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"Cowboy Bepop: Music for Freelance" (Client: Sony / Agency: FrogNation / Circa: 1998 - 1999) | by wintersmithen
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"Cowboy Bepop: Music for Freelance" (Client: Sony / Agency: FrogNation / Circa: 1998 - 1999)

Sample: Radio Free Mars


I was fairly lucky when it came to writing/translation credits, in that none were ever expected and none were given. While most people in the content localization trade stick to straight-and-narrow translation, working on big titles made me realize early on that the job had to involve a lot of rewriting if one were at all interested in doing quality work. With established agencies like INTAC, credit is not an issue. The agency is listed in the game's translation credit, and the translator gets decently paid for most parts because it's understood that she's both a ghostwriter and a translator. This sytem ensures that no personal jockeying for credit takes place, and nobody feels screwed over.


It was when I took a small 'fun' job with an agency I'd just hooked up with that I ended up with a bad case of the morning-after.


The job involved translating a fictitious DJ spiel for the newest "Cowboy Bebop" album. It seemed fun, and the agency partner I met with encouraged me to write more stuff, since the Japanese original he'd written was a little slim and pop culture reference wasn't quite on the mark. I did a significant amount of additional writing, renamed it "Radio Free Mars", and gave it a more hipster feel with overt cultural crossovers. My boyfriend ended up providing the voice of the DJ — we went over to the guy's apartment (it was a 3-person outfit with no office as yet), and recorded stuff on a portable ADAT. Very homebrew, seemed issue-free, except that when the album came out, I was listed only as the translator, and the agency guys took full, personal credit for the writing. They even translated my English DJ sequence back into Japanese and printed it in the liner notes.


Is there a point to this? I am turning this into a cautionary tale even as you shift about impatiently. Now where was I? Oh, yes. When an agent shows a predilection for indulging in completely unnecessary forms of pettiness, you know you're not going to have a good relationship, and they're probably not going to get too many juicy contracts. Content localization is a pretty narrow and very competitive industry, and while there's a lot of small, disorganized outfits operating in it at a given time, none of them do very well over the long haul unless they shape up. Case in point, I had to permanently ditch this particular agency after they proved very leisurely with their payment following the PostPet job. Six months, a dozen unhappy translators, some appalling excuses—no way to do business. So if you're thinking of doing some work in this field, keep your contracts non-exclusive, and try to avoid hooking up with inexperienced agents. Payment as promised: that's the point of being freelance. After all, if you prefer not to be paid for the hours you put in, you can always take a salaried position.

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Taken on December 3, 2009