5 minute read

SOUND AND MUSIC

Job Title: Soundman, Production Soundman, Or Sound Technician

Job Overview

A production soundman records on set sound.

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

“Don't get caught up in money,” says soundman Detdrick McClure. Many refuse the opportunity to work, gain experience, and make contacts, because they will not accept low or no paying jobs. When you're starting out, “It's not about the money; it's about who you are going to be brushing elbows with. You have to be willing to sacrifice. There were times when I couldn't afford to go home to see my folks or friends and family because I chose to be here. You have to stick with it and be willing to suck it up.

“Take anything. I did things for free because the name of the game is meeting people. Work hard and let people see your work ethic, busting your butt. Then they'll call you and say, ‘Hey, man, you worked really hard for nothing. I got a show next week and I need a PA'—and you're hired. Do whatever you can to just get in and meet people.”

Professional Profile: Detdrick McClure, Soundman (Writer/Director)

Star Wars was the film that made Detdrick McClure want to be a filmmaker. He was only eight at the time. As he grew older, movies seemed out of reach for a kid from Georgia with neither contacts in the business nor a bankroll to fund the endeavor.

McClure enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) as a graphic design student, switched his major to painting and then architecture, before settling in as a film and video major. “It was the mid-to-late ‘80s, when independent film started to happen with Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch—filmmakers like that, making movies for about $30,000 to $100,000. No money at all, no stars; just writing a script and making a movie. That was the first time that I saw you could just do it. You could be nobody, from nowhere, and just do it. That was like a light bulb going off. It was the first time I knew I wanted to and could be in this industry.”

After graduating in 1990, he returned to his Atlanta home to work for the summer and save money. That Fall he drove out to California, “because Los Angeles is the center of the entertainment industry.” He stayed with a college friend who had graduated a year earlier, who gave him five names with telephone numbers to begin his job search.

What do you love most about your job?

“What I love most about my job is sitting down to do an interview with someone that is interesting to hear talk. They could be a plumber or they could be a president. I've listened to the top and the bottom: Louis Farrakhan to OJ, and every celebrity you can think of—Jesse Jacksonamazing people that I admire. The best thing is, you get to sit and listen to people and learn something about them. “Detdrick McClure

One of McClure's first jobs was as a runner for a production company that was preparing for an out-of-town shoot. He drove all over Los Angeles, delivering airline tickets to the cast and crew. His next break was working on the American Music Awards show: “My job was to answer the phone on the stage. I was there for about four weeks and the phone rang probably four times. That was my job.” With many of the awards shows crewing up, he was able to go from one show to another. “You get on one show and meet people and when that show ends, those people go to something else and you bug them for work until you're working with them on the next thing. Work begets work.” Sometimes he worked for free, just to meet people and gain experience.

After working as a production assistant on various music videos, sometimes for 24 hours straight without a break, McClure decided it was time to refocus his career goals. “That is when I decided to do sound. I knew it paid better and was a lot easier. A lot of this town is all about perception. You have to create whoever you are and so I just said Tm a soundman,’ even though I'd only done sound a little bit here and there. I really wasn't that good at it and didn't know all the things one should know.” He worked for free on his first projects, seizing the opportunity to gain sound experience. “You might not be getting paid, but you're working with the gear, so it's on-the-job training.”

CAREER TIPS

* “There is a quote about making bold moves and great forces will come to your aidI believe that. My first bold move was to get in my car and move from Georgia to Los Angeles, never having left the South. You have to be bold in what you want to do and go directly to it as much as you can.”Detdrick McClure

* “Be willing to work on things that don't pay a lot or don't pay at all because it's all about meeting people. It's all about knowing people that can shape the different aspects of your career.”Detdrick McClure

McClure gained valuable experience running sound, and as a cameraman when he was hired as a camera assistant for the second year of Real World. “After the camera guys or sound guys went into overtime [which the production did not want to pay], they would say ‘Okay, camera assistant, you're shooting’ or ‘You're doing sound.’”

Just as the Real World experience came to an end, the OJ Simpson trial was heating up. The media demand for crew members was so great that it created a shortage of cameramen and soundmen. McClure landed work with American Journal and Inside Edition, working 10-hour days, five days a week. “I went from being a PA, making a very minimum amount of money and just barely scraping by, to full time, doubling my salary in a year.”

All along, McClure had been writing a script he hoped to one day direct. The sudden increase in income provided an opportunity to invest in himself and make his first film, Road Dogs. He continues to work as a soundman, while writing and developing other projects he plans to direct.

Additional topics

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