Tuesday, 13 January 2015

AMP Graduate Interview: Ally Siu

Q) What is your job title and where do you work?
Currently I am a self-employed freelancer. I keep my own diary and set my own pay rate. I work for multiple companies that vary from agencies to production companies and major corporate businesses.  I usually refer to myself as a live events technician; this covers my whole skillset, which is more then just being a sound technician.

Q) When did you start working there?
I have been freelancing since the summer of 2013 so just over a year now. However I did spend a year as an onsite audiovisual technician and manager for a production company.

Q) In a typical day, what do you do?
A usual day for me starts at a ridiculous time in the morning and travelling to the event site where I then help unload the truck(s) carrying the show kit.  The next several hours will be spent rigging and testing and sometimes rehearsing before the show starts and we are live.  There isn’t usually much time for testing so you have to be sure you know what you are doing and test along the way to give yourself a helping hand and lessening the rush when time is running out.  Operating during the show is the highlight of course where you can enjoying the thrill from executing your role to the highest standard.  Once the show is done you are then in de rigging mode and preparing to load the van back up and then go home at another unsociable hour!
Q) How did you get the job?
As mentioned earlier I worked as an onsite technician and then as a venue manager for a production company. I soon realized that being a venue manager was basically a fancy term for salesmen! I decided very quickly that I didn’t want to be a salesman, so I handed in my notice and started looking at various options.  With my experience levels from the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and my time working on site I decided I could go and be a freelancer as I had the necessary skills to be successful.

Q) What are the best bits of what you do?
I get to work with some very talented people, which is an opportunity to learn as much as possible to further my skillset.  Since working after leaving BNU I have picked up more skills and am far more employable because of it.  I now get work not only as a sound technician but also as video/data operator, lighting tech and video conferencing controller.  My degree in audio and music production has had an influence in all the jobs I do as not only can I step in and help out whenever needed but as a video/data, lighting and VC technician I know how sound/audio interacts with each discipline and can offer advice to improve the overall show.  Being a freelancer also means I don’t have to work every day.  At the moment I earn more from 3 days work as a freelancer then I did from a 5 day week as an employee and I still work nearly 5 day weeks so my weekly turnover is excellent!

Q) What are the worst bits?
Definitely the unsociable hours, I’ve realized that all those midday naps I took while at university were in no way preparing me for a working life!  A hard part of freelancing is finding your own work.  I am now at the point where some companies come to me asking for work because they know me now.  If you choose to go freelance be prepared to do a lot of job searching and make sure you are comfortable with approaching people and essentially getting in their faces.  One company that now provides me nearly 45% of my work ignored my first two emails.  I then sent another and waited a few days before calling them to see if they had it.  Don’t be afraid to be bold! Companies like that!

Q) What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the same line of work?
Get involved with everything.  Even if you are on the job as a sound technician have a chat with the video/data guys; I know we tend to call them vidiots but there is a lot of work out there for good video/data people and adding an extra skill to your repertoire is always a good thing.  If you can pick up some lighting skills as well do it.  Companies have a real appreciation of multi skilled people and will always employ you if they know you can do more then one thing!  I began to make friendship with project managers and now I do some project managing of my own.  I have managed two mid scale musical productions which included soloists, choirs and orchestras! I organized all the equipment and had it rigged into the venue and operated the shows. 

Be a help not a hindrance, just because you area good sound tech doesn’t mean you are above mucking in and helping get a show ready.  Don’t be a white glove operator (someone who turns up expecting everything to be ready to go) going above what is expected of you is a sure fire way to get more work and will play in your favour when you ask for a pay rise! 

Q) Anything else you’d like to add?
Enjoy what you do! If you don’t enjoy it then change something.  I found working as a venue manager depressing because I was spending all day at the venue and sometimes all night before going home, sleeping and then returning to my venue! Leaving that job and going freelance was the best thing I have ever done.  I get to meet new people and do new things every day! I now find it hard to see myself doing anything else.  There’s no one way to achieve success so make sure you make it your own way.

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