Offspring actor Ben Phillips loves cinema, but being completely blind, he’s always felt a little left out of the action.
Wearing audio description headphones at the movies can help him understand what’s happening on screen, but leaves him feeling cut off from others in the audience.
A new feature film Touch, premiering in Sydney in February, has been produced without any images, specifically to include blind and vision impaired people in the experience of going to the cinema.
“This is a real game changer,” said Phillips, who was part of the team behind the film.
“A time in history where maybe we opened it up and created a whole new genre of filmmaking.”
Touch is directed by award-winning director, Tony Krawitz, and tells the story of a man who get trapped inside his father’s mind after an experiment gone wrong.
The film is different to a radio play or podcast, explained Phillips, because the audience will use their imaginations to follow the story together.
“Anyone will be able to enjoy this film of all levels of ability and sight, whether you have sight or not, so that’s something I’m going to be enjoying doing with my family and friends,” he said.
Touch was made using voice actors in a recording studio, with Phillips helping Krawitz direct and advising on what a blind audience might need to hear to make sense of the action.
It’s a one of a kind experience because an audience of hundreds will be focused only on sound, said Krawitz, as well as being an education.
“The film has been designed for people to enjoy, and to enable people to experience what it’s like not to have your vision to orient you,” he said.
Helping direct has let Phillips find out much more about filmmaking, rather than just being in front of the camera as a professional actor.
“In many ways, I felt more like a conductor of an orchestra rather than a director of a film because it’s all done by sound,” he said.
He hopes that for blind people who have lost their vision over time, Touch might also bring back memories of great films they have seen in the past.
In future, Phillips would like to see films created to include people with other disabilities too.
To bring them into that whole world and to enjoy that cinema experience, it’s a shame that anyone would ever miss out on that,” he said.
The film was made with inclusive film company Bus Stop Films, and the ticket-buying process has also been designed to include people who are blind or vision impaired.
Touch will premiere at the outdoor cinema at Mrs Macquaries Point in Sydney during February, with proceeds going to Blind Citizens Australia.
(Australian Associated Press)