Always negotiate your salary. Network with people in your industry. Remember your goals. And remember you deserved the job you are in – these are just a few of the tips Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) alumni have given to women looking to embark on a career in post-production.
Speaking at a panel of alumni at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival taking place this week at the University of Savannah, Ga., Hillary Corbin Huang and Brittany Ellis urged young women to stand up for themselves as they attempt to break into their field.
âI was a sound design student here. I graduated with my masters, graduated in 2009, moved to Los Angeles in July just as the economy collapsed and the writers’ strike was over. It was very difficult, to be completely blunt, for a woman to get into sound design. It was a boys’ club, âsaid Corbin Huang, now a recruiting consultant at Amazon Studios and a member of the National Board of Directors of the Producers Guild of America. “I said well, okay, if I can’t be you then I’m going to handle you.” And I became a post-producer working mostly in the unscripted space.
Ellis graduated from SCAD with a BFA in Sound Design in 2015. She is now Sound Supervisor and Re-recording Mixer at Warner Bros. Among his current sound mixing projects are Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, and Dear Whites.
“My advice to them is to always remember their goal,” she said. âAnd always keep that as a motivator – and remember that no matter what reason people give you for the job you won, you did it 100% on your own. There is no one to support you.
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âThere is a big misconception in the sound industry for women right now, because there is a lack of mixers after the #MeToo movement that we are a #MeToo hire, so we are hired more often to be women and we get jobs because we are women, âshe added. âI can’t tell you how many job interviews I’ve had this year and they actually approached me saying, ‘We need a female mixer,’ and I said, ‘Uh , have you looked at my credits? The answer was no most of the time.
Ellis was open to the toll her experiences had taken on her, but she was determined to remember that she deserved to be exactly where she is.
âIt starts to make you feel like your job is being ignored and it does a lot of emotional things to you over time,â she said. “Being the only female TV mixer at Warner, the thing my parents tell me and the thing I tell myself is, it must be for a reason.”
She and Corbin Huang both stress the importance of networking.
âMeet other women in your industry,â Ellis urged, âbecause they are so there for you and they would love to support you. “
âAll of your jobs are going to come from people you know. Get out, shake hands safely during COVID, wear masks but shake hands, use hand sanitizer, then shake more hands, âsaid Corbin Huang. âThis is how you are going to develop your career. “
She also advised to “be strong” and “speak with confidence”. Oh, and don’t forget to negotiate your salary.
âThe most important and frustrating part of recruiting is that women negotiate lower wages than men,â added Corbin Huang.
Corbin Huang and Ellis were joined on the panel by fellow SCAD alumni Parham Hasibi and Thomas Verrette. Hasibi received an MFA in Film and Television in 2020 and is now a Producer and Editor at Group Nine Media, and Verrette, who obtained a BFA in Film and Television in 2007, is now a Documentary Producer and Director of Zero gravity, which will be screened at the SCAD Film Festival on Thursday.
Speaking about what they learned at SCAD that has helped them in their own careers, Hasibi stressed the importance of being a go-getter.
âBeing proactive is the key to a lot of things,â he said. “Some people might not agree with that, but I think as long as things make sense, always say yes to things because then they lead to other things.”
As for Verrette, he denies the importance of remaining teachable.
âYou never really stop learning, even after you graduate,â he said. âBut the work ethic, the relationships, the networking and the skills are really what gets you up to the ranks that you are looking for. “
The SCAD Savannah Film Festival runs through Saturday.
Main Image: Photograph Courtesy of SCAD.