Home Production house Icon Agency opens a new production house with Auslan Studio: The Content Garden

Icon Agency opens a new production house with Auslan Studio: The Content Garden


When Ben Van Raay sits in his editing chair, he’s the same as every other film editor in the business.

“I like being able to be exactly who I am,” says Van Raay. “I can be creative and push the boundaries of what I can do as a person, without limits.”

Van Raay, who is in a wheelchair, works with Wallara, a disability service provider. He has been working to build his career as a videographer and video editor since taking Wallara’s video editing course in 2014.

But too often, their career development is limited by an industry that is not designed to meet their needs. He will be hired for a shoot only to find out the location or the studio is not wheelchair accessible, or he is in a place where he cannot go, or the tables will be badly positioned, or the equipment will not be height adjustable.

“Inclusion is more than putting up railings and having accessible restrooms,” says Jay Pinkster, Head of Digital Communications at Wallara.

“To be truly inclusive, companies need to be flexible and innovative in how they recruit and support people with disabilities.”

The benefits of diversity and inclusion in advertising and marketing are clear. According to a 2019 Google poll64% of consumers were motivated to buy products after seeing an ad they considered diverse or inclusive.

Beyond consumption Microsoft released a study that found that companies running inclusive ads are considered “more trustworthy” by 68% of women and 60% of men.

Many production companies have begun to incorporate diversity and inclusion into their casting and creative processes and representation in content – ​​the content that audiences see – has improved. But creative diversity – the contributors or creators “behind the screen” – has lagged.

“Research, time and time again, has proven that a true culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace improves productivity, staff retention and job satisfaction,” said David Bartlett, CEO of LOTE Agency .

“I honestly believe that there is a strong level of motivation within the advertising industry to improve cultural diversity in front of and behind the lens, however, there remains a degree of anxiety or nervousness as to how to achieve it.”

That’s why, when Icon Agency acquired its new creative production center, The content gardenhe has worked with LOTE agency and Able Australia on how to create an inclusive and accessible space.

Located in Richmond’s iconic Rosella complex, The Content Garden is outfitted as a fully agile Auslan studio, with specialist equipment to create video and audio content for deaf, blind and deaf/blind audiences; all within an establishment welcoming people with reduced mobility.

“We know that diversity and inclusion in content production and creation is key to ensuring the content itself reflects the lived experiences of diverse audiences,” said Icon Group Managing Director Joanne Painter.

“We’ve made a conscious effort to make our facilities inclusive, but even then some aspects have eluded us,” Painter added.

It wasn’t until we spoke to Ben at Wallara that we realized there were things we had missed, like wheelchair accessible bathrooms. That’s the value of inclusion throughout the production process – it allows everyone to see the project from a different perspective.

“Creating a more accessible world means taking a broader view of our community and spending time discovering what will work best for everyone,” says Chandi Piefke, National Director of Marketing and Engagement at Able. Australia.

“The Content Garden in Richmond is a small example of what is possible. By making the space more accessible, a wider range of people and voices can also join the group. This can only lead to richer content that will benefit everyone.

Working with colleagues at Able Australia and partners at The LOTE Agency, the Icon team learned a lot about effective creative diversity policies from The Content Garden, including:

Consult, consult, consult.
The first thing any production team should do is talk to experts to understand the needs of a diverse and inclusive production company.

“People may not realize the aspects of the process that are difficult for people with disabilities,” says Meredith Prain of Able Australia, who is visually impaired.

“For example, because I can only access part of the screen at a time; attend large meetings with more than 20 participants, it is very difficult to know who was speaking. It’s also very difficult to see documents shared in meetings, so I have to be prepared and open the document on my desktop. »

Invest in adaptive technology.
Often teams will need to invest in adaptive technology and processes to support people with different needs. For Bella Firth, a Wallara creative designer with cerebral palsy, the team had to purchase a custom mouse and keyboard that creates a separate on-screen keyboard.

“I need to be able to use the mouse with two hands, so this mouse allows me to draw and type on the computer,” says Firth.

Talk about diversity and inclusion.
It’s not enough to have policies – to attract talent, you have to talk about creative diversity and what you do to support it.

Think about how you hire.
Creating work experience and internship opportunities can help people with no previous experience learn and grow.

“Neurologically diverse people may need to transition into employment rather than starting abruptly,” says Jay Pinkster.

“Creating opportunities for work experience, internships and reduced hours in the first place can help create more accessible pathways to employment.”

Representation means all sectors of society.
While diversity of race, gender, sexuality and religion is vital, diversity also means including people with various disabilities, from all age groups and socio-economic diversity.

According to Facebookpeople with disabilities were significantly underrepresented in online ads (1% of ads reviewed), as were members of the LGBTQ+ community (0.3%).

A study 2021 estimates that a person may encounter up to 10,000 advertisements per day. Each of these advertisements not only sells a product or idea, but can also shape attitudes and change behaviors.

Ads can make us see similarities rather than differences, abilities rather than handicaps, and opportunities rather than limitations. But we can only create these ads if the people behind them have the lived experience to tell real stories, in a real way.

Learn about The Content Garden, Victoria’s newest for rent video production and studio complex, in the heart of today’s Cremorne.