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Interview

4 Thing to Remember When Working Next to a Boom Operator

4 Thing to Remember When Working Next to a Boom Operator
Photo Source: Brownie Harris/USA Network

As a boom operator, Kira Smith’s résumé ranges from modern classics like “Lost in Translation” to new releases like “Okja” and USA’s latest drama “The Sinner.”

She’s the sound department’s on-set eyes and ears.
“As a boom operator, I’m the representative of the sound person on set. I assess what our needs are when they set the scene up—if we need to cut wires on somebody, how many mics we need…. I’m a liaison between the sound department and everybody else. [Then,] once we figure out how we’re going to do a scene, I’m the one who’s operating the mic.”

READ: How to Make the Film Crew Love You

Sometimes where you start out in Hollywood isn’t where you end up.
“I actually started in the locations department, and I found myself interacting with the sound crew a lot as a locations person…. I’ve always liked sound recording before I got into film, so it seemed natural for me.”

How close she is to actors isn’t a choice, but how they interact is.
“I have to have a good relationship with the actors; I’m often the closest one to them while they’re acting. I’m in their space a lot. Depending on the actor’s temperament, I either have a nice relationship with them or I have a relationship where I try not to talk with them at all. It’s really up to them. What’s not up to them is the fact that I’m pretty much in their face while they’re trying to work, so how they want to deal with it is their business—but generally they’re good about it.”

The most demanding scenes are the most rewarding ones.
“I remember early on in 1995, [I was] working on a Woody Allen movie, and the scene was really hard. It was two booms and it was very difficult. We did about 20 takes of it, and when we finally got it, everybody sort of jumped up and shouted, ‘Hooray!’ ”

As long as you can hear the actor, a scene will be easy to shoot.
“Something that actors can do to make my job easier is project. It always helps when you can hear what they’re saying. There is some strange school of acting where they talk into their chests and mumble. I guess that’s supposed to be meaningful on some level, but if I can’t dig them out and record them, it’s a waste.”

Want to act in new series like “The Sinner”? Check out Backstage’s TV audition listings!

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