Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Last Rites goes Full Time

M-Net is a new network.
The American location is based
in Culver City, CA

Hey all. It's been very long indeed since I've been able to post here, but hopefully that will change soon. As of last Friday, I no longer work at Columbia College Hollywood as the Administrative Coordinator. It has been a difficult transition, as I had worked at Columbia in one capacity or another for six years. In fact, the only job I've had in California that wasn't at Columbia was at It's Mitz Productions. Even there, I was constantly dealing with the college because by boss was an instructor and Dept. Chair at Columbia. I really have to laugh because even right now I'm not ALL the way gone; I still teach Production Sound on Monday nights, but otherwise that's it for me.

Finally, after so many years, I am making a living in the film business, even if it's the fringes of the business. Since giving my notice in January, I have been very lucky to attract some well-financed clients and booked some consistent work.

My most regular paycheck comes from a new network called M-Net. They are actually a new offshoot of an established network in South Korea. Their specialty here in the states is programming for the Asian-American audience. The show I work for is called BPM (stands for Beats Per M-Net). This is a one-hour, hosted studio show that covers music videos and other buzz-worthy topics for the young demographic.

The show tapes (normally) two days a week; two episodes per day. These are LONG days, routinely clocking in at about 12 hours. With the network already approved for a 200+ episode order, I have already found a consistent paycheck and my basic needs are met (rent, food, gas, etc). This is a huge relief after leaving Columbia.

BPM will air on M-Net daily.
M-Net is available on most major cable
carriers EXCEPT DirecTV.

The show has two hosts, a man and a woman. I am the mixer and the boom operator, so I have to have a very heavy rig on my back for long periods of time. I have also had to have my hands over my head for long takes to keep the boom pole out of the shot and the mic placed properly. Rough! Add to that this unfortunate reality: the air conditioning must be turned off during takes in order to get quiet sound. With a small set with 2 hosts, three camera operators, two producers, the director, make-up, script supervisor (oh, and me) in the same room PLUS a ton of lights and computer equipment, this room gets really hot really fast. It's definitely work. On the other hand, in two days I'm making a paycheck that used to take a week to earn at Columbia, so there's that.

There are many other challenges as well. There is a ton of radio signals in the building that are reaping havoc on my wireless mics. It's gotten so bad that I have had to order new equipment with a hefty price tag. I was reluctant at first, but if I'm really going to be doing this professionally I must have good equipment. I also have to have two prop microphones for their karaoke segment that plays over the end credits. Finally, on days where there are musicians, I must quickly be able to wire a set up to get a clean recording without necessarily knowing what the set up is in advance. This is the hardest part of the job since dialogue recording is very different from music mixing, but so far I have pulled it off nicely.

A highlight of my work lately has been testing equipment. I have a connection with a legendary sound mixer (can't say his name, but he mixed INDEPENDENCE DAY and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) who has made me a beta tester for sound equipment companies. Most recently, he let me use the EZ Boom Rig. This rig, produced by K-Tek, attaches to my back (more weight, sigh) and has a long arm that holds a weighted boom pole. The weights counter balance the mic at the other end of the pole, and you hardly feel it at all. This allows me to have one hand free to operate the mixer in my bag. That was invaluable, but it was just too much weight for a twelve hour shoot. Plus, the stage we shoot in is just too small, so I was not able to move at all. Doing simple things like going to the bathroom or getting water required me to take the whole rig off. Reconnecting it required two people to do it quickly. A picture below should illustrate that point nicely.

Testing the EZ Boom Rig

Finally, I wanted to make a note about Jen. She is continuing to suffer from abdominal and lower back pain. She is seeing a specialist, but progress is slow. We have decided that our best course of action is to quit her current job at CineMark and work for me at home. I will train her to be a post-production sound mixer, and this will allow her to work from home at her own pace comfortably. Jen has not had it easy for the last few years, and I hope this will give her the compensation and satisfaction she has been seeking for so long. Really, it wasn't a hard decision to make: the theatre pays her $8.00 an hour and has hardly given her 20 hours a week. It wont be hard to top that.

So that's my LONG update for now. I am planning to launch a website when I get some things in order, and hope to be better about this. Please wish us good luck with our new business!


  1. It's great to hear an update about your lives, and get to see some pictures. Alex had to explain all your equipment to me~ wow!
    I am so proud of all that you are accomplishing Mike! I hope your business is a huge huge success.

  2. Great to hear Mike. I knew it would be onward & upward & upward for you, & Jen as a co-worker sounds like a perfect fit at a perfect time for the both of you. Love those win-win scenarios...
    However, & there is always a however. As a formerly long time self employed individual I feel I should pass on a little info. You are never alone, "self" is a myth. You will have many partners & wear many hats as things progress. Tax man, insurance man, legal man, etc. Keep learning & expand your knowlege as you expand your operation... Extremely happy for you, & you have come along way, doing what you want to do...