Name: David McCallum
Company: Sim International — Sim Post (Sound) in Toronto
Can you describe your company?
Sim provides equipment and creative services for projects in film and television. We have offices in Toronto, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Vancouver. I work as part of our Sim Post team in Toronto’s King St. East post facility where our emphasis is post sound and picture. We’re a small division, but we’ve been together as a team for nearly 15 years, the last three of which have been as part of Sim.
What’s your job title?
Supervising Sound Editor
What does that entail?
My work is 90% project and client focused. I work directly on the sound design and sound edit for television and film projects, collaborating with directors and producers to shape the sound for their show. I also manage a team of people at Sim Post (Sound) Toronto that make up our sound crew(s). Part of my job also involves studio time, working closely with actors and directors to help shape the final performances that end up on the screen.
What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I don’t work extreme hours. The screen industry, and post production in particular, has a well-deserved reputation for working its people hard, with long hours and tight demands as the norm rather than the exception. I don’t believe in overworking either my crew or myself. I strongly believe that people work best under predictable conditions.
Individuals need to be placed in positions to succeed, not merely survive. So, I put a lot of effort into managing my workload, getting on top of things well in advance of deadlines. I try to keep my days and weeks structured and organized so that I’m at my best as much as possible.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Finding a unique way to solve a sound problem. I love discovering a new trick, like using parts of two different words to make a character say a new word. You never know when or where you can find these kinds of solutions — hearing the possibilities requires patience and a keen ear. Sometimes the things I put together sound ridiculous, but because I mostly work alone nobody gets to hear my mistakes. Every now and then something unexpected works, and it’s golden.
What’s your least favorite?
There can be a lot of politics that permeate the film and television world. I prefer direct communication and collaboration, even if what you hear from someone isn’t what you want to hear.
What is your favorite time of the day?
The start. I like getting in a bit early, relaxing with a good coffee while I map out my goals for the day. Every day something good needs to be accomplished, and if the day gets off to a positive start then there is a better chance that all my objectives for that day will be met.
If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I would probably still be working in audio, but perhaps on the consumer side, selling high-end tube audio electronics and turntables. Either that, or I would be a tennis instructor.
Why did you choose this profession?
That is actually a long story. I didn’t find this profession or career path on my own. I was put on it by a very thoughtful university professor named Clarke Mackay at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, who saw a skill set in me that I did not recognize in myself. The path started with Clarke, went through the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television and on to Jane Tattersall, who is senior VP of Sim Toronto.
Jane’s been the strongest influence in my career by far, teaching and steering me along the way. Not all lessons were intended, and sometimes we found ourselves on the same path. Sim Post (Sound) went through so many changes, and we managed a lot of them together. I don’t know if I would have found or stayed in this profession without Clarke or Jane, so in a way they have helped choose it for me.
Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
The Handmaid’s Tale, Vikings, Alias Grace, Cardinal, Molly’s Game, Kin and The Man Who Invented Christmas.
What is the project that you are most proud of?
The one I’m working on now! More seriously, that does feel like an impossible question to answer, as I’ve felt pride at numerous times in my career. But most recently I would say our work on The Handmaid’s Tale has been tremendously rewarding.
I’d also mention a small Canadian documentary I was a part of in 2016 called Unarmed Verses. It’s a National Film Board of Canada documentary by director Charles Officer and producer Lea Marin. It touched my heart.
I’m also very proud of some of my colleagues that I’ve been overseeing for a few years now, in particular Claire Dobson and Krystin Hunter. Claire and Krystin are two young editors who are both doing extremely impressive work with me. I’m very proud of them.
Name three pieces of technology that you can’t live without.
Avid Pro Tools, Izotope RX and NOS Amperex 6922 vacuum tubes.
What social media channels do you follow?
I’ve only ever participated in Facebook, but the global political climate has me off of social media right now. I do my best to stay away from the “comments section of life.”
This is a high stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I try to reduce stress within the workplace. I have a few rituals that help… and good coffee. Nothing beats stress in the morning like a delicious coffee. But more practically, I try my best to stay on top of my work and make sure I thoroughly understanding my client’s expectations. I then actively manage my work so I’m not pushed up against deadlines.
But really the best tool is my team. I have an amazing team of people around me and I would be nothing without them.