The following article is a transcript of Vibrant Visionaries Podcast – Episode 4.
Welcome to Vibrant Visionaries with Heidi Bennett. I’m super excited to talk with one of my fellow podcasters. So today I want to welcome Harper W. Harris. Thanks for coming Harper.
Hey, yeah, thanks for having me on. I’m excited to chat, not about a specific minute of a movie.
Yeah, it almost feels unnatural to have free form conversations and not say, “Now let’s get back to this minute.” Harper and I met through the Movies By Minutes podcast group, which I imagine you may meet some other of those podcasters along the way here because I’ve made a lot of friends through doing Cabin Minute Cast and Spinal Tap Minute. Then Harper had his own that I loved. Harper, why don’t you go ahead and just introduce yourself, let people know maybe about that podcast, and then a little bit just about your background and what you’re up to, what you’re all about.
Sure. As far as the podcast goes, that was The Thing Minute, which I was far from the first to do that. There are, I think, probably 100 by movies by minutes podcasts. I started mine last year on John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Spent about nine months or so digging into that, one of my favorite movies one minute at a time with a bunch of awesome guests like you. That was kind of a recent project that I guess came to a close.
In general, I’m an audio engineer, but more specifically, I do production audio, so recording audio on set either by myself as running the recording and doing the boom operating and all that stuff, or as part of a team, either as a boom operator or a sound mixer. I kind of split my time between doing that and doing more post-production stuff. So editing and mixing short films and recently some features. A lot of podcast work, that’s funny, I kind of got into podcasting more deeply from the other side of it being an editor and then being like oh this seems like a lot of fun, I should be doing this more often. I’ve kind of split my time 50/50 between production and post-production for all kinds of stuff. I can get deeper into how I got into that as we go if we want to, but that’s the gist.
Cool. I know as of our recording, fairly recently I think you did an overhaul of your website and I’m checking it out. It looks really nice and I like how clean it is. It took me a moment to realize that, just slow on my end, that your logo has your name, your ‘HWH’ in it. I like how easy it is to navigate and that yeah, under podcast you wrote, “I’m always looking for new and established podcasts to work on. Contact me today and together we can make your podcasts sound great.” I was like, “Oh cool.” I didn’t even know that was something you were interested in doing or that you have done with folks.
Yeah, yeah definitely.
Podcasters need all the help they can get.
I totally sympathize. That’s not like a marketing ploy on my website. I really mean that. Working on podcasts is one of my favorite things. From a business perspective it’s a consistent piece of work, which is always awesome and appreciated. It’s an interesting thing just to be able to edit and work on the technical side of something that I might have an interest in the actual subject matter too, so it’s fun to be working and learning at the same time.
That brings up something that I like to talk about with folks, which is it sounds like your creative endeavors give you a combination of opportunities to work collaborating with others. I guess they’re all probably collaborations in a way, but some of them may be more on a day to day basis, you’re working with a team and then on some of your post-production is maybe you, I don’t know, sitting at home in front of your computer. What’s it like to do all those different things and are you drawn to certain projects over other ones like collaborating, going to a location versus maybe doing something a little more isolated?
That’s a really, really good question, that’s a big one. I’m glad you asked that because it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. When I was in school and trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do it was always like I want to be a filmmaker. I want to be a director or editor. I want to be the person telling the story. Gradually, that’s kind of changed in a way that I’ve been thinking about recently that I don’t really do a lot of stuff that’s my personal vision from start to finish, for better or for worse. It’s interesting because I’ve found that the collaboration process has been really rewarding in most cases. It’s something that I really enjoy doing that because it kind of takes some of the pressure off because I think a lot of creatives, and especially people in media are really, really hard on themselves and kind of their toughest critic. I find that I really get frustrated sometimes working on something that’s totally my own and that I really want to do something in a specific way and if I can’t accomplish it by myself in that way it gets really frustrating. Sometimes I end up dropping it, or delaying, or putting off working on it.
But working with somebody else, it’s weird because it’s like this whole thing where the project is bigger than both of you. There’s something motivating both of you to work and you’re kind of looking over each other’s shoulders. You’re always kind of motivated to work on stuff, which is really interesting and exciting sometimes.
I think that’s one of the things that I’ve found most interesting and also is sometimes most challenging about the kind of work I do in that it’s a habit I’m trying to get into, particularly in working in post-production when I’m doing sound design work and stuff is not getting attached to the work I’m doing. In most senses of the word, it’s not my work, I’m doing something for somebody else’s movie or somebody else’s podcast. It’s hard, that’s the biggest challenge I’ve probably had recently is like when somebody comes back and they’re like, “Oh this is cool, but can you turn that all the way down?”
You’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s cool. I spent a lot of time on that, but that’s okay.” That’s one of those things where I’m trying to learn to be less personally attached to it, that kind of work anyways, just because it’s not mine. You’re kind of working towards somebody else’s vision. Sometimes it’s a challenge to work in that realm. I guess working in isolation versus working with a group that’s kind of why I’ve stuck with splitting my time between production and post-production because I really enjoy both.
In the sense of production, it’s super exciting to be on set and you’re working with, even if it’s a small crew, you’re still working with at least five or six other people, and usually many more than that. It’s incredibly exciting to me to be on a set and you have all of these people who all have very specific skills and they’re all putting those skills to use to capture this very, very specific thing. We’re shooting this one scene, we’ve got to get these three lines of dialogue, the camera has to move at the right moment, the boom has to follow and not get in the way. There’s just so many moving parts, working in production has taught me … it boggles my mind that any movie has ever been made, just that there’s so many things that could go wrong and so many variables and things like that. It’s super thrilling and satisfying to work on a set when everybody works really well together and that pays off. But it’s also very exhausting. Production work is really physically demanding just because you’re working usually at least 12 hour days and you’re on your feet all day.
In my case, I’m holding a boom above my head for most of that time. It can be really physically demanding, as satisfying as it is. It’s nice to be able to go back and forth between doing that and doing something where I’m mostly working from home or occasionally in a local studio and doing stuff that’s a little bit more creative in the traditional sense of the word. The production stuff I feel like is more like a craftsmanship thing. I know what to do and this is how I do it. The post-production there’s a little bit more creativity involved in trying to figure out let’s see how we can accomplish this tone, or this feeling, or tell this story.
It’s interesting, as closely related as those two things are, I find them to be really, really different. I feel like my work in both benefits from doing the other side of it. It’s something I hope I don’t have to make a definitive decision to do one or the other at some point any time because I really do enjoy moving back and forth.
Yeah, no, that’s super well put and really interesting. I think that’s something that I find with people who … I identify them as the multi-creative, is that they don’t want to choose one thing and that almost feels painful in a way just to think of having to do one thing. You well describe what it’s like to work with a group and I think both of those, when you said not attached to the outcome, both of those types of creative endeavors, working on somebody else’s project and then working on your own project, can both benefit from that because even though your own project you may have a little more creative control there’s also the unexpected things that happen that bring out something new that you never imagined. I really like to do that too. I like to work on my own and I like to work in groups. Then I like to spend some time by myself doing the deep work. To me, it’s always a matter of trying to figure out how to balance all of those out. It’s always a moving target. It’s never perfect. It’s not like on Mondays I do this, on Tuesdays I do that, and on Wednesdays … I’m curious how you spend time when you’re not paid by someone else, what do you like to do?
Sure. That’s actually a really pertinent question because I’m actually just coming out of my first big lull as a freelancer. April was a really difficult month for me. I just all of a sudden had a lot less work come my way. It was interesting, I’ve only been doing freelancing full-time for a little over a year now and I was really pleasantly surprised as how when I first started I spent maybe my first month and a half or two months working really hard to market myself, and find new clients, and find people to work with, and just putting myself out there. Then from there it kind of just grew on its own. I didn’t really have to do a whole lot. Not that long ago, towards the end of March I was suddenly like, “Oh, I may have to start emailing, doing cold-call emails again trying to find people.” It kind of shocked me a little bit just because I hadn’t really had that happen yet. I knew becoming a full-time freelancer that’s something you’re obviously, hopefully, aware of is that does happen from time to time and you just have to be prepared for it.
I was really struggling and it was kind of depressing to not have something to do at least three or four days a week, which was kind of normal up until that point. It’s interesting because it really made me realize that doing The Thing Minute podcast was really my first answer to that when that when I first started was trying to fill that time with something creative and interesting to me so I wouldn’t get depressed. Just last month I found myself all of a sudden having all these ideas for personal projects or podcasts, or different things like that. I was like, “Oh maybe I should do this. Maybe I should do that.” It’s like just a few months before that I would have never dreamed there’s no way I’d have time to start a new podcast or something like that.
It’s kind of interesting the kind of realization that I’m coming to is that on top of your regular freelance work, I feel like it’s really beneficial to have a free flowing ongoing project like a podcast or something like that, that you could invest yourself in so that it’s work, but it’s not work work. It’s something to invest yourself in when you’ve got that downtime. I’m kind of looking for the next thing to do. Luckily, my paid work has really picked back up this month but I’m still thinking about what that next personal project ought to be so that have something when I’ve got that downtime. It’s hard to go from that mode where you’re like … it’s that kind of when it rains it pours thing I’ve found to be very, very true freelancing. When I’m working I have too much to handle sometimes almost. Every day is like I’m waking up okay, I’ve got to figure out what’s highest priorities that I can get done today, like I’ve got to knock a whole bunch of this stuff out before the end of the week.
Then all of a sudden, it drops out and there’s nothing for weeks. Then it’s like I forgot what this is like, I have to move back into this mode of marketing, and researching, and finding new sources of income, and things like that. It’s kind of an interesting thing being a freelancer, having to do that. Obviously you’re working for yourself and you’re your own cheerleader, and boss, and everything else so you kind of have to change those hats. It’s interesting when you suddenly have to do that.
Right, yeah. No, I’ve definitely found that over the last five years of working as a coach is that … I definitely had some times of fairly deep depression. It’s hard to market yourself when you’re feeling depressed.
True, yeah, very true.
Yeah podcasting, listening to podcasts in the beginning, that was one of my saviors was having these clever and funny people in my ears, but also, I realized it helped me keep my brain working. Then working on a podcast I realized, oh my gosh, this hit so many things. I like having conversations with folks. I like sharing interesting content and also, it kind of keeps my brain working on a bunch of different creative levels. Then, I’m meeting new people and new people are finding out about me and all of my creative projects. It was also working as a marketing tool for me.
On the project like you and I did, that Movies By Minute project, once you commit to that you’re in production mode all the time.
It really helps you learn. For me, it was very useful to help me learn how to keep a project going even on those days where I wasn’t feeling so great or just your down days where maybe you’re not feeling as creative, or just how to produce anyways, how to push past that, which I felt was really valuable and was a great thing to do creatively in between working on my own business. I totally get that. What about other stuff, do you like to travel or go out into nature?
Yeah sure. I guess the big one that’s been the longest running thing in my life is comic books. I’ve had a torrid love affair with comic books for quite a long time. That’s something that I pick up new books every week. I read a lot of comics and I’m trying to read more books because I used to be an avid reader of books. Over the last couple years that habit has kind of dropped not because I didn’t have interesting stuff to read but because my reading time was all taken up with comics. I’m trying to even that balance out a little bit more. I do a lot of reading.
I’m somewhere in between I guess a casual and a hardcore gamer, somewhere in between. I do play a lot of video games, but I don’t play a lot of online stuff with friends or anything like that. I just pick something and stick with it for a couple months, so that takes up a little of my free time.
With my wife we try to travel as much as we can. We usually do a big trip around our anniversary in May. We didn’t get a chance to do it this year, although she went with my mom and sister, they took a girl’s trip to Greece and just got back recently.
We’re thinking about trying to go to Scotland next year, which would be amazing. We try and do at least one big trip and then a bunch of little weekend trips, whether we’re going out to a cabin and spending some time outdoors or going to a new city for three or four days and exploring around there. I don’t have anything against travel and I do enjoy it a lot, but it would kill her not to go somewhere every couple of months. She’s really big into it. That’s helped me get a little bit more open to … I’m definitely a homebody. I love staying at home, and reading a book, and watching a movie, but when I get dragged out somewhere I’m always like, “Oh yeah, this is amazing.” I forget why I love this. We do travel when we can too.
That’s cool. My husband and I just flew down to LA for a few days and we didn’t really have much of a plan, but we stayed at an Airbnb in Eagle Rock and just explored that area, had some great meals, and went to a cool museum. It was just really nice. One thing I noticed in Eagle Rock was just that there were a lot of cacti, so just taking in an area and seeing a little bit of different architecture and local plants, to me, that was creatively inspiring.
How does the stuff that you do outside of work inspire, I’ll just say what came to mind for me of when you’re playing your video games, I would imagine it would be hard not to pay attention to the audio …
… that’s in the video games.
Yeah, definitely. Obviously, the one I didn’t mention was watching movies obsessively, which I have always done. In all that kind of stuff, anything that involves audio, I’m definitely more and more getting attuned to oh wow, somebody put a lot of work into this, this is really good or oh they could have done a lot more with this. It depends on the game.
It’s funny, I keep thinking about, I’ve been playing this game The Witcher 3 recently for the last month or so. Every time I’m playing that game I’m like, “Oh wow, the sounds of the wind and the trees, the branches snapping when you walk on it it was like wow, this is really well done. It really puts you in that space.” I definitely get inspired by that kind of stuff and watching movies all the time, just wondering how a certain sound was made. I follow a lot of blogs, and YouTube channels, and podcasts where they talk to the folks that worked on the sound in movies and TV shows. That’s one of my favorite things is learning how somebody accomplished or came up with the idea for some really interesting and unique sound in a movie or something like that. That’s always been incredibly fascinating to me, like the idea of foley, somebody creating thunder out of a big sheet of metal, or a grown man walking in high heels in a sand box trying to recreate the footsteps. It’s so fascinating, and fun, and exciting to me. I love watching that kind of stuff. Of course, that’s the inspiration for finding new things for me to do too.
Yeah, I think it really expands your enjoyment of something. Let’s see, we re-watched “The Last Emperor” yesterday and I was thinking, “Oh I haven’t seen this since maybe 15 or 20 years ago.” I haven’t watched it in a while and I was really tuned in more to the sound track and then I don’t know, just the tracking of the shots, the way they use color to connect to different characters, and the emperor himself and his journey.
I don’t know, it was just interesting to go oh this is great that I can go back to something now as an adult and now as a big film fan and having listened to a few different types of podcasts that are more industry-ish. You just start to key into all the different things that go into film making. Like you said, after you have been where you’ve been at you just think, “Oh my gosh, how do these things even get made,” because there’s so much that goes into them.” That’s actually something that moves me when I’m watching a film. Sometimes even whether it’s something I find as a masterpiece or something that I just find entertaining on even a lighter level, sometimes I’m just moved by thinking about the people that went into making it, and that they did it, and I’m happy for them, like oh my gosh, you got to make this. I’m so stoked for you that you got to bring your vision, whether it’s Ed Wood level or something like “Black Panther,” which I just can’t stop thinking about all the things that went into making that film …
It’s so good.
… and all the levels of which I love it.
For sure, it’s something where being in the sound industry is kind of interesting because a lot of the people I look up to they’re enormously famous in my eyes, but to anybody else, nobody would recognize these names. They’re not like celebrities in any sense of the word except to people like me, which is, to me, one of the things that’s really exciting about working in this industry in sound is that I probably could get in contact with one of them if I wanted to, these people who have won a dozen academy awards show up on these little rinky dink sound podcasts that I listen to just because they’re not celebrities themselves. The industry is really cool because in most cases that I’ve come across, people that work in sound for film are very, very open to sharing their experiences. It’s actually very different in music I’ve found. Audio people in music are very secretive about their special techniques and things like that but in movies not at all. People are excited to share that information and pass it on. That’s something that’s really cool. It’s fun to feel like I’m in the same crowd with them and you get to experience these huge big budget movies through their eyes when they do these kind of videos and things. I love that stuff.
Oh yeah, I love it too. That’s cool.
For anybody who might be interested in these type of super nerdy specific podcasts what are a couple of them that …
Sure, sure. For people interested in sound for movies specifically as far as podcasts go Tonebenders is the one I’ve been listening to for the longest. They’re really fantastic. It’s a sound designers podcast. Maybe one that’s a little bit more accessible for somebody who’s not working in the industry is Twenty Thousand Hertz has recently become one of my favorite shows. It’s a sound podcast but not for necessarily sound professionals. It’s all about, like have you ever listened to the show “Criminal“?
It reminds me a lot of criminal except instead of these short stories about a real-life crime story it’s more like they pick a famous sound, or interesting story around sound and do a 15-20 minute episode about that. They did one on the voice of Siri and how that came about. They did one on the earliest video game sounds and how those were created. It’s really, really fascinating. Every time they come out with a new episode I’m like, “Oh wow, I would have never even thought about this. It’s such an interesting story.” That’s one I can definitely recommend. Designing Sound is a really good website and YouTube channel. They do the kind of videos I was talking about where they’re like in the studio with guys who are doing the mixes and sound design for “Star Wars” and “Shape of Water”, all kinds of really cool movies. They do all these great behind-the-scenes featurette videos that are fantastic.
I feel like there’s one other. I feel like I’m missing a major podcast, maybe not a podcast. Oh actually yeah, SoundWorks Collection is another really good podcast. The big thing they’ve done that I’ve kept up with is every year when the Oscar nominees get announced they do interviews with all the re-recording mixers for all the movies that are nominated for sound, which is always super, super fascinating. Just again, another example of these guys who are nominated for Academy Awards and this podcast is able to speak to all of them every year, it’s not problem.
That’s awesome. That’s really cool. I love all the niche opportunities that happen through podcasting, that it looms so large in my life. Every week I’m probably checking out one or two new podcasts, whether I stick with them or not is a different story. When I think about learning this is the way for me, to see a great documentary, to listen to a podcast, things that bring maybe history or information, but are also entertaining or have great hosts and great engaging guests, that’s how I learn best, so a combination of YouTube channels that are informational and listening to podcasts, and checking out great blogs and things like that. If I’d only been able to do that as a kid, not that I want to … Time is what it is.
Information is where it’s at. I’m glad that as an adult I’m able to get this information because as a kid just reading stuff and listening to a teacher who might not be so engaging it didn’t make any of it stick. To me now, I just feel like I’m really learning a lot and then I also get to be entertained, so it’s just kind of like Drunk History. People chuckle when I say how much I learned from it, but I really do and I think it makes me want to learn a little bit more about certain things in history that maybe I knew a different story from those old outdated history books that weren’t really telling much, but Drunk History really gives it to us in a goofy but cool, cool way.
It’s totally mind boggling to me how much you can learn just with a laptop and a browser. I totally feel the same way. I wish I could go back as a kid now and spend every day learning new software on YouTube or listen to a podcast about something because it’s kind of insane how much interesting and inspiring information we’re able to just digest while we’re walking down to check the mail or driving to the store or whatever, it’s kind of crazy.
Yeah totally. We touched on what it is that you do, but I am curious how it is you got into your career.
Sure. I think like most people, I guess most creatives. I almost said most people that work in sound, but I think it’s probably wider than that, it’s kind of a roundabout path. When I was in high school I played drums in a band, in a couple bands, and we did our own recording. We slowly taught ourselves sort of how to use the recording equipment. Obviously we weren’t using it to the level that I am now because now I’m like, “The mistakes we made.” We pooled our money and bought our own pro tools license and things like that, and kind of figured out how to record ourselves.
I’ve always been really into music and into audio in that sense. I was the one who ended up mixing and editing our music together and I really fell in love with that and found that really fun. Then at some point, when I went to college that transitioned into this love for movies, so I was a film major. Like every other freshman film major I was like, “Oh, well I’m definitely going to be a director. I’m going to get out of school, and make movies, and be famous.” At a certain point along that route in school you start realizing I’m not that biggest, at least at that time especially, I was not like the biggest people person. I was like, “Oh directing is just telling people what to do. I don’t know that I really want to do that.” I got into video editing and felt like that was going to be the thing I was going to do.
Then literally in my last semester of school I had to take one more practical production class and the only one available was sound for picture. I’m was like, “I’ve done this sound stuff, this might be kind of cool.” It completely revolutionized how I thought about what I wanted to do with my life because I was like, “How did I not know that this field existed because this is literally everything I like.” It’s audio, it’s doing weird effects on sounds, and using that to tell a story, but also being very heavily involved in movies. It really did change my life.
Then I got out of school and I was like, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” If you asked me to write a paper on a movie I could definitely do that really well, but I’m not sure how I could get paid to do that really quickly. I got an internship at a studio. That was when it really hit me that I was shadowing an engineer and he was like, “Feel free to ask questions, that’s why you’re here as an intern is to to learn.” I was like, “I really appreciate it and that’s awesome of you, but I have no idea what questions to ask. I don’t even know where to start.” That’s when I started looking into going back to school.
I went to a school called SAE, it’s an audio engineering school that I did not know existed and was literally three blocks from my house. I signed up right away and spent the next year going there, obviously learned a lot and loved going there. That was one of the best decisions I ever made for sure. I kind of did the freelancing thing for about … Well, I was working retail I guess still at that point. I got two part-time jobs at the same time, one was working at the school, which then turned into a full-time job and I was there for several years. At the beginning it was a part-time job there and a part-time job editing audio books which was another really, really good step for me because it was one of those things where it was interesting, because like I was saying about editing podcasts, it was like if the book was really good it was really fun to do that because after a while you kind of get into where the editing is kind of brainless, like you don’t even think about it. I was almost just listening to an audio book while my hands were doing this editing thing. When it was an interesting book it was really fun.
Like I said, I worked at the school for many years. While I was there I was trying to figure out how I could make this jump to being able to do either production or post-production audio full-time. It took me a long time to figure out and save up the money so I’d have that safety net, and figure out how I wanted to approach it. I just started working on the weekends, either for free or for very low pay for friends’ projects and things like that. Slowly that turned into more paying stuff. It got to a certain point where I was really not enjoying my job at the school anymore, and at the same time, I was having to to turn down being able to work on set because it was hard for me to get time off work and I was like, “Why am I doing this? It’s very clear where I’m supposed to be.” I made that jump last spring. Then I’ve just been … When I first started out it’s just find anything that I can get paid for since this is my job now.
Slowly that’s turned into working with a lot of the same clients over and over again, which is great. You get to know people and get to know their workflows, and what they like, and what they expect is always really fun to get to that state. I’m always picking up new people, but definitely it’s like that growing kind of group of people that I’m regularly working with, whether that be on set or editing things on the back end. I guess that’s how I ended up here.
One thing I was going to ask was when you were at that little push/pull point there where you were still working for the school but realizing then that you were getting opportunities that you were not being able to take because of that full-time day job. What did that feel like and how long, these are two questions I guess, what it felt like to be in that space and how long did it take you to really realize, “Oh wait, there’s an obvious thing here that’s going on.”
Oh man, yeah that’s a big one. I’m sure for a lot of people listening that are already doing the freelance thing, I feel like most people probably go through that and it’s really hard.
As far as how long it was, it was a long time, probably at least a year that I was really serious about trying to figure out how I could make that transition. Even once I had made up my mind it was very hard to put it into practice and put in my notice, and actually go for it just because I’d been there for four years and it was a job that as much as I had grown to really dislike it and the environment had gotten really kind of toxic, a lot of people I had really enjoyed working with had left. By the time I left there was only like one person still there that was there when I started. Even so, it was still so comfortable. You get kind of stuck in that thing, that’s the golden parachute thing, right?
Whereas it was very safe and my salary was pretty good. It was hard to let that go even as much as I was ready to.
I’m sorry, what was the first part of the question?
Yeah, sorry. As a coach I’m never supposed to stack questions, so this as an interviewer …
That’s okay, I started with the second question, so I did a wrong too.
It’s not great either. I was wondering if you could describe what it felt like once you realized it was time to make that decision.
I guess it felt a lot like it did when I actually definitively made the choice and quit, and left. It’s a feeling that most freelancers are probably painfully familiar with, which is this perfect blend of extreme excitement and terror. I was super excited because it was like this is what I went to school … I never planned to be working at the school or anything like that. I always wanted to be working for myself and doing creative work and that kind of thing. That was super exciting to really realize it’s kind of looking like this is a real possibility, like I think I could actually make a living out of this. People like the work that I do and I’ve had a good experience with most of the stuff I’ve done in my free time working up to that. So it was really exciting in that sense, but then at the same time, kind of like I was saying why it took me so long, it’s a really scary prospect. When I quit my day job I had a pretty good safety net in terms of savings. We were totally prepared for me to not make money for several months and it would be fine.
Even so, really it wasn’t even the money that was really scary to me, although, that was obviously a part of it. Of course, you don’t want to be put in the situation where coming up with rent money is difficult. But, really for me it I guess it was almost like a pride thing the more I’m thinking about it now, though I never thought about it that way. I really didn’t want to quit and then figure out six months later that I had to come back or that I had to find another retail job or something like that. That would have just totally shattered me. I guess it still could happen.
That was just so scary to me, to take this big jump and to be … Obviously, the kind of advice you get when you’re at that tipping point … I was obviously talking to my family and friends about it, “Do you guys think this is the right decision?” Most people were really supportive about it. But everybody has got that little nagging question, they’re like, “How long can you go without making a profit or how long do you think you’ll really be able to do just that and pay your bills and stuff?” They mean well and those are good questions but those are always kind of nagging in the back of your head. It’s like I really don’t want to be this guy who’s like, “Screw all this. This nine to five thing is losers. I’m doing this freelance thing,” and then have to go back to it six months down the road would have just been humiliating. I never really thought about it that way, but I think that’s probably the thing that scared me the most, if I’m honest, is just the thought that I might not succeed and that I’d have to give up that dream, and go back to doing something that I was not very happy doing.
It’s so much easier said than done. I think there’s a message that we get all the time and these things that are just like, “Follow your dreams.” Well sure, we all want to follow our dreams.
Follow your dreams with an asterisk.
It’s going to be riddled with anxiety. When I first made that leap I was working for somebody that I really … Well it was a transition of several of years, but I was working for somebody who I loved at a place that I loved, but then I realized, “Oh I love this place and I love my employer, but I am miserable, so something’s up.” It took several years and a couple of different false starts, or not false starts but I tried on a few different hats until I got into the coaching. I think it’s just so much more emotionally complicated than just saying … and then just take that leap because that leap is going to … who knows where it could lead to.
Even hearing you say, “Well we had a good safety net, I was covered for a few months.” To me that’s like, “A few months,” like jobs could take years to manifest. There’s all sorts of other things too like how long you’ve already been working, how many connections you have, what’s your comfort level in reaching out and saying, “Hey, this is what I’m doing now full-time. Do you have projects or do you know people that do?” That’s another thing that’s really … and an important part of it is when you’re working freelance or working for yourself is that you need to get really comfortable in asking for help or just letting people know what the heck it is you’re doing.
The marketing and networking thing was something I had to learn real fast. It’s one of the other weird things about being a freelancer is like you do it because in my case I love audio, and I love editing, and I love being on set, and that kind of stuff, I do not love sending emails begging for work, and going to networking events. I don’t think anybody loves … very few people love that kind of thing I think, at least in my experience. But that’s something that you have to go be just as passionate about that as you do the actual creative work that you want to do. That’s always kind of a challenge and kind of interesting.
Yeah. Speaking about your passion for doing what it is you do, it is easy to talk about things you’re passionate and excited about, so that kind of sells itself in a way. Obviously you have skills that people want to check out and go, “Oh yes, he’s also skilled, and he’s a nice person, and easy to get along with, and he’s prompt, and reliable.” Those are all things, but I think the thing that makes that leap a little bit easier to work on something like that and tell people about it is when you just know it’s something that you just love doing.
Yeah, that’s definitely true. Like everything else with doing freelance it’s a lot of ups and downs where you do have those moments where you’re not getting a lot of work, or maybe you get some critical feedback about something you worked on and you get that little blow to your confidence, that kind of imposter syndrome creeps back in. But then you have those other moments where you’re in one of those modes and you turn something in and I’m like, “I hope this is the quality they were expecting. I hope this is up to par with what they were looking for.” Then they come back with glowing praise. Then it’s like, “Oh that’s right, I forgot. I do know what I’m doing and I’m pretty good at it.” So it is one of those things. I’ve definitely found myself going through those ups and downs where I’ll have a period when I feel very, very confident about what I’m doing and then as work dies down, or for whatever reason it kind of dips down a little bit, it’s always ebbing and flowing a little bit.
I guess in my experience I’ve just found you just have to be at least self-aware of that. At the very least, even when you’re having those kind of imposter syndrome moments look back to those times when things were going really well and be like, “Nothing’s changed. I’m still the skilled and talented person that I was two months ago. That one comment doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing,” or something like that.
Actually, I didn’t think about it, but I started keeping a career journal about a year before I started freelancing full-time where I just tried to write down at least one thing every day that I was doing to get closer to doing what I wanted to do full-time. I’ve kept up with it and just write down stuff that I worked on or lessons that I learned as far as job-related stuff. That’s been really helpful because I can look back in those times and be like, “Oh yeah, look at this back in January when this went really, really well and I was really pleasantly surprised with how much they liked this work,” or whatever. It kind of helps me be a little bit more self-aware about how those things change over time and that one little setback isn’t the end of the world.
I love that you also threw in there lessons that I’ve learned, because that’s also a great way of framing the time where you maybe fell a little short of your expectations or learned something new. It’s like, “Oh, I got to learn here.” That combination of celebrating and reminding yourself of a job well done and lessons learned it’s a really thoughtful, mindful way of keeping track. That’s such a good idea. I love it, super good idea.
Yeah, that’s been very helpful for me, for sure.
Well I think it’s about time we wrap up today. It’s been so awesome just talking with you about all this. I feel like I’ve just gotten to know you even better. For folks out there who are interested in connecting up with you regarding anything from audio engineering, to future podcast projects, or anything like that where can folks connect with you?
All that’s centralized on my website which is harperwharris.com. That’s got samples of stuff I’ve worked on, and contact links, the podcasts that I work on, the podcasts that I cohost on and stuff like that. That’s probably the easiest place. I guess specifically the two podcasts that I was on, The Thing Minute is still on, thethingminute.com. That podcast is over with the exception of maybe some special episodes that I keep putting off trying to figure out to do. I may add some more at some point soon, thethingminute.com. Then geekrex.com is the other one I’ve been on for many years that we put at least one or two episodes a month about geek-related movies, and video games, and TV shows, and comics, and things like that.
For those who … This is a fairly new podcast, so just as a reminder, if you look in the show notes I’ll have links to those and on most phones or other devices those links will be live, so you’ll be able to just click right on through. If not, if they’re not clickable for some reason, you can just go to vibrantvisionaries.com, which is where this podcast lives. You can find all of the episodes, and show links, and you can subscribe so that you can get these right to your devices quite easily.
Thank you so much Harper. It was so great to talk with you and thanks for taking the time to share a little bit about your Vibrant Visionary world.
Yeah, absolutely. This was really, really fun. I feel like I’ve kind of figured out some of the things that I’m doing, why I’m doing them.
Just verbalizing them has definitely been really interesting even for me. I really appreciate it. This is really fun.
Cool. Thanks everybody for listening and we’ll see you next time.
Hey everybody, this is Heidi Bennett. You’ve just enjoyed an awesome conversation between me and Harper W. Harris. Just before releasing this episode I called out to Harper again and asked him to pop back on with me for just a couple of minutes to let everybody know what he has been up to lately so that everything’s really current to September of 2018. Welcome back Harper.
It feels like no times has passed at all.
Yes, yes, it’s just as if it was just yesterday, but it was actually a couple of months back that we recorded the episode.
I noticed on Twitter there was some activity going on and things that you were shouting out and sharing. Why don’t you let us know what you’re up to lately.
Sure. There’s a couple of exciting things that have happened probably since the last time we spoke. The big one is that one of the movies, the feature film that I worked on early this year, “Summer ‘O3” a trailer got posted and has a theatrical release at the end of September. This is a movie I got a chance to see it back at the Atlanta Film Festival back in March. I hadn’t really heard a whole lot about it since then so I was hoping this would happen. It will be out in theaters on September 28th. It’s a coming of age female-led teen comedy that is super hilarious, and very heart-felt. I didn’t have anything to do with working with it onset, I was the sound effects editor, so I added all the door slams, and car noises, anytime somebody sets down a cup, that’s your boy Harper.
Is that separate from being a foley artist?
It is. Actually, I do know foley artist, Matt Schultz, that worked on the movie too, he’s awesome. Foley is anything that’s performance-based, so it’s any sound effect where you’re trying to recreate the actions of the actor. The sound effects editing separate from that … like when they called me to do the job I was doing what are called hard effects, so they’re basically just every effect that’s not performed. It’s something that you look at the screen and you can see it happening.
For example, in the movie they ride bikes a lot, so I had to add a lot of bike gear sounds, and police sirens, and if somebody throws something at a wall then I have to add in the sound for that, that kind of thing.
It’s a kind of movie that even if I had nothing to do with it I would still whole heartedly recommend it. I know that’s hard to believe coming from somebody who’s invested in it, but it’s a fantastic movie and it’s really cool just because it’s female-led, female director and writer. It was really cool to be a part of something like that. I was very proud to get behind it and I’m super, super happy with how it turned out. I can’t wait to see it in theaters again.
Yeah, I’m so glad that you tweeted about it because I think I saw Paul Scheer mention something about it, but he’s one of those people who has a lot of projects going on, so I don’t always notice, but then when I saw you post about it and saw the lead, Joey King, and then Andrea Savage, June Squibb, and Paul Scheer, it was like, “Oh wow, this looks really …
The cast is so good.
They’re so, so good. Andrea Savage and Joey King especially, they are hysterically funny. They’re so good in this.
Sweet. I’ll share a link to that trailer and I did think it looked fantastic.
Speaking of fantastic, and speaking of festivals, this is a first time for me as a podcaster, I decided to apply for a press badge for Fantastic Fest in Austin this month. I just found out today that I got approved for that press badge.
So this will be my first time doing something like this. I’ve been a performer at festivals on stage and stuff like that, but to be able to go in and do all sorts of … I don’t know, get some inside access I guess, this will be new for me. I’ll let you guys know what happens. It’s taking place September 20th through the 27th. It will be my first time going to Austin also, so it will be a lot of firsts for me.
Do you know any of the movies that are premiering at the festival? I haven’t actually looked into this year’s.
I kind of blew through what was even going on, but I know that the opening movie is going to be the new Halloween reboot.
Oh that’s awesome. That’s pretty exciting.
And Jamie Lee Curtis will be at that.
Wow, okay, now I’m officially super jealous. That’s awesome.
I’ll follow up with everybody after that. Then I should be getting some interesting podcast episodes out of it too.
Killer, that’s great.
Yeah, so what else is going on with you besides “Summer ’03”?
Sure, I had two other little things to mention and that’s both are through this company You42. They’re putting together a streaming platform and they’re creating original content for it. Last year we finished working on a feature movie that I probably talked about in the main podcast, I can’t remember, “Dead By Midnight” which was a horror anthology movie, which was a blast to make, and turned out really great, and played at the Atlanta Film Festival as well. Both the things with them, so the one is they just announced that we got green lit to do “Dead By Midnight 2” so we’re going to be filming that. I believe we’re starting in like January maybe or maybe even earlier than that. So somebody’s already writing that and the ideas they’ve got. We’ve got some new directors coming in for some of the anthology segments, so that’s really exciting.
Then the other one that’s also through You42 is a sitcom series that I’m working on with the same people that did “Dead By Midnight.” It’s sitcom called “#PrettyFunny“. It’s about four women who live together in Atlanta and it’s kind of the typical they’re in their 20s and trying to figure out what their careers are. There’s one woman who’s trying to be a comedian, and one who wants to be a broadcast journalist, and one who’s trying to be an actress, and one who’s an up and coming podcaster who may be getting her own radio show. It’s really, really funny and the cast is awesome. We just started filming last weekend and the first couple days went really well. I’m not sure when that’s coming out. I know the You42 app is supposed to launch at the beginning of September.
Then hopefully, the plan I think for now is to have the first “Dead By Midnight” movie split into those individual episodes on the app by Halloween I think. So hopefully people will be able to experience “Dead By Midnight” in the next month or two.
Sweet. Oh my gosh, this is going to be great. Just as a reminder, I will have links to all of this stuff in the show notes. Then if you’re not following us on Twitter, that’s another good place to just keep an eye out for when we throw new and exciting news out. So for me it’s vibrantviscast, it’s @vibrantviscast on Twitter. Then Harper you’re on Twitter too, right?
I am, @Harperwharris.
Of course you’re on Twitter because that’s where I found out about “Summer ’03”.
Oh, one more thing I wanted to mention before we wrap up our little mini addendum today was that you, and I, and Molly Bailen we all got together and had a summer movie special episode of our podcasts. That as the three of us saw the 1978, I think that sounds right.
Does that seem right?
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” We all watched it and then had a podcast that we released on Cabin Minute Cast. Then did you release it on yours as well?
I did, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Okay, cool. If anybody wants to listen to that I’ll share the link as well for that because that was fun. I really enjoyed catching up with you by watching a movie.
Yeah, that was a blast and we got to really dig into just how attractive Donald Sutherland is, or was.
We all crushed out on 1970s era curly topped… [Laughing]
… Donald Sutherland. Well cool. I think I will wrap this up again. Thanks for popping back on and congratulations on all these successful projects. That’s really, really exciting.
Thanks so much. I’m super jealous of your Fantastic Fest thing. I cannot wait to hear how that goes because that’s a festival that’s way high up on my list of ones to try and make it do in the next couple years. I’m excited to hear how it goes.
Cool. I will keep you and everybody else informed on that.
All right everybody, have a great one and we’ll see you for the next Vibrant Visionaries.