Sound recordist Becky Thomson

Job title: Sound recordist
Industries: Film/TV

Becky Thomson is both a film and television sound recordist and an occasional boom operator. Film and TV sound recording entails responsibility for all the sound that you record on location. Nothing is done afterwards back at the studio. Her latest work includes More Than an Image (Hannah Laycock) and Look what I Do

Describe your job in your own words

I make sure that the sound is clear and is going to work for the final process. Boom operating is the other half of the team where you position microphones around the actors for optimum sound.

How did you get into the industry?

I was at university doing biology when I discovered the radio station. Music was my first love and I spent some time working in radio and making programmes but also putting together a studio. After that, I went into freelance radio and then as a broadcaster for independent radio. I got a chance to train in sound recording. I did an apprenticeship specifically in film location sound and then learnt video as it came along.

One day I was sitting in Inverness working in radio and my contract was about to end. I saw this man, Bill Rowe, who was a senior dubbing mixer talking about the Oscar he'd just won for doing the sound for Chariots of Fire. I wrote to him and sent him a tape of what I was doing in sound. He phoned me back and said to visit next time I'm in London. I went, spent some time in dubbing and that really helped me to make a decision to go for training in sound. The film industry is full of wonderful people who are really happy to give up their time to people who want to come into the industry. I think that's marvellous and inspiring.

How do you find work?

Scotland is small enough that you get a fair number of phone calls on spec for work anyway, which is very nice. My name is in the directory where they find me and just phone up. If I'm really short of work, what I do is sit down and upgrade my CV. 

What training or education did you find most useful?

Everybody's talking about changing technology and sound is no exception to that. Funnily enough, microphones really don't change but it's the video and computer technology. There's a lot of relevant magazines available to keep a track on what's new and what people are saying about it. There's an Institute of Broadcast Sound, where they argue and debate which is critical to keep up when the industry is moving. This in-service training is essential. You can't say I've learnt this now. You have to keep at it all the time.

Also the BBC produces some great health and safety information. In my particular job, cables are the biggest problem. It is very, very easy to run a cable out on the street and have someone fall over it. I'd be mortified if that happened. Really, when it comes to sound - [beware of] cables, and don't hit anybody with the boom pole.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

My advice for people coming into the industry is that you have to give 100% to get into it. If you don't give the most that you can give, work for nothing for a long time, and take every opportunity you can get, there will be somebody else who will. You have to be completely committed to being in it or you won't survive.

The reality about working in film and television is you will give your life to it. If you are a technician it will probably take you away from home. Not just for a period of time like weeks, but even if you live at home you'll be out at 6am and back at 10pm. It's hard to keep a relationship and it's impossible to see your children if you have them. That's so serious that I think that people coming into the industry should understand that it's exciting but once you've made it into the industry and that's your lifestyle, how are you going to change that?

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