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That Star Wars sound we all know and love

You know the one. Kksshhwwwep! VvvvvVVVvvvVVvvVOOMmvvvVOOM KSCH KSCH SPLRRTSCH!!! 

 

 

Star Wars was a revelation to popcorn cinema in many ways, but if I have to choose one thing that makes it stand apart, that would be its sound. Ben Burt and George Lucas, who always was more of a toymaker rather than an author, were responsible for creating the hundreds of sounds that breathed life to a galaxy far far away. Among those hundreds, there's dozens that have stuck to the collective minds of generations to come. And on top of them, the vibrant sound of the weapon of choice for everyone age 40 and below.

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Why is J-Law making less than his male co-stars?

Since I'm usually blunt with my words, and I'm going on a limb and writing a post that could potentially damage my career, at first I thought about writing this post speaking about Jennifer Lawrence in third person, taking some distance from her and her recent declarations, in her by now infamous text, 'why am I making less than my male co-stars?'

However, after sleeping on it, I realised the world's best paid actress and I have got a lot of things in common, so I'd rather address her directly. First, we're roughly the same age. Second, we're both in the same or similar industry. Third, we're considered to be likeable people -even if only by my circles as opposed to a myriad of fanclubs. Fourth, we both realised being likeable and mild all the time doesn't get you the farthest. Fifth, we seem to like speaking up.

There would be a sixth, Jennifer, if only I thought those third and fourth had anything to do with gender.

I've backed and supported social causes in the past, and do not feel shy about doing it again. But I need a solid claim. I need facts, data, context, second guessing, critical analysis, digging. Something to get behind. Personally, I think both your claims and Emma Watson's lack that. Let's stick to yours in this occasion. Now I'm sure there's plenty of data around that proves or disproves sexism in Hollywood, but I find difficult to believe that your situation has anything to do with it.

Being a freelancer and someone who's lived in two different economic environments, I think I'm getting the grasp of how money works on a basic negotiation level, at least in the freelancing world. Here it goes: *clears throat*

There's three translucent layers to every professional. From the bottom upwards, they're ValuePerception and Negotiation. That's the order in which we see them because we see them from below. However, employers and clients look at them from above, so they see Negotiation, then Perception and then Value. Perception is partly obscured since Negotiation is on top, and Value is hardly visible at all, being the inferior layer.

We live in capitalism, whether it's in Spain, The United Kingdom, or in the USA. In this economical system, not everyone gets paid the same. The criteria we follow on how much everyone should be paid is something we're still discussing both in a global economy and in each separate country. Some of the criteria could be: toughness of the job, skills needed, grade of responsibility, schedules, working hours, potential or explicit danger, social value, and so on. The value we and the economy give to these different items is what makes you, Jennifer, being paid in millions, while doctors and teachers get paid in thousands. This is Value. In this sytem, even in the same role, two professionals can be paid differently.

Because there's more layers to all this, like Perception. It's not enough to have Value, we have to be perceived to have it. It's no use in being the best actress for a role if no one perceives it.

Taking in account Value and Perception, we make a number in our head, and head to Negotiation. The client however, will hardly know our real Value because he hasn't spent a lifetime with us, getting to know us. They will check their Perception about us, and will use that to work out a number in their head. Even if their Perception is accurate, they will defend their number while we defend ours, and that can get incommodious already, since the numbers could be well different already. Sometimes, their Perception is not so accurate, or we have screwed up building a boring online portfolio or choosing the previous two movies, so the number they came up with is way lower than what we think we're worth. In these occasions, which happen quite often, we have to change someone's Perception to match our Value. And even if we achieve so, the numbers could still be different, and all of a sudden we got ourselves tangled up into an arm wrestling game with the person in front of us, with scorpions scattered around the table.
And that's supposing both parties are nice people that look for the common benefit and understanding, which is assuming quite a lot.

Negotiating is HARD.

So hard, in fact, that that's at what most people fail at. You considered this could be your case. It sometimes takes years for freelancers and artists to make ends meet just with their gigs. And from what I see, more often than not, it's because their Negotiation is the weakest point of their professional persona, while their Value and even Perception have been immaculate for years. I've seen this pattern replicated many times, indifferently in both men and women.

So hard, in fact, that some people hate to do it. They get nervous, anxious even, they feel they're plain bad at it. And there's several reasons for that: some people find in those numbers they're wrestling for their only way to buy food or afford rent. Some other people find the negotiation aggressive and their character is simply adverse. Some other people have trouble communicating their Value and turning it into Perception. Some other people don't want to be unlikable *wink wink*. I've personally found myself in all these situations. So, like other professionals, I had to take a choice:

Should I get an agent and skip all the headache? Should I learn yet another craft, on top of accounting, marketing and my core skillset, and keep all the profits to myself? Should I join a Union in favour of a blanket payscale for all workers, so even if I'm not paid to the top of my game, at least I'm contempt knowing I got paid as much as the next guy (or girl)? Do I push for more profits? To the point of being unlikable? To the point of being downright nasty?

You gave up early on the negotiation. Like I used to do not long ago. Because you're young, and so am I. Because we ALL start giving up early on the negotiation. We want to get our name out there, we want to be likeable, we think we can rely solely on our passion and good will, because we've all have been cottoned until adulthood. Because, in short, we're simply inexperienced.
Or, in your particular case, because you don't need that money, which is a perfectly valid reason.

The most successful professional I've met said "I'm a shark during negotiations, even if it is an unpleasant moment, but when I turn up for the gig I make sure I'm the nicest to everybody". That's one way of working it out. I'm still figuring how to exactly work it out myself, but I'm getting close. It looks, Jen, that you just started working it out. Good for you. At around my age, by the way. I'm a man. You're a woman. But that hasn't mattered, because Negotiation is so hard it levels men and women, supposing they started on a different level to begin with, which I have trouble believing.

Because that's another point I want to make. The What The Heck point. As in, What The Heck, Jennifer? Why would ANYONE not want to be likeable? Being likeable kept us alive inside a warm cave as opposed to otherwise inside sabre tooth tigers outside. It kept us in the cool kids circles in school as opposed to be labelled as the class outcasts. It keeps us from being depressed. It keeps us bonded. It defines us as a species. It makes your fans put together YouTube compilations of your best interviews, and it makes my friends crack at my jokes. And it makes some of my clients keep ringing back. But we sometimes have to grow out of all that, because not always being likeable is the answer, and sometimes clients will try to abuse us. Not always this economy and the Real World matches what we are at core. And we have body pains, ALL of us, because it simply doesn't come naturally. We have to force it. Dominate it. Choose our battles. Men and women alike.

I recently lauded a fellow sound professional for landing a really good contract. Acknowledging my thumbs up, he contacted me privately and recommended me to read a book about negotiation, available on Amazon. Changed his life, apparently. The book is 178 pages long. 178 PAGES LONG, JENNIFER. 178 pages I most possibly will have to read if I ever want to land such good contracts. Because I had the skills to do that job, but not the skills to land such a contract, little it mattered that I'm a man.

Couldn't that be the case of your male co-stars in American Hustle? Maybe they read that book. Maybe they read 5 of them. Maybe they could write it themselves. Bradley Cooper has been doing stuff since you were ten, and Christian Bale since before you were born. Surely they picked up the art of Negotiation along the way, so that could be one of the reasons they were paid more. I don't know much about Bradley, but Christian Bale had problems with stardom after The Empire of The Sun, so maybe he was acquainted to the idea of not being entirely likable early on on his career, literally before you or I were born.

Have you considered all those possibilities before relating your issue to feminism? Because there may be a valid claim in there that just needs to be unearthed. But so far, when so many other possibilities haven't been discarded, I simply cannot support you.

I too played the blame game. I perceived one my peers as being more succesful than me. I blamed her being a native and me being an immigrant. I felt sorry for myself and angry at my adoptive country. I talked to her, and quickly found out she kicks my butt at negotiating. I learned some good tips from her. Note I said "Her".

I thank Odin I didn't speak publicly about "racism", because I now know that's not what it was, and I would've made a fool of myself. And what is worse, I would've made a fool of the serious issue racism is. And since then on, I've been really careful not to be too hasty to relate my luck to a social issue, because it may look like I'm cynically taking advantage of it, and I would do more harm than good.

I simply think you may have been too hasty, and that, in fact, you're not a victim of sexism. You're a victim of the economy, like most of us are.

Only, in this economy, I personally don't label as "victims" people who count their salary in millions. I wonder how much made the lowest paid person on set to compensate the 41% of the profits you five stars blackholed. Or 47%, if you and Amy were paid as much as the rest.

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The Blue Boompoler

Welp, I said about writing every month or so, and I'm a little late. Anyhoo, hello to you all again. Let me resume where I left off.

I chose to move to Cardiff. It's a great place. It has things, and people. Yes, those, both, so it's OK -- You can find info about Cardiff elsewhere online, so I won't dwell into this aspect.

Cardiff in a pic.

Because this is hardly the place for this. This should be the place where I speak about media, cinema, TV, broadcast, gaming, sound and other things related to my professional ambitions. However, I feel I have to speak a bit more about plain me, so I'll get over with that in this post so I can move to the important stuff on the following ones.

And when I say speaking about me, I mean telling you about my biggest secret, in the privacy of the Internet. And that secret is: one of my favourite colours is blue. I know I know, that's nothing that differentiates me from 2 billion other people. The thing is that I've wanted to dye my hair blue for a while. Yup. Like Superman, which is my favourite superhero. Because he's bold. And absolute. And determined. And resilient. And he looks good with blue hair.

I photoshopped a side to side comparison of how I normally look like vs. how I'd look with the new hair colour.

As you can see, blue hair works much better.


The reason I haven't dyed my hair so far is because of the job market. Even if I've been mainly a freelancer, the hypothetical possibility of not being able to sustain myself solely on freelancing prevented me from going crazy, and kept my natural colour in order to be eligible for a side job, such as waiting, being a receptionist, that sort of thing.

And that impending possibility of needing a side job is still around, although decreasing every day, being chipped bit by bit, with determined resiliency (or resilient determination, if you wish). Freelancing is hard to take off to a point of feeling absolutely and unequivocally sure you'll never have to look for a backup plan. And getting a regular job in a competitive market takes a while. So I either up my freelance game, which I'm always slowly but steadily doing, or I get a more regular job in media or broadcast, which is something I'm also looking for.

I also give these silly things a strong symbolic meaning, like a badge of honour or a giant S in my chest. Something I have to earn. I have to *earn* blue hair, dammit.

Too long didn't read version: I will dye my hair blue the moment I can call media-slash-broadcast my one and only job. That way I won't have to talk about myself any longer, and you'll know if I'm still working on it or if I finally made it, absolutely and unequivocally made it. Made it but still working on it resiliently, as always.

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Keep calm and go on an adventure. Again.


For the last 9 months that I've been in Barcelona, I've picked up video editing and the technical basics of Photoshop and DSLR. That means I'm a bit more all rounder technician, and while my strength is still sound, I'm not completely blind to other crafts of the audiovisual world.

I've also been on a journey of self-discovery and gathered what I want to do and what I need to do in order to do it. I did lots of marketing research in London, the USA, Spain and even Amsterdam, and I now have a superfancy new webpage! www.albertbalbastre.com

That means I've opened my scope and I'm now looking for traineeships and assistant positions both in production and postproduction sound, as well as MCR (machine room work), video edit assisting, and pretty much everything that has to do with a studio or facility, including but not limited to serving teas and coffees. I haven't fully given up on freelance lowbudget jobs, but they're not a priority.


But being in Barcelona is cutting my chances in half to even land an interview, and flying on a short notice costs hundreds. On the other hand, London is prohibitive with a minimum wage job, which is what a Manuel like me is bounded to have. So I'm 80% decided to move to Cardiff, or at least, outside the M25, get a day job that pays the bills (and hopefully is a bit more stimulating than putting food in shelves) and commute to London for interviews and the occasional freelance work.






Cardiff is cheap, not gargantuan in size, with a TV industry that employs thousands, youth... And completely unknown to me, in the end. Not as unknown as outside the M25, though. The other alternative would be Manchester.


Which begs the question: do you think it's a good idea? If you had to leave London, would you consider Cardiff? And Manchester? Would you consider moving outside the M25? Is there even life in there, at all? What day jobs are there in a City 20 times smaller than London? Bottom question: do you know somebody who lives there? I could use some insight.

 

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