Boom Operating

So I briefly discussed in my catch-up blog how I have been doing some exciting work in the last few months. I have been very lucky in seeing and being part of a full budgeted production as well as a budget production. I got to see the differences in their working styles and I also learned the important and valid lesson that you need to get on with your job quietly.

The first piece of work was for a low budget film for the Television Workshop and an adaptation of the play Othello and my role was in sound. I learned a number of lessons on this 5 day shoot and editing process. Well first of all because it was a low budget production I had to use University equipment. So here are the lessons for working on a budget film.

Lesson 1

DON’T TRUST THE EQUIPMENT.

Unfortunately everyone, and that includes first year students who can be a bit clueless, get to handle the equipment. Fortunately I am a massive paranoid freak and over-booked, however even with my over-booking things still went wrong, especially on a cold night shoot on a beach. Yes, sand and cold air do not mix well with audio equipment. You learn that you have to think quickly. I came prepared with massive amounts of batteries and spare zoom H1 as emergency back-up.

Lesson 2

YOU’RE A SMALL PART OF A BIG MACHINE.

Yes, a key lesson when you study something like audio and all your roles are in audio you get told a lot how important audio is. Speak up if something is wrong and something needs doing again because there was a band during that line. Actually I learned fairly quickly that while my role was important the Director and Producer on this shoot cared more about lights and camera which is fair enough with it being their film. So I kept quiet, got as close as I could and most importantly kept out the way. Of course when there were big issues I spoke up and things were redone but for the smaller things I just kept quiet.

Lesson 3

YOUR SCHEDULE DOESN’T MATTER.

Yes, this one is key. You will receive very last minute calls regarding instructions and notes for an edit you asked for about a week ago, and it needs to be handed over the next day. My advice? Coffee and a deep breath. People are busy and take time to get back to you and are consumed by their film. Also a series of jobs have to be done before they get to yours, so just be prepared for the last minute editing calls.

So, next is a full budgeted production. I got to work as a runner on a BBC R&D production as well as helping on their sound design. People like the BBC get students to work on films knowing they are not paying them. so they like to have a few perks. They had already asked for my help in the sound post so knew my passion for sound and allowed me to work with the Boom Op and Sound Recordist on the shoot. You learn very quickly that you’re playing with the big boys now and everything you have done before can hardly compare. However, you see the same things as on a low budget – equipment breaking or something going wrong, sound being rushed to get a job done quickly and again your schedule doesn’t mean that much.

Both experiences have taught me a lot. I guess that is why they call it work experience – you learn on the job and you quickly work it out. It’s not like Uni or school where you can email the tutor and say something went wrong. It is real life.

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