New Zealand Sound Recordist Ande Schurr Moves to Singapore
By Ande Schurr
Is the grass greener on the other side? Some would say that the grass is greener where you water it. I agree.
I have recorded sound for more than 15 feature films including Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople and many documentaries including Animal Planet and others produced for BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Towards the end of 2018, I woke up in Auckland, New Zealand and felt life was too comfortable.
How ridiculous! Isn’t comfort what everyone strives for? I had a wonderful life, lady, and business. I couldn’t wish for anything more surely?
Beware of the Comfort Zone
I still felt empty. I had 13 years of experience in the sound business and a comfortable feeling was settling in. If I didn’t act on my intuition now to break free of my comfort zone, I could see my life fly before my eyes without exploring my potential. It’s like that joke - “How many sound recordists does it take to change a lightbulb?”, “I’m not sure, I’ve never seen one stand up!” - a poke at the bored sound recordist who sits all day on the job, no longer the enthusiastic trainee they once were and certainly not jumping up to help out where needed.
I spoke with a long time friend and mentor David Samuel, who reminded me that many people like to peer over the edge of the cliff but only a few jump into the unknown, trusting that they will be caught safely. There and then, I knew what I had to do.
I gave away almost everything, put my sound equipment into storage and, in 2019, I took a sabbatical. I moved to South Africa and enrolled at a private security military-styled school in Pretoria. I learned to fire rifles, shotguns, handguns, conduct ambushes for poachers and patrol for smugglers on the Zimbabwean border, live in the bush, bark out commands to my colleagues in times of simulated crises, and deal with regular 20-30km walks with 30kg backpacks. I also learned to free-fall sky dive, scuba dive in darkness, abseil, ride and jump a horse, along with up-skilling in first aid, anti-hijacking and defensive driving training. The best learning of all? A change in myself in confidence, comfort and competency.
Changes in Myself
When I attended the military school, being a second late to class would mean a punishment. Not working together in a team would mean intensive ‘Group PT’; a term synonymous with up to several hours of arduous physical training. This involved running with heavy tractor tyres, jumping with them into a freezing pond, then out again, leopard crawling over thorny ground, fireman lifting our buddies around a course to a deadline. If it’s not done on time, if there are any arguments then we do it all over again, and again. The value of team work, timeliness and discipline took on a heightened importance. It wasn’t long before we were forced to increase our performance, tolerate the suffering or leave the school. Seven months later, I was the only one left in my intake at the school.
During our studies at the security school we built large true-to-scale typographic sand models to prepare for anti-poaching and smuggling operations, we learnt to march with the accuracy that the old South African army would be proud of. The continual waking up at 4am, along with a slew of exams, assignments, physical trainings caused us to toughen up mentally as well as physically. We soon learned to prioritise our time carefully.
Paradoxically, I gained great comfort from living in a country beset with security issues. I found increased confidence in observing and discerning security risks around me. For example, the wider Johannesburg (Gauteng province) region had about 8000 cars hi-jacked last year and parts of the Pretoria CBD were off-limits at times due to xenophobia attacks and shoot outs. Hence, extra vigilance was required at all times as I learned to read crowds and know who to avoid. Awareness increases comfort and confidence.
Battle hardened, I've acquired many diverse skills enabling me to work even better with international crews on challenging, all-terrain productions. Now I’m back to recording sound for film and documentaries, I can make faster decisions and enjoy better communication. Also, my increased awareness of the security risks around me means I’m better able to respond in a crises.
The grass is greener where you water it. Like the reclaimed land initiative that gave Singapore its Changi Airport and Marina Bay Sands - from insignificant to something breathtaking. We must do the same on a personal level. We must dive deep into unknown territories and discover the adventure that awaits us, maybe just around the corner.
“Ultimately, there's one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself,” ~ Warren Buffet
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