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    Should I have this project be in a foreign language in this case?
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    I am directing a biographical documentary right now, but the person narrating it, does not speak English very well. It was his and a producer's idea and they just wanted me to direct. However, since his English is not as good, I was thinking maybe it would be better to just suggest to him, to narrate in his native language, and then add subtitles to it. Unless this will be worse with an audience perhaps? What do you think?


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    Senior Member paulears's Avatar
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    Easy one. You produce a moviing image product in the intended audience's first language, subtitles work for the minority audience.


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    Oh okay, but will they have a problem if the man is not as good at English?


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    Senior Member ahalpert's Avatar
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    How bad is his english? Can you understand him? Is it a struggle to understand him?

    Unless he's utterly hopeless, I would give him unlimited takes and unlimited coaching and wring a usable performance out of him. Going subtitled will lose a chunk of audience, while pulling off the English delivery will add character and flavor


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    I can understand about maybe 70 percent of what he is saying but if 30 is a challenge, is that acceptable then?


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    Senior Member ahalpert's Avatar
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    No. You need to get him to 95%. It should not be painful to decipher his speech


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    Oh okay, thanks, but what can I do to teach him that though? I have a possible idea I can try...


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    Senior Member Liam Hall's Avatar
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    If you have to use him, just use subs.
    www.liamhall.net
    TWITTER: @FilmLiam
    INSTAGRAM: @picsbyliam


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    Senior Member Grug's Avatar
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    If the narration is important, you want it to carry all of the emotion and nuance of expression that it can - if that's in another language. Then go with that, and subtitle.

    If the intended audience is primarily an English-speaking one though, I'd either find a competent English-speaking narrator to record a second version of it. Or adjust the narration so that you can have an English-speaker provide the majority, and simply drop in the subject's voice when needed to tell particular parts of the story.


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    Senior Member paulears's Avatar
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    Knowing the kind of projects you take on, is this guy a non-negotiable part of the production? I suspect he's the producers best friend, so he will be blind to the problem. So you have to make a decision. You tell the producer he is totally impossible to understand and make it a production call. Do a test. Get him to do an example, put it on YouTube privately and ask the producer to test it on his trusted friends. You will then get a decision. Use him or not use him. Have you considered what his problem actually is? If it's talking from memory, maybe reading from an autocue will make it better if he's in vision. If he's just narrating off camera, then it's like many of the Indian produced YouTube videos that are incomprehensible because they learned English from somebody with the same problem, so they learned pronunciation wrong! I've found this cannot be fixed. You can have a highly intelligent professional person with very high qualifications who learned this kind of English during education and they cannot detect they're doing it badly because they learned it this way. Many do not know. Many do. You will deeply offend the person if they are unaware. Nowadays very risky. You are not a voice coach, maybe the producer would consider paying for one? He is not a fixture, get him replaced before it's too late. If they won't, it's not your problem. Do the shoot, take the money, move on.


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