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Roberta Schiavon has been working in the dubbing sector since the eighties and she has won several awards. We had a chat with her as Netflix is releasing The Great Hack, a documentary on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which 3Cycle has dubbed into Italian. Roberta directed the dubbing herself.

What does a dubbing assistant actually do?

Dolemite is my name (a breve su Netflix)

«Let’s start by saying that our job is basically an editing job. Quoting Umberto Eco, ‘we try to say almost the same thing, but in a different language’.
The assistant is the one coordinating the entire product. They view it as soon as it is delivered (as does the dubbing director) and they draft a working plan, in order to optimise the organisation, grouping all the scenes to be dubbed by the same actor, ensuring that the working plan is feasible – not only in terms of a ‘mathematical’ organisation of shifts, but also considering the effort the actors must put into it. Bottom line: everything must work seamlessly. The assistant also helps the dubbing director choose the right voices. I, for example, have been fortunate enough to work with some great dubbing directors. I have learnt a lot from them and that turned out to be an asset when selecting voices, owing to the experience I gathered working in the sector. When choosing a voice, you often look at the physicality of the actor, then you listen to the original voice and you look for an actor whose voice is as similar as possible. It’s a sort of voice casting and, once again, experience factors into the process a great deal.

I am mother

Then, the actual dubbing begins. In the room, the assistant helps the director by controlling the synchronisation and coordinating everything. Lately, this job has been growing more and more complex, since many jobs are classified as work in progress (meaning that the source sends preliminary material, hardly ever the final versions), hence you must always check what has been done, what is still unfinished, whether something has changed, and you must make sure that everything is done – properly. All in all, you must be extremely organised to do this job, especially in the summer, when a whole lot of dubbers go on holiday. You must make sure nothing is missing, that all has been done before the dubbers leave….
Organisational skills, however, are not everything. I think it’s also useful to be adequately prepared, because you cannot improvise the whole time. Many start as dubbing assistants by training on the job, working closely with someone who’s being doing the job for a while. I, on the other hand, am one of the few who attended a specific course. Back in 1984, Gruppo Trenta (now PUMAISdue) offered a course for dubbers and dubbing assistants».

And, may we add, since then she has never stopped!