Making Your Film Accessible to All Audiences Co-Presented with the 8th Annual ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival

Blind and visually impaired and deaf and hard of hearing communities constitute significant audiences who are left out if your film is not accessible. Join us for a discussion on how filmmakers can make their films accessible to all audiences including visually impaired and deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Experts in audio description, ASL interpretation and closed captioning will present information about the processes involved in creating these assets for your project. The panel will also explore how to incorporate the production of these accessibility components of your film into your fundraising plans, production schedule and budget. Speakers will additionally address how to get your film seen by these audiences.

Captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided.

Jo-Ann Dean is a New Media Producer whose focus is developing and promoting ASL (American Sign Language) cultural and accessible programming to mainstream audiences. As a grant writer, she was recently awarded a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Challenge America Grant for Boundaries BashFest16, a two-day festival for inclusion in arts and media with artists who re-frame dis-Ability. Her producing credits credits include content creator for cable TV and web series Caption This! and ASL Cabaret, that are streamed live. Jo-Ann served as creative consultant on director Judy Lieff’s award winning documentary, Deaf Jam, which toured globally with the American Film Showcase and premiered on PBS. Dean is also co-founder of Creative Accessible Cinema & Content (CACC) with Kat Kramer and has interpreted at the Sundance Film Festival. She is a member of Women in Film Los Angeles.

Cliff Hahn is a New York based sound designer, rerecording engineer/mixer, audio producer/director, and binaural (3-D headphone) recording specialist. His recent work includes: the sound design and mix of Blind Faith, Isabel Hill’s deeply personal documentary of her blind husband’s journey from youth to fatherhood; the binaural installation Lunch Counter, a collaboration with Creative Director George Wolff for the recently inaugurated Center for Civil Rights in Atlanta which earned the Communication Arts 2015 Award of Excellence (batwin + robin prods.); narration recordist for multiple Alex Gibney documentaries including Going Clear and Sinatra: All or Nothing at All; sound design and mix for Refugee Kids (Willow Pond Films) and It’s Better To Jump (Patrick Stewart Productions); director/mixer of descriptive video for the documentaries Little WorldStates of Grace, and Morgan Spurlock’s Becoming Bulletproof, and for many broadcast television series. His earlier work at WGBH-FM as a producer of spoken word radio programs received Armstrong, Ohio State and American Library Association awards and a Peabody nomination. 

Stacy Marie Lawrence is a photographer, fundraiser, and producer whose accomplishments include founding Deaf Film Camp, an educational venture for deaf teenagers, which helps to showcase films about, by, and for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. From 2005 through 2011, Lawrence raised over $60,000 in grants and sponsorships as the Executive Director of the Deaf Rochester Film Festival. She coordinated and managed all aspects of the 2009 and 2011 festivals, and also established the “Jr. Deaf Rochester Film Festival,” which provided opportunities for deaf youth to learn how to create their own films. Lawrence went on to conceive, direct, and raise many thousands of dollars to support the Deaf Film Camp at Camp Mark Seven beginning in 2013. At DFC, deaf and hard of hearing children from all over the country learned how to write, shoot and direct their own video productions under the tutelage of deaf professional filmmakers, animators and screenwriters from around the world. In 2014, campers produced an ASL adaptation of Pharrell Williams’ smash hit Happy, and in 2015 produced an ASL adaptation of Phillip Phillips’ Home. The campers’ music videos have had more than two million YouTube hits.

Michele Spitz  is a voice over artist and lifelong patron of the arts. She is dedicated to making the world accessible to people with disabilities by providing her vocal talents to filmmakers, publishers, speaking venues and charitable organizations. In her audio description work for the visually impaired, she has voiced 30 films including the documentary features Driving Blindand CinemAbility. Commercially released films include Miss You Already and Where Hope Grows. She also recently audio described The Great Muppet Caper for ABC Family. Michele audio described and sponsored film selections at the 2014 and 2015 Superfest: SF International Disability Film Festival, and was thrilled to continue her work by sponsoring and audio describing films for ReelAbilities: NY International Disability Film Festival 2015. Michele is donating audio description services (both voice and production) to New York Women in Film & Television’s Fund for Women Filmmakers for the upcoming film Swim Team.

Isaac Zablocki is the Director of Film Programs at JCC Manhattan and Director and Co-Founder of the ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival. Since 2004, he has been developing film programs at the JCC including The Israel Film Center. Beyond ReelAbilities, Zablocki programs multiple film festivals annually including the acclaimed Other Israel Film Festival about Arab and minority populations in Israel. As Director of the Israel Film Center, he is the leading programmer of Israeli films in the U.S. and developed the largest on-line database of Israeli films as well as Israel Film Center Stream, the leading site for streaming Israeli films. Zablocki lectures around the world in major institutions on a variety of topics from New Israeli Cinema, Hollywood and the Holocaust, to The Power of Film for Social Change. Zablocki has also produced and directed the feature Reality Lost, developed film educational programs for the Board of Education and worked at Miramax Films.

Alexandria Wailes (Moderator picture above) is an actor and disability activist who has appeared on Broadway in Spring AwakeningBig River and in numerous NY/regional theater productions, including Mother CourageA Kind of AlaskaGruesome Playground InjuriesFêtes de la NuitPippinThe Wild BoysSleeping Beauty Wakes, and Big River. Television credits include Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Nurse Jackie. Film credits include The HyperglotTheatre of WarAlways Chasing LoveFreedom Is Not FreeAn Experience, and The Tuba Thieves. She has appeared in the Web series 258 NewsWeiner & Weiner, and High Maintenance. Wailes was associate choreographer for Deaf West Theatre/Forest of Arden’s revival of Spring Awakening in fall 2014 and again at the Wallis in Los Angeles in late spring 2015. She is a resident member of Heidi Latsky Dance Company.


Co-Presented with:


February 9 @ 6:30pm
6:30 pm — 8:30 pm (2h)

JCC Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10023
(Between West 75th street & West 76th)

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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.