Chad Orororo on ScreenSkills' Film Forward programme

The Film Forward initiative is designed to create change in the UK film industry by supporting experienced Black, Asian or minority ethnic professionals to advance into more senior roles.

Chad is stepping up from Sound designer (in-house) to assistant sound editor/designer (feature film).

For sound designer Chad Orororo, working in film has been the dream since he was a 15-year-old hooked on Transformers at the cinema.

“I was sitting there watching that movie and I just said to myself, ‘no way, I’ve got to do this, man’. It’s with film that I find myself most immersed in sound – I find my heart racing and tears coming to my eyes, like ‘I belong here, this is what I should be doing’. Film has always been the end point for me – where I want to be.”

Back then, the notion of being a ‘sound designer’ wasn’t even on his radar – already obsessed with music, he had decided music production was the way to go. His father, a DJ, introduced him to a local music studio in Deptford, south east London, where he spent most weekends and after school sitting in on sessions and playing around on the equipment.

“I’ve always wanted to do creative sound work, and it helped me gain an understanding of the creative process and the sonic elements, and how sound affects the mood,” he recalls.

At Kingston University Chad studied Creative Music Technology – but it was a module in his second year that set his heart racing again, just as that childhood trip to the cinema had done.

He was tasked with stripping out a two-minute scene from the Pixar movie WALL-E and creating his own soundscape: “We were sent out with recording devices and told, ‘replace those sounds’. I just remember thinking, ‘this is it, I can do this for the rest of my life’. I aced that module.”

From there Chad took on work experience with a couple of production companies and landed a job as a runner in the machine room at post-production house Evolutions. He also joined the trainee scheme at Sara Putt Associates and busied himself outside of work blagging stints on various short film projects with a sound engineer friend. “We just wanted the chance to gain experience,” he says.

In 2015 he joined Molinare as a machine room operator and for the past six years has stayed in-house, working his way up through assistant re-recording mixer to sound designer. Among the early productions he worked on were the Oscar-winning documentary The White Helmets. He was also sound designer for the BIFA-nominated short film The Forgotten C and has worked on sound design for BAFTA and Emmy-nominated documentary Three Identical Strangers.

But in the back of his mind the dream was always to go freelance and aim for film. The difficulty, as he notes, is coming from a background – he is of Nigerian-Grenadian heritage – that is devastatingly under-represented in the industry. Without connections to speak of, knowing the best route has not been easy.

That’s where applying for Film Forward – ScreenSkills’ new programme to help experienced industry professionals into more senior roles - came in: “It’s very difficult to find a course that is effective and helps you in post-production sound. It seems to be a niche area of the industry and it can be really nepotism-heavy – it’s who you know. A lot of the time I’ve spent in the industry has been trying to find out how to take the next steps; I’ve never really known how to get there so it’s basically starting off with a blank slate. It’s very easy just to become another cog in the wheel.”

The 29-year-old adds: “What appealed to me about Film Forward was that it’s tailored to people from under-represented backgrounds. In post-production it’s phenomenal how disproportionate it still is. I’ve seen more diversification recently but in lower-level positions – not heads of department.

“I’ve thought to myself, I could be one of the only people of colour doing the job of sound supervisor. It can feel a bit lonely so Film Forward has given me a sense of belonging; they’re basically saying ‘we acknowledge that it’s been difficult for you and we are here to facilitate and help you’.”

Chad starts his placement, as assistant effects editor on new Chi Thai feature film Raging Grace, in March 2022.

It will give him the springboard he’s been looking for: “I’ve made a strong reputation for myself – I’ve got the technical credentials. But it’s the glass ceiling of not having the experience or connections to work in a different genre. This is going to enable me to utilise my skills in the place I want to end up being. I wish I’d done it two or three years ago but I just didn’t know how to step into it.”

In five years’ time he hopes Film Forward will have helped him to make the leap into being a supervising sound editor for big screen features.

Most of all, he relishes the prospect of combining two of his greatest loves: sound - “it’s like going back to my childhood, being a kid playing with sound and seeing what I get out of it. It sounds corny but I just have so much fun” - and a heritage rich in storytelling: “The stories that come from my culture are all stories with a message, a moral. That’s where I want to be - part of a team that is all about telling stories from diverse backgrounds.”

And for any newcomers, he says: “I’d just say ‘do it’. Sometimes you can overthink your way out of a situation before you even get involved. Find someone you can speak to that works specifically with sound. And go to the UK Post Sound Collective (ukpsc.co.uk), which was set up to provide industry advice and contacts to people from under-represented backgrounds.”

CV Summary

Chad is an award-winning sound designer who has worked on a string of high-end feature film documentaries, including the Oscar-winning The White Helmets. He has six years’ experience behind him specialising in post-production sound for Molinare, working his way up to assistant re-recording mixer. Past projects include the BIFA-nominated short film The Forgotten C, the BAFTA and Emmy-nominated documentary Three Identical Strangers, and acclaimed Netflix documentaries Don’t F*** With Cats and Tell Me Who I Am. He was winner of the Best Sound Design Award at the Music + Sound Awards UK for the documentary feature film Serendipity. In 2019 he won the Royal Television Society gong for Sound – Entertainment & Non-Drama with Channel 4’s Married to a Paedophile. In recent years he has made the move into narrative drama and film – combining his love for sound with the story-telling traditions that are so integral to his Nigerian-Grenadian background.