To become a Foley artist, there are a few different paths one can take, but in almost all cases, it takes time and a lot of background work to break into the field. In a sound production company, you’ll probably need to start as an intern or assistant, and then work your way up to positions with more responsibility and creative freedom. It’s also critical to hone your networking skills; selling yourself to influential players in the field and getting your name out there is often one of the most effective ways to get started. Even people with a lot of natural talent typically start at the bottom and work their way up, gaining industry respect and establishing a name for themselves. Technical degrees in sound engineering and audio technology are available at some schools, and this type of education is often beneficial. However, it is unlikely to be conclusive. Success in this field is usually fiercely competitive, and your selling strategy and identity with producers and directors are often just as important as your skill level and expertise.
Basics and History of the Job
Foley artists are highly trained sound technicians and editors who create special effects to re-create sounds that aren’t picked up the production microphones during filming. Sound effects range from the mundane to the sublime, and they help to enhance the story adding tension, atmosphere, and emotion. The sounds of a Foley artist’s work pervade a film, from a gentle breeze to a violent storm, but few viewers are aware of the effects.
Jack Foley, a sound engineer from the early days of the film industry, gave his name to the profession. Foley was a pioneer in the use of props and other tools to create and record sounds that were missed while the cameras were rolling, later incorporating the sounds into the final soundtrack. A rocking chair was used to imitate the sound of a tentative foot on a creaking stair, and a key chain rattle was used to imitate the sound of a manacled prisoner.
Examine Existing Work
When considering a career in sound design, one of the first things you should do is pay attention to already-filmed sequences and study the work of industry leaders; this isn’t necessarily a tangible skill, but it will give you a good idea of what technicians can do and the types of tasks you’ll need to be able to complete. The process usually involves two steps: first, the sound effects must be designed and recorded, and then they must be dubbed into perfect sync with the action.
Look for ways to get a foot in the door.
You’ll want to start building your resume once you have a good idea of what the job entails. You should be prepared to start in much lower roles in sound and audio engineering if you want to become a Foley artist right away. For those just starting out, interning or working as a production assistant are common positions. Volunteering at a cable television station or looking for work on the sound crew of a commercial radio station are both viable options that do not require relocating to or living in a major motion picture center like Los Angeles.
Unless you already have strong connections in the industry, you’ll most likely begin in an entry-level position that doesn’t require much creativity or actual sound engineering. However, gaining experience and developing a strong reputation are two of the most effective ways to advance to the ranks of senior film editors or producers.
Another benefit of these more basic jobs is that they frequently put you in close contact with directors and other influential players in the industry. When it comes to getting a job as a sound engineer, these people are often crucial.
Networking and meeting as many people as possible in the field is usually a critical component of success. On the job, as you engage and interact with others, and on set, networking can happen. It’s also a good idea to look for ways to meet new people. Those who have a lot of power and are already in important positions are obviously valuable contacts, but casting a wide net is often the best advice. Make yourself and your work known to people at your level or a few levels above you; you never know when friendships and professional acquaintances will lead to job opportunities and inside information about openings. Sometimes all it takes is a single break to put you on the path to success.
Options for Training and Certification
While a college degree isn’t required to work as a Foley artist, the most successful professionals in the field typically have some formal technical training or certification in broadcast technology, electronics, or computer networking. Some of them have also completed music or art programs.
If you want to work as a Foley artist, you’ll need to be comfortable working with computers because most sound editing is done on them. Electrical and mechanical equipment manipulation should be second nature to you. It’s critical to stay on top of the latest technological developments in this field.