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If you were offered a job as Sound Designer, Re-recording Mixer, SFX editor, or anything to do with sound on a feature film with a director who knows nothing or cares nothing about sound (or not enough to give it much importance in his script or actions or budget), would you take the job?

And, say you did take the job, would you push the point with the Director that sound is important, and how would you go about it?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Glad you're taking the challenge, Ryan. You never hear a photographer say, "My client knows nothing about actual photography, I'm gonna pass on this gig," or a designer say, "God, this client knows NOTHING about finely-kerned typography, forget it!" :-)

For better or worse, as specialists and creative professionals of any sort, there's always an element of client education in our role(s). Doing a great job and helping to educate without being a diva about it, or being condescending/pedantic (often by simply being awesome and humble about your contributions), is a sure sign of future success!

Knock 'em dead, man!

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Thanks! Hopefully by the time I finish I figure out how to post stuff for you all to hear it! –  Utopia May 7 '10 at 1:44
    
@NoiseJockey Well said. –  Andrew Spitz May 7 '10 at 12:14

Welcome to the world of modern filmmaking. Hate to break it to you, but many directors fit this description. Sound is an afterthought most of the time, seldom entering into the script as a story point; production audio is often polluted with background noise and can be unusable at times because no one wants to allow the production mixer the latitude to capture good tracks; budgets are shrinking for post-production sound editorial and mixing; and - here's the capper - sometimes the director doesn't show up for the mix until the last few days for playbacks. And THEN they have notes!

Well, what can you do? Start by educating the director that sound is a critical part of his/her film. Not by lecturing or over-pontificating, but rather through sound budgeting practices, solid and creative tracks, and organized delivery to the stage for mixing.

In short, take the job. It's good practice for the future.

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Thanks. Do mixers sometimes check and see who the production mixer was before committing to a project? Like "Oh, he gets good dialogue, so I'll take Transformers over Valentine's Day because the dialogue will be much better"? –  Utopia May 6 '10 at 21:37
    
Sure, mixers and supervisors check to see - and sometimes recommend - who the production sound crew was. But it's rarely a dealbreaker. –  Jay Jennings May 6 '10 at 21:53

In these kinds of situations, my main aim is to IMPRESS the director with sound design, before starting the work.

I request short samples of diverse scenes, and I try to make the director understand how important sound design is and how vital can it be for the overall mood of the scene by preparing demos.

After a good impression, it is easy to educate them. They listen to you more carefully and take you more seriously because they know that your input is good for the whole project.

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Personally, what I've encountered in smaller productions is that most directors (that have already directed), realize how important good sound is. It may often feel like it isn't their priority, but that's maybe because of them having so many other things to worry about or have been close to the film for soooo long that they just can't face watching it anymore.

Generalizing here a bit, but most the time, when they hear/see their film without the sound design, they start panicking that it's dry or lacks emotion... then they hear your sound and they get happy and give a sigh of relief.

If they didn't care about sound, I'd probably try get them excited and involved vs. trying to make a point. Sounds lame, but people like passion, and if you show some passion for it then they might just get a glimpse of what gets you ticking.

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Very good advice. I'm going to do it. –  Utopia May 6 '10 at 21:49
    
Great! I hope you don't regret it and come back to me angry ;-) enjoy. –  Andrew Spitz May 6 '10 at 21:52

Take the job and elegantly educate them. What can go wrong?

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My name can go on something that has just the Avid guidetrack instead of my sound design because he has no time or budget or disagrees with the importance of sound. –  Utopia May 7 '10 at 0:57
    
i put a grain of sarcasm there in my question :) anyway, regarding time it's up to them, but regarding budget it may well be up to you. –  georgi May 7 '10 at 8:43
    
Bah humbug. I hate how directors come to me and say "Sound is such an important part of the film." and then they turn to the caterer and say "Food is such an important part of the film". –  Utopia May 11 '10 at 19:53
    
Well, you may have a point here because Sound seems to always fall right below Craft Service in the rolling credits ;) –  Stavrosound Oct 31 '11 at 20:46

Never push any point with a director. Just do your job really well, within the time and budget constraints. Never complain, no matter how bad it gets. What you will find is that somebody, other than the Director, notices how professional you are and recommends you for another job.

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Two positive things.

a. They probably will realize how much your work improves the film. b. They will most likely not be an overbearing and nit picking client.

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1  
True. I hate when I see a director noting down on a note-pad. I instantly think to myself "There's another 30 mins..." –  Utopia May 6 '10 at 21:42

They rarely do!

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It's so sad they don't, though!!! –  Utopia May 11 '10 at 19:51

I'd say take the job anyways and give the best you can. Sound Designers are storytellers too and I think if the director is not involved so much in the process, you can create something which you think will tell a story better, sonically.

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