Closed Captions and Subtitles for Film Festivals

Screening a film at any festival is an exciting yet emotional process for most filmmakers, and often the culmination of years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to their craft. Media accessibility is one of the final steps in the process of preparing a film screening, but is an important step to ensure each film is accessible to all members of an audience. Our team at Captionmax is filled with creative people who are passionate about the art of film and happen to be experts on the things you need for your next festival screening, be it closed captions, localized subtitles, or post-production scripts.

Closed captions and/or SDH (subtitles for the D/deaf and hard of hearing) are a great start and often a given in film festivals to ensure a D/deaf and hard of hearing audience can experience your film. If you haven’t already been provided with style and technical requirements for captions, reach out to your film festival point of contact and ask for these specs. They will typically include information on how captions or SDH should be formatted and what deliverables, such as DCP (Digital Cinema Package) or SRT, are accepted by the festival. It may be that the only specs include a deliverable format, in which case our team at Captionmax will determine the best standard style for the given deliverable based on user experience.

Now let’s think about the language of your content. Are there foreign languages spoken in your film? Foreign words on-screen that should be translated? Or is the film festival considered to be international? You may need localization services such as forced narrative subtitles, which translate specific parts of foreign dialogue or on-screen text to aid in viewer comprehension. (Important note: some film festivals, such as Sundance, require projects with non-English dialogue to include burned-in subtitles at the time of submission.) Multilingual subtitles are another option that not only provide greater inclusivity and understanding, but also open the door to presenting your art on a global scale regardless of festival requirements.

Are your film festival specs also asking for post-production scripts? Can you just submit your film’s screenplay? Unfortunately not, as post-production scripts are designed to include exactly what is in the final cut of your film. Again, this where you’ll want to check in with the film festival specs. What kind of post-production script does the festival require? Is there a sample they can provide? Dialogue lists are a great example of post-production scripts that are requested on the international film festival circuit. These scripts provide verbatim dialogue transcription attributed by speakers, plus credits and musical cues, and are optimal for language translations.

It’s important to remember that specs or schedules for film festivals may change at the last minute, especially in a world of live, virtual, and hybrid events. We have a few key tips that can ease your prep process.

  • Plan ahead by building time into your production schedule to allow for your access services to be created.
  • Upon submission or acceptance into your film festival, confirm any media accessibility specs with your festival contact.
  • Keep these specs on hand when setting your project up with your Captionmax rep.

With Captionmax, we’ll focus on making your content accessible at any film festival you’re featured in so you can concentrate on the art of filmmaking.