You’d think after 15 years of shooting documentaries in hot countries I’d stop getting sun burnt on the first flippin’ day! But I’ve done it again, and it’s got me thinkin’. There’s something about being in situations that are so far removed from what you know as normal that the simplest tasks become Rubik’s cube confusing? i.e. putting on sunscreen.
So here I am in Guatemala on another humanitarian type shoot – I’ve been on over 100 of these. My vaccinations are up to date, I’ve meticulously gone through my equipment, I’ve got the proper clothes for the climate, some local currency, and I’m familiar with the heartbreaking poverty we’ll be recording. So why with all the planning and experience is a starving child making my job so damn difficult?
Well, a large part of documentary sound recording is being able to cope, being able to function under stressful situations. Whether you’re in physical danger or emotionally being raked over the coals, you’ve been hired to do a job. I’ve found that being culturally sensitive, emotionally stable, and treating the less fortunate with dignity and respect often challenges my ability to 100% focus on the recording.
You need to be honest with yourself – can you handle what you’re going into? I was asked years ago to go into Croatia during the war in Bosnia – I didn’t take the gig.
I’ve also come to realize with most documentaries, it’s not about recording award winning sound. It’s about capturing emotions to support the pictures – and it doesn’t have to be 5.1 surround. It’s about capturing the needed tracks as unobtrusively as possible even if that means compromising sound quality.
Be human, be compassionate, then be a location sound mixer.