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Meet the… localisation account manager

Take 1’s Dennis McAllister explains how his passion for languages and the media and TV industry turned out to be the perfect combination for a career in subtitling

Dennis McAllister, head of localisation account management at Take 1
Talk us through a day in your role:

I’m the lead point of contact for our localisation clients, so my focus is ensuring we provide high-quality localisation content to a range of content creators, distributors, and broadcasters. My main expertise is in subtitling, so often my days involve quality-checking subtitled content and delivering it to clients.

My role includes a lot of client communication, but I often collaborate with our internal sales and product development teams too. I also manage my own team, so I invest a lot of time in working with my direct reports to develop their skills and help manage their projects.

How did you get started in the media industry?

I’ve had a love of language for as long as I can remember – I grew up in California and went to Denmark on an exchange year, where I learnt Danish and became obsessed with moving to Europe. I studied German and eventually worked in Germany for a while, where I became a document translator. Then a colleague suggested a subtitling role to me, as I’d built up a good reputation as a translator. I took a subtitling test and passed with flying colours and was able to start a broadcast subtitling role at VSI – and I’ve pretty much remained in the media industry ever since.

Take 1 has a really good reputation in the localisation sphere, so it made sense for me to move here. They’re open to new ideas, and it was a good place to take all my knowledge and apply it to one role, and an opportunity to develop my own department. 

What training did you have before entering the industry?

I didn’t go to university, but I’m very academic. I did an International Baccalaureate Diploma in German and English, and I studied very hard – I love language, so it’s always interested me. This led me to a role in normal translation initially, but I found it quite dry, and as I grew up loving TV, a move into the media industry made sense. 

Much of my training came from my first role at VSI, which was very thorough. But, because I love the subject, I do a lot of training myself, like reading academic books and attending the Languages & The Media conference in Berlin. I’ve got a mix of theoretical and practical training, as well as experience with language – I’ve been lucky enough to deep dive into different cultures by living in Germany, the UK and USA, so I have a good understanding of how to communicate with businesses and clients.

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

I love working with languages, but subtitling is a real passion – it’s always made sense to me more than normal translation. For me, it’s almost like a word puzzle – you have to consider everything together – the plot, your word choice, how to fit everything in whilst also capturing the tone, feeling, and dialect.

I enjoy the technical aspects too. I love my spreadsheets, very strict rules and timing, looking at line breaks and phrasing – I find it all very calming!

My role is also just a big part of my life. My friends and my husband are in the industry, so I talk about subtitling all the time – it’s a lingua franca in our world! You’d think it would be intense or too much, but it’s just something that I really love and enjoy talking about.

What piece of advice would you offer someone looking to explore a role similar to yours?

Find someone to train you properly. An interest in language helps, and so does having a degree in languages or localisation – but on the practical side, you need to know how to work with clients and how to understand the specifications for different broadcasters.

If you’re interested in a career in subtitling and don’t necessarily have the education you need, training with an established company can be key. When it comes to avoiding mistranslations, messy files, and just lower-quality subtitling, there are a lot of core skills you need to do it well. There’s a science behind it and a level of understanding that allows you to create good content that enables people to understand what they’re seeing on the screen – which is, after all, the goal of subtitling.