The "Sound Skill Gap" In Film School / Sound Courses

Film School Vs Sound School 

This is a topic I have often communicated to many people starting out when it comes to better integrating sound into a visual medium such as film. Even taking the whole 50% of the experience is sound mantra that gets banded around, the fact is joe public goes to watch films.

Film School / Uni Sound

What I call the Sound Skill Gap which happens in most university film courses and even some film schools is that the people who are interested in sound seem to come to the surface of specialising in only sound recording or sound design from 3 places:

- They aren't good or excited by anything else.
- They come in loving sound and another aspect of film process like editing.
- They are just interested in filmmaking and fall into sound.

From my experience this is the large amount of people that get into film sound unless it's a highly specialised course like the National Film School where you are paying lots for very high quality information on the subject area.

The Sound School Bubble

I went to a film school and fitted into the category of wanting to know more about storytelling and fell into sound, I should point out I could have fallen into any or no specialism because I was was just making little short films myself and knew nothing of film noir or more than 4 directors names and didn't actually go to the cinema that much. I've made up for that now being in the industry 5+ years for sure.

Most sound courses are separate from a film school environment either physically or they just don't have another film school or course attached to them. This disconnect is very useful for focusing on just what you want to do which is sound design or recording (Usually both together) but limits you and infact the film courses that don't have a proper sound studio or solution and causes..

The Sound Skill Gap

- You only learn what is best for your department in isolation, best work flows and what you need are obviously essential but what are your workarounds?
- You have limited interaction with the other departments, which are all visually orientated.
- You either have amazing tools that you will only be able to use if you go work in a studio or you won't have enough tools and have to DIY it like troubleshooting with free software.
- You only get taught by a few teachers. Referencing lots of different experiences and techniques is key to building your own way of working, the 20th century model teaches "the rules" and then you go out and break them all with different perspectives. The problem is that "the rules" can narrow your flexibility especially when it comes to grades, especially when the outcome is subjective.
- Film students find out your limitations too late!

The Same Conclusion

I write articles like this because I am always surprised by not only how my own course was but how 6 years on there are still the same old problems and missing knowledge which in my day to day work seems fundamental. The big take away I encourage everyone to follow is:

Work On As Many Films As Possible While You Are In Film School!