Lulu Elliott: ”I have represented 6 mixers for over 5 years now, so I can definitely see a pattern in
terms of the early days of putting together a deal for my clients and definitely I see a pattern
where sound is not treated the same as camera in terms of aspects of the deals, with prep and
team size and even looking at the rates. I feel that we keep coming across the same issues and it
would be really good if we could raise awareness and explain where we are at with these and
then the whole negotiating process could be more time efficient and easier for everyone”
One thing we must begin with is ‘prep and wrap’.
The Bectu sound branch has never agreed to any
‘prep and wrap’ minutes and we stand by this. We
will absolutely not include any ‘prep and wrap’
time in the deal memo and actually, with the new
talks and seeing PACTs first offer, they have
agreed to abolish ‘prep and wrap’ time. When that
agreement goes through… one of the things that
PACT and Bectu have at least agreed on is that,
and we want to stand by that. We haven’t done it
for 5 years anyway.
I also find that the prep time in terms of kit for my clients for a long job is lacking. They seem to
think that it all happens in one day alone and this is absolutely not the case. We need at least
three days to prep the kit, break it all down and do the pre-programming/pre-entry meta data,
racking, re-patching, syncing, maintenance/full systems check, going through all the various
mics, configuring com teks and time codes, maybe going t0 collect additional kit that is sub-hired
which then needs additional prep time plus an extra detailed clean down due to covid. All that
takes up time and then to prep/pack the kit to load and unload we always need to have the mixer
with at least one assistant in those ‘kit prep’ days and the same for a de-rig day. We once again
need to go through maintenance and de-rig, a deep clean due to covid, general maintenance,
fixing any repairs/replacements, wear/tear of cables, full system test including all mics and
comteks, then breaking the kit down to pack away for storage.
‘This is ultimately how the camera dept works – camera kit gets
prepped specifically by the whole team for the Job, then
derigged for the job. All the same stuff happens. And when you
think that only the camera dept comes into contact with the
camera kit and how many other people come into contact with
Sound kit – there are more variables to set up, check and
maintain – timecode cables, headsets, receivers, transmitters,
lavalieres, body worn radio mic accessories etc’
Another aspect that can be a deal-breaker is having a full team and we see a full team for the
sound department as the mixer with 3 assistants and these can be in different models, where
there are two 1sts, or a 1st, a 2nd and a 3rd, or 1st, 2nd and a possibly trainee instead of a 3rd.
But absolutely three assistants at least.
We are often talked into it when they say there is only a single camera, then of course things
change and two cameras pop up and both have a full camera team each and we are there,
looking ridiculous, with a mixer, a boom op and one assistant. A three person sound team is
simply not practical. If there are two camera’s you may need both assistants to boom, which
means you need a 3rd person to start micing casts for the next scene. This is useful for the
edit and often overlooked in terms of who is going to do it and the time it takes. If you only
have 2 assistants, there is only a certain amount of compromising you can do to make sure
‘When a Sound Dept is unsuitably
resourced – it will be the cause of
counterproductive on set and back stage
friction. It will drag many minutes out of
the schedule, on every set up, each day. ‘
Having two assistants on the floor, who are managing the dynamics to ensure that the
captured sound represents the director’s vision according to the pictures. This always
depends on how the second camera is being managed which can vary. Sometimes the
second camera is simply picking off additional and similar angles to the 1st camera and so the
sound perspective can be largely managed on the floor by one 1st AS and supported by a 2nd
AS. However sometimes that second camera is managed more independently of the on the
floor and when that happens the floor is more efficient when there is a 1st AS assigned to
each camera. So the 2nd needs to step up as a 2nd 1st, therefore the 3rd needs to take care of
their own duties as a 3rd and take on 2nd duties as well, they need to be experienced, a
trainee would be out of their depth.
The role of the 2nd AS and 3rd AS has been evolving over the years. It is a technical role, but
it’s also a diplomatic role – balancing all of the needs of the Cast (sometimes A List) and of the
AD, costume and makeup departments. The role is also very creative and logistics driven.
The role entails too many factors for a 1st AS to manage alongside their own duties on the
floor and neither of these assistant roles can be delegated to the experienced and working to
learn nature of trainees.
Written by Gabi Rey and Lulu Elliott with the help of our Sound HODS Clients.