Followsposts in Three Languages


It was a demanding, challenging process. It took about a month-and-a-half in China to do the cueing where we had 24 Chinese, eight German, and four American operators. None of the Chinese operators spoke any English.

We had three crews of Chinese operators: one from Shanghai, one from Guangzhou, and another from Beijing. I quickly learned they worked by territory; I found it was a mistake to put a member from Guangzhou on a platform with a member from Beijing. In the interest of harmony, I followed that rule — just one of the little things that came up in the learning process.

There was excitement all the way through, but there were things lost in translation, so to speak, or misinterpreted. One fun example — though it wasn't fun as it happened — was when we couldn't figure out why the Chinese operators and the supplier of the Chinese followspots were so upset with us when we referred to their equipment. I would say things like, “We want the ballast that goes with the followspot up on the platform.” Well, the translation for ”ballast” in Chinese is “trash,” but we didn't know that. They got very upset. It would have been so much easier earlier if I had known they thought we were insulting the equipment. However, overall the translation went very well.

The wonderful translator I used, Libby, was a young lady who knew nothing about followspots or lighting, but she was very calm. She also got American slang very well. When I asked her if she would want to do the followspot translations, she was nervous. I said, “You will have to trust my judgment. I believe you can do it. I will walk you through every step of it, and I will teach you about followspots, so you will know what you are talking about when you speak to the operators.” We took her to one of the spots on the roof, and we taught her about the unit and let her use one. Luckily, she took the position as my translator.

Followspots require constant talk; it is constant instruction. Once the process begins, I don't stop talking. The most amazing thing that I discovered about Libby was that she was able to translate simultaneously. She just had this innate ability; we established a rhythm. We were incredibly fortunate to find her, because she did it amazingly well. I was in awe.

I was very pleased with the results. I am sure the followspot operators were just as apprehensive as I was about whether or not we could actually accomplish this, whether we could get our communications straight and still accomplish what we had to accomplish. It was a most pleasant surprise that it worked out the way it did.

You know, these kinds of events are once in a lifetime opportunities that you look back on and know were totally worthwhile for everyone involved.