If you are into sound, engineering, editing – have you investigated the role of Foley artist?
What is a Foley Artist?
Named after pioneering sound effects artist Jack Foley, a Foley artist or Foley editor is the person who uses a variety of everyday objects to create or recreate the actions made by characters and the objects they interact with.
These sounds might include breaking glass, footsteps or anything else that creates the atmosphere that the director wants to create – of course if the scene involves some nasty injury sustained by a character then it involves finding a way of producing the accompanying sound without actually doing anything gruesome to the actor.
Getting started as a Foley artist
There are a number of film or post-production degrees that you could study for and also sound or audio engineering degrees offered by several universities.
The kind of skills that a Foley Artist needs
- Sound recording skills and experience
- Skills in post-production processes
- The ability to work to deadlines and under pressure
- Great listening skills
- Knowledge and skills in acoustics
It is also possible to work as a Foley artist in live theatre. The difference being that in the theatre you would add the sounds live rather than recording them post-production.
There is no average starting salary for a Foley artist. It is possible that after many years of fantastic work and perhaps a few awards you might be able to make a killing doing this job.
What’s it actually like working as a Foley artist? We asked Lou Brown.
Lou Brown has worked as a Foley artist and editor in film, TV and commercials for several years and has been working freelance since 2015. We asked her about the life of a Foley artist.
Whilst studying music technology at university I visited Pinewood Studio’s old Foley stage. It was a light bulb moment and I realised that Foley artistry was my calling.
The best thing about the job, for me, is the creativity – the satisfaction of listening back to a scene and hearing it come alive. The
jobs where you have the time to show love to what’s happening on the screen, helping the story along – those are the days that I bounce on my way to work.
Foley isn’t really a job that lends itself to academic study; it’s very practical and intuitive. Studying human and animal behaviour, watching how they interact with one another and their environment is more useful in terms of artistry than formal study. I watched lots of videos, saw some Foley being performed in a studio, worked on a lot of short films and practised whenever I could.
The ease with which you find work depends on your level of experience and how much you make yourself known. When starting out it takes time to gain competency, so finding work is more difficult. Once you’re established, it’s a case of staying in touch with studios and sound supervisors.
I wouldn’t say that there is a huge amount of stability in the sound post industry as a whole. Many artists supplement their work during quiet periods with other endeavours – I edit sound effects outside the Foley stage. However, if we keep our health and stay fit, there’s no reason why we can’t keep walking the floorboards for many years.
To be a good Foley artist, you need imagination – as well stocked as Foley stages are, there are often times when we need to come up with a sound from unrelated props. Fast reactions are needed – how quickly can you copy someone’s actions? Sync isn’t as vital as it was in the days before Pro Tools but it’s still better if you can match the timings quite accurately. It’s also important to be pleasant to work with as you work as part of a team.
If I wasn’t a Foley artist, I’d still work with sound because I enjoy recording and laying up atmospheres, sound effects editing. If I wasn’t in sound at all, I’d probably end up in commercial aviation as I’m a plane spotting nerd!”
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