The sound department on Motivational Growth consists of Jamila Aburmishan, Ben Bradshaw, and Mike Murrie (with the occasional intern). They had a few minutes to sneak away from capturing audio during shoots (and glowering at the sounds of passing traffic) to star in our next department profile!
Q. So, how did you get started in the recording biz?
Jamila: Almost three and half years ago I transferred from Northeastern Illinois University to Columbia College Chicago, where I went from broadcast media, to a general film concentration. While studying my film core and working at CCC, I took my first sound for film course and it was as if something clicked into place. Before long I changed my concentration to Audio for Visual Media and began working on films as a location recording PA On my first project I went from being a PA to the boom op, and then, shortly there after, the mixer. The mixer I was working under, about two hours into the 12 hour shoot, was keeled over a toilet bowl, violently sick from food poisoning. That day, considering how little knowledge I had at that point and the number of things that could (and to some extent did) go wrong, I not only maintained my composure, but I had a blast! I knew from that point forward, audio engineering was my destiny.
Ben: Like a lot of people in the field, I got into recording primarily because of music. I grew up in a musical family, and started playing guitar around the age of 13. I was always around audio equipment, because I was involved in so many bands. It just made sense for me to study something I already loved.
Mike: Well I just recently graduated Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, class of 2010. I specifically studied Location Recording/Mixing and sound design for film. For the past two and a half I have been studying and working on productions of all sorts. Music videos, documentaries and short films have been a large part of my audio experience. I am now involved with a handful of amazing projects that I am currently working on. As a matter of fact one of the projects that ended this summer lead me to Motivational Growth.
Q. How did you come to work on Motivational Growth?
Jamila: Honestly, I just applied for it online, from Indeed.com I believe. I had just graduated in May and in July took a chance and started an audio Engineering business. So exhausting all my other attempts to find work, I applied for a series of projects, hoping for something worth my while. Then, as I was wrapping up a project from hell, I got a phone call from Alexis, and, well, the rest is history!
Ben: Jamila brought me on.
Mike: I got involved with MG from a previous project I was BoomOp-ing on. I met sound mixer/recorder Jamila Abrumshun. We worked really well together on the last project which afterwards she invited me to work with her on a project she was very excited about. I really have been lucky to work on really interesting productions since I graduated TFPA.
Q. Tell me about your workflow…
Jamila: I have a work flow that is constantly reinventing itself, with some basic points: organization, efficiency, and innovation. I love keeping my cart clean and organized, that way, when I’m shuffling back and forth, over giant cords, things don’t run amuck, risking loss or damage. Nearly every piece of machinery I use is very expensive and requires vigilant maintenance. It helps maintain a longer equipment lifespan, which is more cost effective in the long run. Though, the only thing I like better, is finding new and more effective ways of doing my job. I can tell you right now one of the most important tools for an audio engineer is his/her ability to troubleshoot. You can work in this business all your life and never know all the possibilities. It’s very important to not get too habitual and to keep yourself open to new perspectives and ways of doing things. When you can see a problem from as many perspectives as possible, you’re able to find the best possible means of getting something done, as well as alternative options for backup. It’s important to always be prepared.
Ben: With sound, there is rarely a “right” answer. Sometimes the best plan is not to have a plan. It helps to be involved in the setting up of a shot so you know what to expect, but most of the time you have to be flexible and work around problems.
Mike: I have been the Boom Operator and have been assisting mic-ing all the actors. I also make sure that the production sound on set is the best that it can be. Setting up and breaking down is also a huge part of my job responsibilities. Also troubleshooting!!!!! Being prepared!!!!
Q. What are some of the cool projects that you worked on before this film?
Jamila: Well there are quite a few, thankfully. I have worked on a couple of features previous to this project that were much more of a learning experience than a ‘cool’ experience.
I have worked on several Columbia College shorts and have been positively amazed at what we’re capable of, even as just students. I’ve had the pleasure of recording sync sound for several first, second and third level directing and productions courses, as well as practicum and graduate projects. Though I would have to say my favorites were the special studies projects. These special studies projects are heavily film focused courses, where sound is literally just an after thought. Being very social at Columbia, especially amongst the Cinematography students, who normally weren’t allowed or interested in sound, began approaching me to record sound on their projects. Though it was unpaid, it was a blessing to have my audio paired with such visually stunning film.
Ben: I have done post-production on a few films for Columbia students and friends I made at school. However, the project I’m most proud of is my CD. Music is my first love, and I’ve been trying to record a CD for a long time. Recording a CD is one of my life goals. It is almost finished, and I am extremely happy with the way it has turned out.
Mike: A documentary I have been lead mixing for is ‘Sadermania’ about a young man who is Hulk Hogans biggest fan who turns best friends with with one of the biggest wrestlers in our time.
Q. What kind of challenges did you run into on M.G.?
Jamila: Well I could give you a list longer then the script, but I won’t even start that. Other than a constant barrage of traffic, trains and unloading trucks, recording clean tracks has been next to impossible. Though I have to say the most significant challenge was the frequency interferences we experienced before we decided to switch to night shoots. The warehouse we’re shooting at happens to have the power wired much like a grid. And during the day with all the other business powering the building, we weren’t only getting bleed form their machinery, but it was also turning this grid into a magnetic field. In the basic physics of audio systems, power an electrical grid and get a magnetic field. Putting another powered magnetic circuit (microphones) in this powered field, it will turn it into a very powerful antenna. So basically, there was a creepy religious channel broadcasting itself all over my recordings! With a few pointers from my colleagues and moving to night shoots, we were able to remove all the interference, though not before giving me a panic attack.
Mike: Good sound on set! Outside noises and interference.
Q. How is it working with Don?
Jamila: Honestly, I would say working with Don is much like working with a sibling. I do have two older sisters, and his interests and demeanor reminds me a great deal of them. They’re all quick witted, keeping me on my toes, and always expecting nothing but the best from me. I would also say, with his pervious experience as an IT guy, he understands the language I speak in when it comes to troubleshooting, and doesn’t pressure me to find a solution quickly, because he understand that’s exactly what I am doing. But most importantly, it’s nice to finally work for a director that knows exactly what he wants.
Ben: Sometimes I get intimidated by the idea that Don is the Director, but then I’ll go and chat with him. He doesn’t put himself above us, like we are ants that scurry about his feet. He surrounded himself with talented people, and seems happy that we are all giving him our best.
Mike: Nothing less that great!!!
Q. Any interesting stories from the set?
Jamila: I’d have to say the most interesting stories have to come from the special effects team at Tolin FX. They truly brought this feature to life. From hand crafted alien masks, to exploding alien heads, a talking [REDACTED] puppet, to a long dead, rotting corpse, the special effects team were some of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasures of working along side. I would have said previous to this project, I had a good grasp on how special effects generally worked, but now spending nearly eight weeks with the likes of Steve, Jeff and Midian, I can comfortably admit I don’t know my ass from apple sauce.
Mike: I can’t go into specifics but yes plenty.
Q. How do you feel about this production, overall?
Jamila: Blessed. I truly feel blessed. The likes of this project is a exactly the type of project I dreamt of working on when I first decided to go to film school. It’s an honor to be living my dream, and so soon after graduation! I have the pleasure of not only being a part of the production sound recording, but I’ve also been asked to lead the post-production audio mix. It’s refreshing to be apart of a project where everybody is legitimately invested in the creation of something profound. I think this is a project anyone can easily connect to, whether you’re apart of its creation or apart of it consumption.
Mike: This production has been one of the most amazing production experiences in my short audio career. From the script to the director to all the actors and everyone else involved, throughout all the challenges the best part of the production was being involved with a professional, fun, smart production.
Ben: The film has been challenging, which is a good sign to me. People are really pushing themselves to make this film great, and I’m always happy to rise to the occasion. Also, anything with puppets or animatronics is cool by me.