Finding Out What I Loved To Do and Becoming A Sound Mixer.
It was the dream of many that I took for granted. Growing up in a city in the north of England I knew I didn’t want to be sucked into the “system” which to me meant do a job which mimicked school. The bell rings and you go to your station and then sit down and take instruction from someone. This will become ironic later on as becoming a sound mixer is very much like this in many ways.
Going to university was a given in my mind as I still didn’t know what I wanted to do “for a living” for the rest of my life. I needed to buy myself some more time to come to this conclusion and of course the social aspect of university was a big pull. Thankfully the loans didn’t even seem to bother anyone either.
I was making videos on youtube back in 2006 and wish I stuck at it to document the following years. This was where I found film. Filming and creating visual stories was really cool and being in the Youtube space with the vloggers meant it could be fun. This left me with a different view from the hardcore film peeps I would meet in university. I never thought this would lead to becoming a sound mixer because it was all about the stories.
My course was a foundation degree which would later become a bachelors as I bought myself even more time. This was great because it was practical, being marked on what I actually helped create was much better than being marked up on the report I did on it. Now there is a different argument for a creative art form being marked subjectively in an academic structure but this was the best of both.
There was around 100 people on my course and had all levels of knowledge of film. Some where to one end of the spectrum with knowledge of all the classics right up to the latest blockbusters and could name all the actors and directors with all their other work. Then there was people like me who never really got deep into films or even went to the cinema that much.
I remember one of the first sessions and everyone was asked about their favourite film and we had the people naming classics like 12 Angry Men or Casablanca. I, on the other hand, chose Aladdin. I got a great laugh for sure.
We then set about trying all the departments that the film school offered. I realised early on that I was more technically minded so wanted to narrow down my choices based around that. This was purely because I knew that with technical constraints in a creative industry would give me the maximum results for my personality because I am a great problem solver when there are limits. This lead me to sound and becoming a sound mixer.
The choice is easy but then comes the follow through
I ended up choosing sound for the technical limits merged with endless creative possibilities. This was also a good choice because no one wanted to do sound. It wasn’t sexy or had the best equipment and people that already liked sound didn’t do a film course in 98% of the film schools and universities the people that do sound really do “fall into it”.
Now that I had made my choice was the time to then follow through. After all the clock was ticking and even with completing over 30 films from all levels of the school with the help of an extra year from “upgrading” to a bachelors degree and a few thousand more pounds later I was out.
I completed it all so must be ready now. The problem was and still is, what now? It’s funny that with 3 years you get the generic advice on writing a CV but nothing on handling what essentially any freelancers are, a business. This lead me to start making this blog after university to give myself and find out from others more context on what they are doing.
After all, no one had written a manual on how to becoming a sound mixer including all the business aspects, just how to use the gear.
Now I’m doing what I love, what next?
I need a hand in both stability and instability to keep my juices flowing. After I got through my course and was a part of other peoples projects and built my reputation on my attitude and work, I needed to establish myself. This was tricky because I already decided I wanted to go to London as this was the best area for films to slip into a massive network of millions of people in the creative industries.
My mum had been moving further north while I was away and ended up in Dundee, Scotland. Being 500 miles (800 km) away from London. I could have given up and tried to break into a smaller market which would have taken longer time overall and likely working under someone and until they trained me up I would finally be back to doing what I loved, being on set and recording sound.
The only affordable choice was to take a MegaBus (greyhound bus in North America) for 11 hours one way from Dundee to London. I had to set off at 8pm and get to central London at 7am and then after working 10-12 hours and then if I couldn’t find somewhere to stay in between jobs then back on the bus I went for another 11 hours.
Did I only have to do this a handful of times for a few months? Nope. For 1 year and a half I took that bus and as a fun fact travelled over 200,000 miles and 400 journeys. Keeping the money for buying more equipment.
I’ll follow this up later with once you are successful what’s next but for now I want to know your journey in the comments below of how you found what you love and kept going for it until today, especially if you are aiming to becoming a sound mixer.