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In this episode of Sound Design Live, I talk with writer and podcaster for SoundGirls and Associate Course Director at Full Sail University, Susan Williams. We discuss sexism in pro audio, remote learning, and constructive criticism.
- The 5%: Steps you can take to balance the audio industry
- What is the 5%?
- What’s one step I can take to help?
- Tell us about the biggest or maybe most painful mistake you’ve made on the job and how you recovered.
I don’t think you can try too hard anymore. I think we have to do the harder thing.Susan Williams
- All music in this episode by Shane Ivers.
- Susan’s blog and podcast.
- What can I do? Hire women.
- Books: Video Production 12th Edition
- Podcast: Samantha Potter Church Sound podcast, Roadie Free Radio, Signal to Noise podcast.
- The main things I see consistently students do [wrong] is to completely ignore the basics. If you can’t record 1 channel properly then you can’t record 50 channels properly.
- Just be humble and ask questions.
- 5% is lower than female truck drivers or construction workers.
- I don’t think you can try too hard anymore. I think we have to do the harder thing.
This transcript was automatically generated. Please let me know if you discover any errors.
Welcome to Sound Design Live, the home of the world’s best online training ing sound system, tuning that you can do at your own pace from anywhere in the world. I’m Nathan Lively, and today I’m joined by writer and podcaster for Sound Girls and Associate Course Director at Full Sail University, Susan Williams. Susan, welcome to Sound Design Live.
Thank you, Nathan. I’m so excited to be here again. Woop woop. I definitely want to talk to you about your career and we’ll get into some topics related to gender sexism and stuff and pro audio. But before I do that, after you get a sound system set up or I don’t know if you’re setting up a lot of sound systems these days, but when you did what is one of the favorite pieces of music you would want to play to kind of get familiar with it?
Uh, I don’t do it so often anymore. But when I used to, I would play something that was going to be similar to what I was going to be mixing. So when I would do like theater, I would go honestly with stuff like music. And I’m not even that huge of a music fan, but they have such this huge presence that I would love playing some of their stuff because it just had a big dynamic range. And it just sounded really dramatic and so I could really like listen to it and then other times I would go with something really delicate just to, like, simple, like not overly produced.
So I had some of these, like Irish folk, like acoustic Irish Philbin’s stuff that I would play that was just really like soft and gentle so I could hear both sides of it, but.
So, Susan, how do you get your first job in audio, like what was your first paying gig?
My first paying gig was actually in high school. I worked at the high school theater. We actually had a legit theater for my high school. It had, well, a full sound system. It had lighting. It even had a two storey rail system for the, you know, to get the scenery and stuff to fly in and out. So it had like a full Idjit theater.
It was actually the only one in our town that I lived in. So we had other aside from the high school theater stuff, we had other people come in and rent out the the auditorium. And so I would work those events. I will tell you that I was mildly scarred by one of the first paying ones that I did. And it was this weird old old person like talent show.
And this was decades ago. But I very, very strongly remember this like very old man doing this like baby sketch. And he was in like a giant like diaper.
Yeah. So weird. So weird. And then you’re like, oh, God, this is the kind of thing I’m going to have to do from now on in. Like, that wasn’t the weirdest thing I’ve ever worked with, but it was the first weird thing.
Wow. Yeah, that’s awesome. But doing all that got me scholarships and stuff for college so it was cool.
Oh yeah. OK, so you were able to say like, hey, I’ve done all I’ve done all this work. Yeah.
I got some scholarships from a theater. It wasn’t in our town but it was nearby. So I got a scholarship for theater for that and then went to college for tech theater and got more scholarships. I was a nerd in high school, so that worked out nice scholarships for nerds, theater nerds.
That’s special. So, Susan, I know a lot of stuff has happened in your career and I don’t want to go through everything, although that would be fun. It would take a long time. Yeah. I was wondering if we could zoom in on one moment that maybe connects your first job in high school with this job you have now, full sale university. It’s you know, your career has taken all these twists and turns. But take us to a moment when you made a big decision and a decision that really affected your course.
And maybe looking back now, you realize it really helped you get more of the work that you really love.
So something that I very distinctly remember that changed my course in a couple of different ways. But I went to in college, we had to have an internship. It was part of our degree requirements in order to graduate. So I got a summer internship because Summer Stock Theater was a huge thing, not so much now for obvious reasons with the state of the world. But I so I moved to California and I did this internship where in California it was in Lake Tahoe.
It was for. Oh, cool. It was really fun, man.
It was beautiful and it was fancy and we were so poor. So it was a paid internship, but it paid like this stipend, which is fine because you were probably the only poor people there.
The only poor people for sure.
Yeah. OK, we we can talk about this more later too. But it was actually really interesting being there because I’m from Florida and I’m from central Florida. So we have a pretty diverse population here. And when I moved to California in that specific area, there were no people of color at all except for some of our cast members. And so that was kind of alarming. I’d never been in a place that was just white people before.
So, yeah, it’s surprising to arrive in some of those places, especially in famous cities that you didn’t know about. And like the Northwest. Yeah. Where you get there and you’re like, oh, well, there’s no black people in Portland, like, what’s the deal now?
Just always in that part of California. OK, yeah. So that was a surprise. What else is a surprise I have that I would love it. And I was I was so excited to do summer stock and be, you know, an audio intern and all of the stuff. But I hated it. I hated all of it. I hated living in an apartment with seven other people. I hated not having my own car. I hated the job in general.
I hated getting yelled at for missing a cue because literally a mouse was living in the rack behind the console and then climbed onto the console mid show. And I just had never had to handle that before. And so, you know, that’s why you take your chips to panic and learn from the thing.
So, like, all kinds of awful things happen. We had bears come out. We had to cancel a show because there was literally a bear in the area. Like I did learn a lot, but I hated it. And so sure for that internship, I was like, all right, well, I’m not doing this anymore, but I still have one semester left. So I. To finish and graduate and I’d been booked on a show, on a musical.
So, like, I was like after this, I’m done because I’m like, well, great. I just wasted four years of my life getting this degree and I hate every second of it. So I did my last show in college, graduated and then took a shitty job at a theme park because it’s Florida. So I took a job as a photographer at a theme park, which is a terrible job. Oh, really? Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
It’s a bad job. Don’t do that. But OK.
But it was not in that field and I was like, OK, we’re done. And then like three months went by of me doing that job that kind of sucked and thinking like, oh great. I’ve completely changed the course of my career. Like what am I going to do now? I literally have a degree in theater and no way to use it or anything. And a couple of months into the New Year, because I graduated in December, so a few months into the New Year, one of my friends is like, hey, I’ve been interning at this local theater in Orlando and they really need someone for sound.
And we went to college together.
And I know you did sound and I was like, oh, OK, OK, I really need a job.
That’s not this. I really need to refocus and, you know, do something. And I missed it. I missed working, but I just hated what I was doing so much before. So I’m like, OK, I’ll meet with the same person there. And then I sent a message to my friend and I’m like, hey, if this works out, like, you know, I’ll make your pie, you know something, because I baking has always been my, like, not depression remedy, but when things are going really poorly, like I’ll bake a lot.
Sure. Self care totally. And then I give them away because you can’t eat all of them. All of them. So she she freaking forwarded that email with my response to the the sound person at the theater and he’s like, well hell, if you’re making pies I’ll hire you. And I was like, oh God, oh no. That’s how you get the job. That’s good.
So I, I accepted and I was his audio tech for as long as he worked at the theater. And then I took over for a little bit after him and then I got back into it and he was so different as a mentor than the other person that I had from my internship that it was so needed. He was he was so gentle. He was really smart. He’s worked at a lot of pretty cool theaters in in the country since then.
And it was just what I needed. I needed that mentor to actually just be nurturing because, you know, if you if you’re not perfect starting out and who is, you know, having someone who’s mean and like telling you how much you suck isn’t going to be helpful for some people. Like, maybe that motivates other people. But it didn’t motivate me. I was just like, well, it I’m done with this whole career because of how awful this is.
And I couldn’t take that, like, rudeness. So my you know, this was my third mentor in my career at this point. And he was at the theater and he was so great. And it kind of revived my interest and my belief in myself that I could do it. That’s such a cool story.
And one of the things that I’m taking away from it is that it’s really hard to separate the conditions that a job is in. And like the people, the relationships with the job itself, especially when you’ve never done it before. And so it totally makes sense that you get thrown into a situation where, like maybe one relationship is bad or all of the relationships are bad and you’re like, oh, the job is terrible.
Yeah. And then it took it took a contrary contrasting situation for you to be like, oh, wait, actually I am good at this and maybe I could like this. And and I think we’ve all had similar situations.
Yeah. I’m really thankful I’ll give him a shout out. I don’t know if he listens to any of this stuff, but it was his name is Marshall Simmons and he was the audio tech at the Orlando Repertory Theater. And he was awesome. He was cool. Thank you, Marshall.
All right. So, Susan, I know you work at Fulfill Your Course Director. You work a lot of students. You see them going through, you know, a lot of the same mistakes that you did and bumping into things and making a mess. So I’m kind of curious if you could pick out maybe one or two trends that you see. What are some of the biggest and most common mistakes you see students making who are new to the world of pro audio?
We get a lot of students like there’s thirty students in my class this month. And so every month we get like, you know, between 20 to 50 students. And it’s been kind of tough seeing what they’re doing now. Like what they’re doing now online is completely different from the mistakes that they were making on campus. So I’m going to focus on campus and hands on mistakes because those are so different. The main things that I see very consistent. Students of all different backgrounds and hopes and dreams of what they want to do is that they completely ignore the basics and they go forward and just want to learn the really cool stuff.
So they’re jumping ahead. And I know it’s it’s really tempting to do that because we have so much amazing and cool technology at our hands. But if you literally can’t record one channel properly, then you can’t record 50 channels properly. Right. You can’t mix more than one channel properly. So that is the biggest thing that I see time and time again of them getting kind of overwhelmed or looking too far into the cool stuff and not getting the basics signal flow, just literally signal flow and then signal to noise ratio and that’s it.
And so if they can’t capture those two things, then they’re not going to do OK at the rest of it. You know what I mean? And then the other huge thing that I see very often, which was the opposite of my problem when I was a student, is arrogance. They they can’t record one channel properly in general. And then they have this huge arrogance about them, like, oh, I’m I’m an artist and I’m I’m a recording engineer.
And I’m like, you just learned how to touch a console today. I showed you this for the first time. You can say that you’re that, but that doesn’t make it true. So there’s this arrogance that is insane. And I had the opposite problem. I had no confidence for, like, the longest time. So, yeah, just be humble and learn the basics.
Yeah, but I’m just thinking, as you’re saying, that is that is that partly because the industry is generally unregulated. And so since we can’t have a piece of paper that says I’m a doctor, then we feel like our license is our confidence. And so we just try to like, pretend. And I put on this face of expert, since there’s no way of proving that I’m an expert.
Yeah, I guess that that would yeah. I wonder if that’s how most people understand it or subconsciously students are like, well no, I guess I got to say it’s me and this is how I do it. Like, I don’t know. That seems like maybe part of the problem.
I think there’s a lot of like fake it till you make it. And I don’t I don’t think that’s always a bad thing because how do you know when you’ve, like, made it? That’s a different metric for every single person. But I think that’s doing themselves a disservice. And those who hire them, because if I expect that you can do something, I say, go, go patch the console. Here’s a paper. Here’s my here’s my iPad sheet.
And they can’t do that. OK, we got to tell me, though, because now you’re wasting both our times because I leave you alone for an hour to do that and now you haven’t done it. And now I come back and I’m like, bro, you just wasted an hour of our time when you could have just said, can you help me with this? And I would have taken the ten minutes to help you. Right. So that level of confidence or just being afraid to admit that they aren’t sure of themselves, you know, those are things like just being humble in general and asking questions.
I don’t know that anyone’s ever been pissed off at you asking a question, being genuine about it. Now, if you ask every five seconds and you question, maybe you weren’t ready for this, but I can also if I know that’s what’s up, then I can adapt and help, you know what I mean? And as an educator, that’s literally my job.
So you have to be real with me, because if you lie, then I’m like, OK, all you can do this and I’m wondering about knowing the basics is there’s some sort of a metric for that, because sometimes I think I know the basics. And then like I just interviewed Jason Romney for the podcast a couple weeks ago and I looked on his YouTube channel and he has a three hour, three part series about the decibel.
And I was like three hours or things, about the dozen or so. So when when do you know do you guys have some sort of handbook that’s like, here’s the basics, here are the things you need to know how to do and here’s how to do it properly.
I guess we do, because every class has its like core learning principles, you know what I mean? Like objectives, core learning objectives. That’s our our jargon for that. So if you meet those metrics, then in theory you have absorbed that information. So if you can do these things for each class. So yeah. I mean, can you can you properly record one channel is your signal to noise ratio OK?
Are there issues? Is it quite enough. Did you do this thing properly. Cool. You can do that thing. Can you design a system, you know, for whatever size venue. Can you do that. And it works. Cool, you can do that, but it’s going to be so different for every individual person because the systems that I designed for a theater are a bit jillion times different than what my colleagues did for. Concerts and bands and live sound, and that’s completely different than broadcast audio and what some of my other friends did for sports, you know what I mean?
So those metrics, there’s no generic one that fits to tell you, you know what the hell you’re doing it there.
It isn’t. And I don’t think any of us are going to know what the hell we’re doing with every single thing, because it’s impossible. It’s so it’s so vastly different for each industry and each thing that you’re doing.
The audio is very specialized for, you know, down to the company that you work with, but also, like, I don’t know, the city that you’re in and the industry that you’re in. And, you know, the words change specifically how things are done gets changed. But but I appreciate what you’re saying. And I feel like I could get a lot out of going to full sale if I do these two things of, you know, focusing on the core objectives and asking for help.
Seriously, like we are underutilized and especially now, like I have every instructor that was on campus now, including our lab specialist. I’ll have open office hours. We have we’re doing workshops on campus now because we can’t have classes on campus and one or two students, if any, are showing up to them. And I get that, you know, there’s safety issues or maybe they’re not in town anymore, but they’re not taking our students in general are not taking advantage of what we’re trying to give them.
We are so accessible more than we ever were because, like, I don’t have to go on campus and maintain my equipment. I don’t have to go on campus and, like, reset lab spaces because we haven’t used them in months, you know what I mean? So, like, I’m sitting here, you can literally call or email me at any time and I’m going to be able to respond, you know, so I. I think that they’re missing a lot of opportunities with having such accessibility to their teachers right now.
Yeah, well, sort of wondering if we were going to get into this. But I’m curious, like from a for profit Institute of Education, I’m wondering what you guys are telling people. Are you telling people or what is the conversation around whether or not it’s a good idea to invest your time and money in an audio career? And the idea that I’m thinking of is that when we first got into this back in, what was it, May or March?
It was March when we closed, uh, camp. OK, so back when we got into this in March, there was a big energy, I thought, from a lot of people, like, cool, I’m going to use this time for self-improvement. And there are a lot of people like, cool, I’m going to do all the webinars. Yep. And I remember several of students in my community were like they were like listing their daily process of all the learning they were doing.
Like on Mondays I do system optimization study and on Tuesdays I practice mixing and all this stuff. And now we’re, you know, five or six months into it.
Where are we that far? I’m losing track of time. It’s been deeper into it and I’ve OK now we’re deeper into it. And I feel like people are losing their steam. There’s more people that I’m talking to now who are like don’t even want to talk about it. They’re like, oh, no, I’m not working, so I can’t help you. And I’m like, well, you could be practicing, but nobody wants to do that. And and so I wonder if you’re seeing that kind of energy and like what what is the conversation right now among your colleagues on this topic of, you know what I guess what the future holds?
Should we should we be optimistic? Should we be like powering through with self improvement in education to be ready for the shows that could pop up tomorrow? I oh, so it’s tricky because I can’t speak for the entire I can’t speak for the entire school because there is a lot of other programs and stuff that they have, like they have cloud networking and they have animation and all this other stuff. So for our department at least, I have felt a little justified in pushing video production to our students because I started to feel like a fraud a little bit like, yeah, live sound.
I spent my career doing that and like films, sound and stuff like that. Now that that industry is temporarily dead, which sucks because I miss going to the movies. I don’t know about you, but oh my God, I missed so many of those things. So I felt like a fraud because, you know, the stuff that I’m teaching and I really care about is temporarily gone. I don’t think it’s forever gone, but I have felt a little bit more justified on the other side where I, you know, teaching video production and how important that has become because we have all all of a sudden, you know, everybody.
So not just teachers, but the church that I work for and sports and I don’t know every company ever is suddenly having to do all of this stuff remotely and video production as individuals. So now you don’t have the camera guy and the audio recordist and these people in your house to get good stuff for you. You figure it out on your own. And so some like live TV shows like, you know, Saturday Night Live is kind of hit or miss for me, and I think it is for everybody.
But they started doing their SNL at home where they sent them like maybe microphones and cameras and stuff, but they were producing their own content literally in their apartments. And I thought that was pretty cool because now these people who are literally just actors are figuring it out. And so I think maybe learning if you’re sick of learning or you’re just done with all of the stuff that you’ve been doing, like system tuning, there is only so much that I can stomach to sit and pay attention to all of these, like really technical things.
So maybe instead of doing that, think about what the future is going to be and what new standards we need to make, because it’s not going to be the same for a while. Have you seen any of the pictures of the concerts? They’re doing the European concerts. And I remember I think it was Germany where they have like the little like six inch or six foot like squares. Yes.
I saw one on Facebook this morning. Yeah, Omar posted that right.
Yeah. So, I mean, is that what things are going to be like? I don’t I don’t think so. They having a lot of Drive-In concerts and stuff like that, I don’t know.
But I think the question you’re posing is really important.
Like what are ways that I could potentially diversify like you video gross. But yeah, that’s where some work is now, you know, with all with all of these online meetings and stuff. Yeah. I would say focus on that’s a really good point.
What you think it could be or figure out, I think brainstorm what you can do differently, because we’re all sick of being at home and we’re all sick of, you know, looking at the same kind of content. Like right now we’re talking of resume, which I use every single day. And I don’t know about you, but this interface is getting really old and it kind of got really fast, you know. So what else can we do?
What other things can we develop that is better than what we’ve been having for the past several months? And I think that energy is better spent, especially if you’ve already gone through all of the educational stuff that you can handle for right now innervate. Yeah, because I’m not smart enough to build apps and software and I have no idea how any of that stuff works. But if you’re one of those people, like freaking innovate, make something cooler for us so that we can use that instead.
So, Susan, at this year’s Lifeson summit, your presentation was called the five percent steps you can take to balance the auto industry. We’ve talked about this in the past, but I want to cover again for for people who haven’t heard it before. And it just feels like an important topic that will continue to be important for the rest of our lives. So just to get into it and kind of remind people, what is the five percent?
The five percent is a percentage that a couple of different organizations, specifically A-S and some girls have decided is kind of the number of how many women are working in the audio industry. So it’s kind of a loose number. It could be as much as like seven or 10 percent. But this is pretty much out of, you know, surveys and stuff. What they figure it out. So that number is disproportionately low, obviously, compared to the number of guys working in the industry.
And so there’s a number of organizations that are researching why and then trying to change that because why? Like, why is it five percent? That’s that’s insane. That’s lower than female truck drivers or like. Women, construction workers, it’s crazy, really. OK, it is, and I have all of the graphs. I did a lot of research on that, like, no way, it’s not lower than that. No, seriously, there are more women truck drivers.
That’s not a traditionally woman career either. You know what I mean? Yeah.
And this is not good for anyone. You know, like I don’t like this being a guy. And, you know, women don’t like this who want to see more women like and, you know, it just I mean, everyone easily, pretty easily agrees that it benefits everyone to have a more diverse, more sort of balanced workplace, you know, where you have a better flow of ideas and just general better community. I don’t know. Do you want.
I feel like I got into a topic that I don’t really know how to talk about that. Well, but I’m just realizing that when I go to work with sometimes when I show up at work or to work on a show and the crew is more diverse in some way, it just feels better, you know.
Yeah. You know, I don’t know. Do you do you know what I mean?
Some people might like working in that kind of echo chamber where they just see a bunch of people who look the same as them and have the same ideas as them. But a lot of us weren’t raised that way. And especially me being from central Florida, like we are more diverse than a lot of people might realize because they only go to the touristy parts like we have a whole like Little Saigon area in downtown Orlando. You can get some really great Vietnamese food, you know, so we have a pretty diverse culture here.
So that’s only beneficial for for the first part of it, culturally, having more than just white men in an area, the food is better, number one. And then I think the standards and the standards for things are better. Like I think that in my experience and in a lot of other women women’s experience that I talk to you guys work harder when there’s a woman there doing a similar job because they almost get this, like, manly urge.
I don’t I don’t know if there’s like a scientific reason, but I feel like I’ve seen it where they get, like, this manly urge, like, oh, if that chick is able to push that console or get that console off the truck by herself, then I would need to show how strong I am. And that’s only good because now you’re working harder because I am working harder. And so that kind of benefits everyone. So it’s almost like using the male ego to for good instead of for just so I enjoy that.
And then it’s also odd if you look at other industries, like how many other industries are there? Just men. It’s not that many. So it’s it’s really weird that this industry specifically is a is a dude fest. I mean, you go to your college and it’s a pretty good mix, right? You even go you go to the library and it’s equal men and women. Right. You go to a store and it’s pretty equal. So it’s really weird for this to be so disproportionately male.
OK, so I’m convinced I want to help. So is there anything that I mean, you talked about entities that are doing research and trying to take action to restore some balance, but is there anything that I can do? Like what’s one step I could take to hiring women?
I mean, going out of your way to find a woman to do a project with you, to hire her, to pay her and to lift her up. Having me on your podcast, having a number of women in the live sound summit, those are all great steps. So you’re already doing those, which is awesome. So from that, like just seeking out women to do jobs that men can do. And so a huge part of this industry is, as in many others, is networking.
Right. So I have gotten most of my jobs, you know, from other people that I knew either recommending me or thinking like, hey, I need this person, let’s call her, or I worked with her before and I know she can do this stuff like that. So we with more exposure and more allies like you and like our friend Omar from AV education. Yeah. Oh my God. From AV educate his own friend. It oh God forgive me.
He works in South Florida and he does a lot of great, really cool video stuff. But by by making those allies, those are what really push us into that network and then we can, as women get more jobs and just be more visible. So that’s that’s it. And just that’s all that you have to do, really. I mean, it’s not like it’s a difficult thing, but the excuse that we hear a lot is that they can’t find women to hire.
And I’m like, bull shit.
OK, well, this is a great Segway into maybe taking a peek behind how lives on some it was produced because the first year it was. All white dudes and several people came to me while it was going on and said, hey, you should try, you know, get some more women and some more diverse people for the next one.
And I was like, sure, sure, sure, I’ll do that. And then the next year, I invited a bunch of women, a bunch like, let’s say six, that I could get referrals for. And none of them can make it, but nobody saw that.
So then the next you guessed all dudes again, no one woman I got daring to come and and then I heard the same thing and I was telling them, well, I invited people, but they weren’t available. And, you know, that’s not what people want to hear. And so the perception is still that there’s no women there. And so then this year, I just had to push a lot harder. And so I think it is more work.
But the big payoff is really just getting new insights and new ideas from people that are outside of your normal networks. And so this year I really pushed and I was like, OK, I’m going to invite I just have to invite a lot more women. And I know 12 doesn’t sound like a lot, but like, you know, I’m sending personal emails to them doing follow ups. Like, a lot of it feels like a lot of work for me to not just reach out to people that I already know.
So and then the funny thing was that then we got into quarantine and then all of a sudden everyone was available. So then I just said yes to everyone and then live Sound Design Live ended up being five days instead of two days.
OK, so that’s sort of behind the scenes. No. One, that it did take more work and pushing outside and like really like following up with people like please, please come, please come to get people that I didn’t just already know.
Yeah. So this year we had three times as many women and I was really happy about that.
Yeah, it takes more work. I’m just doing the default like it’s easy. It’s easy to find a bunch of guys. That’s totally the easy thing. So you put in the effort and it, I think it paid off. I was really excited to see the lineup of women that that you had on there. Good. Yeah. And I heard that from a lot of people. But, you know, the thing always needs to grow. And so the next thing that I thought we might get into is just talking about this really painful incident of one person who was really upset about I don’t know what they’re set up.
I can only tell you what they did. So there was one person who decided to kind of stage a one person war against me and live on summit. And it was really strange for me, just like this, I feel like I’m just kind of a nobody trying to, like, do little interesting audio education things online.
And they were acting like I was this big corporate structure that need to be torn down. So what happened was they emailed me and said you were racist and the event’s racist and you only have white men, which is totally not true.
But I realized that a lot of people on the panel who are not American and not white potentially look white. And so that’s when I started realizing a couple of things. Oh, so then the other important part of the story is that they also emailed everyone else who who was who was a panelist on Lifeson Summit and told them to, you know, abandon the event and that I was a racist and so on. And so I had to then hear from all of the teachers who are teaching.
It lives on summit that they were getting emails from this person and explained to them, you know what, what was my response to that? And so I just wanted to chat with you about this for a few minutes because I felt like if there was anyone that might have something to say about it, it was you and you. You know, we talked about this a little bit before we started recording already. And you immediately pointed out that, you know, yes, we can talk about it, but also recognizing that we’re both too white people talking about this issue.
And so it’s not the same as having even a more diverse group of people to to speak to this issue. But I just wanted to share that, like this thing happened. And this is what’s going on in the world. And too, I think my main two takeaways are, number one, I am really responsible for how the thing is perceived on the outside, as well as what’s going on on the inside. And so I pitched to you this idea that, you know, what, if there were a thousand women or a thousand people of color working behind the scenes, but that’s not what you see on the outside.
And so I sort of need to manage the perception of the thing as well as, you know, pushing again, pushing farther, like, OK, this year I push to get more women. And next year I got a push to get people from other countries more diverse backgrounds and just more diverse panel over it all.
So sorry for the long monologue, but I haven’t really talked about this with anyone except for my wife. So now that I’m done with all of that, I don’t really have a question for you. But. But can you say anything about your experience being a panelist on Lifeson Summit and sort of other events maybe you’ve taken part in and maybe you’ve seen some similar sentiments? Very special that you wanted to talk to me about it. We I didn’t get an email from that person, so I’m really glad because I think I would’ve been pretty pissed off because I saw the effort that you need to diversify.
And there were people from other countries and it wasn’t like just a bunch of white American guys. Not that there’s anything wrong with white American guys. I like white American guys, but I can see how a lot of people, specifically white people, are more hypersensitive about diversity right now because it’s a hot topic right now. And I know that people of color have had this issue their entire life of feeling invisible or left out or whatever. And they’re aware of it, but they’re also sort of used to it, which is awful.
But that’s why right now it’s like a thing. That’s why that person felt the need to, like, reach out and attack you. There’s so many other things that they could have done with their energy, but that’s what they chose to do. Did you know them? I didn’t ask you that before. Did you? Didn’t know this person? No.
I mean, the first thing I did is look up to see if it was a real person because I thought maybe it was just I don’t know, like I think I don’t know what to say, but I get emails every day that are like weird marketing or spam things. So you always got to, like, kind of look out for that. So, yeah, it is a real person. And I just check and I had several back and forth with them because they were obviously really upset and it’s like trying to I was trying to, you know, at the same time be a do good customer service.
Yeah. And like listen and not be too reactive, but then also get some information because I’ve discovered that many times you see the tip of the iceberg from one person and you realize that there’s like loads of other people feeling the same way, but just who aren’t speaking up. And so it’s good to listen to those things come up.
Did you find that with this situation?
So yes. Well, in a way. So let’s see this last year, maybe I got two emails from people saying, hey, you should I would love to see more women. And I and I said, great, thank you. And then this year, I probably got twice as many. So maybe I got four or five emails saying either you should have more women or you should do things differently in some way. And just to make one suggestion to everyone out there, whoever feels the need to reach out to anyone.
And so I’m trying to avoid from making complaints. But this is going to be like my one soapbox moment that I realized as being on the because I complain a lot to other people when I don’t like their product or their event and I’ll let them know. And I realize now being on the receiving end of that, it feels it feels hurtful, but it also doesn’t feel very helpful to have someone just say, you suck in your thing sucks.
Yeah, that’s never a full comment.
And I didn’t realize that until one person emailed me one time and said, I think you should have more. I can’t remember even what it was. I think you should have more women. And here are five women who I think you should interview on the podcast like.
Well, great. What you’re brilliant. Like, yes. Amazing. Like who reaches out and criticizes and then makes a suggestion. So I don’t know why I didn’t realize that that was so different. But that is what when people don’t like something, that’s what they’re doing. So if you really care about something and you’re not just like complaining just to bitch about something and because you’re annoyed, like, you know, make a suggestion that’s so much more helpful.
So that’s what’s going on, right? When you say, yeah, there’s not enough women at your thing and then the people are saying to you, oh, we couldn’t find any like, uh, yeah.
Perfect moment to be like, hey, here are five thousand. Here’s a whole group of sound girls that, you know, sorry. OK, off the soapbox go. No, totally.
Like we all we all love to complain about things when we can’t write. Like it’s my favorite thing to angry tweet at a company because like they didn’t put avocado on my sandwich or whatever.
But in these situations, like you are one person essentially, and you have people that help you, but it’s mostly you who is putting on this huge event. And you have this podcast and it’s just it’s you and you’re doing it because you’re passionate. So to be so harsh and judgmental sucks. And it also tells me that they have never had to. Maybe these people have never had to make something themselves, because then you really start to look inward and you’re like, OK, yes, I do suck.
Great. I you’ve confirmed every fear that I have with my life. But when you actually give that peer feedback of like, OK, this isn’t what I expected from you, I think you can do better. Here are ways that you can do better in the future. That’s a tactic that we use in in our classes on how to give peer feedback. You can either do a happy sandwich. Where you say this is something that’s bothering or you’re really great at this, this is the thing you need to do, but I also think you’re doing this pretty OK, you like those things are so much more effective as because we’re human, you’re human.
You’re not a corporation. You know, just yelling at you isn’t going to be productive because then that’s just hurtful. And I totally feel that we’ve gotten I co-host this and Girls podcast and we’ve gotten emails also of like judging our recordings. And we’ve talked about this before. We we started recording here like I can’t control what other people are doing. I can’t control if someone’s having construction done in their house that day and they didn’t want to reschedule. Like, I can’t really control that.
I can just try to edit that out or not share that podcast. So, I mean, there’s a lot of things that happen behind the scenes that no one sees. So I can tell you what we’ve done with the Sound Girls podcast is made a very conscious effort. So we collectively rewrote the Sandro’s mission statement. We recorded that and have been placing it in the new version into podcasts. We have made a very strong effort to highlight women of color and put those podcasts ahead of other people.
I feel weird about that sometimes because I want I don’t want them to think like we’re doing this just because we feel like we have to. Does that make sense? Um, you know, and just be like, oh, well, they’re trying too hard. I don’t think you can try too hard anymore. I think we have to do the harder thing. I think we have to seek out people of color. And it’s not that hard to find women who do live sound, who are black.
That’s not that hard. It’s maybe hard if you close your eyes and you’re just like, I know like seven guys that do love sound like men, then it’s hard. But if you literally just, like, open your eyes for five seconds, you’re going to see all of these amazing people who are doing such cool things. And they also happen to be black and happen to be women like I mean, there’s there’s so many different people out there.
And so when people are judging you and you look inwardly and you’re like, OK, I can do better, I can because we can all do better, then you just do that. But it’ll never be enough. And we talked about that before. You could have had, like you said, a thousand people of color, of all different genders working behind the scenes and no one would ever know. So you do kind of have to you unfortunately, I guess, advertise it like, no, look where we’re woak over here.
This is really helpful, though. Like, I, I didn’t think about, like, having a mission statement, you know, and like trying to be really public about who you are instead of letting people just make whatever judgments they want to make. And so I’m making the assumption that, hey, I know I’m a good guy. So you must assume that I’m a good guy. Like, don’t want like we don’t have to leave everything up to hoping that people will give us the benefit of the doubt.
You we can try to put our put a sign out or put a put our best foot forward with that. That I think it’s a fact is what’s important to me. It’s expected now. That’s why every website that you go to has a statement about Black Lives Matter or about whatever hot topic is. I’m I’m not saying that Black Lives Matter is only a hot topic because I care a lot about that. I went to the protests here in Orlando and I try really hard to highlight people of color and do what I can because we have this voice like you have a podcast, I co-host a podcast.
We have to use that for highlighting and pushing people forward because they deserve it, you know, because there’s some really cool people and they deserve to be hurt you. But it’s like you can’t assume that people think you’re OK anymore. You can’t you can’t just assume that strangers are even acquaintances are accepting that you’re not a piece of shit.
Awesome. Well, the rest is up.
Susan, I just want to say, like, I, I think people should know the doors are open, you know, like you want to hear feedback from people and I want to hear feedback from people because you and I are both doing things to just try and help people like you’re teaching to try and help students. You’re doing a podcast to try to spread information and push people forward. And I’m doing the same thing. And we’re not just doing that for ourselves.
You know, it’s fun for us to produce. But, you know, we’re doing this to to started Livestrong Summit to see, like, does this help people? And people showed up and they said it helped. So I did it. Yeah. So, yeah, I’m building the thing with you, you know, for making the goddamn effort.
Yeah. So if you want to see a change and you want to see something different, like I’m all for it. And so I think it’s important to say that too, because it’s like people don’t see any. They don’t say anything, they don’t say anything, and then it boils over and they explode and they’re like, I hate you. Susan, what is one book that has been immensely helpful to you?
I have. Oh, man. Hold on. Let me put it up. I have a book that we use in our classes that I love. It is a text book. It is a text book that we found after we wrote the class. And we were like, oh, my God, this is exactly what we just wrote. And it kind of was validating because, you know, then we really go. We do know what we’re talking about in this book kind of confirms it.
OK, so one of my favorite books, and this is a textbook because we talked earlier about me being nerdy. This one is called Video Production Twelfth Edition.
Isn’t that fantastic that I couldn’t remember that production twelfth edition of the topic. OK, super, super difficult, but this one is really, really cool. And we use this for the for one of the classes that I, I helped write. And it goes through disciplines and techniques and this thing goes over cast and crew. What are relationships between the director and a camera operator, whatever the relationships between a floor manager and a producer. And so it goes through all of that.
It goes through scriptwriting, how to do how to make a rundown, how to how to write blocking for cameras. And then it goes into directing video switchers, field audio and lighting and graphics and editing and like. It covers absolutely everything and it covers it in a really cool way that is approachable. It doesn’t read like a really tough textbook and it has a ton of, like, beautiful pictures in it. And the best part is that it’s all in line.
So like, God, when I was in college, you would spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks and now you can get them online for free, which is amazing. But this is my favorite my favorite book, and it’s not written by someone I know. And I know some people that have written some cookbooks, but and I’m not diminishing them. I just have referenced this more than any other book for education purposes in the past three years. Susan, do you listen to a podcast?
I listen to some, but I want to know, like one or two podcasts that you have to listen to every time they come out.
I listen to episodes. I am not like podcast subscriber where I listen to every single one. So I’m kind of bad at that. And to be honest, I listen to a hell of a lot less now that I don’t drive as much so that I’ve gotten out of that routine. Because if I’m not driving, I’m not listening as often. But I have been listening to Samantha Potter’s church sound podcast, that one I’ve been interested in. We interviewed her with some girls, but also working in a church environment, which was super new to me this year.
That helped me because I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with houses of worship. They’re like super weird compared to any other kind of production. But and then the royalty free you. No. Yeah. Roadie for radio and then the Signal-to-noise podcast. So and I don’t listen to every episode of those. I kind of reread them. And then when there’s someone that I know or a topic that grabs me, then I’ll pick that one up. But those are the ones that I, I listen to more than I used to.
OK, Susan, where is the best place for people to follow your work?
I have a blog with sound girls, so you can go to soundgirls.org. And it’s usually they have like a front page scrolling part where they have like the new blogs like posts. And then we also have our podcast, which you can find on literally any of the podcast outlets that you like. You can search for it and we are on all of them.
Awesome. Well, Susan, thank you so much for joining me on Sound Design Live.
Thank you for having me.