So, I'm a young guy. I've got years ahead of me and billions of decisions to make. Over the years I've come to realize and expect that I will get more than a few of them wrong. And I'm okay with that.

What's been on my mind lately is the way forward. I've already answered the big question. I know the beginning and the end, but the middle eludes me.

I look around this space and I see some guys with really heavy resumés, some really fantastic work. At times it's hard, at least for me, not to be intimidated.

I guess what I want to know is... did it work out the way you planned it? Did you even have a plan? Did you have any idea where you were going when you started?

'Cause all I have right now is the certainty that I want to design sound professionally. What I'm having trouble with is seeing through the mire of possibility to the path that'll get me there.

Thanks in advance for indulging my insecurity and self-doubt.

3 Answers 3


When I was in Jr. High, right before I started making all my bad decisions, I was planning on being a professional saxophonist, most likely playing on a cruise ship. I'd already been scouted by colleges -- I realize that's against the rules, but they didn't seem to care -- and knew I'd have a full ride at quite a few colleges if I just kept my grades up.

My sophomore year in high school, I was playing sax and clarinet in the orchestra pit for our school play, The Wizard of Oz, and I met a girl. And yadda yadda, we had a kid. So, naturally, instead of stepping up and doing it right, I dropped out of school and became an absolute deadbeat both to society and to my first son.

I pretty much coasted through the next five years of my life until I got my room mate (not my girlfriend), who is now my wife, pregnant. That was my wake up call and I'm only now back to the place I was my sophomore year in high school, both in terms of skill as a sax player and in my preparation for any sort of real career.

So, no... it didn't go how I'd planned it. But I know that if it had, I would never have ended up where I'm at now, and sound design as a career may have never crossed my plate.

I'm only 28, which is a baby in terms of most professionals in the world, but I feel I'm too old to really be starting any career. I've gotta do it anyway, and now I'm mentally prepared for it.

Two words of advice: don't do things you know you'll regret 10 years later (you'll know those decisions when they come up...), and NEVER STOP LEARNING, even if it's not related to sound design.

Good luck.

  • @Dave, Do you have a particular area of expertise? Or are you a generalist? Another post on here got me to thinking about the question of specialization, which kind of led me to the question above.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 5:49
  • Right now, I'm a generalist though I do mostly editing and design. I'm getting more into recording now that I have something I can decently record with. Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 15:48

I went to Film School specifically to become a sound effects editor, but I spent a few years at University beforehand doing the wrong thing. After film school I got a start as a trainee working on TV series and I knew I was in the right field. A few years later when I got to work on a film I knew THAT was what I wanted to do. When I turned 30 I spent six months questioning everything; was THIS what I wanted to do? I came to the conclusion it absolutely totally was, and I have followed my instincts ever since. The only conclusion I have come up with is that working on films just gets deeper and deeper... But it is not for everyone (some people prefer a 9 to 5 job) - you should keep an open mind and get experience in lots of aspects of the field you choose, it might turn out you are a better dialogue editor than sound effects editor or whatever...

Relatedly a young person asked me a while ago at what stage did I arrive at a place that I knew what I was doing.... I had to be honest and say never, that place doesn't exist... Film is art, no one gets to the end of their life (let alone the middle) and says 'ah I am so glad I now know everything...' Experience is valuable & your instincts are based on it, but as Dave said NEVER STOP LEARNING. And WORK HARD - you would be surprised how many people do not and if there is one golden rule, its that the harder you work the luckier you get. Always do more than what people expect.

  • @Tim, Thanks. I appreciate it. Oh, and am I right in thinking that that first show was Ray Bradbury Theater? I know it was an NZ co-production. Oddly, I work with it on an almost daily basis.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 5:43
  • I think the first thing I did was 3 series of a local series called Marlin Bay = 39 x 1 hour episodes... It was about a rural casino resort set in Bay of Islands - I got to cut ambiences, FX, & record foley etc... By the third series I'd worked out a way to conform the ambiences by premixing 4 minute chunks of each location to timecode DAT, and then created an EDL in FileMakerPro and fed it into PostConform, which digitised & cut the premixed ambiences.... All on a 4 channel ProTools running on a Apple IIcx... We only did a few episodes of Ray Bradbury...
    – user49
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 9:11

I think planning and having a clear idea / long term strategy of where you want to go are very important - not because your plans will always come exactly true, but, to paraphrase former US President Eisenhouwer, when the shit hits the fan and everything or everybody is going mental, you can keep a clear head and act according to your principles and goals.

The best plans I've had were often also the scariest ones, as the biggest decisions are about weighing up benefits vs doubts, without knowing for a fact the outcome. One major guideline I've always followed is: do I want to end up 10 years from now, sitting in a pub, and telling somebody about all the great and exciting plans I once had, but never acted upon? If the answer is no, I know I need to follow whichever idea has grabbed hold of me.

There's also the luck factor: you need luck to advance, and you can enforce luck up to an extent by, like mr Prebble said, working hard, and 'being there' (aka networking, but I'd rather call it 'making friends', because a person who's clearly 'networking' can come across as too slimy for my taste).

  • @daan, I'm slowly getting better with the concept of networking. I used to feel sleazy and gross, like a run of the mill sycophant and brown noser. I also tend to be a listen first, talk second kind of guy, so making the first approach has always been a bit of a challenge. Though I am getting much better at it.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 12:37

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