What's it like to be a film critic that has never actually seen a film? Meet Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic.
Tommy Edison likes going to the movies. And like many people he has some pet peeves about modern theatergoers.
"Oh! You know, when they talk and they--- I don't like when people talk during a film because it takes me out of the experience, you know what I mean?" says Edison. "I'm trying to get into the story and be with it and somebody's going 'Yeah!' and it's like 'Please don't do that.'"
Extra talking takes Tommy a bit more out of the experience than others since he has been visually impaired since birth. Still, he loves to review movies on his YouTube page 'The Blind Film Critic.'
[Excerpt from Tommy Edison's review of SUICIDE SQUAD]
While an increasing number of movie chains have something called Descriptive Video Services or DVS that help people experience films like THE LION KING without having the visuals, but Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic, mostly avoids this DVS.
"For me, I think if a movie is really good -- I think if it's acted well, if it's written well, it's performed well, you don't need Described Video. You really don't!" says Edison. "I mean, GOODFELLAS is one of my favorite movies of all time and I really believe that if you were to really listen to it and not watch it you wouldn't miss much. You wouldn't miss much at all."
Another fairly recent example of that was Joe Carnahan’s THE GREY, a wilderness survival film starring Liam Neeson.
"It was so immersive!" recalls Edison. "I felt like I was out in the rain. Like I was literally checking my head to see if I was getting rain[ed on] because it sounded so real and it was so... a lot of time in movies, they don't use all the surround sound, they only use that for the trailers. You know what I mean? When you get right into the story, every thing's basically coming from the front of the theater and they hardly even pan it, you know? But this was remarkable. I just loved it, 'cause, you know, it was audio design. It was great!"
[Audio excerpt from THE GREY]
Getting people to think about how others might experience something as commonplace as a movie like THE GREY is exactly what brings Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic out of the theater and to Michigan State University.
"I was invited to come and speak for World Usability Day by a guy called Graham Pierce and, so yeah! I got to talk about my life and accessibility on the web and how it works for me and how it doesn't work for me and what the learning curve was and how it all happened. And also talking about my life and my stories and how I was able to do the things in my life that I've been able to do."
One big surprise happened in 2016 after Tommy’s YouTube videos as movie critic videos and ones describing his experiences as a blind man helped make a movie, but without his knowledge.
"There was a film that came out in August of 2016, and it was called DON'T BREATHE it was directed by a guy named Fede Álvarez." says Edison. "And Fede Álvarez contacted me on Twitter to say 'Hey man, I want to thank you for your videos. They really helped me to create this character for my film.' and I went 'WHAT?!" He goes, 'Oh yeah, yeah! Would you like to come to a press junket, come and see the film and meet everybody.' And I was like 'Uhh, yeah, of course...' So, I got to meet everyone from this film DON'T BREATHE. Now, if you're not familiar with it, it sort of takes place in Detroit and it's about this group of kids who have this idea to go rob a blind guy. You know, it's not a horror movie, per se, it's much more suspenseful than it is -- there's not much gore in it at all. It was really cool of him to sort of big me up for using the videos to help him write his character."
Tommy Edison’s videos, including his DON'T BREATHE interview, the movie he unknowingly helped out with, can be found at YouTube.com/BlindFilmCritic as well as other videos about visual impairment at 'The Tommy Edison Experience.'