I’ve had a few people ask me how difficult #MeToo has made it to do my job. My answer: it hasn’t changed one bit. Since the news broke about Harvey Weinsten in 2017, many people have come forward with stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and not just in the entertainment industry.
Being a sound mixer means I often have to hide a small microphone and transmitter on a person, often underneath clothing. Am I worried that the new political climate is making my job difficult? No, unequivocally, not remotely. Why? Because being respectful is super easy with a small modicum of awareness and some very basic manners. I’m now going to outline the routine I follow when wiring people I have never met before to put them at ease.
There are a million ways to wire up a person, and the manner that sounds best while also remaining hidden depends on too many factors to list in a blog post. But there are a few general guidelines that I follow with everyone.
See? That’s four very basic steps. What does that look like in practice?
Let’s say I’m micing an ordinary businessman like the one in this stock photo. In this example, I want to hide the mic behind his top button. So I’d start with the following:
“Hi, I’m Max. I’d like to place the mic on you. So what I’d like to do is hide the microphone behind that button which I’m pointing at. Could you please untuck your shirt.”
“Thank you, and can you feed this connector through the front? Thank you.”
“Now I’m going to clip the transmitter to your belt on your back side.”
“Thank you, now I’m going to use the vampire clip to the mic behind that button. Would you mind unbuttoning? Thank you, you can rebutton now.”
“Now I’m just going to tuck the excess cable behind your belt. Thank you, you’re good to go, feel free to retuck.”
Yeah, I’ve had that conversation a lot.
I explained every step I was taking so the talent would not be surprised by everything.
Some wardrobes are more involved than others, like the woman’s dress in this stock photo. Notice that it is one piece, so there is no obvious place to hide the transmitter. Fortunately, my Zaxcom ZMTs are not much bigger than a small matchbox, so I could find a place to hide that. Here’s how I’d approach this:
“Hey, I’m Max. So I need to hide this transmitter on you. I can clip it to either the back of your bra strap or I have a waist or thigh strap I can provide, whichever you are more comfortable with.”
Now let’s assume she says the bra is fine.
“Okay, I’m going to need to unzip the back of your dress to place this while I run the microphone cable through. If you’d prefer to have the makeup person do it, I’ll give her the directions.”
Nine out of ten people at this point say, “Nah it’s cool, do what you need to do.”
I then verbally walk through every step as I outlined in the last section.
I’ve had to wire up far more complicated wardrobes than the dress in that stock photo.
I’ve heard reports of men choosing not to work with women in the wake of #MeToo and to them I say, “I can’t do my job without getting my hands in people’s personal space, and it’s very easy to learn how to do that respectfully.”
Showing very basic courtesy and not surprising people goes a long way to building trust between the mixer and the talent, and creating an overall more positive atmosphere on set.