CTS Professionalisation Talk 2022-23 #3: Precis Writing

On Friday 21 October, Alessandro la Donna gave a talk on how to become a freelance subtitler for major cinema studios.

Alessandro graduated in Linguistic and Cultural Mediation at the University of Macerata, Italy. Before graduating, Alessandro worked as an audiovisual translator in Tunisia, Paris and Rome (FR/EN>IT, and IT>SDH).

He currently teaches audiovisual translation at the SSML in Trento, while freelancing as a French and English into Italian subtitler for broadcasters like Fox and Discovery channel. Alessandro is also a member of the Italian Association of Translators and Interpreters.

Alessandro began the talk by sharing his career path up to now and some of the work that he has accomplished to date. Alongside his successful freelance work, his experience spans teaching in a French high school, literary translation, teaching audiovisual translation, respeaking (live subtitling) and liaison interpreting at University level, as well as designing and providing training courses on audiovisual translation.

Alessandro’s personal career highlights include subtitling the final two Harry Potter films and Phantom of the Opera.

He went on to explain the main challenges he encounters in subtitling. These include:

  • Musicals – it’s very difficult to maintain rhyme structures and meanings simultaneously.
  • Swear words – they can express different meanings in different cultural contexts.
  • Cartoon – subtitling for children is challenging as they cannot read as quickly as adults.

Following this, Alessandro shared some tips and advice for budding audiovisual translators.

Advice for job-searching

  • Send CVs frequently but in a targeted manner
  • Create your own website
  • Create a LinkedIn page and keep it updated
  • Maintain good contact with clients: persuade them to value your work as a professional and show that you are working on career personal development
  • Join professional associations that reflect your interests and use their events as networking opportunities
  • Develop relationships with universities to get up-to-date knowledge.

How to gain experience

  • Start working with industry experts and voluntary associations
  • Accept jobs and projects according to your skills: don’t risk your reputation by accepting work you can’t complete to a good standard
  • Do not accept unreasonably low prices
  • Connect with more experienced translators so you have people to help you.

Key takeaways

  • Never stop learning and be curious: the industry is constantly evolving so it is important to keep up with developments
  • Remember quality and experience come with a cost – don’t undersell yourself!
  • Take care and be honest with your self-marketing.

The session concluded with a short question-and-answer segment. Alessandro explained that having a very high level of understanding of your languages is indispensable, especially the cultural elements. Being able to speak a foreign language is different to being able to thoroughly understand the nuances of cultures.

He explained that subtitling, or audiovisual translation, is both his main source of income and his favourite service that he provides.

For Alessandro, creating subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing is the most rewarding aspect of his work, because inclusion is so important to him.

Many thanks to Alessandro for sharing his valuable insights and experiences.

Author: Kruger Lee