Tuesday, March 14, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Jan McLaughlin, CAS

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 13: Jan McLaughlin, CAS

Today, we speak with Jan McLaughlin, President and CEO of Sounds Good, LLC. 

Leslie Gaston Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio?
Jan McLaughlin: My paternal step-grandfather was a musician. According to family legend, he played the violin and the clarinet but I only ever heard / saw him play a Hammond Spinet. We spent hundreds of hours at that organ playing/singing. It’s the hearing and creating something from nothing that thrills me. I’ve played many instruments badly. My fingers are not fast enough and I can’t count to save my life. In order to learn that, had to record and listen critically.

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
JM: Gramps had a wire recorder. He let me play with that. He and the fellas you hear singing on the linked track would load the Hammond on a pickup truck and roll down the hill to the local radio station every Sunday for a weekly broadcast. This recording was undoubtedly a rehearsal. My next recorder was my own 4-track Teac used for rehearsals of singing/playing guitar: the only way to get better. Later, I had various-sized bands with finally six members including drums, bass, saxophone, lead guitar and a sound man. Before the sound man, we used my gear and I did the stage mix. Did some live recordings from which only a couple sets survive despite the fire that ate most of the tapes and the recorder.

LGB: Please compare your leadership role now with past roles you had in other, perhaps larger companies / crews.
JM: I’m President and CEO of Sound’s Good, LLC the rental house for my production sound equipment. Have been Queen of that domain from the get-go though only formalized it as a business entity--far too late--in 2010 when I began to take the notion of being an entrepreneur seriously. Had long been a hobbyist student of media/public relations/propaganda and as a result began to employ devices from those play books. As I turned up the ‘Businesswoman’ heat, realized I would at some stage of negotiations back down in fear. My solution was to hire an agent who gave me:

     • Distance from Money. Raised to believe that talking about money was unseemly. Had to get over that.
     • Time: “My agent will be in touch.” What that really meant was I took time to figure out how to play it. One solution was to whisper to the woman decider, “Look, I’m the highest paid mixer in television and I have a uterus like you. How cool is THAT?” Cinched the deal.
     • Chutzpah. In my mind, he was the pit bull in my pocket. Eventually I was able to internalize the pit bull and take him out on command.

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio?
JM: I look forward to the day when nobody finds the fact that we’re women in audio remarkable.

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio?
JM: I think there’s a lot of room to contemplate accommodation of maternity and motherhood. Breast pumping time/space, child care and family leave for example. There’s a group of Local 600 camera women who’ve organized to brainstorm such things and have already done great work though there’s much more to be done: pregnancy is still technically a disability. Oy.

LGB: What female role models do you have, fictional or real?
JM: My first entrepreneurial role model was Joanie Cantor a businesswoman who moved to my little home town when I was in high school. Joanie opened a high-end boutique of ladies clothing for the country club set who until she arrived had to travel an hour to Pittsburgh to shop for clothes. My ‘study’ of her was mostly unconscious but her influence was profound and lasting. From Staten Island, she brought The New York Times to my attention and was the first outspoken, opinionated woman I’d met.

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
JM: Currently brainstorming words for a dance-based performance with choreographer Toni Taylor with whom I’ve worked in the past. Will do that until I begin work on season two of HBO’s “Divorce” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Hayden Church. We had our camera test this week and it was like the first day of school and the prom but without teenage anxiety. You’d be hard pressed to hire a more professional collection of craftspeople and that, that is a joyous work experience.

LGB: Finally, be sure to tell me about anything you’d like to promote.
JM: It’s my guess that Marc Webb’s “Only Living Boy in New York” will be a worthy motion picture. We finished principal photography mid-November 2016. Callum Turner’s chemistry with Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Kiersey Clemmons was palpable. Just heard from the ADR team so picture’s locked. Hope to speak with the re-recording mixer soon. It was the first film and second project I’d done keeping all the sound in the digital domain from the time it left the mics. Re-recording mixer was happy with the first project so I’m thinking this will sound passable too.

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC