I love finding ways to work more efficiently. When we work together in our home lives and in work lives, so much more gets done in a shorter amount of time. This couldn’t be truer in the chaotic, crazy world of creative on-set life.
When working as a location sound recordist on independent features, I have learned that most of the workflow is weighted at the beginning and end of my day. Even when you roll onto set 90% ready to go, the first and last hour is always crunch time. Frequency scanning, transmitter pairing, lav prep, rigging talent, configuring time-code, and boom prep require great multitasking and time management skills. Everything I need to accomplish at the beginning of a shoot seems to have the same completion-time deadline, which is about 10 minutes before the first shot.
At the end of the shoot, it’s a hunt for my gear to prevent losing something before it walks away attached to something or someone. Un-micing talent, locating and packing up time-code, breaking down and packing up the gear and the expendables used all take time and focused brainpower. The bigger the production, the more of your gear is floating out there waiting for you to account for it before it’s left unattended in a random dressing room or makes it into a rushed and/or forgetful talent or producer's vehicle.
But that leaves the 80% of the day in the middle. On Indy sets it's not uncommon for a recordist to be running the show out of a mixing bag while booming and micing talent all at the same time (somehow). But to be honest, not much more is happening for me other than monitoring a level and pressing record/stop during takes. What's more, beyond keeping an eye on the DP for lighting changes which may affect booming and on the director who may change a delivery which could effect levels, I am pretty much free between takes too. Sure, I could check my IG, play some myVegas Poker, or pretend to be busy, but that’s not how I was programmed and so I find myself looking for someone who may need a hand.
I’ll admit that I have very limited experience working with other Sound Recordists on set because of course there is normally only one of us needed on smaller projects. However, the thankfully-surprised reactions I receive while lending a hand to those in need between takes never ceases to amaze me! I have heard literally too many horror stories about the “Sound guy/girl” being the on-set outcast who keeps to themselves. To them, I say this: get to know your crew by name, help move that C-Stand, grab a sandbag, clip that C-47 onto the 1k, lift the corner of that sofa being moved... the list goes on and on where a simple extra hand can help other departments with their setups and get them ready for another take exponentially faster. It’s not like you have a lot of levels to adjust between setups when no-one is acting! In all seriousness, I love helping out where the help is welcomed as it all gets us all back home at the end of the day that much sooner. I’m getting the feeling by the reactions I receive that this is an uncommon behavior, and I hope that isn’t true.
Sure, on union sets there are limitations to what you can get your hands onto. Fair enough. But in any case, I have found that it never hurts to (I’ll say it again) get to know the rest of the crew by name and offer help wherever it may be needed. I have learned that I’ll never know when I may need that little favor later on where an extra helping hand will keep me ready to go without delaying the workflow of the production. That’s the best way to avoid hearing those 3 little words we in the Sound Department all hate to hear (I won’t type them to avoid triggering anyone). Maybe I am overstepping, but I have never been called out on that. In fact, 100% of the time the opposite has been true. For that reason, I will remain happy to assist and get the job we are all trying to accomplish- create a world-class product- done as efficiently as we can.
Teamwork makes a dream work!
Location Sound Recordist
(At play and calling it “work”)