Virtual Intern(s) Update: 4 Chosen

Ok, the hard decisions have been made, the emails have been sent & the interns have confirmed. And yes there is more than one, in fact there are four! It took me 3 weeks to narrow 19 down to 4 and I fear it would take another 3 weeks to choose one of them… I also decided I like the idea of more than one, for a few reasons. Firstly, if anything happens & someone needs to pull out or isn’t getting value from it then I’m not back to square one. I also think that much of what I do with the interns will be more interesting with more people involved, but I am also wary of being spread too thin and so four is the magic number.

So what next? Well congrats to the four and also congrats to the other fifteen, who I intend to engage with directly over the course of the year, regardless – I just can’t offer them regular 1:1 communication in the same way as the interns without undermining my sanity….

I start a new film project next week (with a schedule of 10 weeks editing, 4 week mix) so I intend to use that as a first project to document my approach as I work through all stages of the process… Over the course of the year we should be able to repeat that concept 2 or 3 times, so that variations in approach can be discussed based on content, schedule, budget, genre etc… Of course I can’t share any of the content of the project with the interns without the producers permission, but I think even the generalised approach will be valuable.

And for what its worth, the four interns are geographically distributed:
– Krakrow, Poland
– Maple Ridge, Canada
– Manchester, UK
– Indianopolis, USA

As far as mentoring goes, it might be a corny old proverb, but its a good one:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Over the years I have observed a number of senior people mentor or train young people and relatedly I followed one of my own developmental/guiding rules – you don’t have to make a mistake yourself to learn from it; you can observe other peoples mistakes and learn from them with a lot less pain! And so I observed a relatively senior person train two junior people over a period of a number of years and I was slightly confused as to why those two juniors never managed to make the leap to being fully fledged sound editors themselves (dont worry anyone local, this was a long time ago!) At first I wondered if it was some fault with the junior ie they werent fully committed or had personal issues or something… but when it happened again with another person under the same scenario I thought hmmmm… maybe it IS actually the way in which they are being trained. And thats where the old chinese proverb started to resonate with me. The person doing the training was not teaching how to fish, he was just providing fish. Whether this was due to a concious process or not, the end result recurred – the trainee did not have the confidence, nor had developed the processes to make decisions and act independently.

Accordingly I resolved to never behave that way, and at times it can be frustrating for a junior person – sometimes the solution to a problem might be obvious to me, but if I just say: ‘ahar! You should just add this element and THEN it will work’ nothing is learned that will solve a similar problem for them next time, as they haven’t had to reason out the solution themselves. So my answers have often become questions: ‘Have you considered this aspect’ or ‘Why did you choose this element’ etc

This approach is something I have also learned to appreciate in directors. For example, I remember very, very clearly my first big job. I had worked in Auckland for maybe 4 or 5 years and had worked on a few films, but was offered a short term (6 week) role editing sound effects on The Frighteners. Of course I knew all Peter Jacksons films and was both thrilled and scared by the opportunity. But when I actually got to Wellington to start it just got better & deeper. The schedule was such that we were working towards a temp mix, but this was a month or so before Randy Thom was due to arrive in NZ. I think he had started work on the project (along with the hugely talented Phil Benson) back in the States. Anyway apart from diving into cutting effects with the other sound editors there was one subjective moment in the film that that I instinctively put my hand up to work on; the tunnel of light. If you have seen the film you will know what I mean (if not, in the film when people die a tunnel of light opens around them & transports their soul) so I spent as much time as possible developing sounds for it (bear in mind this was on a PT3 TDM system with a max of 16 track playback). Anyway every Saturday the director would come out to the sound facility and sit in with each sound editor for a short time to provide feedback on their elements and so a week or two into it I nervously played my first version of the tunnel of light & waited for the feedback… And I will always be indebted to Peter Jackson for the way in which he provided feedback – overall he was positive about my approach, but he then went through & encouraged me to developed specific aspects that he liked more than others. Now we all know people who, when asked for an opinion will point out the ten things they hate before finding one they like, and if that had been the case I would have probably been crushed. But it wasn’t and ever since that day I have believed the way to get the best work from anyone is to actively encourage them. Even if you need to have someone change direction entirely, there are two ways to do it – one way means the person feels good about changing or developing, the other way will mean they resent it.

Anyway, back to the fishing… or ordering sashimi at least!

4 thoughts on “Virtual Intern(s) Update: 4 Chosen

  1. leyton

    old chinese proverb: the best way to direct is without directing, the easiest way to the answer is by finding the question.

    nice post tim.. i resonate with it entirely from my experiences teaching at Uni.

    and do not be worried about pointing at the moon ( we sometimes forget it is there)

  2. Gustavo

    Hi Tim and the chosen interns

    What a great experience. I leave you a quote by Sun Tzu I like very much:

    “Opportunities multiply as they are seized”

    Good luck!

  3. Pingback: Music of Sound » Virtual Intern – iteration 2

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