Why We Barely Saw Senia Last Semester

By Mona Malacane

Last week, I sat down with Steve Krankhe to discuss his ongoing project to bring Chinese documentaries to America. This week, I talked to Senia Borden about her role in the project, what she has worked on thus far, and her responsibilities moving forward.

To recap, Steve and Living Earth Television (LETV) are working together to bring Chinese documentaries to America and American documentaries to China. In fall Steve traveled to Chengdu to attend a film festival, bringing with him five American documentaries to show to Chinese executives, some from CCTV (China Central Television, public television broadcaster). So that Steve could show the films to executives at the film festival in Chengdu, Senia and her partner Drew (a Chinese MA student in Journalism) were tasked with translating and subtitling the English films into Chinese.

Senia would insert the Chinese subtitles into the film, “estimating where the lines went with regards to the spoken English.” In a perfect world, Drew would have helped with this step, but since they were under a tight deadline to get the films ready for the festival, Senia “ended up going solo and pretending to know Chinese; figuring out which lines corresponded with which English phrases (with the help of Google translate).” It’s a long and wearisome process, she explained. A “45 minute film took at least 16-20 hours. It’s just tedious copy paste, put in the video, next subtitle line etc … You just have to go line by line and put [the subtitles in]. Which is why hopefully I will get an intern!” With their powers combined, Senia, Drew, and Google drew compliments for their subtitling work from the Chinese execs.


They worked long hours to prepare the five films but their work is far from over. Now, they are in the process of “retroactively checking the originally-in-English transcripts because some of them are actually based on previous versions of these films and so have bits and pieces that are incorrect,” Senia explained. Senia also has to be on the lookout for English colloquialisms which may be lost in translation when Drew translates into Chinese. When they finished subtitling, Senia formatted the American films onto DVDs for Steve to take them to China.

Now that Steve has worked out the contracts between PBS World, WTIU, and LETV, Senia’s role in the project will be changing. She explained, “From now on, I do what Steve doesn’t have time to do basically … The films that we get have to be translated, they have to be made the right length, they have to have proper credits in them, and they have to be in the correct format, and meet all the requirements that PBS World wants.”

When Senia starts explaining all the details involved...

My reaction when Senia starts explaining all the details involved…

When the Chinese films arrive here, Senia, Drew and others will begin working on them. Senia hopes to be able to hire an editor and take on more of the managerial tasks (and put her degree to use!). “That’s the goal.”

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