Since graduating from the Sound Design for Visual Media program this past August, Karla Ahumada Melendez has been busy. In fact, she’s worked on seven films in the last few months alone, including several VFS productions and an upcoming made-for-TV movie She Made Them Do It. Karla shared with us how a love of music led her to discover her true calling – Sound Design.
Why did you decide to study Sound Design at VFS?
Karla: I was studying Music Production in Australia, and had a class in Sound Design. As a musician, I wanted to pursue a career in the music industry, but after seeing what Sound Design was all about I decided to give it a try. I made a short film with my friends and I created the entire soundscape for it. I loved it. VFS has one of the best Sound Design programs out there, so I decided to jump in with both feet.
Karla on the set of Don't Be a Hero. Photo by Alastair Leong.
How would you describe your experience in the program?
Karla: I have to be honest; I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew I liked Sound Design, but I was still very music oriented. On the very first day Shane Rees, the Head of the Department, came in and said ‘This is NOT a music course. We don’t teach music at all, so if you’re here for that, you’re in the wrong program’. There were some disappointed faces for sure but the more I learned, the more I liked it. It felt much more natural than music, and since the technical aspects are very similar, I felt I had a bit of an advantage due to my previous experience.
I have to say, I learned a LOT in the program. From technical, to creative, to work flow, to business creation and development, I feel like I not only learned how to do the work, but how to be an accomplished freelancer. I learned that hard work is the only thing that gets you to the top, and there’s no way around it. At VFS I learned to manage my workflow and became faster and more efficient. The main thing I liked about it – using a quote from Steve Smith, one of the best teachers I’ve ever had – is that I learned the technical aspects so deeply, they became second nature which freed my brain to become a full creative tool.
Tell us about what you have been doing since graduation.
Karla: Now that I’ve graduated, I feel more than ready to venture into the real world. Of course I still have tons to learn – things that you can only come with experience and mistakes. But VFS gave me an excellent network, and I’ve been working non-stop since graduation. I’ve worked on numerous VFS Film Production final projects and already earned seven credits in less than three months. The networking I’ve done at VFS has gotten me even more offers for short films.
I also recently started working with Miguel Nunes, Sound Designer/Sound Supervisor/Re-recording Mixer at Bionic Audio, as an Assistant Editor.
I never thought I would be busier than when I was at school, but I am now. There are always ups and downs in the industry – sometimes you’re overflowing with work, sometimes you have nothing, and that’s why you have to manage yourself as efficiently as possible.
Photo by Alastair Leong.
Anything advice or comments for aspiring sound designers?
Karla: To aspiring sound designers, I have to say that I’m still one of you. You never stop learning, because as soon as you do, you fall behind. The first thing you need to learn is to adapt fast. Learn the very basics the best you can, because if you have a solid foundation, you can build on top much easier. The second thing you need to learn is to work hard and efficiently. Hard work always pays off later on.
Last but not least, people skills. This is a creative industry after all and we’re constantly working with people that create art. They all have different visions that may not be the same as yours. Learning to interact with them is a big advantage.
This industry may be tough, but seeing your work on the big screen is the most satisfying feeling ever, and in the end it’s all about pursuing what you really love.
Thanks for speaking with us, Karla!