In part II of this series exploring the voice-over industry, the author “goes local” and interviews two Bay Area producers and localization directors. BY INGEBORG WEINMANN WHITE
David Sweet-Cordero, sole proprietor of InterCultura Multilingual Media and Charles Xavier, Director of Localization at Polarity Post, both San Francisco companies, shared their thoughts with me about the foreign language voice- over industry. I have worked with both of them over the years as translator, voice talent, and director.
AN ALL-IN-ONE PACKAGE
InterCultura Multilingual Media offers multi-language services in an all-in-one package. If a company needs to localize their video or website flash presentation in several different languages, if they require translation, voice-over or subtitles, all properly localized for the required foreign language market, InterCultura will handle the whole project and all the elements involved from start to finish. It is certainly an ambitious goal to offer a service like this, acknowledges Sweet-Cordero, who started his own multi-lingual business ten years ago. At the time no one else in the Bay Area was offering a similar service.
“Sometimes a translation agency will break into voice-over without any knowledge or infrastructure; or an audio recording studio decides they want to break into the multi-lingual market but they don’t really have the knowledge and experience either. Because I was a translator, interpreter, voice-talent and also a video producer I brought all those things together. There is really no one around who does exactly what InterCultura does.”
Over the years, Sweet-Cordero has developed a pool of voice-talents and translators. I asked him how easy it is to find good foreign language talent in the Bay Area and what talents can do to gain skills and break into the industry.
“There are less than a handful of male Latin American Spanish voice talents. I myself and one other guy are the main and most experienced talents; then there are a few other Spanish speaking guys, who either have a heavy regional accent or are inexperienced.”
Compared to Los Angeles, he explains, which is really the hub of the industry, there are only a few professional and experienced foreign voice talents in the Bay Area. This is due to a lack of training and information. Many people don’t know how to assess their own skills and will do auditions or record samples despite the fact that they don’t read well, have a regional accent or don’t know how to pace themselves, work with rhythm, inflection or different qualities in their voice.
He recommends that potential talents get training, work or apprentice with experienced colleagues, take voice-over classes, even in English, and apply what they have learned to their own language. There is more to producing a foreign voice-over than merely hiring a native speaker.
Other recommendations from Sweet-Cordero include developing a presence on the Internet and, later, if you are successful in getting a large contract, even getting an agent.
With respect to the kind of markets that are out there for voice over-talents and the most-in-demand languages, Sweet-Cordero noted that there are the projects directed at immigrants in Cantonese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Russian. Usually these projects include some kind of instruction or information.
Then there are companies who want to reach foreign markets with their product: banks, software companies, clothing brands, and so on. These are mostly directed at the European and Asian markets. The most popular languages for foreign markets are Spanish (Latin American and Castilian), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
A WEALTH OF TALENT
Polarity Post is one of the few local companies that contracts multi-language voice-over projects in-house. Charles Xavier believes that the Bay Area is a good area to find voice-over talent compared to the rest of the country and internationally. He finds that there is a wealth of professional talent, who understand the requirements of recording a localized script in their native language, while making it work and fit into the English timing of the original video or web presentation. The market, however, is getting more competitive and this year, with budgets getting smaller, companies have often opted for subtitling rather than voice-over.
Xavier thinks there is a great pool of Bay Area talent for corporate, industrial and toy products. He has an A-list of about 3-4 talents per language—people he calls first when a project comes up. When they aren’t available, or the client doesn’t choose a particular voice, or doesn’t want to pay A-list rates, Xavier brings in his B-list or auditions new talent.
The best way to develop a working relationship with Xavier is to e-mail him mp3 demos and resumes if one has experience in the field. If you are new to the industry, Polarity Post will ask you to come to their state-of-the art recording facility in San Francisco’s North Waterfront District and record an audition.
I realize that I have presented two different points of view, one perhaps more optimistic than the other. I personally tend to agree with both of them: there is a lot of interesting work out there for foreign language voice-over talent, especially in the corporate field, but it is also important to note that this is rarely a full-time occupation. Voice-over talents work both for the fun and enjoyment of it, as well to supplement our income but we can still dream about our big breakthrough, when a large company will hire us to be their one and only voice. IWW