My name is Peter Hall. For more than 15 years, I’ve been working in the Semiconductor Industry – but a career in tech wasn’t always on the cards. In my first year of school, I remember a teacher from the Wolverhampton Music School who came to visit our class, armed with a record player. She played a few tracks and made us answer some questions. Two weeks later, she came back and pulled me and two other kids out of class and marched us off to the headteachers’ office. I thought I was in trouble until she walked us into an adjoining room and gave each of us a violin.
The violin would be my first instrument, but it didn’t last long. I was left-handed and protested that I couldn’t hold the bow in my left hand. That didn’t matter – I was crap anyway and gave up after grade I. In secondary school, my auntie presented me with a flute that she no longer needed – I gave that a try but ended up being frustrated with the lack of results (and melody!) and gave up after grade II. The piano at home was also an option, and I got to Grade III, but I hated practicing and wanted quicker results.
Finally, I landed on the drums after a friend who played in a marching band brought me along for a lesson on the school drum kit during break time. I had found my calling – I didn’t need to hit the right notes and I didn’t have to hold anything straight for long periods of time. All I needed was rhythm!
This also coincided with me finding a passion for music and technology – I quickly became interested in recording and sequencing music on the PC at home, and I later chose to study Music & Technology at the University of Derby. This was a great foundation because it offered everything from Sound Engineering to Music Business Management and Electrical Engineering. Whether you wanted to go into the studio as a Musician, Producer or Manager, there were plenty of career options available. So much so that coming out of University, I took a right turn into Electronics and joined Analog Devices as a Digital Design Engineer working on circuits for Video ICs that went into TVs and DVD players. It offered a more structured environment with regular income and scope for career development.
After a couple of years in design, I got fed up with talking to my computer (the conversations weren’t very stimulating) and I jumped on an opportunity to move into Technical Marketing. I spent several years working with various different product lines before moving to Munich in Germany to help develop some regional accounts and partnerships in the Automotive industry.
I told myself I’d give it 10 years, then go back to what I wanted to do: writing music for film. After 14 years, I finally forced myself away for a career sabbatical and started a freelance film production business where I could use the business experience I’d built up during my career – I also wanted to apply my creative skills to client projects with sound design or my own music arrangements. For two years, I got to scratch the creative itch, but I soon realised that this was going to be better suited as a hobby, not a profession.
After doing some consulting work to confirm my theory, I moved back into the Semiconductor industry and joined Intel as a Solutions Architect, working with Automotive customers in the EMEA region. With a fresh perspective on what makes me tick, I made sure that I had something outside of work to quench the thirst of my creative animal, so I started a cover band with some musicians from my local church. As Doc Parker (Doctor Who + Peter Parker), we play a couple of gigs each year and get to pretend we are rock stars with some large crowds (pre-Covid 19).
On the film side, I have a good friend who shares my passion for cinema and we sometimes enter short films on the festival circuit if we get a chance. The most fun is probably the Straight 8 Competition (www.straight8.net) because you have to film on Super-8 cartridges using mechanical cameras which were usually built in the 1960s and ’70s. If you are lucky, the shutter mechanism and light meter still work, but we’ve often had cameras just die on us in the middle of a shot. The biggest constraint is that you can’t edit the film once you’re done. In normal production environments, you don’t have to schedule shots in chronological order to follow the script – that’s why non-linear editors were conceived. In this case, it’s a true linear format, which means a lot of jumping around between locations, or writing the script with that in mind to keep the number of setups and location changes to a minimum. The other complication is that these things don’t record audio, so the sound is completely wild. Your soundtrack gets added in post-production by the festival organisers and is only synchronised to the first visible frame of the picture, so you can forget about using dialogue.
Once you’ve finished shooting, the film in the cartridges has to be developed by a lab and scanned before they can be viewed by the jury. If your film is good enough, you can make it to the Cannes Film Festival, or one of the premieres in London to see your complete film for the first time, which is a pretty unique experience. We’ve made it once to London in 2011 where our film was screened at the Soho Shorts Film Festival in the Institute of Contemporary Arts – probably the closest we will ever get to fame & fortune!
These days with children on the scene, spending any free time with family is most important, so there is less room for the bigger projects. But every now and again, there is an opportunity to film a wedding to keep the right-brain happy!