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How to get into the Sound for Picture Industry?


tonym
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I would like to get into the sound for picture business doing documentary/film/TV work and ENG work as a Sound Recordist and Boom Operator. 

 

I've been a sound engineer for 11 years in New York City mostly mixing sound for galas and corporate events. I have a bachelor's degree in recording arts and music production. I have a great set of ears and great personality. 

 

How can I get into this business? Who do I call? Where do I go? What should I look for? Where should I start?

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Read the thousands of discussions here to start. This has been covered in past messages: how to network, basic equipment packages, the differences between FOH mixing vs. commercial mixing vs. music mixing vs. dialogue on set, plus many books and publications on all the basics. 

 

I think doing FOH mixing vs. production sound mixing is kind of like comparing the work of a champion speedboat racer vs. a NASCAR racer: both are very stressful, both require great skill and endurance, both require specialized equipment and years of experience... but they're different experiences. Coming from the post side, I can tell you production sound and post sound are different but related experiences, yet extremely different in terms of stress and politics. 

 

Making contact with great local dealers and rental houses is also a wise move. You'll encounter many good people to know, particularly if you get into a last-minute bind on location with malfunctioning gear or unexpected situations. 

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If you have a job you've had for 11 years, and are making a living, I say stick with it.

There is terrible uncertainty in our business, and starting at the bottom as a grown-up is not something I could imagine doing.

But if you have substantial savings, and a dream, then jump on it. It's a fun job most of the time.

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If you have a job you've had for 11 years, and are making a living, I say stick with it.

There is terrible uncertainty in our business, and starting at the bottom as a grown-up is not something I could imagine doing.

But if you have substantial savings, and a dream, then jump on it. It's a fun job most of the time.

Spoken like a Sharp man!

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If you have a job you've had for 11 years, and are making a living, I say stick with it.

There is terrible uncertainty in our business, and starting at the bottom as a grown-up is not something I could imagine doing.

But if you have substantial savings, and a dream, then jump on it. It's a fun job most of the time.

 

Yes this Biz is a tough one and is definitely not the same BIZ I got into 13 years ago. I am not sure I'd get into doing this today 

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Read the thousands of discussions here to start. This has been covered in past messages: how to network, basic equipment packages, the differences between FOH mixing vs. commercial mixing vs. music mixing vs. dialogue on set, plus many books and publications on all the basics. 

 

I think doing FOH mixing vs. production sound mixing is kind of like comparing the work of a champion speedboat racer vs. a NASCAR racer: both are very stressful, both require great skill and endurance, both require specialized equipment and years of experience... but they're different experiences. Coming from the post side, I can tell you production sound and post sound are different but related experiences, yet extremely different in terms of stress and politics. 

 

Making contact with great local dealers and rental houses is also a wise move. You'll encounter many good people to know, particularly if you get into a last-minute bind on location with malfunctioning gear or unexpected situations. 

Thank you Marc. I certainly intend to read everything on this site. But I noticed a lot of discussions that were 4 and 5 years old. I wanted to get a more current perspective. 

 

Do you think the local unions in New York would be a good place to start looking for work? However, freelancing is more important to me.

 

While my current job has been fairly consistent for the last 11 years, I'm getting bored and I want to challenge myself to work in other areas. Since I'm a freelancer, there is no reason why I can't do both.

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Thank you Marc. I certainly intend to read everything on this site. But I noticed a lot of discussions that were 4 and 5 years old. I wanted to get a more current perspective. 

 

Do you think the local unions in New York would be a good place to start looking for work? However, freelancing is more important to me.

 

While my current job has been fairly consistent for the last 11 years, I'm getting bored and I want to challenge myself to work in other areas. Since I'm a freelancer, there is no reason why I can't do both.

 

Regarding unions, no.  Unions are not hiring halls for our biz like they may have been in some other industrial unions like steelworkers, carpenters, etc...  Unions are there for the technicians that are working on union jobs.  Unions are not the entry point for the trade.  From an outsider, it may seem like a catch-22... I can't get the job because I'm not union, I can't get into the union because I don't get the union jobs... but the real fallacy of this viewpoint is that you wouldn't get the job even if you were in the union, because you aren't qualified.  The fact is that there is no shortage of trained professional labor in most markets, so like any industry that is overstrength, it is tough to get a foot in the door.  You should probably be looking at the ENG, indie, and television markets for entry level work.  I myself chose the indie route.  I'm certain that I would not have survived without being a freelancer in another market.

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FInd a sympathetic person who is already doing what you want to do, see if you can "ride along" with them on some jobs so you get some clue about what we do.  Have you ever made a film yourself?  I mean all the phases--script through print master?  Have you spent any time on film sets?  There are many points of overlap in location sound for picture with your live sound work, but there are a great many points of departure also.  Do you know anyone making an indie no-budg movie that you could volunteer for?

 

philp

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Rule #1 to be successful in any business: Find a need, and fill it.

 

Is there a need for more sound mixers? With the glut of reality shows being created (not necessarily making it to air!) there would seem to be that need. 

 

At the same time, the barrier to entry (100k in quality gear) doesn't really exist anymore, so yes, there may be an excess of people with the gear who aren't exactly QUALIFIED as mixers. (They might have the technology, but have neither the credits nor knowledge of what to charge, so they are immediately seen as newbies)

 

You will be fighting your way through this to get into the business. 

 

I look at it this way: Your business and your reputation are an investment, just like any other. Nothing is guaranteed, and you may lose value (time) by borking it up, or due to no fault of your own. 

 

For me personally, I am trying to diversify my skill set within the industry, so that when there might not be a mixing gig... Maybe I have something else that I can do to keep networking. A positive mental attitude and drive to succeed is a must.

 

But knowing what you are worth and what to charge for your services... That doesn't just benefit you, it benefits ALL of us. Don't undercut your fellow mixers just to get a gig. There might seem like a lot of competition out there... It is still a VERY small work world, and you don't want to be "that guy" ever.

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I was in the same situation twenty or so years ago working in music recording studios, before that, playing and SR. I just happened to meet and work with documentary producers and then cameramen.. but that was back then, this is now  I would concur with Marc and the others, if you have a steady gig, don't risk it for an uncertain future.

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I hang out with movie stars all day and share awesome stories.  Just this last weekend I was invited to 2 Hollywood parties!

 

AWESOME!!

 

Did I mention that they feed you TONS of free food all day long in Hollywood? Kewl.

 

Quit trying to horn in on my awesome friends, Dude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then you go home and wait for the phone to ring.  Sometimes it's months before it rings and by then you've run out of money and your friends (not the movie star friends because they're only your friends when it suits them and only on the set) won't answer your calls because they're tired of listening to you whine about not getting work.  Sometimes you sell gear to make ends met.  When it gets real bad you sometimes sell your body.  You can't take a shower hot enough to wash that shame off yourself.  Then the phone rings. Next thing you know it you're swapping stories on the set and eating free food all day long again.

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I'm not the right person to speak but I can give you a little idea how it works here.

 

First of all; all start from Film Schools or Universities. I mean to meet and have a some friends (like directors, DoP etc) in student age. He/She studing about cinematography and you study audio. They need you. You need them. After the schools or universities you done some upaid short films. Now it's your time to show your abilities for all. Diplomacy, how you speak etc etc..

 

After that you have meet many people on this industry (included sound and excluded sound) blabla.. It's more important to have a good PR than equipment (I'm talk for what happend here). Now about equipment. If you have the "best equipment" without good connections it's nothing. If you have some connections and good quality equipment it's passable.

 

Here the equipment they don't give you a job. The equipment help to you about in quality. The connections they will give you a job. It's all about politics and diplomacy.

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" Read the thousands of discussions here to start. "

Read some of the thousands of discussions here to start....

 

" Making contact with great local dealers and rental houses is also a wise move "

a couple of the "usual suspects" are in NYC

 

" If you have a job you've had for 11 years, and are making a living, I say stick with it. "

(you need to read that good advice again...)

 

" I wanted to get a more current perspective. 

it hasn't changed that much...

but I guess it has become more competitive (as a career) "

 

" But knowing what you are worth and what to charge for your services... "

oops.... sort of a different discussion.

Jim would have you insist on the same rates that an experienced PSM would charge... but you don't have the experience to be (successfully) charging those rates or be worth them.  Equipment rentals are another discussion as well...  In reading through some previous posts on jwsoundgroup.net youare sure to come across my message about how it is not about the golf clubs, but about the golfer...

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This is all good stuff guys. Having been an audio professional for eleven years, my market, as well as yours, requires networking and people skills in order to get enough work to live. 

 

Where can I go to network in New York besides the rental houses? Since I didn't go to film school, I don't have that avenue of making contacts. 

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Tony, ignore the jackass who only lives to quote himself and provide no new or useful information. Apparently actually answering a question is beyond his abilities. Feel sorry for those inflicted with him in the real world - He claims to be a film school professor.

 

The rental houses you are looking for would be Gotham Sound, Professional Sound Services (gothamsound.com and pro-sound.com) and another resource could be the NY Film School that advertises all over B&H. 

 

Whether these will be able to help your networking remains to be seen... But they are great resources for buying or renting the gear needed to be a production sound mixer. Contrary to Mr Professor's quips, I don't feel that you should simply match fees with everyone else while lacking the experience. Being 'in the ballpark' is a lot different than asking $200 / day all-in including gear, especially if you are bringing Sound Devices and Lectrosonics gear. I know you don't have the credits or experience yet, and so will a producer who sees a blank credit list. HOWEVER - if the going labor-only rate for a competent mixer is (example) $500/12... It wouldn't be outlandish for your labor to be $400/12, with $100 or so for rental of whatever mixer (shure FP-33) and recorder (Tascam HD-P2) you can scrape up, with a couple of Sennheiser wireless and maybe a Rode boom.

 

It is called a basic starting point. But offering that kit with you included for $100/day or a pro-level kit (and yourself) for $250/day... Producers are greedy. THAT is undercutting, because both of you know that you don't likely have the experience to get --good-- sound from it, but that cheap producer is hoping that you can get 'good enough' sound and he gets to keep the difference.

 

Even without the experience, you still don't want to be 'that guy' when you are starting out.

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Where can I go to network in New York besides the rental houses? Since I didn't go to film school, I don't have that avenue of making contacts. 

 

There's a handful of NYC soundies here.  Introduce yourself, arrange a beer.  Some have said that this is a saturated industry, but compared to other departments, I'd say we're a tighter niche. 

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Don't be intimidated by all the guys here....this forum it's a GREAT PLACE and everybody is here to help even though sometimes i may get a bit rough, everybody means well. It also helps to be a reader for a while before you even post a question. I did this myself and has helped me a lot understanding the dynamic of the forum.    

 

I'm also starting starting out and this forum has been an open book for me - lots of info and good people. Do your research study the equipment - specifically for this kind of work (this may include cameras and other non sound related accessories), read extensively and be positive. Again, as people have already mentioned, when starting out in this specific field it might be necessary to do some free work in order to get the "chops+contacts" and also understanding what is your position on a set as a sound mixer.

 

Anyways....some thoughts here and there...again i'm also starting so take my word with a grain of salt!

 

 

Good luck! 

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Stay here and read, read, read.

Introduce yourself to someone, throw some work at someone when youre double-booked, or in over your head.

This site drastically changed both my learning, and career trajectory... Trusting people here has never burned me (think twice about flame threading with some of the left and right wing mouth-breathers here though)

Follow your heart.

Best

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There's a thread here started by master greeter Crew titled "Who I Am Today" (IRRC) that contains the ____-to-sound-mixer stories of a lot of the people here: a written record of many ways to skin the cat you aim to skin. My search was unsuccessful, but the thread comes up often enough as it's where new folks here eventually introduce themselves.

 

Get creative.

 

Get lucky.

 

Spending time (Friday lunch seems to be a tradition) at the pro sound houses will bring you into contact with the mixers as they do their business. The sound houses are the ones who will pull your burning buns out of the fire one day, so knowing and respecting them well will serve you all your career. Two birds.

 

Ultimately, it's been other mixers who have gotten me work. It wasn't until I thirded and boomed that those jobs were pushed my way.

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" Even without the experience, you still don't want to be 'that guy' when you are starting out. "

well, at least Jim and some others are concerned for you charging enough...

the reality is that there is competition, and also plenty of underfunded (to say the least!) projects.

another reality is that you will pretty quickly figure out what you can get.

I don't think you'll get much work at $400 with no gear

tip:  avoid "flat rates"  the cheap projects rarely go as planned, and the days get long...

you will also figure out that including too much "free" or cheap equipment actually makes you an investor in the projects, which is not what most of us are in business for.

I think $100 /day for basic (and older) equipment is a pretty fair beginners rate ...

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Skip a few rungs up the laddder...here's how:

Have an endearing foreign accent

Have a cool name, like Bernardo Six Costa

The first letter of your last name should be A thru M, as many hiring lists are alphabetical

Act youthful and be good-looking

Any behavior that makes one popular in high school, generally works well in the entertainment industry.

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