Jump to content
Fred Salles

Do you really work alone on a fiction feature film?

Recommended Posts

Hello everyone,

I just lost a job on an independent american feature film to be shot here in France because american producers figured out it will be cheaper to bring over a sound recordist from LA that agrees to work alone, rather than have a french team of sound recordist and boom operator. According to french production manager, they said it is common practice nowadays in the States on indies. French prod&prod manager would not compromise on this and refused to hire a single one team sound person, thanks god (they would not find any anyway appart from someone just out of school, maybe).

Now, I do a lot of documentaries so I am used to do sound alone, and I even once did it on a fiction feature of friends self produced prod some times ago, and I promised myself never again 🙂

For me it means compromising way too much on quality of the work, and the work of post production. I read the script and schedule: loads of dialogues, and 20 days shoot where they certainly dont plan on waiting for sound naming files, writing sound report nor recording  wilds...

So the question is what is the situation over there? is it really becoming or going to become common practice in the States to reduce the sound crew down to a single person?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nope, not common at all here. In fact, other than the " helping out a friend on a no budget short thing" I have never seen it done. My guess is that there are other real reasons that they are bringing this person as the idea of traveling, putting up, posting a carne, working papers if needed, per diem, local transportation..... is never cheaper than hiring locals.  Having been on both sides of this equation, often production will use the excuse of " can't find someone local who..... ( fill in the blank here with a ready made excuse ) in order to side step the local production norm and bring in the person that they wanted all along. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

+1 -- What Chris said!

 

On super low budget things, it's often a single sound person -- typically low money, too.  On any properly funded gig, a 2 or 3 person sound crew is the norm, depending on the scale of the project.

 

If the producer is telling the truth, then they're inexperienced and have only dealt with poorly financed productions.  If they have any worthwhile experience, they should know better. 

 

Your original reaction is entirely, correct, Fred.  Consider them doing you a favor by not including you.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You don't want to be involved with a production that thinks like that.  Yeah, there are some producers out there that do the whole "We don't need a boom operator!  You can do it by yourself, what are you talking about!" song and dance.  And believe me, you don't want to work on a show ran by people like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone,

I am glad you confirmed my intuition. I was kind of worry that the situation, already not so great for sound department worldwide, got out of hand in US... 

 

It must definitely be a very low budget film:

Ironfilm: the director is the camera person and dop... so if I understood correctly camera crew is director+1st assistant, and there must be a DIT person, plus one gaffer hopefully.

When I mentionned having a third person in sound crew as a trainee,  the production manager told me it would be difficult for him to convinced them to have a sound crew bigger than the camera crew :-))

Chris: it is still not cool but it might be financially cheaper for them as the  main location is out of town so they have to accommodate the whole crew anyway. So rates + accomodation+catering for me and boom op might sum up to more than bringing one person. Maybe. I also guess the person will bring strict minimum gear to lower luggage overweight or extra charge, and will probably charge less than what I was asking for gear, or maybe wont charge at all if they are friends.

 

Anyway, the script is good quality so who knows? I wish them all the best.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It happens all the time.  Have done it, it was tough.  Usually very low budg, produced by newbs.  Good opportunity for a newb soundie, even if it is very painful you will learn a lot of things.  If you are not a newb, ie are doing sound for a living: not worth it at all unless you are married to the director.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Fred Salles said:

Chris: it is still not cool but it might be financially cheaper for them as the  main location is out of town so they have to accommodate the whole crew anyway. So rates + accomodation+catering for me and boom op might sum up to more than bringing one person. Maybe. I also guess the person will bring strict minimum gear to lower luggage overweight or extra charge, and will probably charge less than what I was asking for gear, or maybe wont charge at all if they are friends.

 

If the cost of doing business is too high, don’t do business. If it will cost too much to make your film, raise more funds or abandon the project. Not your problem, but if a producer wants to go forward on a project that is so underfunded that they can’t afford to pay for even the most basic of things like crew and lodging, but still want to shoot internationally, I’m going to guess that this production will have many more problems than budget. Run away

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, Fred Salles said:

Hello everyone,

I just lost a job on an independent american feature film to be shot here in France because american producers figured out it will be cheaper to bring over a sound recordist from LA that agrees to work alone, rather than have a french team of sound recordist and boom operator. According to french production manager, they said it is common practice nowadays in the States on indies. French prod&prod manager would not compromise on this and refused to hire a single one team sound person, thanks god (they would not find any anyway appart from someone just out of school, maybe).

Now, I do a lot of documentaries so I am used to do sound alone, and I even once did it on a fiction feature of friends self produced prod some times ago, and I promised myself never again 🙂

For me it means compromising way too much on quality of the work, and the work of post production. I read the script and schedule: loads of dialogues, and 20 days shoot where they certainly dont plan on waiting for sound naming files, writing sound report nor recording  wilds...

So the question is what is the situation over there? is it really becoming or going to become common practice in the States to reduce the sound crew down to a single person?

 

Hi Fred,

 

I often work alone because certain production can't afford a 2 person sound crew. Yet I'm always fighting for a boom op, but as I mentioned before not all productions can afford 2 people and I am almost always doing everything alone. However, the standard is always to have a sound mixer, boom op, and utility that'll serve as a second sound mixer and or second boom op. When productions travel, the standard is to hire someone local, at least when it comes to sound. It's a shame they didn't go with you, when they could saved money flying the sound guy in, and on top of having to pay for room and board, plus rental equipment. The best thing to do in this case, is to move on to the next project. I hope everything works out for you, and congratulation on France winning The World Cup!  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Script makes a huge difference, if it's resolutely a two hander that's one thing, if there's multiple scenes with multiple characters, solo sound would likely have been a total head banger, and they'd likely have no hesitation trampling you........
Probably best off out of it...... :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Phil says, what Mike says ...

 

You argue 'a case' and/or you make a choice. I will agree wholeheartedly that attempting to do scenes you have studied without the necessary team or support will not work - your own experience, and plenty of the rest of us. You can only (if you really: love the script, love the people, or unfortunately need the money - though I hope this isn't the case) argue what you think should be done if you are involved. Even then, it might not work. A 'producer' might be persuaded to trust your experienced judgement and what I expect to be a 'compromise solution' - but when the inevitable shit happened, if you're not the saviour, you could easily be the fall guy. Take the script, argue your points, find out how post-sound might be involved (or not) and what they expect from the producer/director - then tell them the obvious - then make the decision. Cheers, salut, Jez

 

The obvious 'solution' of course might have been to "bring their own guy in" AND to hire you (the local) as the essential 'other half' of the sound team. Then you get the cultural exchange, the happy experience, and hopefully the "shots in the can". But even then an experienced producer knows that filmmaking is not a piece of cake.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Recent shoot was a one-week fiction short film with feature-level production, and even that was hell to do alone. Almost all of my recordings sounded great, but timecode issues went unsolved, I didn’t have time to coordinate wild tracks, made metadata mistakes, couldn’t ride the faders for IFBs…

 

And that’s all after pushing myself to 110% of my physical/mental capacity. Can’t imagine doing a feature alone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

110% ?

 

Your metadata failed because your maths failed!

 

Sorry Daniel, couldn't resist (... should be read aloud in the voice/accent of Edward Woodward in character by the way).

 

Cheers, Jez

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/18/2018 at 10:20 AM, Fred Salles said:

Ironfilm: the director is the camera person and dop... so if I understood correctly camera crew is director+1st assistant, and there must be a DIT person, plus one gaffer hopefully.

When I mentionned having a third person in sound crew as a trainee,  the production manager told me it would be difficult for him to convinced them to have a sound crew bigger than the camera crew :-))

I'm pleased the last two days my sound department (me + plus a young friend as my boom op) has been the same size as the camera department, ha! (A Cam + B Cam op)  A nice change from the usual! But it was merely a very small and low budget web series, a series of short office comedy skits. 

Anyway, about that film: if the Director is also the camera op / DoP (and are you are sure there is even a DIT and gaffer?? If they haven't specifically said that there is.... then there is a high likelihood they don't have it! I did once a feature film without even a gaffer, and none of the indie feature films I've done have had a dedicated DIT. Often it is the poor overworked DoP or an AC who is handling DIT duties instead) then I'm not at all surprised they're expecting someone to do sound solo. But I agree, if the project is properly budget it isn't fair at all to expect this, and it should be a sound department not a sound person.
 

On 7/18/2018 at 3:30 PM, Philip Perkins said:

It happens all the time.  Have done it, it was tough.  Usually very low budg, produced by newbs.  Good opportunity for a newb soundie, even if it is very painful you will learn a lot of things.

Yeah, I've learned I should always ask for a boom op.... ! ha
 

13 hours ago, Daniel Ignacio said:

And that’s all after pushing myself to 110% of my physical/mental capacity. Can’t imagine doing a feature alone.

It is easy to imagine! Just imagine yourself at 330% after three weeks of this. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, IronFilm said:

 

Yeah, I've learned I should always ask for a boom op.... ! ha
 

 

This is kind of the point here.  In the indies I did, mostly alone, I always asked for help, right from the very first one.  Almost always the answer was no if that help had to be paid anything at all.   So then you have to decide if the experience and credit and what money they do have is worth it for you at this stage in your career.

There is much to be said for taking the pain of doing this work--for a young soundie it is how you can form relationships with other up-and-coming crew people and filmmakers, and establish a rep for yourself as someone who can deal even in very difficult circumstances. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/17/2018 at 10:17 PM, JonG said:

If the cost of doing business is too high, don’t do business. If it will cost too much to make your film, raise more funds or abandon the project.

 

These words should be engraved on a brass plate and mounted above the doors to every "film school" and college in America. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've had jobs where they said they would give me a PA to boom.  I always said it would be better to have the PA sit at my cart and me boom it.  If the mic ain't in the right place you are spinning your wheels. That doesn't work either.  There seems to be a lot of producers that forgot that just ten, or so, years ago that they learned that bad sound was costly.  A producer friend of mine always wants me to work for free and I always say, 'Put me in the budget!'  Maybe some day.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/5/2018 at 7:02 AM, Marc Wielage said:

 

These words should be engraved on a brass plate and mounted above the doors to every "film school" and college in America. 

Make that the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/18/2018 at 3:14 AM, pindrop said:

Script makes a huge difference, if it's resolutely a two hander that's one thing, if there's multiple scenes with multiple characters, solo sound would likely have been a total head banger, and they'd likely have no hesitation trampling you........
Probably best off out of it...... :)

I'm doing a low budget film now that is mostly 2 handers and mostly only on 2 simple locations. I have a boom op, and a very good one at that. I do location sound because getting the best sound out of any scene is very high on my job satisfaction requirement list so I never do any feature work alone. Even on low budget I will push for a 2nd AS also, that often gets a no but makes prod realise that they really need at least a 2 person team as that is already a compromise in my books.

 

I say to producers if they want good sound then I need a minimum of xxxx resources (which varies per prod) and if they say no to my minimums then I say no to the job. This is not about money either, it is just about being able to do my job and turn in rushes that I am happy with, way to many compromises when doing it alone. I applaud your saying no Fred and you said it for exactly the right reasons.

 

2 handed scenes may appear simple on the page but there are many things on the day that can complicate the sound capture of even single headed performances.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 

Hello everyone,

I just lost a job on an independent american feature film to be shot here in France because american producers figured out it will be cheaper to bring over a 🙂

So the question is what is the situation over there? is it really becoming or going to become common practice in the States to reduce the sound crew down to a single person?

2

 

Producers will always try this..  But it 'burns' out the sound department.  Imagine a single sound mixer, holding a boom pole, and a 90lb pack, day after day after day..  Give it about 2-3 days, and you'll be seeing that boom on a c-stand, and then another 2-3 days and that poor guy's feet will just start to buckle.  Yeah.. That guy is going to quit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

90lb pack??? What are you referring to?

 

While many of us, myself included think this is a poor way to record a movie, there are many people out there everyday mixing radios in a bag and booming at the same time.  Documentaries, reality TV, etc.  Modern technology has made this even easier with everything getting smaller and lighter.  If location sound isn't that high on the producers priority list, no amount of head banging is going to change their mind about how to do it, and there will always be someone looking for experience willing to do it.  Whether it's good or not is almost a side note.

Smaller, lighter, faster is a trend I see across much of the industry.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×