Michael is a writer-director of film and photographer, as well as an audio describer and access consultant. For the past decade, he has collaborated with D/deaf and disabled artists to create film and video work that explores and expands accessible artistic practice.
His award-winning short film, Awake, starring two blind actresses, screened at film festivals across the globe, won several awards, and was highlighted in a special programme at Dresden FilmFest, where he led a three-day workshop in accessible filmmaking for emerging German filmmakers.
His script, Inés, the Sister from Tehuantepec, is currently in development with YN Films (Canada) and Plural Filmes (Brazil). In 2016, he wrote an adaptation of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland for Extant Theatre, a company run by and for blind and visually impaired people, which was performed entirely in the dark with haptic devices. In 2011-12, he directed Fat, a live art performance by Pete Edwards, an actor with cerebral palsy, that integrated captions, audio description and BSL in a UK tour and at the Edinburgh fringe.
He is an associate artist at filmpro, a London-based digital arts organisation, and a member of BFI Network x BAFTA Crew.
‘My artistic vision involves using what you have and figuring out things as you go along.
As a child I was restless and kept changing what my parents called hobbies – from guitar to poetry to photography – hoping I would discover something I was a genius at, because I was told artists were born not made. But my father also said you could teach yourself anything from a book.
I’m so shy that often I have found it easier to learn to do things myself than ask someone who already knows. I’m starting to reach out.
I’m interested in stories from viewpoints we haven’t heard before, and wary of cliches. At the same time I believe we belong to a collective unconscious that has inherited narrative structures that transcend time and geography, so that we all share common myths.
There’s that joke where they asked Mother Theresa what she wanted to do now that she had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and she says “Direct.” It feels completely delusional to imagine writing and directing more films (at my age, as the world burns). But I have experienced miracles already in my artistic practice, so what’s to stop a few more occurring?‘
Recent projects / work
Written and directed by Michael Achtman
Produced by Caglar Kimyoncu
Awake is a 22-min existential comedy starring blind actors Alex Bulmer and Margo Cargill. Anna, who’s chronically ill, is visited by Doreen, a door to door proselytizer who makes herself at home and stays the day, slowly defrosting her non-welcome. Together, they walk in the park, bake a cake and watch an Ingmar Bergman film.
Jury Prize – Superfest, San Fransciso; Best Actresses Prize (Margo Cargill/Alex Bulmer) – Breaking Down Barriers, Moscow; Festival Director’s Prize/Jury Special Mention – Look & Roll, Basel and Golden Pelican Award – Mykonos Biennale
Upcoming projects / work
APRIL IN THE COUNTRY
Feature film in development.
April in the Country is a road movie following a blind woman’s journey from London to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides after her father dies. Equipped with a smart phone, a white stick and a smile, April enjoys the freedom of the road and sense of empowerment that travelling solo brings her. But when support systems fail and grief catches up with her, April loses her way, and navigating the well-meaning but often misguided assistance of strangers nearly does her in. On the Isle of Harris, April finds her estranged godmother immersed in the local community and involved in an intimate relationship. There April recovers, discovering a new way to live and even to love.