information about the history of audio description, and points out that it is a service created for blind people by blind people. That core needs to be a part of the projects, and not just a “well I guess we have to” element. The “nothing about us without us” is a simple statement that audio description companies are acting on, and starting to publicly recognize. Blind experts bring creativity, problem solving, and specific experiences that sighted people like me could never replicate; that contribution by blind experts and talents is essential to quality audio description. There are voice talents, sound engineers, and others in this business who are blind. In their professionalism and expertise, both within audio description and their other projects, makes a difference for the good, and in other ways it really doesn’t matter that they are blind or not. Where I think this nuance lies is this: blind people need to have equal opportunity to sighted people, and as this particular audio description continues to grow, it’s essential that “nothing about us without us” is a core component.

In your keynote speech, you gave a specific call to action to the ACB convention attendees. Can you give some background?

Sure! With the launch of Kevin’s Process, it’s important that the audience drives this mission, and each element has been driven by blind audiences. So we are asking blind audiences to demand what they want in a way that brings a clear and common message. Kevin’s Process is one way to do this; and having a message that we can all get behind was crucial to getting the results we want. ACB and other organizations have been working toward quality and excellence in audio description and to make sure that was reflected in specific action steps. There are so many partnerships that can be made by reaching out! Here they are by the way:

1. Go to kevinsProcess.com/concierge to find ways to reach out to the studios, vendors, and distributors. ACB’s weblinks are included.

2. Follow along and contribute at KevinsProcess.com

3. On social media – use any or all of these hashtags:

#BlindPeopleWatchTV

#BlindPeopleWatchMovies

#KevinsProcess and

#AudioDescription

4. Speak up to your organizations; for example, ACB has multiple committees working on your behalf; speak up to your leaders, your influencers, and where ever else you want to be heard

5. Reach me at twitter @roysamuelson facebook roysamuelsonbiz or email roy@kevinsprocess.com

6. There are resources online at acb.org/adp, and we’ll always engage to find more places to connect.

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