The Multimedia Man - Ian Fein 05

While a student at IC, Ian Fein ’05 hoped to work in the music industry doing audio production. But as Commencement approached, the career he’d planned for had lost its shine. “I thought about the rest of my life spent in a studio and got a little claustrophobic,” he says.

Ian_Fein on mountaintop
 Above: Ian on top of the White Mountains at a Bear Gryll's camping gear shoot.

Then he met two Cornell University researchers looking for someone to do underwater audio for a documentary they were making on marine bioacoustics.

“It’s a job that basically doesn’t exist,” says Fein. But he’d grown up scuba diving, swimming, and sailing in Maine and had the audio production experience from IC—a perfect combination. “It wasn’t what I’d planned to do, but all my skills came together,” says Fein, who now runs his own company, Fein Productions, with underwater cinematography as one of his specialties. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

 Into the Wild
For Fein, saying “yes” to the underwater audio job with Cornell turned into five years of working on video projects with the university. He used his scuba-diving experience in far-flung places like Hawaii and the Arctic to record whales and seals for Cornell’s Sea of Sound documentary, and he camped out in the jungles of Indonesia to capture the sounds of birds of paradise.

 Above: Ian filming for Fragile Legacy. Photo by David O.Brown

“Over half of my working career has been waiting for animals to show up or do the things that they need to do,” he says. In Indonesia, that meant sitting in blinds for eight or more hours a day while being eaten alive by mosquitos and waiting for the arrival of exotic birds—which Fein says “basically look like Doctor Seuss characters.” Often the birds didn’t show up at all.

Filming in nature presents other challenges, too. “Shooting underwater, you can get so focused on what you’re filming and not pay attention to how
much air you have left,” he says. “It really helped for me to be a scuba diver first, before doing it with a camera in my hands.”

Fein and his crew once spent three days stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a massive rainstorm prevented the plane that dropped them off from completing a second run to drop off equipment and supplies. “We had bare essentials like tents and a good amount of food and water but no utensils,” he says. “We were whittling spoons and forks out of tongue depressors.”

Working for himself has given Fein the freedom to pick and choose his projects. On the commercial side, there have been shoots for Bear Grylls’s camping gear and Heidi Klum’s New Balance line of athletic wear.

Up next, Fein will be back in the water filming rare sea creatures for Fragile Legacy, a documentary on a family of artisans who made lifelike sculptures of aquatic animals out of glass during the late 19th century.

“My kind of work has been such a good example of, ‘You never know what’s going to drop into your lap,’” says Fein. “Do what you like to do, and hopefully a career will follow from that.”


Read about other alumni who have extreme jobs:

- The Pilot: Brian Johnson ’01

- The Stuntman: Jim Klimek ’06