Storytelling and accessibility: meet our Shoot the Future winner

A few weeks ago, we announced the winner of our Shoot the Future contest, a competition designed to find a new, truly innovative and inclusive documentary, news or entertainment concept. “Playback”, a creative project that blends video storytelling and accessibility, took the gold among 500 entries.

We recently caught up over Skype with the man behind the “Playback” concept, 20-year old legally blind filmmaker James Rath from Los Angeles.

James Rath, winner of the Shoot the Future competitionJames explained his passion for filmmaking was born when he stumbled upon his parents’ camera at age eight. “I realized I could use it as a tool for accessibility,” he says. “I’m legally blind, so my eyes can’t be corrected with glasses or contacts. But as a kid, I discovered the zoom features of the camera and was able to view things across the room that I normally can’t see.”

His passion for video storytelling and accessibility led to the creation of his YouTube channel some years later. “I talk about accessibility culture and why it matters. It’s important to everyone,” James continues, “even if you’re born able-bodied, you might not always be able-bodied, be it because of aging or disease or some freak accident. You never know when you’re going to lose your vision or hearing or the ability to walk. And it might sound scary, but there’s this narrative in Hollywood right now that living with physical or mental disabilities is worse than being dead, and that mindset absolutely has to change.”

And describing the “Playback” project he explains: “I want to share my story, being legally blind but I also plan to highlight others living with different disabilities. I plan to include friends who are living with disabilities, and very much involved with disability rights and accessibility activism, and celebrate them. That’s really what I want to do on the show. Celebrate our diversity. Celebrate our differences. Celebrate our community.”

The Shoot the Future winning prize included $20,000 in development funding and advice from industry leaders and judges YesJulz, Ice T and Game of Thrones’ Oliver Butler.

The project is already well on its way and we wish James all the best as he works towards realizing this inspiring initiative. We’re looking forward to watching the finished product! Watch this space for news from James in the near future.