An interview with Lizzie King - referred by Tim Surrey
Jessica (J): So tell me a bit about your role and how you got into it.
Lizzie (L): I got into the industry kind of by fluke actually which I think happens for a lot of people. I started doing a degree in audio production, I studied at SAE University in Glasgow and it was more about recording bands and singers so you sit in the studio and do some post-production work like foley. We had one week where we studied film sound and that was very much how to hold the boom and going on-location to record and out of the 2 years I did there that was the best week I'd ever done. From that moment, because I thought I’d never be able to do something like that I set my sights on thinking actually this sounds like something amazing that I would love to do. So I started putting my feelers out, I started sending letters to people, I started trying to get as many contacts as I could and it just so happened that I applied for Skill Set. One of my friends applied for Skill Set too but as a production runner, unfortunately, I didn’t get it but my friend did and she got onto a three-episode BBC drama and I begged her please get me in with the sound department, please ask them I will do anything, I’ll go in for a weeks work experience please it would be great. The next day she asked and said she had a friend who is really into sound and would love to come and see what you do. It was Brian Milliken and his sons Jackson and Jordan that was on this job and they took me on for a week for free which I'm not sure you can do anymore. I did that week and I worked as hard as I could, I tried to impress them in every way that I could by making amazing cups of coffee and tea and going to the nearest shop to get some really good sandwiches.
J: You’ve got to start somewhere.
L: Yeah exactly. They then took me on as a trainee for 6 weeks for the rest of the job so super super lucky but also like I said I worked so hard during that week because I was so desperate to impress them it paid off.
J: That’s great. You really do have to work hard and it’s always about putting yourself out there and taking opportunities.
L: Yeah exactly, if you don’t start making contacts, work is not just going to come to you. You do have to put in the effort.
J: Yeah for sure. What is something that you have been working on recently?
L: So my most recent big job, we worked on Bridgerton season 1&2 as a second assistant. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, one of the best jobs I have ever done. It was pretty much the same crew from season 1 to season 2 so we all became like a big family. It was really nice, really long jobs which were 9/10 months each. It was incredible, it didn’t feel like going to work in the end, it felt like hanging out with your mates but doing your job. I think it’s really important in any workplace to feel that you’re not really going to work and you’re doing something you enjoy, it’s almost half your life.
J: How did you find the long working hours and still try to have a social life?
L: I mean it’s hard, it’s really hard. Fortunately like I said I ended up working with most of my friends so you kind of have a social life at work but it is very hard to balance. You come home in the evenings and you’re absolutely exhausted. I live in North Oxfordshire as well so I’m not around London so I always have quite a long commute so that puts 2 hours onto each day. Which is my own fault and I love living here so I wouldn’t move. It’s hard to fit in but you have to try otherwise you’ll lose your mind right.
J: Right. Well as you say it makes it a lot nicer when the people you work with are really friendly.
L: I feel so fortunate to say that I actually love what I do for work.
J: That’s nice to hear. A lot of people can’t say that.
J: When working on-set, what is one piece of kit that you could not live without?
L: Depending on who I’m working with I would say my phone because I have a lot of apps, especially for Lectrosonics that you can control the radios from. When you’re working under massive dresses and it’s really hard to get to the pack, having that app, where you can bleep it from the microphone, is a total lifesaver. I always struggle now when I work with radios that don’t have an app and I have to go in. It’s hard and you have to do it, it just takes up more time. The app saves my life on a regular basis.
J: The apps are great because you can have all the radios on but keep them asleep so they don’t waste battery, which is really clever.
L: It’s incredible because the batteries last. When you’re using energizer batteries you’re not using rechargeable batteries so to be able to make that last as long as you can is super important for the planet as well. I think it’s a great feature.
J: How long have you been working in the sound industry?
L: My first job when I was on that BBC drama and that was 2016, coming up to 6 years.
J: That’s good. I know a lot of people try and get into the industry and they realise it is quite a lot of work and long hours and they tend to back out slowly so it is good that you stuck to it. Before getting into this industry, I know you said it was that week of your uni course that made you realise you would quite like this but was there anyone that inspired you to want to get into the industry?
L: I wouldn’t say especially, I would say that I have always been into scores for big films, I’ve always been really into sound, I’ve always played the guitar, piano and picked up bits and pieces on different instruments so I’ve always been really into music and sound. Before I did that module at Uni, I didn’t even really know it existed, especially something that normal people can get into. I wouldn’t say anyone specifically inspired me but I do remember thinking wow this is incredible and I want to carry on. I hadn’t got very good grades at school so I didn’t feel like I had a chance and I thought if I can’t get into a decent job with qualifications like science I might as well follow a passion that I have and if I enjoy it just work hard and see where it takes me.
J: Yeah, the key is just to always work hard. Grades are great but if you don’t actually have the motivation and the drive to continue to do it then you’re never going to get anywhere.
L: Exactly, and especially in a world where it is very much word of mouth, you’re relying on other people telling other people that you’re good at your job you have to make an effort otherwise you’re never going to get work.
J: Yeah, this whole company started on word of mouth. Our company owner John started in his shed 15 years ago selling used kit and now we’re the leading retailer in the UK for professional sound equipment. Word of mouth is so important in the sound industry. Have you ever noticed being treated differently because you’re a woman when working in the sound industry?
L: I want to say yes. I think there are a few factors that could make someone treat you differently and you can never completely pinpoint the fact that it is because you are a woman but there have been times where I feel like I want to say you wouldn’t have spoken to me like that if I was a man. I do feel like that does still happen. It’s a tough one because I have been very lucky to not come across many people like that. It still happens occasionally but it is 2022 now and I feel like it is definitely going in the right direction. I think you also have to have quite a strong personality to allow it not to affect what you do and affect how you feel about yourself. I used to joke a lot with my boss Tim Surrey about the fact you only hired me because I'm a box ticker, I'm the diversity in your team and that’s probably the only reason I'm here. At the end of the day, he would say you do realise that I take you on my jobs because I think you’re really good at your job. I think it’s so important to have male figures in your life that do tell you that because you may feel inferior but actually you don’t have to be and most of the time you’re not.
J: yes, this is what this whole campaign is about. Showing that actually, women are exactly the same men.
L: Yeah we can do everything that you can.
J: We joke here about the fact that women can’t hold a boom pole which is a joke but of course, we can. Women can do anything they put their minds to.
L: I remember I didn’t work with a female in the sound team for a good 2 or 3 years. I remember when I worked with my first boom op it was Jodie Campbell, I just remember thinking this is brilliant, you know we could chat about girly things and you’ve got a little ally there which was nice.
J: What advice would you give other women getting into this industry or women who are thinking about going into a more male-dominated industry?
L: I would say don’t be afraid to get things wrong, don’t be afraid to ask questions because when you’re just starting out you expect to not know things. When you’re a trainee no one is expecting you to know everything. Obviously, if you can do a little bit of research before you go to the job by looking up kit do that but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t know what you’re doing because people are going to get a lot more annoyed if you keep doing the wrong thing and don’t ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it doesn’t mean you’re rubbish at your job it just means you’re new. I’d say don’t feel intimidated by people that are above you, especially if they are male because it doesn’t mean a thing. When you’re first starting out you’re not supposed to be as good as the people who are above you and it doesn’t mean you can’t get there, it just means you need to work for it. Then once you get there you have to remember you are there for a reason, you didn’t just accidentally get it, they picked your CV out because something shone for them. Always remember that they picked you for a reason. I feel like we need to not make excuses for ourselves for not being as good as someone else. If you really want to be in this industry you need to try as hard as you can. You need to do everything that is going to make you better. It’s like when you joked about women not being about to hold boom poles, if you find it hard and you don’t feel strong enough and you really want to do it then go to the gym and practice. Don’t just give up and be like oh I can’t do it because I'm a woman and I'm not as strong as them, that then opens up your world for people to attack you. Just try, try everything, work as hard as you can and get to where you want to be because we’re just as good as anyone else if we want to be. So yeah just don’t give up, it’s a hard industry but once you get there it’s brilliant.
J: That is really good advice. If this is really what you want to go into then stick at it and work hard. People will see you put the effort in and want to work with you more than someone who looks good on paper.
L: 100%. When I first worked with Brian he didn’t want to see my CV, he wasn’t bothered. He just asked if she has a decent brain, does she have common sense, does she want to do it and all of those things were yeah so he didn’t mind what qualifications I had.
J: That’s all my questions so thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today.
If you would like to see a day in a life of what Lizzie gets up to on set then please click here.