Need a Mentor?

Please note the date on this post – I have no plans for more virtual sound design interns – see this article

Empathy is a character trait I value. Highly. I heard a psychologist interviewed on the radio a year or so ago & her core theory (based on research) was that a large proportion of people in prison never learned empathy as children. Every now & again I meet someone with an obvious lack of empathy & think hmmmm… they just have no appreciation for their effect on other people & I think about those people in prison, who commit crimes with similarly no thought for the often devastating impact on their victims…

So why am I talking about empathy? Well I so appreciate the support a number of generous people gave me early in my career & while its difficult to repay their kindness I feel that it is probably more appropriate to repay in kind ie offer similar support to young people now… And to me this is an act of empathy, as I dearly remember how hard getting that start is, and how much a small gesture of support can mean at critical stages… Accordingly I’ve managed to do this a number of times over the years by taking on someone with no real post experience as an assistant/trainee and it is satisfying to see them develop & forge their careers… Finding the right person can be problematic, not through any lack of willing participants but more so in terms of clarifying the crucial formative characteristics. But having successfully been through the process four times now I have a reasonable idea….

Anyway, enough philosophy for now – this post is really just to say I would like to offer a virtual internship by acting as mentor to a young sound editor who is early in their career.

So what is a mentor exactly? The dictionary defines it as “a wise and trusted guide and advisor” while Wikipedia refers to “a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person” which sounds a bit more like it.

When I started my own company I had a business mentor for a while, and I found it invaluable to have someone far more experienced to ask advice from. Often they played devils advocate & answered my questions with questions, so I thought through my own conclusions and I definitely subscribe to this approach. If someone I am supervising is stuck on a problem it is rare that I would simply come up with an answer for them, because that doesn’t help them develop the skills to solve that same problem when it arises again in the future.

So what are the characteristics I am looking for? Well the first thing I can say is you do not need to be local. I already have a good team of people who I work with & accordingly I simply don’t have a trainee job to offer, per se. So I am happy to mentor via email, ichat, skype, ftp etc…

You need to be able to illustrate that you are already committed to film sound post as a career. It is an investment of time on my part so I need to be convinced this isn’t just a whim. That doesn’t mean you need to have credits on films, but already having some experience of contributing to short films or TV drama etc is a definite bonus.

Technical skill is important – don’t apply if you don’t already have a basic knowledge of ProTools. I’m not interested in what your favourite software is, it is a simple fact that ProTools dominates in film sound post & we need to be able to exchange Protools sessions as work in progress. I did plenty of films early on using nothing more than ProTools LE, so that at least is a prerequisite.

Owning (or having access to) a field recording kit is also important. I dont really believe in using library sounds other than in specific situations so I want to know what you will be using to collect sounds for your work.

Lastly & in my opinion most important is personality & attitude. I am going to have to research some questions for this bit – not about your personal life but definitely about your attitudes, ethics & approach. This will also require a character reference or two who I can contact.

So its kind of like a job interview, except there isn’t a job. The virtual internship will run for a maximum of 12 months, at which point I will take on a new intern. And bear in mind I despise sycophants. I do not want to hear what you think I want to hear, I want to hear what you think. Still interested? if you want to apply, please email me using the form below & in a week or so I will send you an application form.

> Registration is now closed!

- Update 1

- Update 2

- Update 3

- Update 4

- Update 5

Atonality, Naming Goats & The Ecology of Creativity

I can’t claim any of the great subjects in the title of this post as my own; each one is an article on the fascinating site: Thinking Applied…. but it was the one on Atonality that led me to first discover it. I find it interesting how musical tastes & perception change, both individually & via the collective consciousness. I guess its all a part of evolution…
But the article that I enjoyed the most is about Internal Research & is subtitled as an algorithm for the productive use of the imagination but could also be considered as a means of accessing your subconscious. Heres the introduction:

‘Elmer R. Gates (1859-1923), who held dozens of patents, made his living “sitting for ideas.” His tools were a quiet room, a pen, blank paper, and his mind.

When I read about Gates in 1960, the notion of “sitting for ideas” appealed to me, and I began to try it. For two decades I intermittently pursued it in different settings with varying degrees of success and failure. In 1984, after one career as an academic and another as a conductor of contemporary music, I succumbed to my scientific and philosophical interests and founded a small interdisciplinary think tank. Since then “sitting for ideas” has been a major preoccupation.

Learning to use introspection productively is like perfecting an artistic skill. It takes commitment, time, and understanding. There’s no substitute for commitment, but you’ll hasten your progress if you understand the underlying process.

The example of Elmer Gates demonstrates three things: The unconscious has access to information that lies outside our normal awareness; under certain conditions that information can be released into consciousness; some of it can be unique and useful…. continues..

Interesting huh? I know its related & it always makes me laugh but if I am working on a creative problem before breakfast & get stuck, I notice that if I go have a shower after about 5 minutes a solution will suddenly occur to me. Now I’m not standing in the shower thinking about the problem, in fact I’m not thinking about much at all & its that rest that lets the unconscious go to work. Similarly there is a saying about the best way to solve a problem is to go for a decent walk ie partake in an activity that lets the conscious mind rest… Explain that to your boss next time you get stuck on a problem: ‘its not that I’m not working….

The Creative Cost of Piracy

Everyone knows piracy is an issue, and the worst kind of piracy has to be the leak. There is no greater insult to an artist than for their work to be stolen & released to the world before it is finished, and while piracy of a finished product has a negative financial impact, piracy of an unfinished product has far deeper ramifications. What prompted this post? Well, I was reading an article about the picture editorial workflow on the new Star Trek film and while it is an interesting read, one section totally stunned me, get this:

Another issue was steps taken to reduce the risk of the film being pirated.

“Security-wise we made sure all the footage we gave out to the music or sound effects guys were in black-and-white. Eventually we did give them color but it was just another security precaution to make sure things weren’t going to get out. Of course all the footage had massive block letters with the name of who it was going out to. And it wasn’t just on the top and bottom it was through the entire image. Otherwise you just crop the top and bottom.

We had a lot of ADR sessions and some of those were done internationally because some of the actors were overseas. For those we were extremely cautious with and we actually blacked out the entire screen and made a little circle around the actors face and tracked the circle to their face so that is the only thing that was being seen. It’s a little scary when you are dealing with another country, another company and department that you have never met doing the recording. So it was a lot of tedious work involved but you do feel better about sending it out.”

Good grief! So THAT is the creative cost of piracy. To try & prevent the possibility of a leak, the sound post team are required to work to BLACK & WHITE video??? And the actors doing ADR are expected to get back in character, engage with the story & create evocative performances while looking at DISEMBODIED FACES???? In closeup that would seem a little weird but in a wideshot it must be bizzare!
While I feel sorry for the people working in such circumstances, I feel total disgust for the people who create this situation by pirating & leaking original artworks. What exactly is the motive for leaking something? What possible benefit is there? And is this a direct side effect of the Wolverine leak? There must be better solutions than those suggested above.

No mind

“When I improvise there’s no mind. I’m just there. I fiddle around. It’s like a painter would do, just fantasise a little bit. I’m not thinking about this shit, it’s just something I do. Mind messes everything up. When inspiration starts, rational thinking stops.”

Thats Joe Zawinul talking about his creative process from an interview published in SOS magazine back in June 2003 and that ‘no mind’ state intrigues me, since it appears in a number of other unique circumstances.

Mushin is a mental state into which very highly trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. The term is shortened from mushin no shin, a Zen expression meaning mind of no mind. That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.

Am I talking about music or the meaning of life? Yes, no, maybe… but some of those buddhist words of wisdom could easily be describing music:

“The river has no shape, but it takes on the boundaries which it carves out for itself,
so is the mind boundless, until it creates a prison for its own thoughts.”

To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.

Lao Tzu

While attaining the no-mind state takes considerable focus & practice, the state of being in the flow is related & is perhaps a step down the same road…. There is a great article here: In the zone: enjoyment, creativity, and the nine elements of “flow.” Of the nine elements discussed, number 7 is particularly relevant: Self-consciousness disappears. When I was younger I felt far more self-conscious than I do now, and maybe thats just a part of growing up. I remember having one of those great, random, deep conversations with a complete stranger on a plane, about how as you grow older you eventually reach an age where you simply become comfortable in your skin. It takes a certain amount of time, but I would also presume, a certain amount of experience, of living…

A couple of videos worth checking out: the first by the author of the book discussed in that article; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, on creativity, fulfillment and flow

And a video of a presentation by David Lynch: Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain:

Food for non-thought?