Tommy Edison, who has been blind since birth, had been a radio host for years when he decided to start making videos for YouTube. Working with Ben Churchill, a documentary filmmaker, he launched a series of movie reviews under the name the Blind Film Critic. His sense of humor and distinct perspective, focusing on character and story, are a welcome counterpoint to spectacle-driven Hollywood blockbusters.
The YouTube series took off, and viewers began to pepper Edison with questions -- How do blind people dream? Why is there braille on the drive-through ATM? Edison started answering, and the first video, How a Blind Person Uses an ATM attracted over 100,000 views in three days. Edison then launched a second channel, the Tommy Edison Experience, for videos about his life. Both channels have been a success; each has over a million views now. Edison and Churchill discuss storytelling, YouTube as a social network, and the future of the nonvisual Web below.
How Blind People Dream
The Atlantic: How did you decide to make the leap from radio to YouTube?
Tommy Edison: Video is something that we have always played around with, but it was to try to get on to television. We just decided one day, you know, why don't we throw some stuff up on You Tube and see how we do. We have a voice right here, let's use it. It hasn't felt like a leap for me because I'm still doing both radio and YouTube. It began when I had something to say about movies, so we started the Blind Film Critic channel so I could show you a part of my life that you've never experienced before, so that I could share my perspective.