Article by: Maria Shamkalian
Sean Hoffman is a Production Sound Mixer based in Philadelphia who has been working in the film industry for 9 years. He has worked previously as a PA, Locations Assistant, a Grip, Production Coordinator, Production Manager, 2nd AD until 4 years ago when he started sound mixing. He fell in love with the job, and the first short film he sound mixed was Neighborhood Film Company’s “The Cage.” Because of that success, he has had the opportunity on many other exciting projects ranging from docs, commercials, reality shows, other short films, EPK shoots and a couple features.
What are some of your biggest achievements in the film industry:I am a Production Sound Mixer based in Philadelphia. I have been working in the film industry for about nine years. When I first started my career, I worked in many different departments. I worked as a PA, a Locations Assistant, a Grip, Production Coordinator, Production Manager, 2nd AD, until about 4 years ago when I started sound mixing. That was when I learned I never wanted to do anything else. The first short film I sound mixed was Neighborhood Film Company’s “The Cage.” This project was a challenge to myself; to prove that this was what I wanted to do and that I could do it well. Because of the success of that film, I have had the opportunity to work on many other exciting projects ranging from docs, commercials, reality shows, other short films, EPK shoots and a couple features.
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it?Some of my most recent successes are premiering at the Philadelphia Film Festival this year. I had the pleasure of sound mixing three amazing projects. One is a feature length doc called “Maybe Next Year.” The film, directed by Kyle Thrash, is about the Eagles fans and the exciting 2017 season that led to our first Super Bowl. Another film in the festival is a feature length narrative called the “The Nomads” directed by Brandon Kamin, which is based on the true story of a North Philly Rugby team that formed after the 2013 school closures occurred throughout the city. The third project is a short film directed by David Janetta called “The Water Song.”
How did you get started in the film industry?In 2011, I graduated from Temple University with a BA in Broadcasting Communication and Mass Media. When I was in school I was hoping to have a career recording music, but towards the end of college I learned that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I reached out to a couple guys, Jim Madison and Nic Reader, who were starting a business out of a garage in Kensington. I interned for them and not long after that they started sending me out on jobs, and that turned into my introduction into filmmaking along with the close knit Philadelphia Film community. I don’t know what I’d be doing now if it wasn’t for that internship. My start in the film industry is all because of Jim Madison and Nic Reader of Format (at the time known as Expressway Productions) and Expressway Cinema Rentals.
Why do you choose to work in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?PA is home for me. I grew up an hour outside the city near Doylestown and loved growing up there. Philadelphia has been my home since I started college and has had a huge impact on the person I have become. We get to work in such a variety of mediums in a variety of locations and it makes this line work much more exciting.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?There are too many to count, but being able to film in iconic locations like the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Italian Market, beautiful Old City is such a treat. And the fact that you can drive an hour outside of the city and be on a mountain or at a beach are what makes the options Pennsylvania has to offer so vast.
What do you love the most about your job?What I love most about my job are the people. The film community here is super close. Most of the people I spend my time with outside of work are fellow filmmakers. We’re a family here. I know its cheesy but every time I’m on set with friends it hardly ever feels like work.
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?Definitely working on “Maybe Next Year” is an experience I will never forget. We saw and captured so much throughout the past 2 years and I don’t think anyone in Philadelphia will ever forget that Eagles season.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?I spent this past summer working on the newest season of Queer Eye which shot in Philly and should be coming to Netflix in the near future. When I’m not working on long form projects, I do a fair amount of commercial and corporate shoots in the area which is what I mostly have going on at the moment.
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life?If it weren’t for the PA film industry I wouldn’t be doing what I love or working with the people who inspire me. When movies are being made other industries get impacted. Hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, thrift stores… you name it, all these types of business do better when the film industry is flourishing.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?
To me, its mostly about personality. Be friendly and easy to work with and it will get you hired again. Don’t take it too seriously. We’re making movies, not saving lives. Lastly, believe in yourself. I wish I had made the jump into sound mixing long before I did. But at some point I pushed past any doubts I had and made a move.
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?Social media is great for promoting yourself and connecting with other filmmakers. Your local film office website is also a fantastic resource that I feel many filmmakers under utilize. Finally, going to screenings and networking groups. One great tool around here is a local film group called Rough Cuts, started by Philly filmmakers Nic Justice and Ryan Scott, where people can screen and get notes on the projects they are working on.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?I remember early in my filmmaking career I was a Locations Assistant on an NBC show called “Do No Harm” and my boss taught me one of the golden rules of being on set is “if you’re on time you’re late.” That is one lesson that has always stuck with me. Another lesson I learned is, big ego’s and bad vibes hurt the filmmaking process and should be left at home. When everyone on the set is getting along and collaborating at a high level the days run smoother and it shows in the product.
What is your favorite film shot in Pennsylvania?Silver Linings Playbook is probably at the top of my list of movies shot in PA. I love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters. They are both dynamic and relatable. It’s hard not to love how the story loosely revolves around the Eagles.
What is your favorite project that you worked on?
My favorite project that I worked on recently was this year’s Eagles hype video, produced by 160 Over 90 and directed by Ryan Scott. It was a fun project and we had a fantastic crew.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?My biggest aspiration is to be a great sound mixer and work on projects that matter. Lately, it feels like the industry and our community has been growing and growing, and I hope I continue to grow along with it.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?I don’t do much of the hiring since I’m part of the crew but if there are people out there looking for a sound mixer or just want to talk film, my contact info can be found on my website at seanhoffmansound.com.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org