I've been in the industry long enough to notice some trends among successful sound editors. Those that stick around and do well for themselves, ensuring the longer term show placements, share a handful of characteristics. Here are some traits I've found have served many of us well here at Boom Box Post.
Always Having Your Ears Open
Sound editorial, like any creative career, thrives on passion. A great sound editor will ways have their ears open for new material. Just the other day I was at one of our mix stages making a Keurig cup of tea. We’ve all used these machines and know what they sound like. But this particular cup, as the steam pushed through the last of the liquid, made a super crazy whistling/gurgling sound that was somewhat other-worldly. I turned, hot tea in hand, to find a sound designer friend sitting on the couch in the lobby. “Well that was a cool sound!” he exclaimed. I told him I was thinking the exact same thing. Of course we couldn’t help but laugh. We’re all part of a tribe of oddballs, just walking around the world with our ears open looking for that next bit of inspiration. I for one am constantly breaking out my SONY PCM M-10 (never leave home without it!) when I hear interesting new sounds. Even my iPhone works in a time crunch. Be this inspired by what you do. Join the tribe.
A Thick Skin
I recently gave a talk to some middle school students and broke down the collaborative creative process like this: it’s kind of like being asked to draw a picture of an airplane, flying high in the sky on a sunny day. You take hours, sometimes even days to draw the perfect picture. You put your heart and soul into this drawing. Then you sit down with the director and while you may get some praise, the likelihood of reaching perfection on the first try is pretty small. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll hear that the plane is too big, or the sky too blue or that in fact it should never have been a plane, but rather a train. THAT is collaboration. And those who can see it from the other side - look at the work objectively and even AGREE with the changes being made (for the greater good of the project of course) are going to make it. You can never be too precious about your work, and that thick skin will serve you well in any creative endeavor.
We here at Boom Box Post get resumes every day. Prospective interns, assistants and freelance sound editors all looking for work. And that’s a fantastic thing. If you’re taking the step to reach out to studios you admire you’re already ahead of the game. Conversely, if you can’t muster the energy to get your name out there, chances are you’ll have a tough time motivating yourself to stay in front of your computer editing for ten plus hours a day. And that’s the job. You will not last in a gig if you need to constantly be hounded to get your work done on time. That giant stack of resumes that grows here each day? Those are the self motivated editors who are just itching for a chance to prove themselves.
A Great Sense of Humor
Being funny will serve you well in life. As a sound editor, having a great sense of humor opens you up to all kinds of projects. This is especially true in our concentrated field of animation. Even heavy action shows will lighten things up with humor once in a while. Sound editors that are funny intrinsically inject humor and levity into their work. And do you know how hard it is to get someone to laugh? Especially someone sitting and analyzing every aspect of your work?Get a Supervising Sound Editor to laugh out loud in a preview and I can guarantee you’ve got yourself more work on the way.
The Ability to Multi-Task
You’ll start your morning with a full cup of coffee and a goal to fill up your Pro Tools session. You may even have one of those rare days where you don’t know where the time went and you accomplished more than you expected. But more likely than not, you’ll get a request from your supervisor for a render of some sounds or notes that need to be addressed on a previous episode. Try jumping back and forth through hoops all day while continuing a steady output of new work. Multi-tasking is important with any job but when you’re in a creative field it can really trip some people up. When your attention is being drawn in many directions, it can be hard to create. Those with experience know how to push past this hurdle. To jump in and out of ‘creative mode’ at any given moment. "I was just too busy to find time to be creative" is an unacceptable excuse.