Greetings, denizens of JWSound
Some background: (may be a bit long-winded but context is a good thing I hope)
I'm a sound-engineering diploma graduate (not that the qualification really counts for much), aspiring to build a career in either location or post, though I know I'll likely end up focusing on one discipline and dabbling in the other. I don't have any post work experience, but have invested in basic home studio gear and software and am teaching myself in my spare time at home when I can (really just basics & personal/friends projects thus far).
I started out after college in location sound, and was lucky enough to get onto a decent long-format drama gig as a boom op fairly quickly. The mixer I worked under was gracious enough to take me from pretty much 0 experience in location sound under his wing to becoming a half decent boom op by the end of the shoot.
From there I worked mostly as a boom op for a while on various gigs gotten through word of mouth or people I met - tried agents but didn't have much luck getting work through them. Work dried up for a while and I wasn't able to sustain myself any more doing this, and got other work outside of the industry.
Eventually I got a call about another big long-format gig and took that, was about 6 months. On this shoot I really cut my teeth as an audio utility as well as boom op, getting a bit more responsibility handling & applying lavs to the actors for the mixer in question, managing Tx/Rxs, so I learned quite a bit more on this job. However, after the job was over I struggled to find work again. I just didn't have the intimate knowledge of a lot of the gear required to take on work as a mixer and the competition for work as boom op / utility seemed quite high.
Shortly after, I was lucky enough to get a job at a film sound rentals company/gearhouse, which is where I currently work. It's been an amazing job as we have all of the pro-level location sound gear and I'm able to familiarise myself with all of it - Lectro, SoundDevices, etc. I've gained an incredible amount of knowledge working here and working with and maintaining gear, networking with operatives, constructing big kits for reality shows, etc. I'm very grateful for my situation.
But the caveat is obviously that I don't really get to work on set. And there's a wealth of on-set knowledge that I'm missing out on learning. I'm in a gearhouse working with gear for my 9-5. And I don't think that I want to be doing this forever. I'm just not sure how I should progress from this in the future.
I guess the obvious choice is to use this time to save up to buy my own gear and then make the jump to freelance when the time feels "right"? I would just like to know if anyone has advice on what they would do / would have done at this point in their careers.
One idea I have had is to ask my superiors if they might let me loan equipment over nights/weekends to volunteer on student shoots or something like that. That way I'd at least get to practice workflow and acclimatise more to actually operating and being on set.
I apologise if this is a bit long-winded, but I'd highly appreciate any advice or input.
I guess ultimately I'm a bit tentative about making the jump to working freelance as I've struggled to get consistent work in that position in the past (though I did have much less experience), and if you don't work, you don't eat. And I have a level of job security now which is hard to justify leaving.
Cheers in advance for any advice