Vanessa Flores is a Sound Editor, Re-Recording Mixer & Social Media Educator based in California. Formally a freelancer, Vanessa now works at Banana Post and focuses her extra time on her online education platforms under the name Vanny Audio. We sat down with Vanessa to talk about her meteoric rise in popularity in the online audio community, how she uses her social media presence to teach others, as well as the growing conversation of diversity in the post-production world.
JJ: Hi Vanny, Thanks for chatting with us today. How are you?
Vanessa Flores: Yeah, I’m doing good! How about yourself?
JJ: I’m great thanks! So what is it you’re working on at the moment? Are you working on any particular projects?
VF: I’ve been working on a couple of projects that will be coming out in the summer, I can’t really talk about them just yet! But they were really fun to work on. I guess the most recent project was About Last Night on HBO Max, with Stephen and Ayesha Curry which was a lot of fun, but that was more mixing side. Nothing truly sound design-y about it, but it was a lot of fun to mix!
JJ: You work at Banana Post in California right?
VF: Yeah! So our wheelhouse right now is a lot of non-fiction material, but we’re kind of moving out of reality TV and getting more into the cool true crime stuff. It’s cool because it allows us to just really build up the sound design – you’d be surprised just how empty things can feel without it!
JJ: True crime programming over the last couple of years – even just on Netflix, the popularity of it seems absolutely enormous!
VF: It is! I know we have a big one that we will be pushing come May time. It was so much fun doing the sound design for that. We really went for it – I put everything I had into it, and then the director was like, “I love the story. I feel like I’m not ready to tell the story. Maybe we’ll just tone it down a little bit!” So the mix was a little tamer, but it was still fun nonetheless (Laughs)
JJ: How did you get started in sound design?
VF: I’ve always been a fan of music and storytelling – books, narrative video games, tons of cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. I just love storytelling. I grew up in that 2007 emo pop-punk phase so I was, like, teaching myself how to play music. It wasn’t really until I finished high school, Where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I went to my local community college and took some film classes, and there you have to make your own film. Everything from A to Z.
And the post-production audio just clicked for me. I looked more into that because I didn’t really know it as a field. And so when I did my research, you just learned how much sound plays a role in everything. Subconsciously, I sort of realised that the most memorable parts of the films I loved as a kid was the sound aspects tied to them – Thinking of the Pixar films and things like that. So I said, this is what I want to do. I just paved that way forward and never looked back.
JJ: Sure – as you progress through the sound world, you find your niche, don’t you? And you find the thing that you really click with.
VF: Yeah, exactly!
JJ: That’s really cool to hear! So how did you end up working at Banana Post?
So being Mexican, the mentality in my culture is “find a good job, stay there, stay loyal, then retire”. So my goal was always being at a studio”, and the end to a means was freelancing so that I can get hired at a studio and it worked!
I found the actual posting on LinkedIn for an Assistant Sound Editor. I was the best fit based on my experience level, I crushed the interview, and landed my ultimate goal! But now what do I do with all that free time outside a 9-5? While I was freelancing, one of the ways I wanted to present myself was through social media. I made an Instagram page and it blew up more than I could ever comprehend.
My initial purpose of it was to use it as another portfolio, and attract more freelance gigs from the filmmaking community. I could have abandoned my social media presence since I didn’t need it anymore, but I built an audio community there and couldn’t let that avenue go to waste. I was so lost trying to navigate my career post-graduation, so now I dedicate my time to teaching others everything I know about the craft. I’ve built an additional passion, and am switching my old school mindset about what my career can be.
I’ve learned a ton and now I dedicate time to teaching others, because if I felt lost – when I had the privilege of growing up Los Angeles-adjacent where the majority of the entertainment industry is, I can’t imagine what other people are feeling like when they’re navigating their careers. So the best way to spread that is through social media. So I really honed in that process.
JJ: It definitely seems that way, your channel is really great How did it start?
VF: I started the page in March 2020, when the pandemic hit. I benefited from everyone being online in Quarantine. In June 2020, I got hired at Banana Post. So I didn’t need to be freelance anymore. I’d made something with this channel, and there was something really valuable here, so I just started teaching what I know. I got a ton of DMs and comments from people asking how things were done, And I just kept answering all of them – because I don’t know what boundaries are! (laughs) – But the same questions kept coming up, so I just put it out on the page then I can refer it to them.
JJ: Absolutely. The username ‘Vanny Audio’ started to really circulate across my own social channels throughout the lockdowns, it’s crazy – you’re a household name in the world of sound!
VF: I still can’t wrap my head around it.
JJ: the content that you post is always really informative and engaging. What kind of approach do you take?
VF: Well I fumbled into it at first. I noticed there was a gap in the market where all the advice that you would see online of how to break into the industry was ‘get unpaid work at an unpaid internship’ – that just wasn’t feasible for me at that time, financially. And I’m super shy, so I hated going to Conventions.
I couldn’t network for the life of me in person, but what I was really good at was being online and being able to be myself there, so I stuck to that community.
Post audio is still very old guard. The veteran sound people aren’t really on the Internet, and if they are then it’s their own Facebook pages and private groups, so there was no content creation for post-production, so I just stuck with it and it worked out really well.
So I’d post what I’m working on, in a format that hadn’t been done before. every time I see a screenshot of a 100 track timeline, I want to hear what it sounds like. so I figured I could do that, I had some video editing skills already. I put that together and it blew up because no one had really seen that before. I would put out redesigns that were testing my capabilities and limiting myself or trying to use new software that I didn’t know.
JJ: What advice would you give people who are trying to break into the industry?
VF: There’s this great podcast from The Futur with Chris Do. They had a guest speaker, and his message was ‘stand out, even if it’s only one-eighth of an inch’. You have to find what makes you stand out from everybody else. You don’t have to be the greatest at what you do, you just have to stand out and make someone else trust you. The easier you make it for others to just say yes, the higher your chances of getting hired.
For me, that was my presentation. How do I market myself? It’s not enough to have a really poorly put-together Showreel and an old Yahoo! email address. I have to be professional and I have to present myself in a way that no one could doubt my legitimacy. The best way to do that?
- Make a really polished showreel.
- Have a website. Even if it’s a free Wix one without a custom URL, just have one.
- Just present your work and your info concisely – don’t make anyone need to click around. No one cares about your backstory, It’s all about the service you can provide.
- Get comfortable with sending your application around, and don’t agonise over small details – the more you do it, the easier it gets
JJ: That’s really good advice! Do you have a story about how you put this into practice yourself?
VF: Absolutely! so a feature film I did the sound for is going on HBO Max. How that came to be was, for my first-ever application for a sound gig, they went with somebody else. But because I kept continuously improving my craft and improving my presentation, when it came to this feature, they looked at who had applied in the past. They considered me because I had improved the most. So my first rejection led to a feature film on HBO Max! It’s crazy to think how things work out that way. So just put yourself out there, you never know what’s going to come back.
JJ: You actively promote diversity in your social media. I read in the LA Times article where you were interviewed, you said you “had to stand out from the pack and not give anyone a reason to doubt what I could bring to the table”. Could you elaborate on that and explain problems you’ve experienced due to a lack of diversity, or how you/others have been held back?
VF: I had some weird interactions with some male teachers where they would just try to quiz me particularly, singling me out. fortunately, I know my stuff because I’m actually interested and wanted to study, but I was singled out a lot. I had a stronger work ethic than many but I was made to feel like I had to take a step down from that to be taken seriously. Working in a male-dominated industry, fortunately for me, there has been nothing overt. But if there’s an audio man in the room alongside me, they will always have questions directed at them, not me. So it’s just very subtle microaggressions in that kind of way.
Plus most of the time, I’m the only POC, the only queer or the only woman in the room. So I understand that in order for that to change, I have to be the one to change it. And so that’s why I try extra hard to provide opportunities for others like me, that have the potential. They just need the opportunity.
JJ: For sure, It helps to show everyone a different view that they may not hear otherwise
VF: Exactly – you don’t know what someone else can bring to the table based on what they grew up around. so much more richness can be brought into projects this way. For one show releasing later this year, it visits different parts of the world, one location being Mexico. My mixer was amazed by how rich I was able to get the backgrounds to sound, but that was because I know the kind of birds, I know what it sounds like, I’ve been there! I just know that richness and uniqueness, and I actively search for that.
Every time we go to a new location, I learn about the place, the wildlife, the vehicles – it all tells the real story. If the only culture we know is the only one we hear, we can’t reach the “ultimate” sound, unless we bring more of those diverse voices in.
JJ: So I guess from where you are now, working in audio, and your Instagram is very successful – What would your dream project be?
VF: I’m actually really comfortable where I am! It allows me to focus on other parts of my life, like growing a family and just moving up in the world being able to focus more at home.
I guess a dream for me would be to somehow be involved in what I grew up loving as a kid. I would love to do something for Harry Potter. I don’t care if it’s mixing some behind the scenes special! I would love to work with Avatar: The Last Airbender in some way, or I’d love to work with Paramore – they started my love for music, so I feel like I owe a lot to them. And they have their own commercials and sometimes they have music videos with sound design and stuff like, how can I get to do that!?
I want to be involved in things that shaped me and got me here because that’s my way of giving back!
JJ: Vanny, Thanks for your time today, it’s been a lot of fun!
VF: No problem, thanks for having me!
For More Information on Vanessa Flores:
Vanny.Audio Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vanny.audio/
Vanessa Flores’ Website: https://sounddesign101.com/
Banana Post: https://www.bananapost.net/