With support from the TTS Foundation, inspirational speakers Dave Whitehead and Michelle Child from White Noise Ltd spent a week at Tanglin to talk to students from each school, staff and parents about their experience in and passion for sound in film, television and music.
Part of Oscar winning teams, Dave has worked with Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg, among others on projects including Mortal Engines, Arrival, The Hobbit Trilogy, Bladerunner 2049, and District 9.
Dave and Michelle also produce their own films, sound archives and music.
Here they tell us how they got to where they are today.
How did you get into film, television and music?
Dave – I had a job as a sound technician, recording engineer and composer in the music department at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. This was followed by jobs at a recording studio where I recorded bands and composed music for video productions. I then spent six years as a sound designer for film and television. As well as learning on the job, I just spent lots of my spare time experimenting with music and having fun playing in bands with friends.
Michelle – I followed a more academic route, studying at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney. However, it became apparent that it was also important to network and to meet people in the industry who inspire you.
Do you have any unique features or characteristics to your work?
Dave - We aim to give an authentic and unique voice to all the films we work on. We don't use stock sounds, so it takes a lot of time and energy to get all the sounds we need, even visiting specific countries and locations. This morning, we've been recording sounds of the huge thunderstorm in Singapore!
What is the most useful skill you've developed?
Dave – Being able to clearly articulate your vision when embracing and bringing to life a Director's ideas.
Michelle – Teamwork. I don't think there's been anything that I've worked on where I haven't needed the support of other people.
Which has been your favourite project to work on and why?
Michelle – The teams on Arrival and Mortal Engines were brilliant to work with – we were like a family, not just working together, but doing things like going for lunch together.
Dave – Lord of the Rings. I had such a great time creating all the sound effects and am proud of what we achieved. I guess this was also a turning point in my career.
What tips would you give to students hoping to get into your industry?
Both – Discover what you really like doing and make stuff! Share talents with others, form groups and develop your passion.
Dave – Remember to be diverse. You need to be willing to work on other jobs whilst establishing yourself within the industry. I believe working on short films is the best business card - you find new directors and can hone different techniques.
What opportunities do you think Tanglin's students have?
Both - The film studies facilities at Tanglin are second to none and are fertile ground for students to gain practical tips. Many universities don't have as good or equivalent resources. The teachers are also extremely generous with their time.
What have you most enjoyed about your time at Tanglin?
Both - Sharing our experiences and knowledge with students and staff. We love giving back. Also, hearing students' thoughts and ideas helps to keep our art fresh.
What should we look out for next?
Dave - I would love to direct a feature film. I'm also enjoying photography and writing scripts.
Michelle – I'm constantly reinventing myself. Currently I'm writing novels.
Hear more from Dave and Michelle in a podcast with Tanglin student, Shivam.
Studying Film at Tanglin
Tanglin Trust School believes that filmmaking is a collaborative process that promotes independent learning, a spirit of creative freedom and the development of the skills necessary to solve logistical problems. Film Studies is taught at GCSE, A Level and IB Diploma with many of the students choosing to study film at university. There are also numerous curriculum enrichment opportunities available to help students develop their practical production skills.