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How SENSE Arts Made Dance Film Accessible Using SubPac Technology

We are always excited to share different ways that organisations create accessible content.

We spoke to film director Sima Gonsai, who has been working with SENSE Arts and their disabled artists. We explored the work they have been doing and their innovative use of SubPac technologies to create accessible and inclusive dance film experiences.

Copy of transcript:

My name is Sima Gonsai, I’m a film director and I specialize in making dance films. If you don’t know what dance films are, it’s where dance and film and cinematography and sound score all come together to create a piece of artwork.

Over the past four years, I’ve been working with Sense Arts as a film director and I guess going really really far back, the very first time I encountered Sense was when I saw some performance on stage and because I make dance films I came up to Sense and I said I’d really like to capture this on film. They said yeah that’s a lovely lovely idea but one of the hardest briefs I think I’ve ever been given is this film that you make though has to be made accessible to the people who are in the film. So that’s when we started to look at different ways that we can make film accessible to everybody.

One of those ways is by using technology so if you imagine that the people in our films have a complex disability, they can have experienced deafness and blindness, but all three at the same time as well. So this is where this type of technology can allow people to experience film, so you’re not necessarily listening to it or hearing it but you’re able to get the vibration from it. So this is a SubPac, this is technology, it’s wearable technology that enhances a viewing experience. You wear it on your back, it vibrates as you play your video game, but actually we’ve seen this as fantastic technology to actually really help us make whatever we’re creating a lot more accessible, so it could be worn on your lap, it could be worn on your chest and it can be worn on your back. And this actually, because it’s a vest, it can go from your neck down to the bottom of your back and it has frequencies that go through it so obviously at the lower of the back is a lower frequency, as you come to the higher point you get the higher frequency and if you really work with your soundscape you can start to go high and low. So this is where this type of technology really works amazingly with dance. So if you imagine someone moves a hand up, the frequency would go up slowly, they move the hand down the frequency would also go down. So that’s how we’ve incorporated this within the films.

I believe that film should be for everybody and what’s really exciting for me to make these six portraits of six individuals, who have very unique stories about how they experience the world, that they have a chance to come to a cinema and see that and hear it and feel it, you know, and not only that you have a chance to come into the cinema with everybody else. You know, films should be for everybody and there’s a lot of barriers in trying to access it so that’s one of the main reasons why I strive on over the years to find more and more ways to make make film more accessible to people. These films have been made with myself directing them, Lisa is the creative director, we have dancers, we have cinematographers, we have lighting tech, we have the vibrational tech and we also had captions. All of those things have to be considered before you’ve even started making film.

I am Lisa Simpson and I am the Artistic Director for Sense. A national inclusive dance project.

My name is Rebecca Randall and I’m the resident Dance Artist for Sense Arts. Movement Portraits is an accessible dance film that you were the artistic director on and it was right at the beginning of the nationally inclusive dance program and it features dancers who were accessing the sessions that were delivered by our lead artist Betty Pringle and a whole team of artists here in Birmingham. It was just after Covid so you were doing a lot of stuff remotely, you weren’t all traveling and mixing groups and all that sort of thing wasn’t happening and there was that really hot day in 2022 where like schools were closed and that was the day that we were filming here. That was the first time that some people had been out of their supported living or residential Care Homes since Covid, so the first day out in 2 years. So there were a lot of barriers that we overcame and you were remembering how you used Zoom a lot and to kind of get through those challenges and on that filming day Sima had like about three different small screens so that Lisa could see what was happening on the monitor to ensure that Lisa could give feedback on the movement aspects of when she was on Zoom, so yeah there was a lot of tech involved just to even get you a to see what was actually happening.

Why do you like dancing? Because it helps me, it helps my knee and I enjoy it and the social side of it, I make lot of friends doing it.

Why is that important, Joe, to feel the vibrations? Because if you’re deaf and blind you won’t be able to watch it but you’ll be able to feel the movement.

So it makes it equal for everyone? Yeah it makes it equal for everyone.

Further Support

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up for our newsletter below and follow us on X (Twitter) @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

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