Everybody I have asked for advice on how to make a film has told me the same thing: the most important thing is sound as it either can’t be fixed in post-production or will cost a lot to fix in post-production. Everyone says this, everyone means it, but in the film pecking order sound recordists quietly go about their awesome business knowing when it all goes well no-one will notice (think about it, when did you last see a film and think ‘that birdsong wild track sounded fantastic’?), but when it all goes wrong all eyes will be on them. To be a sound recordist it would seem that you have to be an engineer, a listener, have super patience, be personable (I’m not sure I’d let anyone feed a microphone down my back who doesn’t speak a word of my language), have an endless supply of pens, tape and bongo ties, and did I mention patience? Sound recordist would be my worst job ever, practically I don’t have the arm strength to keep a boom in the air for more than 30 seconds, and substantively my ego is overly big to go unrecognised and overly nervy to mess it up.
Fortunately the tremendous (I really don’t have enough superlatives to describe him) Tom Osborn has all of these qualities and doesn’t think being a sound recordist is a bad idea. Tom is tremendous as he’s super good at his job, he produced a beer for me (I swear from up his sleeve) after a very tense airport encounter which may have led to me proposing to him (my partner of 12 years is cool with this, and agreed he’d probably have done the same), has a number of Tomisms that lightened many a mood during the shoot, taught me about sound waves (the science bit), and apart from one 4second grimace he did not get phased by the ridiculous number of obstacles he had to overcome.
Here are some examples:
‘Tom this is Justus, he doesn’t speak above a whisper.’ – ‘Oh you’re not actually joking. Okay’ *Tom then disappears to produce a makeshift improvised whisperer microphone*
‘You are correct Tom, where we’re shooting is directly across from a bar playing loud music’
Wind. (a non-sound recordist never notices it’s windy unless they have long hair and recently applied lipgloss, but turns out wind is everywhere and quite noisy).
Barber shop starts playing loud music, ignores my begging to turn it off or down. Tom walks across with his Gandalf-stick (surely that’s how every sound recordist sees their boom?) and the music stops.
All dialogue is in Swahili. Tom speaks lots of languages fluently, Swahili is not one of them.
Every woman involved in the film had a baby. Babies cry a lot, especially when taking away from their Mum. Tom simultaneously recorded sound in an airless van while entertaining baby Charles to stop him from crying.
‘We’re going to shoot day for night’ – Tom ‘hmm tricky, but it can be done’.
For me, the last sentence sums up Tom. The answer is always ‘it can be done’ despite it being a right pain for him and doing all the sound on his own. We haven’t got a sound engineer on the case yet, but am sure any issues with sound will not be Tom’s fault. If any dialogue is audible then he’s been a triumph!