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Quit your job, become a... Foley artist

Written by
Michael Curle

© Rob Greig

Ruth Sullivan, 44, Foley artist at the ENO

What exactly does a Foley artist do?

'It's a mysterious process in many ways. You're in a dark room with lots of props trying to match sounds to images on screen. Like the sound of footsteps or the movement of their clothes if it's a period piece. When they mix the sound for the TV show or film they can choose the original location sound or what we've recorded in the studio.'

What have been your career highlights?

'Winning an Emmy as part of the sound team on 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers'. More recently, I've done 'Dickensian', 'Downton Abbey' and 'The Musketeers': so lots of leather and jangling swords, and generally causing a rumpus.'

Rumpus is good. So, what's your most useful prop?

'I always take a Gameboy with me because it's useful for all sorts of sounds. Something simple like the sound of a remote control being picked up, or I could match it with a piece of metal to make the noise of a machine gun rattle.'

Any weird requests?

'We did an episode of 'Whitechapel' where a phone had been lodged in the throat of a murder victim. We had to recreate the sound of it ringing and then being pulled out. So we got a phone, put it inside some condoms and stuck it inside a melon and rang it! That gave us the muffled ringing sound and then the gloopy sound effect when we pulled it out. Melons are good for that kind of body goo.'

Gross. Does that mean there's always a melon in your prop case?

'Not exactly. But it is my go-to fruit!'

You're currently in rehearsals for an ENO production of 'The Magic Flute'. How does Foley work in the theatre?

'The idea is that the workings of the production are visible to the audience. I add live sounds to the action, mostly for the character Papageno. It's wonderful because I get to combine my love for theatre and what I do for a living.'

Hours: 40hrs p/w

Starting salary: Varies

Qualifications: Relevant experience

Or why not become a distiller?

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