5 minute read

SOUND AND MUSIC

Job Title: Cable Man, Cabler, Sound Utility

Job Overview

Generally an entry-level position in the sound department (unless there is an apprentice or production assistant working with the crew), the cable man sets up the sound equipment, runs the cable from the microphone to the sound recording equipment, and assists in placing radio mikes on actors when needed. Experienced cabler s also operate a second boom when needed or fill in for the boom operator if he needs to leave the set. Cablers assist with maintaining the sound equipment, and may be assigned to handle departmental paperwork.

Special Skills

In addition to having an understanding of the filmmaking process and knowledge of sound equipment, a cable person must be alert and attentive without being intrusive. They should take every opportunity to develop boom operator skills so they can handle a second boom or fill in for the operator when needed.

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

Working for a sound equipment rental house is a good way to learn about the gear and meet sound mixers and their crew. Once you have some basic understanding of the job, contact working sound mixers and offer to work for free as an apprentice to gain some on set experience and learn more about the job.

Professional Profile: Bill Shotland, Boom Operator and Cable Person

After a year of studying sociology at Palomar College, Bill Shotland's goal was simply to find some type of work that generated enough cash to allow him to ski. Just as disco was about to become a national obsession, he came up with the idea to start a company that would supply live sound reinforcement, lighting, and DJs to nightclubs in the Southern California area. He wrote up a business plan and asked his father to co-sign a bank loan for him to acquire the equipment. Within three months, he had repaid the loan and established a successful business.

A few years later, Shotland was ready for a new challenge. A childhood friend and his father, who owned a transportation company that supplied production companies, suggested that Shotland parlay his sound experience into a career in sound for film and television. They recommended he contact Charlie Knight, owner of a film transfer business and equipment rental house.

“Every morning at 8:00 I knocked on his door and he would say, ‘Go away! Go away!'” One day, Knight finally asked what Shotland wanted and he responded, “I want to work as an apprentice and learn to run all this equipment. I don't want to be paid. When I start doing whatever it is that you do here, and I'm able to work on my own, then we can talk about pay.” Knight agreed to the proposal and Shotland started the following Monday. A few days into his training, he mastered the transfer gear and was put on the payroll.

In addition to doing transfers, Shotland began prepping and fixing the gear that was rented to sound mixers. During the actors’ strike, when gear was not being used, he came up with the idea of renting the company's walkie-talkies to the PGA tour, music concerts, and other live event promoters, earning him a percentage of the profits. He also supplemented his income by renting out equipment left over from his sound reinforcement days, for use in on set music playback.

What do you like least about your job?

“What I like least about my job are the super-long hours. I just want to work 12 hours and go home. Twelve hours is enough for any person. I can't even express how beaten up the body feels when you get into 16- and 18-hour days, day after day after day.”Bill Shotland

What do you love most about your job?

“What I love most about my job is that I do not go to an office. I'm in a different location every day, so I get to see different things.”—Bill Shotland

Ready for another challenge and wanting to get out of the office, Shotland started looking for a new job. Through a soundman he had met at the rental company, he received an offer to work as a cable man and second boom operator on Highway to Heaven. Committing to work on the show for a season, Shotland stayed until the series ended several years later. “They called it Michael Landon's day care center, because he wanted people to see their families.” Instead of a 60-hour work week, Landon usually let the crew go after 40.

“After Michael passed on, I was talking to friends and they asked, ‘What are you going to do now?’ I said, ‘I'll just get another job.’ And they said, ‘Bill, you have no idea what it's like out here. The business has really changed in the past nine years.’ … Twelve-hour days had turned into 16-hour days”

Major surgery in the early 1990s kept Shotland from working for nearly two years. He used the time to earn a degree in music and sound engineering, and in 1992 was able to put his name back on the availability roster at the union. That same afternoon, he received a call from Tim Cooney, offering him work on Die Hard II. He later learned that Cooney had gotten his name from production sound mixer Darin Knight, son of Charlie Knight, the man whose door Shotland had first knocked on to get into the business.

CAREER TIPS

* “If you can dream it up, do it. Go after it. Nothing is too large or too small. Write down your plan and put it into action. Other people won't make it happen for you.”Bill Shotland

He went on to work on several more features with Cooney, including Demolition Man, Lethal Weapon 4, The Last Days, and Deep Blue Sea. He turned down Cooney's offer to work with him on We Were Soldiers, having recently undergone four months of physical therapy for his knees. “I didn't think running through the brush would be good … “ Instead, he stayed in Los Angeles to work on National Security and the series Once and Again. He subsequently reunited with Cooney to work on the feature The Sultan of the Sea.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in Film and TelevisionSOUND AND MUSIC - Job Title: Production Sound Mixer, Job Title: Boom Operator, Job Title: Cable Man, Cabler, Sound Utility