So the reason why I am foregoing the international jet-setting interpreting career I was so clearly destined to have is also the exact same reason why instead of strutting my stuff on the red carpet in Berlin a few days ago, I was at home eating beans on toast like any other self-respecting Bristol denizen on a Monday night. If there is going to be a techno fix for global warming, as they keep telling us, then when are they going to invent teleporting as a low-carbon way of getting around, is what I want to know?! Anyway, due to a distinct lack of teleporting technology, I did not attend the premiere of “Vor der Morgenröte” (Before Dawn), a German cinema film production about the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, which will see my humble visage projected onto the big screen in a minor role as an English interpreter before the week is out.
Whilst it is tempting to pretend that there is a constant stream of agents relentlessly beating a path to my door in a bid to cast me for their next blockbuster, I have to be frank and admit that nothing could be further from the truth. I came to this role in the usual way: by knowing someone who knew someone who had been approached by someone who was looking for an interpreter willing to audition for a film role. So, one casting and one fitting later, I found myself on set for the day of shooting.
The reason I decided to write about this experience is that it was fascinating on both a personal and a professional level. In a way, it was the most bizarre and most thrilling interpreting job I have ever done. Far from being able to yes, look neat and professional, but otherwise unobtrusively blend into the background, here there were stylists despairing over my hair, which was apparently completely wrong in every way (“…straight, red hair AND a fringe! Someone didn’t think this through, did they!”), and assistants fussing over my outfit and make-up during each and every break. My two interpreting colleagues and I were prompted to whisper audibly – where normally you would try and keep noise levels to a minimum during whispered interpreting – to contribute to the overall feel of the scene, and it was certainly the first time I had interpreted in a room where people were being positively encouraged to smoke!
At this point you might think: Yes, all very well, but surely the whole thing required more in the way of acting than actual interpreting? And it is true that we did get given the script, which we were then able to translate beforehand – which is clearly nothing like real life, where they always promise to send you all the presentations in advance but never do! Yet despite knowing all the dialogues intimately, it still felt just as exhausting as any other ‘proper’ interpreting assignment. And the fact that we spent all day shooting the same five-minute scene over and over again meant that I kept rephrasing my output in a bid to keep polishing and refining it, a chance you seldom – if ever! – get in interpreting.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the whole experience was that according to the director, they had also invited actors to audition for the interpreting roles, but apparently it was just too obvious that they were pretending. So if there is a moral to the story, it’s that looking like a professional interpreter is just as hard as actually being one. And that a 24-hour personal stylist might prompt me to reconsider that glitzy interpreting career… perhaps.