by Sarah McPartland, Senior Offline Captioner ©
The road to becoming an Offline Captioner is somewhat like going back to school. You spend roughly four to six weeks perfecting your writing skills, add math into the mix at some point, then become a pro once you’ve researched and verified some obscure name no one’s ever heard of.
You provide the hearing experience.
You aid ESL speakers in their quest to learn another language.
You now work in Closed Captioning for VITAC.
When asked what it’s like to work in closed captioning, I always give the same response.
”I’m learning every day. It’s always something new.”
Now, with that said, we all have our preferences for how we’d like to spend our days. I personally found my love of soap operas while working here, but I know many that would never prep another soap opera if they were given the option. It’s all about personal preference.
For the first few months, I was assigned a lot of cooking shows and specials on traveling. That’s what I liked to work on during training, so I looked forward to it once in production. Then something happened.
Summer was ending. Fall was right around the corner.
A new channel with thought-provoking subject matter was emerging.
I wouldn’t work on a cooking show again for another year.
Temperatures will drop. Snow will fall. With a cup of coffee and a night on the couch, you will find your new favorite show, and that show might be on VICELAND.
I remember the first day I had a VICELAND assignment in my queue. I had been on the floor for about six weeks when I decided to work my first Saturday. I had just finished five hours of captioning a popular dating show that shall not be named. I looked at my assignment queue and saw a new client—VICE Media.
Every time I receive a new client to caption, I do a little research to see exactly what they’re about. Are they a public access channel that focuses on bringing art to the masses? Is it their mission to bring their viewers the best in all things drag racing? Are they competing in prime time to be the most-watched channel on Thursday night? With VICE, the search was simple but almost endless. They were bringing their viewers shows not before seen on television with subject matter that was interesting yet unexpected. They pushed the envelope at every turn.
Thomas Morton was my first ambassador into the VICE community. He was cool and calm, asking the questions that many wouldn’t dare to regarding topics that you would hesitate discussing with your parents. My jaw remained on the floor for the two hours I worked on the pilot for his program “Balls Deep”, the tagline for which is “To find out what humanity’s deal is, Thomas Morton hangs out with different groups of people and gives their lives a try.” There was no way this was going on television.
Three weeks later, I was assigned to transcribe “Huang’s World,” a program about various cultures, their food, and how it relates to their take on politics, music, leisure, and overall way of life. It arose from the creative mind of the man who brought you “Fresh Off the Boat” –Eddie Huang. He’s an attorney, restaurateur, and writer with two books under his belt and restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles, embracing his heritage and extending his narrative to his viewers, readers, and customers. He will school you in hip-hop, enjoys playing basketball, and will talk your ear off about his brothers and his parents and his upbringing in Orlando, Florida.
He was very similar to Thomas Morton, but he was in your face. No holds barred.
You knew how he felt about anything and everything.
He posed questions that made me rewind for a second listen.
I let my jaw remain on the floor with each passing program; it wasn’t worth it to continue to pick it back up. VICELAND is left almost completely uncensored, giving its audience an experience unlike any other with almost raw footage, adding a level of authenticity matched by no other network. The conversation might seem risque, but no more so than a Friday night after a long week with friends. Their hosts are real people asking real questions in a society that would expect them to keep it to themselves. Remember what I said about Thomas Morton and Rich Homie Huang–No. Holds. Barred. And they’re not alone. With every show and every host, they give you the full experience which leaves viewers hooked and coming back for more.
Many that watch VICELAND for the first time realize that it is no ordinary channel. They break away from the social norms of Thursday night prime time and take a chance by running the stories that many wouldn’t dare to cover, let alone think about. Co-President of VICELAND Spike Jonze describes the overall mission of VICELAND best:
“It feels like most channels are just a collection of shows. We wanted VICELAND to be different, to feel like everything on there has a reason to exist and a strong point of view. Our mission with the channel is not that different from what our mission is as a company: It’s us trying to understand the world we live in by producing pieces about things we’re curious about, or confused about…”
VICELAND takes you on a journey into the deep unknown of the world, exposing aspects of life seen by very few while also touching on current issues that we all have opinions on with a fresh spin.
Whether it be the rights of women in third-world countries, the benefits of medical marijuana for school-aged children with life-threatening illnesses, or the precise focus given to finding the perfect dumpling abroad while popping bottles of champagne as the sun sets on another day in Australia, VICELAND covers it all, and they do it with grace.
Constantly taking risks, their ability to get the conversation started is commendable. I learn something new every time I work on their programming, am always laughing, and leave with knowledge of the world outside of my own experience. After all, isn’t that what I should want as a millennial? An experience unlike any other? VICELAND provides that in spades.
As we grow older, we meet people that help us realize that a lot of the ridiculous questions we pose in our head are not that ridiculous. We find our tribe. We meet people that feel the way we feel, hurt the way we hurt, laugh at what we find humorous, and question what we question. They light the fire within us that they’ve been carrying all along.
VICELAND makes you realize you’re not alone. There are people out there just like you who are looking for a place to belong, a medium to host their voice, and a group to welcome them and say “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Sarah McPartland is a writer and traveler who has been captioning at VITAC for two years. When not creating accessible videos and readying them for broadcast, she can be found directing and stage managing in the Pittsburgh theatre community or collecting another stamp for her passport, always in search of a new story to tell.