Pulse has a renowned list of high profile experts, who regularly lecture on our courses. Many with interesting and varied careers, in this section of our newsletter we aim to delve into their background to get tips on how to succeed in the professional environment.
Noel Quinn: Guest Lecture Profile
Noel Quinn has been involved in the film business for almost forty years. He has worked on high profile feature films, documentaries, and commercials in Ireland and Australia. Noel’s sound credits include Michael Collins, Veronica Guerin, Laws of Attraction and The Honeymooners; in 1989 he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro. Noel has lectured extensively on film sound in Ireland and is one of Pulse College guest lecturers for location sound. We take an in-depth look on what life on location in some of the world’s most exotic destinations and find out if it really is as glamorous as it sounds.
Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself background where you’re from etc.
I was born and raised in Stillorgan in a family of three boys and three girls. I hated going to school I went to primary and technical school. My Dad was a self educated man and he always emphasised the importance of education. When I decided to leave school after my group cert he was not too impressed and wanted me to get a job straight away. It was when on a date with a young local girl whose friends came along, I felt I had to pay for them all even though I could not afford it, I knew then I had to look for a job. After that experience I went searching and was taken on by the Adelphi Cinema. It started off initially as a summer job but it was not long after it became fulltime. I met my wife Rita at 17 and was married at 20 my son was my 21st birthday present. Rita, my 2 children and 5 grandchildren keep me grounded. It’s an honour being a grandfather the grandkids still come to us every Friday. We have a little film and radio studio the grandchildren and I have made 23 dramas in total so it’s a lot of fun.
Q2. You have been involved in the film industry for over 40 years can you tell us what inspired you to become involved in this dynamic Industry?
While working in Adelphi I went to Kevin St DIT part time to become a draftsman. While I was doing that the Adelphi Cinema sent me on a training course in light and sound as part of their projectionist training. The tutor on the sound and light course spotted my talent and advised me that there was an opening coming up in Ardmore studios. When I told him my age he said I was too young but I went for it anyway and within a month I was working on my first film “Sinful Davy”.
Q3. Did the love of film come from your family growing up?
The love of film came from my Dad who always talked about film with passion. I had an eye for detail, when watching a film I understood how the technical and creative go hand and hand.
Q4. How did you learn your craft was it all by hands on training?
On the job training that came with a few clips across the ear which was due to me getting on my cocky horse and making quite a few mistakes. The most memorable was when I was working under sound recordist Liam Souran who I admired greatly. He gave me a very good training and was a great teacher. He thought me that 1. Time is money 2. Don’t take anything that happened on set seriously. He gave me a good grounding in the basics of sound from recording, syncing editing, track laying and boom operation. As a young apprentice it was not all plain sailing and I did have a few embarrassing moments. One that stands out was when I was working on “Quakers Fortune has a cousin in the Bronx”. I was using a mechanical boom, the platform was about four foot high. In between one of the takes I was on the floor talking to the sound recordist when I heard “turn over” which means they are about to start a take. I made a run for the boom splitting my trouser as I leapt on to the platform. I had to stay like that for another 3 takes. In the Ardmore era I had the privilege of working with acting legends, Peter O’ Toole and Katharine Hepburn but I have only had the courage to asks 2 people for autographs Marlene Dietrich for my mum and Lisa Kudrow for my granddaughter!
Q5. You work mainly in the field of location sound can you tell us about the highs and low of working on sets around the world.
On location sound you have to be prepared to work long hours. It can range from 60 – 70 hours a week and overtime on top of that. It puts a lot of pressure on young families. There are so many times that you make plans for birthdays or anniversaries that you have to cancel because the scene runs into overtime, which would be a low. The high is that you get to enjoy working on projects with inspiring directors. You get to go to parts of the world that others would not get the opportunity. I worked for 9 months working around the world filming a topic close to my heart Alternative Medicine. It was so interesting to get the opportunity to see first had how it all works.
Q6. What has been the most exciting experience on location to date?
The documentary on Alternative Medicine was an amazing experience, going to China and Asia, China in particular always held a fascination. When you are watching documentaries on TV it always brings up additional questions but as it is not interactive you don’t get to ask them. Working on the documentary I got the 1st hand experience talking with people who are renowned practitioners in the field Alternative medicine. It was truly an amazing experience.
Q7. You have worked with some of the most high profile directors from Joel Schumacher to Neil Jordan. Tell us about this experience?
As sound people you tend to be quite observant which I love, you have a lot of time in between takes when the lighting gets rigged. You get a good overview of the different directorial styles which can be fascinating. There are three main styles the actors directors, who are solely interested in performance, they put the emphasis on the actors. The technical director spends less time with actors and concentrates on shot set up. Then you have directors that combine both. Three that come to my mind are Neil Jordon, Joel Schumacher, and Jim Sheridan.
Jordon knows what he wants. On one particular scene on “Butcher Boy” he did not like the way the shot was working. He broke for lunch early and by the time we got back the scene had completely changed it around and it worked much better. Jim is an actor’s director, if you show initiative he develops you.
Joel Schumacher works very differently, he did a lot of prep beforehand and very little on set. He also gave the actors a lot of leeway.
One funny story was on a film directed by Slazenger, he was about 80 at the time, but he was still extremely technically aware. Any changes made without his knowledge he would spot them straight away. It was just after lunch and the running scene was due to be cut but he did not call it so the actors continued with the dialogue for at least 10 minutes. They were beginning to run out of lines, when he eventually called cut and apologised. It turned out he had fallen asleep during the take, it was very funny.
Q8. You now work on a lot of documentary projects what prompted this change?
I don’t feel I swapped one for the other, they are very much intertwined. As a sound recordist you can work on at least 3 films a year if you’re a boom swinger you can work on up to 7 films. If you’re a good boom you can work with any sound recordist and you can develop preferences on who you like to work with. So you can work on either documentary or film depending on what takes your fancy.
Q9. You took the brave leap moving to Australia. Tell us about your experience there?
In 1970 I was let go from Ardmore Studios as it went into administration at that time. I then worked freelance, while I applied for a position in RTE for which they made me permanent. They felt I had too much experience on location so they put me in the studio environment. I found out I didn’t enjoy studio as much as being out and about on location. I then decided to move to Australia! The last production I worked on in RTE was directed by Joseph Strick, he heard I was going to Australia and he put me forward for a job in a newly establish film college. With family in toe we got the assisted passage tickets which were £52 at the time and including a year’s accommodation. I was due to start in the Film School but it was not up and running until 7 months later. I worked for ABC on various projects while the film school was being built, when it was up and running I lectured there for five years on all areas of film. It was a very exciting time for me.
Q10. You received an Emmy Nomination for your work on “The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro” that must have been amazing.
It was really great. I was just finished filming a 16 week production of “Dadth is Death” which was a nightmare. The Director had no time for sound though I got support from the cast and crew. I came off that production no longer wanting to work on film, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Tamor Asseyed managed to convince me to work on this lovely film “The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro” which I had a ball. After I got the nomination the doors opened up for me in Australia and work poured in.
Q11. Why did you decided to turn your hand to teaching?
I love passing on knowledge, my motto is if you play and have fun you can teach anything. Most of my lectures are outside the lecture room. It’s important to have a great interactive philosophy and be supportive of film students who work out on a limb. The main aim I believe is to nurture the creative ability of students. I like to play, that is one of my strengths as a lecture and I do a lot of practical exercise that will stretch students potential. I usually chat and see what interests them to begin with and we work from there.
Q12. You now teach with Pulse how did this collaboration come about?
Aidan in Pulse College heard about my work as a lecture, and asked me come in on a trial; they must have liked me as the relationship with the college still continues today and I enjoying working in Pulse immensely.
Q13. What is the best thing you find about teaching in Pulse College?
Bringing peoples natural talent to the surface and let them shine, it gives you a real sense of achievement. I teach students to go with their gut and follow your heart. Some curtail this instinct, so it’s vital to encourage and nurture natural ability.
Q14. What advice would you have for students looking to pursue a career in location sound?
In this era students have to push for their dream. The main advice I would give would be
- 1. Go out and meet the people who are working in departments they would like to work in and spend time with them
- 2. I love the film school ethos and with ever changing technology, opportunities are endless. It’s now more affordable to explore your creative potential.
Q15. 40 years on and a CV that is as long as my elbow, what still gets you excited about location sound?
I love what you can do with sound, the emotions you can stir within people subconsciously is always interesting. If you can build a good sound track you can bring people on an exciting journey they may not be fully aware they are going on.
Q16. What’s next on your to do list?
There are two unfulfilled ambitions; I would love to do a live radio drama on location the other is to pursue my interest in alternative medicine in particular doing a course in hot stones. For the moment though I love lecturing, I love the drive and enthusiasm that students have and I enjoy watching their potential grow and develop.