Case study

Sound assistant — Kirsty Wright

Kirsty explains how she gained her current position as a second sound assistant doing dallies on a low budget feature film

How did you become a sound assistant?

I did an undergraduate degree in Classical Studies at Newcastle University. I won the Senior Johnson Prize for achieving the highest degree in the School of Historical Studies when I graduated in 2015.

I then studied for a Postgraduate Diploma in Production Sound for Film and Television at the National Film and Television School (NFTS).

I was contacted by the production sound mixer, who graduated from the NFTS two years previous to me. As I was based locally to the film shoot, and the mixer knew the level of training I had received I quickly became part of his team. I also got onto the Creative Skillset Trainee scheme as a sound trainee, which is a valuable asset to my career development.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My undergraduate degree was not relevant, however when I was studying I attained three years of experience in the sound department working on micro-budget productions and student films.

My postgraduate degree was pivotal in my career. The NFTS is renowned as one of the best film schools internationally, and the course is singular in training eight students a year to the highest standards. I gained a wealth of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in production sound, which I value so much now that I am working professionally in the industry.

What are your main work activities?

Working days are 11 hours long. When I arrive on set, or on location each day I help the sound department to set up. This includes putting batteries in the kit, setting up microphones and jam syncing the sound and camera equipment. Throughout the day I have many responsibilities including boom operating, planting microphones and concealing personal microphones.

Gaining work experience on productions is a great way to understand the role of a working sound department

What are your career ambitions?

My career ambitions are to continue to work as a second sound assistant on feature films and television dramas, and to eventually step up to become a first sound assistant.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love how varied each day is, and being creative in problem solving to help the department achieve the best possible sound in a given set up.

What are the challenges?

There may be a location that is less than ideal to record sound in, and it is part of my job to help minimise these problems.

The work is also very physically demanding so it's important that you are physically fit.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into the sound industry?

I would suggest getting as much hands-on experience as possible working on a set, even at student level. Find and attend networking events in order to meet as many people as possible within the industry.

Also, gain work experience on productions. This is a great way to understand the role of a working sound department.

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