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lost in translation

Posted at 15:20 on 7 Feb 2009 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: Amy Hunter, meta-analysis, Pain4Fem, shoot writeups

I spent yesterday transcribing the Pain4Fem Strict Prison film Amy and I shot in January. One of their crew speaks English, and translates their films into German for the subtitles, but he had difficulty understanding some of our phrases. Maybe they were slang. Could I help?

Watching the opening scene, I quickly realised that there was nothing wrong with their translator's colloquial English. A lot of what I was saying was pretty much unintelligible. My character was irritable and impulsive, and my lines were either muttered under my breath or came out in a big rush. The acoustics of the prison set were ringing and echoey, and I had to listen to some lines three or four times to work them out.

I was pretty upset, and disappointed. Amy is brilliant, a model of clarity and professionalism. But me? I race, trip, stumble over my lines and half of them are lost. The dialogue was improvised, as usual, so it wasn't a question of remembering a script. I must have spent three times as long working out what to say next as I did actually delivering it. I would have been better off not trying to be clever, even speaking in clichés, if it meant I could be understood.

I'm also a little bewildered. I know I speak too fast in real life, but on film? This is an amateur mistake. I've been improvising dialogue on camera for nearly three years and this hasn't been a problem - certainly not to this extent - in any of my previous films. Although, you know, feel free to tell me otherwise, I know I'm behind on watching them.

The only explanation I can come up with is nerves.

We filmed most of this in one take, and I was not in a state of centred, zen calm. I was nervous about getting through a plot I didn't feel prepared for. I felt self-conscious about my character being the centre of attention when Amy was so much more confident an actress. I'd wimped out two strokes into the back-whipping clip we'd filmed first thing that morning, and they'd had to change the whipping machine to the next spring down. That had unsettled me. And there was a much more severe back whipping still to come. And the judicial caning, which I felt totally unprepared for. I felt sick with nerves and I fluffed my lines and now EVERYTHING IS RUINED and it is ALL MY FAULT. :(

I'm hoping that either Pain4fem will agree to my suggestion to include the option of English subtitles as well as German, or that actually the problem isn't as bad as I think and I'm just being paranoid and self-deprecating. However, just in case, I want to note for the record that I've got an English transcription of the film, so, er, feel free to ask me to send you a copy if it proves necessary.

Incidentally, I still haven't seen any of juicy middle bits of the film, containing the medical scene, the back whipping and both the canings. They weren't included in the clips I was sent, presumably because they don't contain as much dialogue as the scenes before and after. I suspect it's just as well I haven't seen the punishments yet, or I'd probably be whinging about those.


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