Working Lives

Working Lives: Sound editor Emma Butt

Emma Butt works across drama and documentary, recently mixing the sound for the BBC One series Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads and Amazon Prime film Arsène Wenger: Invincible. Having spent the first decade of her working life in Dublin – where she worked on Lenny Abrahamson’s much-loved film What Richard Did – she now freelances in the UK. 


What does the job involve? 

Working Lives: Sound recordist

What does the job involve?

Recording the best possible sound for the script – acquisition of dialogue is king. I’m striving to capture actors’ performances, often in a challenging location, to cinematic standards. You could record their words later in a Soho studio using automated dialogue replacement (ADR) but, without sweat on their brow and out of costume, their performance wouldn’t be the same.

Did you always want to work in sound?

Working Lives: Live event director

Glastonbury Festival: Live at Worthy Farm (credit: BBC)

What does the job involve? 

It varies hugely, depending on the film, but, for the majority of projects, I’m required to capture a performance, multi-camera, as it happens, in a single take, without a formal rehearsal.  

Sounds exciting but also terrifying. 

The atmosphere at a gig is amazing. You can feel the anticipation of the crowd building and you’ve often only got one chance to capture what they’re about to watch. But if you’ve done your homework, you’re ready for it.  

How big is your camera team? 

Working Lives: Location Manager

Da Vinci’s Demons at Margam Castle (Credit: Sky)

What does the job involve?

I’m part of a production’s creative team. After reading the script, I pitch my ideas for locations to the writer, producer and director, bringing my knowledge of what an area can offer. Ideally, I like to start as early as possible to have the greatest creative influence – with Little Door’s recent drama for BBC One The Pact, I was involved three months before shooting began.

Do you work alone?

Working Lives: Fight director

What does the job involve?

I choreograph the physical action in the story, whether it’s with swords, a punch up or just a slap, ensuring that the motivation for the action lies in the story and the characters. It’s not about being fancy or funky: it’s about making the action the vehicle for the story, not the other way around.


So you must work closely with the director?

Working Lives: Writer

In My Skin (credit: BBC)

What does the job involve?

As a writer, I think it’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel inadequate. I like to remind myself that it’s not brain surgery; it’s storytelling and it is supposed to be fun. I try to shut off the inner critic and listen to my gut.

Surely, it must be a trial sometimes?

The first draft is the hardest: it can take me weeks of procrastination; it feels like torture at times. I pace from room to room in my house, with quite a degree of self-loathing.