Continuing our series meeting people from all around dock10, we caught up with Madeleine Jones who talked us through what it's like working as entry-level sound assistant.
As a sound assistant, start times vary a lot with each production but it's usually between 8am and 10:30am. The other sound assistants and I meet in the sound gallery with the sound supervisor who quickly runs us through the set up for the day. We'll then bring all the gear from the loading bay to the studio and set it up – this includes different speakers, radio microphones, audience microphones secured on the grid, and IEMs (in-ear monitors) and their transmitters. We will then check everything is working properly and test volume levels on the sound supervisor's end of things. Once the presenters and contestants are ready, we will secure radio mics and IEMs to them.
The rest of the day will involve rehearsals and/or recordings depending on the schedule of the show. For a more established show like University Challenge or Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, there'll be very little rehearsal and mostly recording as everyone knows how the show runs. But for a pilot, there'll be a lot more rehearsals for things like testing camera shots and running through the script with stand-ins. In both cases, for sounds assistants, much of the day is being on standby if anything goes wrong and keeping a good level of communication with the sound supervisor about what's going on.
My background is probably unusual for someone in the media industry. I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2017 with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and had a few jobs over the next few years relating to my passion for social justice. I was always very involved in music and audio-related activities outside of work, but it wasn't until the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns that, with all the extra time to reflect, I realised I wasn't happy in a desk job and wanted to do something hands-on in audio. I looked into courses and completed an evening course in Audio Engineering at the School of Electronic Music in 2021. A lot of that course was centred around music but it also covered sound for visual media which elicited a passion I didn't know I had. Shortly after, I was looking for jobs in MediaCity and saw dock10 advertising an entry level sound assistant role. I didn't think I would even get an interview but now here I am!
Just the Audio Engineering course I mentioned before – I don't have a degree or previous work experience relating to the industry like most of my colleagues do. But dock10 were more interested in the enthusiasm of applicants rather than having the experience or qualifications. The whole point of their training scheme is to gain the experience, knowledge and contacts you need to thrive in the industry. It's been a positive experience so far, there's been a lot to learn, and I've really enjoyed getting stuck in.
I haven't worked in the industry that long but so far I most enjoy the relatively laid-back environment and how open and honest people are about how the industry works and how to progress within it. And more specifically with sound, I love getting to learn about and spend time with lots of audio technology.
If you don't ask, you won't get. Don't be afraid to apply for jobs you think are beyond your capability or to send an email to a company you'd like to do some shadowing or training at. If people don't respond, it's nothing personal, you just have to keep at it until you get noticed!