John Fielden has over 30 years experience as a sound engineer for local, national and international movies, episodic TV, commercials, sports, and news programming. He is the author of two books, “Roll Sound!” A Practical Guide for Location Audio and Videographers Audio Handbook.
John joins our line up of Elements of Film/Video Production instructors on Tuesday, July 24 from 6:30pm at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Krauss Hall room 012, where he will be sharing his expertise on sound. Go to www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm to register or call 956-8400.
John kindly obliged to answer a few questions for our blog-reading audience.
What’s your favorite movie?
I don’t like this question. My favorite movies represent emotion and artistic story telling. So this question is as if you are asking me what is my favorite memory or fable about someone’s life. Impossible to answer. I have movies from my childhood, which I loved, such as Mary Poppins and James Bond. I was thrilled by the technical marvels in Star Wars. And I’ve never been so stunned in the theater from the likes of Hitchcock’s The Birds or Spielberg’s Jaws. But to answer your question. My favorite most recent movie is The Descendents. I think the movie is as good if not better than the book.
What do you enjoy the most about being an audio engineer?
The answer to this question comes in two parts, technical and artistry. I’m a geek hound. I love electronic toys. So becoming an audio engineer with its knobs, lights, rotating wheels of tape was a natural fit. I started in the music industry. Never could play an instrument. But found by working behind the scenes in a recording studio I could create those same tunes I would hear on the radio. Thus enhancing my creative side. Although commercials are commerce, movies too in the long run, they still involve some form of storytelling and being a part of that is the fun.
Audio engineers on set are also a different breed. We are a part of the overall production, but generally, we are left alone to our own devices on how and what we do to record sound. This for me is the best of both worlds. Especially as a boom operator, where you are in the middle of production, yet still an outsider.
You’ve seen a lot of productions come and go here in Hawaii. What were some things they appreciated, as well as found difficult, about working in Hawaii?
The most outstanding comment I have heard from mainland productions shooting in Hawaii was the camaraderie of the workers. Unlike the mainland, where production travels from all over, in Hawaii we are a tighter knit group of people. Not only do we work with certain individuals but we also see them at local events or grocery stores, making them more than just a work associate.
The most difficult thing about productions in Hawaii is the reason why they come here. The weather. You can’t control it. If production doesn’t learn to adapt and expect the unexpected, cost overruns and production delays can create a lot of pressure.
From a technical standpoint, what’s the most difficult production you’ve ever done?
In Hawaii, they are all difficult. That’s why we get hired. Weather and the environment dictates and you must adapt. From monsoon storms in the jungle, trying to keep the mud and rain out of the gear, to transferring from boat-to-boat in high seas, protecting your gear, protecting yourself. In my time, it was rare to sit in a studio, flip the lights on, power up the equipment and you’re ready to go. We usually had to hump the gear up mountainsides or down ravines, fly over volcanoes, and float in inner-tubes or kayaks with our equipment perilously close to destruction from salt spray, incessant rain or tumbling down the jungle thicket.