Rates for FR->EN screenplay translation
Thread poster: Stephanie Dostie
Stephanie Dostie
Local time: 03:27
English to French
Dec 18, 2011

I may be getting a screenplay translation project soon, so I was wondering what the going rates were (ideally in CAN$). This is a full-length movie script: 121 pages long, total of about 23 000 words. However, the client said he wanted to hire a student to do it so it would cost him less than hiring a professional (among other reasons), but he does not want to pay 0.20$ / word...

What rate should I ask for this job?


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Teymur Suleymanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:27
Russian to English
+ ...
Let him start the project when he has the budget Dec 18, 2011

Stephanie Dostie wrote:

I may be getting a screenplay translation project soon, so I was wondering what the going rates were (ideally in CAN$). This is a full-length movie script: 121 pages long, total of about 23 000 words. However, the client said he wanted to hire a student to do it so it would cost him less than hiring a professional (among other reasons), but he does not want to pay 0.20$ / word...

What rate should I ask for this job?


I would tell him that if he is not ready to pay for the project then it is up to him of course, but good luck finding anyone with that kind of mentality. Business is business and everything has a price. Being a student has nothing to do with translation as students can produce really excellent translations worth even millions of dollars.

Usually it is a matter of discernment, but if a client makes an impression of an unpayable one, then just run from him.
Of course, it is alluring to have a nice 23K project. You may consider lowering the rates then to, say, 0.11c/word, or something. It's up to you.


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Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 09:27
German to Swedish
+ ...
You should charge way more Dec 18, 2011

What's the purpose of translation?

If I had a screenplay that I wanted to interest some commercial studio or agent in, it would matter very little to me whether I paid $0.1 or $1 per word. All that matters is writing talent of a calibre that's rare even among translators.

(As a matter of fact, if I wanted a screenplay translated, my first stop would be a native-language screenwriter, not a professional translator...)

But assuming you have the writing talent, this assignment is worthy of your highest rate and more.
If he doesn't like it, he can always use Google Translate.

(This is also one of the rare cases where I'd worry about copyright protection. Suppose you do a great job and he sells the screenplay? Extremely unlikely, of course, to judge from his general approach to being a movie professional, but still...)


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xxxcristinacb
Romania
Local time: 10:27
French to Romanian
+ ...
question Dec 18, 2011

Hi,

I would like to ask you what is, on your opinion, the lowest level, acceptable - to be paid: 0.05 Euro? 0.2 euro?
I am an unexperienced translator, and I would like to know how other see-other persons from other countries.

Thank you


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Vladimír Hoffman  Identity Verified
Slovakia
Local time: 09:27
Member (2009)
English to Slovak
+ ...
Really?! Dec 18, 2011

Being a student generally means being unexperienced. Of course, there is nothing wrong with lack of experience, we all once lacked experience, but if a client wants excellent translation of sophisticated text (such as translation of screenplay with high demands regarding to knowledge of life and customs as well as writing skills), he would really think of hiring a professional.

Actually, I am tired of all the "hiring a student" stuff. I would ask the client (I have already done it several times) whether he uses to hire students for preparation of legal contracts, providing accounting services or creating construction plans.


Teymur Suleymanov wrote:

Being a student has nothing to do with translation as students can produce really excellent translations worth even millions of dollars.


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Paula Gordon  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:27
Bosnian to English
+ ...
Be practical Dec 19, 2011

Hi, Stephanie,
How did he come to contact you -- because of your qualifications as a translator or because you're a student that he thought he could pay less? If the former, you have some negotiating power; if the latter, then (IMO) you shouldn't expect much -- either by way of payment or respect for the work you might do.

Ask some questions (tactfully -- you might want to try not asking these directly, but try to get the answers during a friendly chat -- if all else fails, use flattery):
Does he have people interested in the screenplay already?
Has he pitched it anywhere? Does he have a producer in mind, or contacts?
Have any of his other scripts been produced (plays or films, or even novels published)?
If none of the above, you may be able to skip worrying about royalties -- just get your money up front. And I mean up front as in some amount in advance and the rest on delivery. You can use this as a negotiating point -- not asking for royalties.

You could ask if he could send you a synopsis -- a short narrative about what happens in the script -- plus a scene or two, and offer to translate a smaller amount of text to see how you two get along and how you like his work and if he likes your work. And to see if he pays. He'll have to have a synopsis to pitch the screenplay (in my experience working on the fringes of film production). Might as well get that translated first. Also, if he likes your work, then you'll have more negotiating power.

Look at the contracts on the American Translators Association (ATA) website (atanet.org and search "Model contract"). It may not be perfect for your needs, but you'll see what you need to agree on in advance.

There's also the PEN American Center (pen.org). Go to What We Do > Programs > Translation, and you have a link to a model contract on the left. It's more publishing oriented than ATA's, with a royalty clause.

If you're keen on literary translation, check out the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) (search for it, you'll find it) and go to Publications > ALTA Guides on that site. Great information about becoming a literary translator.

Lots of resources, and very likely you have similar ones closer to home. You could check with a trusted professor for advice. Then again, if you're not intending to become a literary translator, you may want to pass up the opportunity (and likely aggravation) and spend your energy on your studies. Don't let this be a net loss.

Good luck, regardless of your decision.
Paula


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Paula Gordon  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:27
Bosnian to English
+ ...
Oh, right, and what to charge... Dec 19, 2011

That's where a local ally could help you more. If you're in a translation program, talk to a couple of professors. Or get in contact with a local translators association (better yet, join one). Perhaps someone in a main office would put you in touch with someone who could give you an idea of rates for this type of work.

Also, who do you know who works in film? Is there an independent filmmaker society in your area? Find out what other customers would be willing to pay.

This is all part of being an independent contractor (or freelancer, sole proprietor, business owner, whatever you want to call it).


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