Films: from audiovisual translation to becoming a screenwriter

 

SOM creatives post - filmThe second post in this series is about films – translating them through subtitles and also getting your own screenplay commissioned.

1) FILM (AUDIOVISUAL) TRANSLATION

WATCH FILMS (LOTS OF FILMS!) AND READ LOTS OF FILM SCRIPTS

If you want to translate films, then it’s essential that you are familiar and very comfortable with authentic film dialogue in your target language. Film translation is essentially audiovisual translation (unless you are asked to translate a whole film script) and thus involves the succinct translation of dialogue into space restricted subtitles. You therefore need to be an expert in colloquial language in your mother tongue(s).

If you are asked to translate an entire film transcript, then make sure you are familiar with the format in your target language by reading lots of them. These can be found online in places such as http://filmscriptsonline.com/

READ A BIT OF THEORYtheory

With subtitling come rules – and quite a lot of them, despite there being no internationally accepted industry standards. You can learn a huge amount about these by simply reading a book written by an expert. Anything by Jorge Díaz Cintas is usually fabulous and ‘Audiovisual Translation, Subtitling (Translation Practices Explained) is one I would definitely recommend. I still refer to it myself after many years (https://amzn.to/2L1veDu).

GET SOME EXPERIENCE

As with books, you will very rarely be given a (paid) opportunity to translate a film if you have had no prior experience. So, however little, get some. You can do this entirely on your own by doing something as simple as downloading a short film from YouTube in your source language – using a tool such as ‘Freemake Video Converter (www.freemake.com) – and then translating it in a free tool such as Aegisub (www.aegisub.org/) using the rules learnt from your previous reading. Software, for obvious reasons, is pretty much always used in audiovisual translation and there are similarities in the functionality across all tools. Familiarising yourself with one enables you to pick up another very quickly. Some of the most popular tools in the industry include Wincaps, Swift and EZTitles. Once you have practised a little, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include your subtitled films in your own portfolio. This can only be of help when trying to get paid film translation work.

TAKE AN AUDIOVISUAL TRANSLATION COURSE

Grand Bain - Making ofMany agencies/direct clients like their translators to provide evidence of formal learning. So, something such as this online course run by Imperial College, London, can be an invaluable addition to your CV:

 

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/centras/study/professional/online/subtitling.

Otherwise, many masters courses now include audiovisual translation options.

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

There are agencies all over the world which specialise in film translation – for example, VSI in the UK (http://www.vsi.tv/). However, anybody who produces audiovisual film material in your source language(s) is also a potential client. So, find out about events where such people gather and go along. You may often find you’re the only translator there. If you’re doing this in your source language country, so much the better.

BE PREPARED TO COMPETE AND ESTABLISH A MINIMUM RATE

As with books, film translation work is highly sought after and there is LOTS of competition. Consequently, there are lots of ridiculous rates offered, as agencies and direct clients know translators want to do this kind of work (it is extremely enjoyable and interesting and most of us would do it for free if we could afford to!) Whilst it’s OK to accept any rate when you first start out and have pretty much no experience,  at some point, you need to live. So, get ready to reject a lot of offers and target agencies and clients in the countries you know pay better (e.g. Europe/Canada/US/Australia). If you are an English into another language translator, then you are fortunate. Internationally, there is more work in this language direction.

Once you get a feel for the industry, set yourself a baseline rate, quickly. This can be a price per subtitle or per minute (clients tend to use both, and one can be used to calculate an approximation of the other depending on the quantity of dialogue in a film).

In my own experience, I am often offered work at €2/minute for translation alone (i.e. not including spotting, which is where you create the time synchronised subtitles yourself). My baseline rate, however, after 8 years of working fairly consistently in the industry, is €9-10/minute. There are many forums online which discuss the pricing of subtitles. Do some research for your particular language combination and country(-ies).

DON’T FORGET FILM TRANSCRIPT EDITINGTranscription_Editing

There is a market for proofreading and editing other people’s film transcripts. Sites such as www.upwork.com can sometimes include such jobs and you can of course tailor your website/Proz.com profile and so on to specify that this is something you are interested in or do regularly. Editing other people’s screenplays is also a brilliant way of honing your own screenwriting skills, which leads us on to…

2) GETTING YOUR OWN FILM SCRIPT COMMISSIONED

TAKE A COURSE

Filmscript writing is a specialist writing form, with many well-established rules in terms of format/story development. Learning these rules in as consolidated a way as possible, from professionals, is a worthwhile investment. There are many courses around, from those costing a fortune at prestigious colleges, such as UC Berkley (US) to those which are more affordable, for example the one-day course by Industrial Scripts ® (UK) https://screenplayscripts.com/product/screenwriting-course/

There are even free courses, for example the one run by the University of East Anglia (UK) https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/screenwriting.

Such courses will more than likely introduce you to what is now almost the industry accepted standard for producing a film script in the right format – Final Draft software (https://www.finaldraft.com/). This isn’t exorbitantly priced, so could well be worth the investment early on if you know that screenplay writing is what you want to focus on.

READ LOTS OF SCRIPTS AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Screenplay formatTo better improve your own scriptwriting, make sure you’ve read lots of film scripts by the very best writers. As mentioned previously, you can access these online in places such as http://filmscriptsonline.com/

 

 

HAVE ORIGINAL IDEAS, AND PLENTY OF THEM!

One of the first things people in the film industry will tell you is that it is the idea which often sells a film/gets it commissioned – even before a script has been written. So, have lots of them and in order to test how good they are (no – asking family and friends really doesn’t count!) it can be helpful to:

BE PART OF A COMMUNITY AND GET FEEDBACK

There are plenty of Facebook forums for screenwriters, but joining a more ‘professional’ community/association often has the benefit of enabling you get feedback on your work, which is vital. One such association is The International Screenwriters’ Association https://www.networkisa.org/

Alternatively, industry-based professional entities, such as Industry Scripts in the UK, offer fee-based feedback on everything from your concepts through to your final screenplay.

GETTING YOUR SCREENPLAY COMMISSIONED

Pitching a screenplay is pretty much the only way to get it commissioned and eventually turned into a fully produced film. There is lots of advice online for how to go about successful pitching – Google, as always, is a great source of information written by those who are really in the know in the film industry. For example:

https://www.finaldraft.com/learn/final-draft-blog/five-steps-successful-pitching/

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

Networking is invaluable if you want to get to know the people who can actually do something with your screenplay. Events such as those organised by companies like Industrial Scripts ® in London (https://screenplayscripts.com/) can be great ones to attend. Or anything by your own national film association/commission. ‘Who you know’ is of huge benefit in the film industry and having people know who you are and what you are hoping to achieve makes it much easier when you eventually start to make calls/write emails asking to be able to pitch your screenplay.

Warning signTHINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

The sad reality of the film industry is that it is a cut-throat as it comes. You should therefore:

– Not share your marvellous ideas with people in a much better position than you to make a film out of them, until you have a full script written and have sent it out to lots of people in the industry (preferably at a similar time.) This ensures you can sue the heck out of anyone who may try and steal your idea!

– Build up a network of credible, trustworthy industry professionals (the vast majority of them are) who can support you in gaining knowledge and experience, but not at the expense of you also obtaining success as a result of your talent and hard work.

 

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