In this edition of the compressed interview, I asked Shiloh Godson about his career as a sound designer and recording engineer. Even though Shiloh graduated in Biochemistry, he discovered his passion was sound and went on to study Vocal recording technology in Berkeley and since then, Shiloh has been praised in the African film space.
This is what we conversed:
Threshold: Getting Started
J: How did you get started in audio? What was your first job and how did you get it?
S: I got started in audio in 2007, I was taught to record audio at church meetings by a guy named Japhet using Nuendo and soundforge. I was pretty fast at learning the ropes of it and within a few months I was editing audio recordings for radio stations and audio CDs.
For sound design, it was pretty straightforward, I reached out to a popular director Obi Emelonye, he asked me if I could handle sound design, which I had almost no idea what film sound design was. I quickly did some research and understood it was something I did a lot as part of my editing process, he sent me a little clip, which I worked on, I did pretty decent, nothing spectacular. He sent me a second clip which was really complicated, I worked on it about a week, I embraced the challenge, and when I sent him the scene, he was pretty surprised and in awe of what I did with the scene.
That’s how I ended up as a sound designer, I had been producing music for a while prior to getting that opportunity and I had a drought before this period where I didn’t work on a song for about two months and I spent every single day, paying for transportation, books, courses developing my audio engineering, learning new skills which was simply providence at work, because the skills I developed were fundamental to making the most of my opportunity.
I learned not too long ago that people who are well prepared and keep knocking on doors nonstop would get lucky with a few important opportunities.
I’ve enjoyed the journey and having conversations with sound designers is pretty interesting, the creativity is really loud. There’s a feeling we enjoy as designers which is that we can create, bend and alter sound realities to our will which is simply amazing.
Attack: Things to discuss
J: What’s the biggest challenge you have encountered, professionally speaking, and how did you get around it?
S: The biggest challenge I encountered has always been time. Creativity needs ample time, not excess time but rather enough time. We do our best work when we have roomy time schedules which unfortunately is rarely the case.
I remember discussing with Paula Fairfield the iconic sound designer about time schedules when I was on my first sound design role. She told me her experience and encouraged me to embrace it, that it’s the reality of the industry.
To help cope with this reality I now focus first on the major scenes, those scenes I think carry the most punch, and I spend as much time as needed on those scenes before going to those further down on my priority list.
This is instructive I believe, because we tend to focus more of our attention on the little less important stuff than on the major important stuff. Give more time to the important scenes, ride your victories properly, they’ll become your reference.
Release: Talking about the good stuff
J: What has been your favorite project to work on and why?
S: So far, the favourite project I’ve worked was Badamasi (Portrait of a General). The reason I enjoyed it so much was because it’s a film based on the dark history of my country Nigeria, which I had little idea about prior to my work on the film. Secondly, it really pushed me a lot because of the tight time schedule we had. I put in a lot of crazy hours into the project sometimes going a couple of days with no sleep at all, it was a grooming period.
I enjoyed the story a lot, the action, to summarise the project was an unbalanced mixture of fun and hardwork.
J: What would you say is the most important thing when recording, or creating sound design or music?
S: The most important thing in audio, be it recording, sound design or music is having a plan. It seems cheeky but having a plan and direction is really so important and basic because it gives you a pretty clear idea of a conclusion. There would be changes along the way but if you have a direction despite any glitch, mental blocks or lack of priority tools you’ll still have a better chance of getting to a goal when you have a destination. If don’t have a destination or a goal, you’ll assume any stop as a possible destination.
J: What are the biggest life lessons you have learned in your personal and professional career?
S: The biggest lesson I’ve learnt professionally is that you can’t overemphasize the value of time and growth. It’ll show if you’ve spent a lot of time doing meaningful work on a project. It’ll show if you’ve invested time growing or if you’ve been static for years. It’ll always show, because there’s no such thing as being constant, you’re either growing or you’re dying. Meaningful work cannot be overemphasized. For growth, there’ll always be something I don’t know. I appreciate experience but I value knowledge over experience, you grow faster.
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt personally was taught by my mom; we had a guy when I was a teenager who fixed some stuff for us at the house. She told me, “you see this Mr, there’s only one thing I remember whenever he comes to mind, it’s his body odour. That’s how it is with reputation, it’s the first thing they associate with you and none is as important as integrity”.
We’ll read each other again in a couple of weeks.