The Gypsie in Me!!

I am a zealot! My life is so meaningless, so pathetic, so without action that I need to read the newspapers in every detail to add meaning to my life. You see to be entertained and to go to the movies, I check the newspapers religiously.  My family are not enough. My work is just a drag, my love life can be put on hold because THERE IS A CAPTIONED MOVIE ON SOMEWHERE …. ANY WHERE … and I simply MUST see it.

GASSSSSPPPP a French movie made in 1873 is on at the Cinema in Gympie on Friday at 5.30am. If I leave Ballarat in an hour I will just make it. I pack the kids clothes. I send the wife to fill up the car and get munchies for the journey, I ring Ellen to come and feed the dogs and the cats while we are gone. We are leaving in an hour. I simply must get there on time or my life will be a cesspool of nothing and not worth living.

I am having an anxiety attack. If I don’t leave soon I will miss the first five minutes of the movie. I need to plan my journey. Thank god for Wotif. Sydney overnight for just $475 for all the family is a steal. If I set off early next morning I will make Brisbane and my friend Bobbie will look after us overnight … and then its just 8 hours or so til Gympie … It can be done. My wife and kids are just as excited I can tell you. The poor dogs are looking sad though. They are fed up of us just leaving them at a whim to chase captioned movies all over the countryside. God my life is so good its unbelievable!!!

No I havn’t gone stark raving mad. You see this is apparently what people like me or people who have disabilities do to access the movies.  Mark Sarfaty, who is CEO of the Independent Cinema Association of Australia, believes this is exactly what people with a disability do. Apparently we just seek out movies that we can access, like we have noting better to do, and travel to wherever they may be screened. You think I am joking? Well check out what he had to say about us and accessible movies:

“People with disabilities will find a screening, schedule it, and travel – just as film enthusiasts do to chase minority films”. (Screen Hub, 4 December 2009).

We are zealots you see .. completely obsessed and stark raving mad!

Please email Mr Sarfaty and let him know how grateful you are that he is sharing his wisdom.

Mark can be emailed on:

I am positive he will be happy to hear from you all !!

15 thoughts on “The Gypsie in Me!!

  1. Hi Gary

    I’m guessing that you’ve been the recipient of a ‘media release’ purporting to represent my views on cinema access. I’ve seen this release and it does not represent my views or the substance of comments made by me in an interview with Screen Hub.

    One week ago, Catherine Leos from sent out a ‘media release’ which appears to be representing the views of Ms Leos and Dean Barton Smith. The ‘media release’ contained a number of factual inaccuracies such as stating that the Independent Cinemas Association of Australia (ICAA) represents 70% of Australian cinemas and incorrectly attributing the copy of an article in Screen Hub as being a quote from me.

    Mr Barton Smith /Ms Leos then inserted my email address and name and number at the bottom of the release along with Mr Barton Smith’s name with and invitation to contact me and the clear implication that I had some association with the release.

    In fact, at no stage have I been contacted for basic ‘fact checking’ or consulted for verification by either Mr Barton Smith or Ms Leos and neither was the journalist at Screen Hub contacted to check on source material.

    Fact checking and verification is basic responsible journalistic/academic/professional practice and fundamental to a meaningful and reasonable examination of any issue. Alas none of it has happened in this case and instead an atmosphere of mistrust based on misrepresentation and incitement to cyber-bullying has been established by the actions of Mr Barton Smith and Ms Leos.

    So let us now deal with the reality;

    In December 2009 I was contacted by Screen Hub for comment about an exemption application to the Australian Human Rights Commission made by some cinema companies.

    None of the companies making the exemption application are represented by cinemas by my association and I was not able to make comment on the application.

    I did however discuss with Screen Hub the cinema access program for hearing and vision impaired patrons which had been put in place in independent cinemas over the past year.

    Independent cinemas are the minority of Australian Cinemas comprising less than 30% of total cinemas by box office in Australia and ICAA membership is approximately 80% of that number. ICAA therefore represents approximately 25% of Australian cinemas rather than the 70% claimed by Dean Barton Smith.

    Independent cinemas are not operating 20 screen multiplexes and many of our members are families in rural and regional areas working to make economic sense of operating single, twin or three screen cinemas in the face of competition from game consoles and big screen TV’s.

    Despite the relatively small size of the independent cinema sector, in the last 18 months we have worked with the Federal Minister for Aging and Media Access Australia and disability representative groups to create an accessible cinema screening program for hearing and vision impaired patrons.

    The independent cinemas accessible screening program has doubled the total number of accessible cinema locations in Australia and significantly increased the geographic spread to include a number of rural and regional centres.

    If Mr Barton Smith had read the Screen Hub article he would have noted that it is the increased geographic spread of access in rural and regional areas that I discussed with the journalist, as well access to arthouse style cinemas with screenings of boutique films in limited release which were not part of any previous accessible cinema program.

    It is the case that ALL patrons in rural and regional areas sometimes have to travel long distances to go to the cinema and that ALL patrons of limited release “art films” sometimes have to travel across town to see a particular film.

    If you live on the far South Coast of NSW and want to see a film in 3D, chances are that you have to drive two hours to see it. Similarly, if you live in Broadmeadows (Vic) and like art films, chances are you have to drive an hour to Carlton to see them.

    This is true of ALL film goers and is not about the economics of cinema NOT about discrimination in access based on physical ability.

    The independent cinema access program is still in early development and we have found that getting the hardware into cinemas is only the first step in making it work effectively.

    We believe there is much that can be done to optimise the program with better and earlier access to the necessary materials and with more focussed publicity, and marketing.

    I believe that this is work to be done with co-operation rather than hostility, with respect rather than suspicion and with real dialogue rather than policy via misleading press release.


    Mark Sarfaty
    Chief Executive
    Independent Cinemas Association of Australia.

  2. Mark .. This is an excellent Rebutt to my satirical poke at the quoye that is attributed to you. I do take on board what you are saying about travelk etc for general patrons. Fact remains that if you are deaf and or vision impaired and you travel to whatever movie you are in 99.97 percent of the time not going to be able to access it.

    I also am aware that private cinemas have a more difficult challenge than the big cinema chains and also that it is much harder for them to provide access.

    I want this to be acknowleged.

    However the profits, overall, of the cinemas in Australia are very healthy. I believe there is much more that they can and should be doing.In fact recent figures that you can find in the article You’re Aving a Lean sugest that Australia has one of the most profitable cinema businesses in the world. What is on offer is, in my view, and many others, mean spirited and totally inadequate. What is more it fails to acknowledge the potential market – which is in the millions – if real access is provided.

    Mark perhaps you would like to post here the offending quote in its proper context so that we can see it as it is meant. I invite you to explain here what you believe is fair and how that can happen.

    Finally thank you for taking the time to communicate with us directly. Long may it continue.

  3. Britain is better served than Oz, but to be honest I haven’t SEEN a captioned movie at the cinema in 20 years. I don’t recall my own area ever showing one. It seems cities here get these things no-one else. I am happy these days to wait for the video/DVD to come out, it is not imperative I see everything as soon as it emerges. Sadly that is the overall view of most deaf too, I am unsure deaf would USE captioned cinema even if every one provided it. Near all deaf friends wait for the DVD. In all honesty I have not seen any campaign in my area for them either. The British deaf are extremely perverse about access, They want it, but don’t use it, so, LOSE it again.

  4. Hi Mark

    Thanks for taking the time to respond and can understand your concerns and the need to share your side of the story. It is simply great that someone in your calibre is able to come forward and outline the independent cinema position.

    Firstly please be aware that this disability market rely on text based communication unlike hearing people who can easily raise debates and engage other freely. Hence email, blogs, sms are the best way to communicate between each other or pass on information about important matters pertaining to them.

    There has been more than a number of occassions when contents portayed in the media incorrectly make reference to the disability sector or assumptions made that are false and misleading. The disabilty sector have to deal with these and constantly try and correct them before being stigmatised by the public further.

    I don’t know if you are aware how extremely frustrated Deaf, hearing impaired, Blind and vision impaired Australians have been for sometime with the way the major cinemas having been addressing this issue. In fact I am unsure if you are aware how unresponsive they have been for so long despite the people like us trying to get sense through to them. You state there need to be cooperation and community yearns for this. But in fact this has not actually happening and the community do not think by giving 1% access to cinema is ‘cooperation’.

    In fact I am unsure if you are aware of the contents within the 465 submissions made to the Australian Human Rights Commissioner (AHRC) and the most recent response from the cinema to the AHRC list of questions. The response made on behalf of the cinema clearly shows conflicting and unfactual answers that has only inflamed the situation between the community and the cinemas.

    So one cant blame the community for having this feeling of mistrust with the cinemas if this is how they view the access issue and with doubtful reasons for their lack of action itself.

    The fact remains is that 99% of cinemas are inaccessible yet since the Disability Discrimnation Act come into place in 1992 there has been 18 years for this industry it get it right. All we have seen is this very slow, avoidance process that had they acted as quickly as they have installed 3D equipment millions would have been in the cinemas coffers and a everyone is happy.

    The fact that cinema heads rarely or wont respond to the disability community in an appropriate way or show real commitment to make things happen that will pleased the untapped market has only generate a build up of anger in the process. They feel and have been treated like 2nd class citizens. Please keep this in mind when this is happening.
    You state that there need to be respect and I agree it need to work both ways.

    The fact you have come forward and responded is great and applauded. I hope you have done same to Dean Barton-Smith as I know he would be more than willing to meet to over cuppa or two, having a real good dialogue and look at way forward in the best interest for all concerned.

    If there were errors that you think need to be recified, and if they are valid, knowing Dean I know these will be addressed. Then again if what you have said is being misinterpreted differently then Im sure these can be addressed. We are are only human. The group are voluntary community people who have a disability wanting to do the best for people who have been denied, ignored and poorly treated for so long. Many years in fact.

    But it need to be reminded that the community has been fed false / misleading information from the cinemas for so long that they need to know who within can see through this and lead the way forward whether for the independent cinema or the bigger cinema it is a matter leading by example.

    Once again I commend you for coming forward and rebutting to the Rebuttal. In fact it is great you have taken the step further to explain the challenges at present. Why can’t the big cinemas come out and do same and meet with t he grass roots is beyond me.

    It is all about open, transparent and honest communication. If the industry doesnt comunicate, the community can only make suspicion.

    I am sure we all look forward to seeing what you think need to be done and how it should be done and your plans for the future.

    In closing, I hope what has outlined above gives you an idea why the community feel the way they do at present (and it is not just Dean Barton-Smith but almost 4 million Ausralians directly affected) and hopefully we can see someone within the industry to be a champion (you?) who can bridge the gap and move mountains where everyone wins!

    Look forward to your next post Mark.

  5. No wonder you guys haven’t gotten captioning yet. You’re pissing off the people who could be helping. You would be achieving more if you weren’t trying at all.

  6. Steve

    You obviously haven’t fully understand what Jesse said. In addition what Gary also said. Mark’s comment whilst fair is flawed in many areas.

    The cinema industry had 18 years + to get their act together. The last 5-6 years I hear has been a real struggle to get any sense through these cinema’s head. They are quick to install expensive 3D equipment but slow to adhere to their obligations under the DDA and more recently the Human Rights. Then we recieve their paltry proposal but want to be immuned from further action for 2.5 years.

    I suggest you go to the AHRC website and read the 465 submissions that went against the cinema offering and then you tell us who is pissed off. I think you will find that the community has been tolerate for so long and now they have had enough.

    If the cinema were REALLY helping we would have seen a far better offer than what they are proposing now. They would be sitting down with disability people directly affected and offer truly robust plans for the future. But they havent.

    Why were they continously dogamtic in reducing the initial offer proposed by disability peaks and thereby making it more difficult than ever before.

    Suggest you also read the cinema’s response to the AHRC question and it is laughable in a sense that we are to be blamed which is a major insult in itself.

    So Steve, your comment is invalid and suggest you do the research before making such simplistic impluasible statement and offer a more constructive way to address this issue. Either that you are not deaf yourself to truly understand what the community and their immediate partner/family have had to endure for 18+ years.

  7. Steve is deaf but really only has something to say if it upsets the apple cart. That in itself is fine but usually it is hot air. He is the guy of Ipod fame … Thinks that we should all just get an Ipod and be done with. Incidentally this idea has been debated and found not to have lot going for it but still Steve is welcome to it..

    Back to Mark. A copy of the Screen Hub article mysteriously found its way into my in box. I have read what you had to say and quite clearly the quote that I based this article on is there. In context it means exactly what it says, that people with disabilities are prepared to travel for their access.

    Your comparison with those that seek out “art-house” movies is not a very good one. You fail to acknowledge that “art-house” enthusiasts can access any movie,anytime and anywhere. The “art-house” movies are a hobby. Seeking accessible movies is not, its a necessity. Worse, people with disabilities often travel only to find that the movie advertised as captioned is, in fact, not!

    You also placed blame on the distributors. I can see that distributors have a role, obviously. But my understanding is that they have movies that are captioned but if so few cinemas in Australia are equipped to show them then it would seem a waste of their time and money. If more cinemas could show them, and offered realistic access, then it probably would change the landscape – A LOT!

    Mark, you also raise the usual limp argument that captioned movie sessions are often empty. Well are you surprised when the times that they are shown are when people are at work rushing home from work or trying to spend Sunday time with families. Are you surprised when the choice of movie is but ONE per week – bugger if you like the movie on offer or not.

    You did mention that the independents had roughly doubled access in the last 18 months. But lets be honest. Considering how poor access was before, double is not that much – Is it?

    On the plus side you clearly do want to find a way to better access. But at the moment the access being offered by the Big 4 is mean spirited and completely not in the spirit of negotiation.

    I acknowledge he other issues you raised on The Rebuttal that include stats on the over-all representation of independent cinemas. I acknowledge, as well, that independents, generally, do not have the same capacity to provide access on the same scale as the Big 4.

    But, Mark, the quote attributed to you, if you actually said it, is actually quite offensive and really not relevant to the debate at all. Out of interest – Is that what you actually said or is it a misquote? and If you actually said it, do you now wish you had not?

  8. Gazza; it’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to addressing your comprehensive failure to understand or address these issues. I do know what you do for a living, and it is not in any field that is relevant to handling logistics or processes in real businesses. This shows through in your approach, and it is a disaster.

    The primary point, and one that cannot be bypassed, is that a press release was made without any fact checking, and incorrectly “quotes” Mr Sarfaty with words that were either not said or were out of context. Mr Sarfaty has been very generous in his response, but the fact remains that you could be sued. Mr Sarfaty would be well within his rights to take Dean Barton-Smith and Catherine Leos to a court of law and have the matter adjuciated in that realm.

    That does not leave any room for responses where you make further demands. The only thing that should be done is an unqualified apology, and retraction of any and all materials that contribute to this fallacious “quote” being further disseminated. You should further publish the apology and note the gracious response from Mr Sarfaty and promise never to publish any press releases without following accepted standards for reporting.

    Then, and only then, can you resume any dialogue towards resolving problems and that dialogue will be based entirely on what remaining goodwill exists. If I were in Mr Sarfaty’s shoes, I don’t think I would be as kind, and I can assure you that I think you’re a group of idiots who alternate between hearing skills to be big fish in a small pond, and your partial deafness as an excuse to avoid punishment for your egrarious mistakes.

    If a hearing person or organisation had done the above, we wouldn’t be talking about it on the Internet. You would be slammed so hard with a lawsuit that you wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to pull your heads out of your butts. Just as well, because you’ve spent a lifetime in that position already.

    I wish we had more pure deaf people runninng our Deaf organisations, not half-hearing people making up fights and using their better English skills to dominate and manipulate deaf people into useless protests that achieve nothing. Your attempted engagement with Mr Sarfaty in these responses are more of the same shit that has to stop.

  9. Steve I am not sure if you can read or not but most of the stuff you have asked has been covered in my previous response.

    1) The quote attributed to Mark was in fact printed in the Screen Hub article. This was written by David Tilley. I believe it is a subscription only journal but the article in question was sent to me. Fact 1 – It is a direct quote from the article. The quote in question is not out of context. The context was that because there are so few screenings of captioned movies people with disabilities seek them out and travel to where ever they are. That part is not out of context unless David Tilley misquoted Mark. You will have to take that up with him.

    2) The media release in question allegedly has factual errors. Mark has pointed them out. Factual inaccuracies abound on both sides of this debate. Whatever happened in the media release – It is not my responsibility. BUT Mark suggested I check facts. My article only quoted him and did not state anything else. I checked whether the quote was, in fact, in the article. It was – and in perfect context – this fact number 2.

    3) Fact number 3 – the alleged misleading media release was authorised by, I believe, a hearing organisation who have a hearing CEO – albeit one that represents disability. If I am wrong here I hope someone corrects me. There are NO deaf organisations involved in this campaign. Deaf people, blind people – but no deaf organisations.

    4) Fact number 4. As part of this engagement one must engage in debate. I have questioned some of Mr Sarfaty assumptions and pointed out a few other things. I have invited Mr Sarfaty to clarify the offending quote and explain it in the context that he meant it. He has yet to do so but I hope he will.

    5)Fact number 5 -separate to this – your Ipod idea has been found to have a number of flaws. I suggest you contact Alex varley at Media Access Australia to see what they are.

    Mr Sarfaty has not been incorrectly quoted. There appear to have been statistical errors in stating the coverage of independent cinemas. I accept this is not a good thing. But my article didn’t even touch on statistics. It focused on only one quote. The questions I have asked Mr Sarfaty are based on what he is supposed to have told David Tilley in the Screen Hub article – I have simply challenged some of these things.

    There is one thing that I do – and that is read – it is a good skill to have.

  10. I just wanted to respond to Steve on his continued call for the use of iPods/iPhones (or other portable devices) to watch captions at the cinemas.

    To me, this is at best a “Plan B” approach. In any case, it certainly isn’t an equivalent experience to that of a hearing person at the cinema and I can’t see how it can be used to justify the cinema industry’s lack of action on accessibility for almost 20 years.

    Whilst I have only tried it a couple of times, there still seems to be too many variables in play (such as the possibility of different caption versions existing in different countries, the quality and timing of captions, getting the positioning right and maintaining it without wrecking your neck and so on).

    I applaud this forum and Gazza for continuing to take the fight up to the cinemas as it is the right thing to do!

    Finally, if I can end with a question – there are a lot of statements made that using open captions at the cinema ruins the cinema experience for those without hearing loss. These are seemingly put forward as gospel. I have done a quick check of my family and immediate circle of friends and they would happily attend an open captioned screening with me.

    Where is all of the evidence (research studies, independent surveys, etc) to support this statement which is advanced with monotonous regularity by those who are against this “easy” solution for accessibility?

  11. Thank you Michael for bringing some sanity back to the debate and directing it back to the issues. We have said of the Ipods that it is a matter of choice but it should not depend on who has the technology or not. It is certainly a solution for some but should in no way be used to absolve the responsibility of the cinemas.

    Cheers and thanks for your support.

  12. Hi Michael; what keeps being omitted is that I agree that it is a Plan B, and that the purpose of the suggestion is to build up the infrastructure for implementing better solutions. The use of portable devices for captioning is only to prove the concept and to give an initial impetus.

    I understand that people will have different opinions, however it frustrates me that judgements are being made on proposals that were not made. I do not think kindly of misrepresentations being made in order to win an argument we don’t need to have.

    If the proposal is to be fairly judged, then it needs to be fully understood and discussed for the merits of the proposal itself. I have _not_ proposed that iPods are the answer, and Gazza should cease and desist from claiming that this is the case.

    • Oh cry me a river Steve. From the very first day you suggested this we said it was an alternative and that was all. We suggested that to make the Ipod idea work it needed cooperation from the cinemas. We suggested it should be a choice and that people without access to the technology should not be disadvantaged and that the primary responsibility must remain with the Cinemas.

      When we suggested all this u spat the dummy and said that we were all wasting our time and while we wasted our time you would go and watch the movies with captions on your Ipod.

      Now read and offer constructive suggestions or simply stay away. What you are doing is essentially distracting people from what is an important debate. If you want to know how you can help and what is a great example of civil disobedience used strategically to protest for ones rights read Michael’s latest post.

      Now put a sock in it – its boring!

  13. Well, it has happened again – I am at the local Ballina cinema and have just had a run-in with the local manager over not paying for a ticket. The movie is “How to train your dragon in 3D” as it is not captioned and accessible for me and I just plan to catch up on emails, play the iPhone etc etc.

    I have done this as a matter of principle for the past couple of years (even though he probably isn’t one of the big chains) and thought it was also a good way to raise awareness of the inaccessibility of cinema for people with hearing loss.

    Today, it seemed to get a bit more heated than usual as there was a lot of paying customers around (being school holidays) and he wasn’t too keen to let me get away with it.

    Still I stood my ground and have managed to get in and look after the kids, although I haven’t picked up a set of 3d glasses as I think that’s only fair to the cinemas as a non-paying customer.

    Unfortunately I wasn’t even able to try the portable captions option as there was no subtitles for this movie available when I did a search on my iPhone.

    Postscript: Just ran into the manager again whilst stocking up on frozen cokes and popcorn and I attempted to smooth things over with him, by apologizing and saying that I just don’t know what else to do. He just shrugged and seemed to be more interested in whether I was wearing the glasses!

    • Michael … full marks for standing up for your rights. Why you felt the need to apologise is beyond me. I guess decency has to prevail somehow. Ghandi would be proud of you ;-D

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