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I work in the world of TV programming with reality, documentary & docudrama series work, lots of promos, some theatrical trailer work, and some independent film work. My current gig is as an in-house television mixer for an internationally distributed television network. Here, as in the total of my experience working in audio post, I am the sound "person" after production. That is to say, I record VO, I do occasional ADR, I do a ton of dialog editing, make a lot of sound design, run a large amount of mixing sessions with clients, and even occasionally help develop standard operating procedures for the department and quality control requirements for the company. I am the "go to" audio repair person as well as the creative contributor. But I know "on lot" and in large dub stage type environments this is not the case. And in truth, the team effort approach is what I find most attractive about these other forms of audio post.

While I have senior level status in my multiple hat wearing audio post documentary, docudrama, reality, independent film, promo, trailer, and ad campaign world, I find it unlikely that this status would transfer (nor would I want it to at this point) to a dramatic higher budget lot gig or studio backed program or feature. However, I feel after running a department, working in-house for a network, freelancing and putting in more than decade in the industry that I would not serve myself or my new company best by looking at intern opportunities and other base entry level positions. But perhaps, the approach is so different that I am wrong.

When moving from one type of audio post to another (mixer/sound designer in edutainment/reality television and independent film to a sound team working on high budgeted dramatic TV/film), what type of position should one seek in order to best serve themself, the project, and their fellow sound guys? Do I have to start over completely? What is an appropriate move?

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Well, I made the move from a ten year position as an in house sound designer for nationals tv commercials at a music house, to a low paying, apprentice sound editor position at a facility doing higher budget film and some dramatic network tv.

It was a huge cut in status and pay. I went from cutting, designing, and mixing high profile ads to buying groceries, serving as a runner (LA traffic is the worst), and even taking used motor oil from the company van to Pep Boys to be recycled. After some serious intern hazing, I eventually assumed assistant editor duties like conforming sound edits to picture changes, finding alt takes for dialog editors, decoding OMFs, and cutting thousands of foley footsteps.

I had to swallow my pride and my shock after looking at my first paycheck, but in retrospect I'm glad I took the plunge. I learned a lot about film audio post (I think it essential for every film sound editor to serve as an assistant at some point) and met a lot of great folks along the way. I earned a few semi-respectable film credits and recently made my way in to another job as an in house sound editor at a film studio; a dream job for me, so I'm glad I made the move.

The thing I've noticed about being a mid-level post sound person is that it's nearly impossible to make a parallel move. You can go from one grunt position to another grunt position in post, or top level sound supervisors can move from one facility to another (since they likely have a devoted client base); but us mid level folks generally have to take a step down to move. Since we work in an apprentice-based field, a lot of film sound facilities have people that are working their way up the ranks. If you enter a place without paying your grunt dues, it's somewhat likely that you'll have some people resenting you.

I can say that your background will make it easier for you to move up quickly, as it sounds like you have the skill set. The tight-deadline, triage-based, multiple sound skills needed to thrive in edutainment reality will serve you well in the film world. Best of luck. Don't think about it as starting over...just jumping on another ladder.

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@Justin, well said. It may not be the most encouraging answer but it is certainly truthful and honest. –  Jay Jennings Jan 15 '11 at 1:35
    
You are amazing. Thank you so much for this. It is exactly what I suspected but have never been told. Strangely, I feel oddly encouraged. :O) Congrats on your journey thus far, Justin! –  Karol Urban Jan 15 '11 at 5:01
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It was not my intention to be discouraging in any way, just realistic. I think my case might of been a bit of an extreme as well. My point is simply: while you might have to take a step back to enter a different world in post (like decent-budgeted narrative film), with your experience and a good attitude you'll climb your way up a new ladder faster than most. No sensible person in film post will discount your decade of experience when you come on board. I say go for it. –  Justin Pearson Jan 15 '11 at 19:53
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