by Rita Menezes
I finished my degree in 2001, in Leiria, my hometown. After studying subtitling during the last semester of my degree, the plan in the back of my mind was clear: I needed to move to where subtitling companies were and contact them and offer my services. Easier said than done.
Within months, I finally found a fulltime job in Lisbon (incidentally, it was in the audiovisual industry!). I moved there and weeks later I started my search for subtitling companies. One beautiful and sunny May afternoon, I knocked at one’s door–not actually knocked, there was a doorbell. They opened and I immediately asked, “Are you looking for freelance subtitlers?” They said they were. “Great”, I thought. They asked for my experience. I had none. They wanted to know if I had had any training. I did, with a wonderful teacher. “Okay, then we will need you to do a test”. “Of course,” I said. “Wonderful.” I thought.
The next morning, I did the subtitling test on their equipment (I did not have my own). It was a nice and not easy spotting and translation task. In the afternoon, I received a phone call, “Hi Rita, you passed the test. We want to assign you your first project. Can you come tomorrow to pick up a VHS and its script?” “Of course,” I said. “Wonderful,” I thought. Yes, back then we used VHS tapes and we were given scripts to help us in the process of subtitling.
We usually created a preliminary version of the subtitles in Word and if we didn’t have one (which many of us didn’t), then we had to book time at the company premises to do the spotting using their equipment.
Bottom line: I needed a couple of months to move my whole life to Lisbon and it only took me three days to get my first subtitling project.