Reel Careers Profile Series: Eric Neufeld

Eric Neufeld was born and raised in the small town of Dugald, Manitoba. A proud member of IATSE Local 856, Eric is currently the Chair of both the Sound Department and the Young Workers Committee. He also sits on the executive board as a Member-At-Large, participating in union activism to help members and to educate himself.

When and how did you start in the media production industry?

Shortly before graduating from the University of Winnipeg I started sending my resume out to local film workers and companies expressing my interest to start a career in film, one of them being Leon Johnson, a very prolific sound mixer.

It turned out to be very excellent timing!

In October of 2012 I got a call from Leon. He interviewed me, asking why I was interested in working in sound and what my career aspirations were, then hired me on the spot as his apprentice. The rest is history!

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?

I’ve been working in sound for the better part of a decade, starting as an assistant and working my way up to Boom Operator (though I occasionally work as a Mixer too).

As a Boom Operator my job is to swing a directional microphone around on a long pole, capturing dialogue and noise-makers seen on camera. Sometimes that’s easier said than done!

My love for Sound began while attending film classes at U of W. After trying my hand at lighting and camera operating I kept finding myself drawn back to Sound. Recording dialogue is a very unique challenge in film production, one that requires me to not only get clean sound but to also make sure I’m not casting any visible shadows or dipping my microphone into frame.

Sacha Rosen, a fellow Boom Operator, likes to call us ‘boom ninjas’: we are unseen, and yet we are right there in the eye of the storm. There’s no other place I’d rather be.

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started ?

In the short time that I’ve been with IATSE 856 I’ve watched the Manitoba film industry blow up. Every year we seem to get more and more projects and we’ve become a very desirable destination for film and television. It still takes me by surprise just how much rolls through the province!

If you could give your past self advice, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self not to worry so much and relax! I’d say: enjoy the journey more, don’t linger on mistakes for too long, learn from them, and move on. Tomorrow is a new day.

What advice would you give to someone starting off in the media production industry?

Be persistent and proactive! Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions at any point. When I work with a new Mixer I like to ask some questions that I likely know the answer to already, just to hear their point of view and opinion. A different perspective can teach you a lot.

Why is learning and training important and what has been your experience with FTM programs?

Film sets are busy and fast-paced at the best of times, so knowing how to navigate that congestion while doing your job efficiently is an incredibly valuable asset. Experience is a strong teaching tool, but to be the most effective it needs to be tempered with proper mentorship.

With training courses, and even on-set mentoring, important knowledge can be passed down from fellow workers in a controlled setting. That way new film workers won’t feel unnecessary pressure and stress that comes with a full day of shooting. It’s important to learn how to swim before diving in the deep end!

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?

My favourite part of sound recording is capturing the emotions of people. It makes me feel like I’m a part of the story we’re creating. When I’m holding the microphone in front of a cast member, dancing around an emotional performance, I feel I’m right there with them.

Being part of that is a unique and special experience, and more often than not I’m the closest one to the action, even the camera. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

Definitely as a Sound Mixer, though I’d love to keep booming as long as I can!

FTM is a member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program funded through the Department of Economic Development and Training. FTM builds a highly skilled and adaptable film industry workforce to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates and partners with members of the film and television industry to identify training needs to support workforce development output.

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