Garrett McDonald: Location Sound Recordist and Sound Editor

As interviewed by Lara Henerson

Since the mission of the Bay Area Film Mixer is primarily to create a sense of community for local filmmakers, what better way is there to do so than to showcase the broad variety of talented individuals in our midst? Introducing Garrett McDonald, a Navy veteran from Kansas, who has settled in San Francisco and now works as a location sound recordist and sound editor.

“I really connected with the work, because it reminded me of that same sort of military energy.”

I was born in California but I spent most of my childhood in Wichita, Kansas. I had a lot of different interests growing up. Eventually I joined the Navy, but it’s only been in the past four or five years that I’ve really honed in on what I wanted to do.

After the Navy, I enrolled at the Academy of Art University to study music production and sound design, on New Montgomery, here in the city. While I was there I started making friends with some people in the motion picture department, and they always needed somebody to help them record sound on set. I would just rent the equipment from the school and try to help my friends out. There really seemed to be a demand for that kind of work, so I decided that I might as well invest a good amount of money on some gear, and try and get some gigs.

I found myself really loving working on set. I really connected with the work, because it reminded me of that same sort of military energy. Everyone’s upbeat, on set running around and trying to get stuff done. And I just really jive with that type of energy. It’s very fast paced, and you have to think quickly. It’s always a challenge at the time, but then afterwards it’s a real rush to know that you still made things happen under those crazy circumstances.

“The tech industry is pretty much what pays the bills. I know a lot of people probably oppose it, but I think it’s pretty cool because it allows filmmakers to actually make some good money and survive around here in this expensive city.”

I’ve been working professionally now for just a little over two years. I started working while I was still in school. I had an internship at Studio Trilogy for about six months, and then at Polarity postproduction, all while I was going to school. I’ve had some work down in LA too but there’s a pretty vibrant film scene up here, and its really growing. There’s a ton of stuff happening and people are always looking for help. I’ve only been here about six years and I’ve already seen a major growth in the film community.

At the moment I’m working on a pretty cool prank video this Friday, for Lyft. The tech industry is pretty much what pays the bills. I know a lot of people probably oppose it, but I think it’s pretty cool because it allows filmmakers to actually make some good money and survive around here in this expensive city. It allows you to work and live here, and makes you comfortable enough so you can work on the films you’re passionate about. I actually think we’re really lucky to have that corporate industry up here, because otherwise it would be a lot more difficult for us to make art on the side.

Personally, I love working on short films specifically. I know there’s never a whole lot of budget for it, but it’s more fun to do than just shoot talking heads all day, you know? I like to be sold on a project. I want to know that my time is going to be invested in something that produces well.

“It’s so important for everyone to get together and talk about the work that they’re doing, and when you’re in the industry, you need to show people your face!”

The first Bay Area Film Mixer I went to check out was last October. I had a great time. Then I went again this year and I was like, Whoa, holy crap, there’s way more people here now! The industry is really expanding, and I love it. And the Mixer’s a great place to look for work. I got hooked up with a really passionate director and filmmaker from SF State. We started talking, and he wanted to get me on this project but I was unavailable at the time. But then a few months later he reached out to me again, and got me on this cool little short film called “The Dreams We Share.” We just actually wrapped that up yesterday. I’ve been out there working with him a lot, and I think it’s a pretty cool relationship.

I think the Bay Area Film Mixer is a really important place for filmmakers to come together. It’s so important for everyone to get together and talk about the work that they’re doing, and when you’re in the industry, you need to show people your face! Go, talk, have a good time, and let people become familiar with you. Let them decide whether they want to spend twelve hours on set with you!

To find out more about Garrett McDonald’s work, check out www.amplifilm.com.

You can make your own connections at the Bay Area Film Mixer! The next event is on Monday June 13th 7-10pm at Piano Fight. Register online at Eventbrite for free.