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Should I have this project be in a foreign language in this case?

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    Should I have this project be in a foreign language in this case?

    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?

    #2
    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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      #3
      Oh okay, but will they have a problem if the man is not as good at English?

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        #4
        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
        www.VideoAbe.com

        "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." -Harvey

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          #5
          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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            #6
            No. You need to get him to 95%. It should not be painful to decipher his speech
            www.VideoAbe.com

            "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." -Harvey

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              #7
              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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                #8
                If you have to use him, just use subs.
                "There is nothing permanent except change."
                Heraclitus

                www.liamhall.net
                TWITTER: @WordsbyLiam
                INSTAGRAM: @picsbyliam

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                  #9
                  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.
                  DREAMSMITHS | SHOWREEL | INSTAGRAM
                  www.dreamsmiths.com.au

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                    #10
                    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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                      #11
                      In the UK for TV documentary programmes , if someone's English is poor or has a very strong regional accent. they will use sub titles. However, if their story is weak and they aren't an interesting character, the audience will soon lose interest. That probably also applies if they speak good English, but the tolerance level will be higher if they don't need to invest in reading subtitles.

                      Chances are that coaching them will make them stiff and awkward, which the audience will sense and make the story less appealing. Letting them speak in their own language could allow them to tell the story better, using subtitles. Another option is to get an actor to voice a translation.

                      However, their story has to be worth telling and they must do more than just talk. The audience will be better prepared to watch if the person is doing activities that reveal something about themselves.

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                        #12
                        I think subtitles would be fine. It could make it seem artsy.



                        Also I think you should add a poll to your threads.

                        poll.jpg

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                          #13
                          How about this from something I arranged a few years back - three different Irish accents. One from the South, and two different Northern accents. Quite gentle I think, but they cause some people problems. When the accents get more 'regional' it would take a brave person to tell somebody their speaking needed subtitles. In Belfast, were I normally work, I have known one man for 15 years. I have never understood anything he says to me - subtitles would be 100% required, but I'm not telling him!

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                            #14
                            Oh okay thanks. It's just that the host is also one of the producers and I think he really wants to host it himself, rather than using someone else. I could subtitle it then, if that's better. I can see what I can do, but if maybe I should just have him speak his native language and then subtitle it then, if all else fails?

                            Also another thing I wanted to ask, he wants me to use some of his b-roll for the documentary, but the b-roll is shot in 9:16, where as the all the footage I shot for it is 16:9. I didn't know that he wanted me to use additional b-roll that would be 9:16 until now. So would it be weird blending to the two aspect ratios like in one film like that?

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                              #15
                              I'm not a fan of "hosts" on documentaries, I prefer reporters or investigators who are "discovering" for themselves as the documentary plays, not a fly in to do pieces to camera. Sometimes you find out more about them than the subject.

                              Unless the documentary is targeted at an audience in a particular language, the host should speak English for a general audience in an English speaking country. If this is aimed at French speaking Canadians, French is fine. If they're not a good speaker in the language the question is, other than their ego, why are they doing it? They also have to be good on camera and, if they're not, you have persuade them that it's not a good idea.

                              If the B camera footage is unique material, that's fine, you can get away with it. If it's at an interview it becomes a style decision, as when it was the fashion to shoot the B camera in black and white. However, it can be distracting unless done carefully and and it has to be done consistently.

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