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Has your job / what you do ever been questioned? How did/do you respond?

Ex.

  • "Oh so you work on sound for advertisements? Aren't advertisements rather useless?"
  • "Oh so you work on x. It's nice and all, but how's that helping anyone / solving/advancing anything?"
  • etc.

10 Answers 10

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Interesting question! I always joke about my job not adding anything to society/humanity, but that's not what i really think...

I think that storytelling has been an important part of human life for a long time, and that our jobs largely feed into that. As living has become easier (eg. not needing to forage/hunt for food every day), and we've found ourselves with more spare time on our hands, the demand for storytelling has increased dramatically. Stories have evolved into music, plays, films. tv shows and games. So, while we're not saving lives or building rockets, we're contributing to a vital part of society.

It's pretty crazy that what was once done by someone sitting at a fire, with only their voice, is now done with a crew of hundreds, all in specialised roles.

That's my answer when i question myself anyway. I think it'd sound pretty pompous to a stranger, and it may not be as important as some things, but i think story-telling is vital to society.

  • That's an interesting perspective. I wonder if others have thought or consciously view the profession as being ultimately necessary (i.e. it's an important [<- though that's subjective] part of human life), even though it may not seem to be as essential when contrasted to other activities. Well, not all kinds of rocket building (like missiles) are necessarily useful either! I also think that the notion of "increased leisure time" is a good point and advocates one view about the value of this type of job. – Internet Human Mar 24 '13 at 17:17
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My career in sound has been questioned by almost everybody that I know personally outside of the film and television industry; with a handful of colleagues in the industry who just didn't want me to excel. It doesn't make much of a difference to me though, because I know this is my purpose.

The trouble comes when rates are lower than normal due to varied project budgets or when problems occur in post that are usually relegated to lack of system experience by a late night intern at a transfer house; location sound mixers and our equipment almost always get the blame for these problems even after we call the transfer house and explain to them how to properly transfer the files.

The fact is that we do work in a particularly obscure subset of major industries, be it sound for film, television & radio or sound for games. Our work is gaining more interest but it doesn't have the same exposure as a director, camera operator, music composer or visual effects artist. Most often I have to give people who ask a very simple explanation of what I do; I record the dialogue of all the actors on set or conversations for documentaries. Then I'm usually asked about the personalities of the actors I've met or the people I've recorded for documentaries.

Just above this reply one of our other members named ADSR mentioned his admiration for the work I do as a location sound mixer when shooting meaningful footage for documentaries. It's true that I've had great experiences while on doc shoots and even scripted film and network shoots, but I have a long time dream of sitting at my production suite at home producing soundscapes and audible imagery for major game titles or feature films. I guess the grass is greener on the other side, but I'm very glad that while I look to the other side I find other people as dedicated to and in love with their craft as I am with mine.

My hope is that I might have the opportunity to meet you guys on the other side some day and make some great sound.

Have fun fulfilling your purpose,

E. Santiago

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My mother still has no idea what I do.

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I'm a sound designer on a AAA title. It is very fulfilling and a job that I look forward to almost everyday.

I haven't had anybody ask me if what I'm doing is advancing anything. However, from time to time I find myself asking if what I'm doing is really benefiting humanity. The way I see it, I'm working on a game, a luxury product that IMO does not contribute much towards life other than it being an escape from reality for some people.

The grass being greener on the other side, I admire folks doing location audio for documentaries - I feel it's something much more meaningful and noble then say, making sounds for a bunch of virtual polygons.

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I struggled myself for a while after working on a few adverts- but I was so pleased to have "made it" and get full rate pay for a few days that it completely made it worthwhile. The way I see it, a few days of advert work enables me to do more meaningful work for the next while, meet new crew and learn.

The trick for me has been trying to get involved in documentaries and shorts that also really do mean something to me, so I feel as if I am making a positive impact on the world.

Perhaps not fully answering your question as I've not really been externally critized, but i'm definitely my own biggest critic!

I imagine most people's day jobs could be easily criticized on some level, but you need to live!

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Indeed, it has happened. On this very community too. There still are plenty of people who question the use of video games, and being a video game sound designer/composer seems utter insanity to them.

There's two answers that I can give these people:

  • First of all, look at the figures. Video game sales are on the rise, surpassing movies sales recently ( http://metro.co.uk/2012/03/22/uk-game-sales-beat-film-and-tv-for-the-first-time-361236/ ). Moreover, it's been increasingly difficult for me to find a really good Hollywood flick lately, whereas AAA titles keep delivering what they promise;
  • I thoroughly enjoy doing my job every day. At times I work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, and when I'm finished I relax by going out and recording some stuff for my next project (or personal library).
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To be completely honest, I sometimes have thought this about myself, but I would NEVER say it to others - no matter what their job. I do a lot of advertising and promos along with TV and film. I find more personal satisfaction in the latter - though there have been spots I have done which have been extremely fun and/or challenging - but it is important to find satisfaction in all of it. My frustration comes when I have very difficult clients with crazy deadlines (happens in film/TV too of course) and I will say to MYSELF - I can't believe I am putting myself through all this for something that doesn't matter. But it does matter, as both creative work and paying work. The number of people working and time and money spent on a TV spot can be astounding. I have worked on big add campaigns with 4 x :30 second spots which have higher budgets that feature indie films with reputable/successful actors and directors.

I always dreamed of being one of those people who wakes up everyday so excited to go to work and HONESTLY say, "Man, I love my job." But there are days when I am reminded it is a job. That doesn't diminish it and I wouldn't change it for anything. I can still step back and say how awesome it is that I get to play with sound every day, be creative, fix problems, and hopefully be part of something enjoyable.

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What this question usually comes back to is the answer that what we are doing is an art form. From there you can only talk about the importance of art in the history of human culture. Honestly from a personal, and I think quite correct point of view, is that art could possibly be the reason that we have progressed in many things: science, politics, ect. so rapidly and so expansively. Take the modern TV for example. The idea of projecting an image to a screen out of 'thin air' was an idea from an artist who had drawn it, and also wrote of it (science fiction) So if we had never had that artist, scientists could have possibly never thought of the idea and just stuck with radio. Now taking that story into our context is that we are still creating art. An act that can inspire minds of other creators which can lead to inventions that can change the course of human history. Hence, keep on being your artistic self, and keep creating. You never know who you might inspire.

TLTR: What we do is art, and art evolved the human race; and if they don't like they can go back to living in fucking caves for all we care.

Cheers!

Michael

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I haven't necessarily had the purpose of what I do questioned, but I do seem to find that - even though the term sound designer can be traced back decades and decades in cinema alone - people still have an issue grasping what my work actually entails.

Now naturally, I'm perfectly at ease explaining what I do - I love my work and my enthusiasm practically exudes out of me - but it does get to me that with all the advances our medium has made, there still seems to be a real ignorance on the very basis of our work. There's never any doubt as to what the composer does. Perhaps anyone else feels similarly?

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Art is useless, just like absurd. And people have to think about and understand this by themsleves; trying to explain this and how essential it is is too... absurd IMHO. I'm not saying "let the stupid mass being a stupid mass". Just that this is such a primitive feeling that we can't explain it, it has to be "revealed", felt. I think when someone realises that live is absolutely absurd by nature, only then the ultime importance of art becomes THE evidence. It's the only thing we can do as human being which can be claimed and thought/admited as useless, for the inutility of it. For all the rest, everyone stupidly tends to think that there's a necessity, a sense. And I think it's getting worst within our ultra-capitalistic way of thinking/living.

  • I'm personally not that strict about it. If we only focused on utility, then there could be a more general consensus on what is useful/useless. However that's not how we (at least some of us) need or want to live, because we can do better. My personal line in questioning "usefullness" vs "uselessness" goes in whether the activity aims to direct, question or shed new light to something (in a questioning manner that aims to describe the truth) or in other ways help or increase well-being. Or whether the activity's moral basis is on some weaker basis. – Internet Human Mar 25 '13 at 22:46
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    For example, art is (much like science and mathematics) very powerful in describing things that don't exist (or which we don't intuitively think or see), until they're defined of course, which can lead to new ideas that in turn can contribute to something, which isn't entirely "useless", non-tangible and abstract. However, to use art in this way requires broad perspective to life and the topics the piece deals with, I think. Also, media obviously can play or plays an important/useful role in shaping our knowledge and perception of the world. It isn't THAT black and white. – Internet Human Mar 25 '13 at 23:13
  • While the answer may not be the most eloquently stated, I very much understand where they're coming from: its an existentialistic point of view, very thought provoking but I am on the same wavelength. Renouncing the societal perception/misperception of what we do and the futility of trying to enlighten society to what we do. The importance of what er do only matters to those who discover importance in it for themselves in their own unique way, just was we creators do. Another way of saying the old phrase "when nobody notices us, we've done our job right" – Stavrosound Mar 26 '13 at 9:34
  • I get that "the importance of what we do only matters to those who discover importance...". Taking that stance one could perhaps claim that "if you don't get it, it's not for you", but that's not a very useful statement in itself and if that stance was generalized across disciplines that deal with "thought work", we couldn't accomplish much. I'm not sure about if "when nobody notices us, we've done our job right" is a correct way to view things. I think that if one "makes public a statement" (releases art that aims to influence), that statement should carry a face / be open to criticism. – Internet Human Mar 26 '13 at 10:06
  • Which kind of comes back to the original question of "if/when facing criticism... how exactly do you handle it?". – Internet Human Mar 26 '13 at 10:10

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