A paradigm shift

Interview published in the SNAC* Authors' Newsletter no. 152, January 2023.

Deluxe US Collective

*National union of authors and composers

Authors' Newsletter: What are your thoughts about subtitling using an online interface?

Collective: It is a way of working that completely transforms our working conditions and also, doubtless, the work itself and - in the long term - our status. Deluxe Media Inc. ("Deluxe US"), like Eikon, Iyuno and TransPerfect which operate in similar fashion, offers a subtitling service for programmes all over the world, particularly for VOD platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video and, to a lesser extent, for theatrical releases. To do this, they oblige authors to work on a streaming interface; the Deluxe US one is called "Sfera". Authors can only communicate by email with their designated "Project Coordinator". The "PC"s don't know the work we do, and that is a constant source of errors and wasted time. The division of labour means that coordinators have no leeway, so they avoid all questions and use a form of Newspeak which would be worth examining in order to assess its influence on this groundbreaking project.

The countless errors with the project - errors about what the job entails; wrong versions (often not the latest) of the film being sent - give rise to a cascade of pointless emails and orders to undertake sometimes meaningless tasks. An example: having to submit three French titles for a film based on a book that already has a French title, when the film is to be released under the original title. We may sometimes receive over 100 emails for a film without much dialogue, whereas with a French company everything is settled with a dozen emails and a few phone calls.

The platform, Sfera, is inefficient and less precise than the early software from the 1980s. Not only does it crash regularly, sometimes losing our subtitles like in the '90s, back in the days of floppy disks, it also tries to impose a new working model that modifies all the steps of the subtitling process, slowly leading to the loss of our independence and autonomy.