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Finding your rhythm

Fresh from recording sound on hip-hop feature film Born to Dance, Ande Schurr has picked up a few new moves to help freelancers find their rhythm.

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Fresh from recording sound on hip-hop feature film Born to Dance, Ande Schurr has picked up a few new moves to help freelancers find their rhythm.

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I feel very fortunate to be working on NZ-produced internationally-bound hip-hop film, Born to Dance. We are surrounded by a multitude of NZ’s top hip-hop dancers, choreographed by Parris Goebel of J Lo and Cirque du Soleil fame, with Tammy Davis overall directing, and Chris Graham directing some of the dance elements.

This six week shoot provides a welcome change to the continual exertion normally required for finding day-to-day work as a freelance crew member, in my case a sound recordist.

Now I look forward to my weekend. I can plan to see friends, take a walk by the beach, read a book and not feel that I should be looking for work.

Previously, in the last nine years of working, including my previous 13 feature films, and a number of TV series, I have tried to plug every day up with a job. This relentless search for work has cleared my debts and gained me enough assets to set myself up well in life, but I have never quite found the ability to relax, let go, to rest in the moment.

Freelancer crew, artists and production people alike, we can cram to fit as many things into our day as possible. We burn the candle at both ends, or the modern equivalent, the luminous screen of the laptop or the smart phone.

It’s very removed from the way that our ancestors lived, to the rhythms of nature.

I am sure we have all lived at least a few days in nature - perhaps a multi-day trek or expedition somewhere else in NZ or overseas. I recall the beauty of waking with the sun rising when I climbed with my guides in the Himalayan Alps last year, sleeping with the setting sun and a warm fire, planning the tasks to fit in the day - they are the kinds of things that modern civilisation has long lost.

Yet I do not think the two are reconcilable in our modern world. Living in nature, with its natural rhythms, is a luxury for when we get a break from the working life but we need that working life otherwise we don’t eat.

The antidote to staying sane in our artificial world? There are three:

1. Find longing lasting jobs so you can establish a rhythm in your personal life

For the first time in many years my booking agent ‘Film Crews’ mentioned that finally the industry is booming again so there should be no shortage of films and longer-form work in the coming year.

2. ‘Build a bridge and get over it’ if you have any hang ups

Has anyone told you that before? It certainly comes across as hard-hitting and heartless but the funny things is, on the other side of that bridge is your freedom. If you have any issues on set, any hang ups, and things that you just can’t shake then just get the hell over it. Let me hasten to add, by all means, clear the air if you feel anything is wrong, raise your concerns with the appropriate people, apologise if you feel you have overstepped the mark. But when all that has been done, and you have done what can be done, then move on. It is in everyone’s best interest. This means that you can leave work without taking any baggage with you. Everything that arises is dealt with there and then. That is a recipe for relaxation and if you are relaxed then you are doing something right.

3. Devote yourself wholly to the job, be ‘all in’

Forget checking the phone like freelancers do to see when the next job is around the corner, forget what you’ll do when the job finishes in a few weeks time, forget about your car that is about to cost a small fortune because of some mechanical failure, forget about the next scene even. Just focus on this job, this scene, this take. Be loyal to this film and this director. Prepare in the best way that you can so any questions can be addressed before it is too late. Prepare so that those working for you feel supported and can do their job to the best of their ability. My boom operator Nikora Edwards helps me spot fires before they become blazes. Sometimes it is being able to manage the noise from 20 extra’s walking past the main characters with their noisy shoes all over the dialogue. Other times, just hearing something that the director whispers to an actor which means that they will deliver their line differently. All information is crucial, and the more attention and devotion I have, the better I can respond to the changes.

These antidotes have transformed my life, personal and working. A balanced life doesn’t mean one where work, family and leisure are equal. All the elements of life have their own weighting system. It’s different for each person too.  When that balance is approached within your life, then comes energy and the satisfaction of being on the right pathway as a freelancer.

Written by

Ande Schurr

13 Nov 2014

Corporate video producer and production sound recordist now based in Singapore after a 15-year career in New Zealand. Video clients incl. universities, tech startups, medical clinics and business consulting agencies. Sound clients incl. Netflix, Discovery, BBC, National Geo.