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Before starting at Service Care Solutions in 2013, I had been working in the film industry as a boom operator, and on occasions, production sound mixer from about 2006. For those that don’t know, a boom operator is the person you see in ‘behind the scenes’ videos that is swinging the microphone around on set catching the dialogue, as well as being responsible for mic-ing up the actors.

Andrew, holding the boom, and Scarlett Johansson 

I had always been interested in film growing up, and have a good ear when it comes to audio. I spent a lot of my time playing in bands and recording music throughout my teens so this was probably the reason I went into the audio side of film. After College, I decided that I wanted to go further with film and went on to University to do a hands-on Film & Television production course at (what was then) Leeds Metropolitan University. It was a three year course that allowed me to make short films, get to know and use industry equipment, and also go on work placements on actual productions around the local area like Emmerdale. I started getting small gigs around Leeds working with a charity production company that went to schools around the Leeds area to get pupils making short films that would be shown at the Leeds Young Persons Film Festival. Doing this provided me with some small pay cheques but ultimately opened up a lot of networking within the Film Festival and local production companies. For the rest of my time at University I worked on some TV productions around Leeds, camera crew at Download Festival in 2007, and several documentaries.

When I graduated University I took out a loan to buy some sound equipment and started to boom op for some sound recordists on low budget feature films. I ended up moving down to London in early 2008 as a lot of the work I was doing was based down there. I continued working on low budget features for a while, TV commercials, and anything that I could get as living in London is not cheap! After a year of low budget horror films, which, don’t get me wrong, I do love and to this day - Hellraiser is still my horror flick, I got a call from a sound mixer who I had worked with and asked if I was available for a week and a half to go and boom op for him over in Wales on a film called ‘The Killer Elite’. I said “ye, sounds good!”. So off we went to wales to do this gig which had mostly been filmed in Australia, and it was eye opening! Up until this point I had worked on single camera productions whereas this was multi camera (several cameras rolling on a scene at one time), I didn’t have to mic up the actors as the boom op from Australia (Chris) had come over as he wanted to visit England and he already knew the actors so I left it to him. Shot 1, take 1 and we were all set, “roll sound”, “roll camera” I was following the actor with the boom as he sat down in a military base to add a drug into Jason Statham’s drink when, “Cut!” and a very loud, angry looking Australian camera operator comes marching over to me shouting “your f**king booms in shot mate! Sort it out!”. This then quickly had me realise that they were shooting three cameras, two which I had seen and accounted for, and the other shooting pretty bloody wide which was seeing the boom following the guy all the way to the table. Needless to say that from that moment on I became the camera departments best mate on every job, I was a bloody boom ninja.

After Killer Elite, we started working on higher profile jobs with big budgets which required a lot of thought and planning. More and more directors were wanting as much ‘useable’ on-set dialogue, effects and atmos than before. Over the years, sound has been viewed as something that can be ‘fixed’ in post-production. What I mean by this is that when you are recording dialogue on set, as a sound guy you want everything else to be as silent as possible so you get the dialogue as clean as possible. Practical effects such as wind machines, noisy locations, or a heavy-footed camera op on steady cam moving around during a take would make unwanted noise all over the sound track, thus meaning that the onset dialogue is unusable. Once it comes to sound post production, fixing this unusable dialogue means that the actors would need to come into a recording studio somewhere, sometimes a year after actually filming and do ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) and replicate the dialogue, in sync to the picture. Not only does this mean more costs for the production to bring the actors back in, but also means the actors would need to get back into character and replicate the same way they did it originally.

We ended up doing a job for 12 weeks up in Scotland called ‘Under The Skin’ which was directed by Jonathan Glazier who had previously done ‘Sexy Beast’, and he was very clear that he wanted every sound from our location recording. Basically the premise of the film is that Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who is on Earth and drives around Scotland picking up men so that she can take them away and harvest them for food. The director wanted Scarlett to drive around in the van and actually talk to real people on the street, actual members of the public without them knowing that they were being filmed. We had to rig the van with microphones that were discreet so no one would notice them but would still pick up everything they were saying clearly. We ended up having the ‘hero’ mic on Scarlett all the time, several boom mics rigged in the front of the van in case people got in, and several hidden lav mics on the outside of the van doors so that this would catch the dialogue of people speaking toward the windows. The van was rigged so it looked like a normal white transit but would also fit 6 crew members in the back where the director would also sit and be able to speak to Scarlett via a concealed earpiece. Other times during the production we had Scarlett walking around a shopping centre, the streets of Glasgow and also a scene in a nightclub that wasn’t staged. The nightclub we used was filmed on a night that was full of real people, not extras, and they had no idea that a film crew was inside shooting a film. That night I was sat in a small cupboard that housed the amps and master controls for the clubs PA system. When we were doing a take and Dialogue was happening, I would mix down the music from the DJ to get clearer dialogue, he really wasn’t pleased about that! This was probably the most challenging film I have worked on, we shot in the highlands and woods we got hit by extreme weather that put us knee deep in snow, rain and cold. Not the most pleasant conditions to work in from 5.30am till 7pm for 12 weeks!

Working in the film industry was amazing but the actual job is far from glamorous; months away from home, night shoots for weeks, out in all the elements, and lugging large amounts of heavy gear everywhere you go. Some nights you get back home or to your hotel room after a 14 hour day, soaked through from shooting in the rain all day (even though you wore waterproofs!) and think, is this really worth it? But ye, it was worth it, I have worked with some great people, and been able to go to places ``that I would never have thought of.

We love having people from a variety of backgrounds work for us. If you are looking for a role in recruitment, please contact HR here 

 To see a full list of films that Andrew has worked on, please click here.
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