Updated: Jan 14
Normalizing blindness in the workplace and everyday life through storytelling and film.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Ben Fox, Executive Director and Founding Board Member
Film Festival to Provide Unique
Employment Initiative for the Blind
TIMONIUM, MARYLAND — November 13th, 2020: How are filmmakers, who are blind, helping to equalize the unemployment rate (which is 70+ percent) among the blind.
The blindDANCE Film Festival is an online competition with various categories over the next 12 months, with winners premiering their films (in person) next year, in Baltimore November of 2021.
“Employment is the root at the WHY of blindDANCE,” says Co-founder Ben Fox, who is legally blind and a former Sundance filmmaker, who at the age of 18 had two milestones that would change everything.
“I was one of the first teens to have a film in Sundance’s Gen-Y Theatre, and I’m told a few months later I may be facing eventual blindness,” says Fox. “My heart broke. I erased Hollywood from the five-year plan and penciled in preparations to go blind.”
Fox says at that time, he simply didn’t understand someone could have vision for filmmaking and succeed without sight. Which is why, he says blindDANCE is highlighting the motto of ’no limits’ for the blind.
The categories of the festival are focused on succeeding without sight, while thriving in life, and especially at work.
Organizers say it is their hope that employers take note of the “how” behind each of the stories shared of success.
Prizes for outstanding films include cash, trips to film workshops, cool cutting-edge technology, and (perhaps top of the list) several paid positions or projects (with blindDANCE Studios) in the movie business.
“Can you win prizes? You can, if you have five minutes and a story, succeeding without sight. You are a filmmaker if you have a cell phone and a camera. Who knows, maybe this is the moment the world learns about your story,” says Bari Azman, President and Chairman of the Board, for the parent organization of blindDANCE, the Lannie D. Chesapeake Lighthouse.
Several full-length films, by award winning filmmakers who are blind, have already been accepted. These films have been assembled for the first time together in one festival, in one place with a unique category for films made before 2020 by filmmakers who are blind. You may have seen one of the great films, like Driving Blind, circulating other film festivals recently.
blindDANCE is arriving year one, out of the gate, with some impressive partnerships bringing technology and accessibility to any filmmaker who has a desire to share their story, announcing Aira as the title sponsor for the event.
How does this help filmmakers who are blind?
Aira, through a smart phone, delivers instant access to visual information at the touch of a button – enhancing everyday efficiency, engagement, and independence by pairing individuals with sight-loss with highly trained agents (who view the camera feed through the client’s smartphone).
“Make films with Aria’s help. We are proud to offer a pool of 10,000 Aira minutes to be given as scholarships to blindDANCE filmmakers,” says Aira CEO Troy Otillio. "Also, we are excited to award a stipend for a paid spot on our next online advertising campaign, to the winner of the Aira film category: 'Working While Blind with Aira’."
“The motto ‘No Limits’ for the blind is a slogan coined and exemplified by the American Foundation for the Blind. We are pleased to note AFB has category in the blindDANCE film festival honoring Hellen Keller, as we all celebrate the 100-year anniversary of AFB in 2021,” says Azman.
The Working While Blind crew recently enjoyed working with the CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind, Kirk Adams while filming a series produced for the jobseeker who is blind, by blindDANCE studios.
“blindDANCE and the Lannie D. Chesapeake Lighthouse are poised to make a real impact for good in the blindness community, and potentially a significant impact to the unemployment rate as well,” says Adams.
Additionally, blindDANCE recently put plans in motion to develop a category featuring films about policies, legislation and the process for advocating for rights as a person who is blind, inspired after consulting with the President of the National Federation of the Blind, Mark Riccobono.
Those who are blind and new to filmmaking, and looking for a good place to start, consider the monthly filmmaking workshops (sponsored by Aira and blindDANCE Studios).
“Students will learn the fundamentals of storytelling, the positions on a film-crew and what those roles entail. We will hear from actual industry professionals who ARE working while blind right now,” says Fox.
blindDANCE Studios is currently in production with three full-length documentary film projects. Working While Blind, See Sedona Blind, and Climbing with Light featuring Orly the Blind Chef who is in training for a climb to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Filmmakers may enter to win the "Five Minute Thrive” Story contest right away by submitting videos to the blindDANCE Film Festival Facebook page. Share how you succeed without sight at life and or at work. A number of winners will win an all-expenses paid trip to one of three, filmmaking workshops in 2021, located in Sedona (AZ), Baltimore (MD) or join us on the beach of Rocky Point Mexico in May.
Visit blindDANCEstudios.org for details on these contests and submission timelines and details.
Currently we can award a total of 20 scholarships, conditions permitting. These workshops last 5 days, action packed, full of fun, learning and good food, as we film video to share with the world.
For inquiries about blindDANCE Studios or the working with the Working While Blind film crew, email: bfox@blindDANCEStudios.com