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Gaby Yánez' New Talent BAFTA for sound design
Photo: Gaby Yánez

Gaby Yánez joined the MSc Sound Design in 2014. She was here on a state scholarship from the Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación. She collaborated in some of ECA's films and one of these collaborations led her to win a Scottish BAFTA New Talent Award for best sound for her work on the film 'Lemuria'. We wanted to find out more about her life since graduation and get a perspective on the value placed on the arts in her home country of Ecuador.

What have you been up to since your graduated with your MSc in Sound Design?

I have been balancing my time between a freelance project and teaching. A month after returning to Ecuador, I got involved in a project that focuses on developing creative thinking through sound. My role there is to develop and lead sound-based workshops for teens from a historically relegated area. We do lots of live Foley, which is always fun! Halfway through this, I got a teaching position at the Film School (part of an important local university), where I'm in charge of the 'Music in Film' and 'Sound Postproduction' classes.

Is there anything you picked up at Edinburgh that’s been useful in your teaching at the film school?

Absolutely. I developed a more detailed perception between image-sound interactions during lectures, and I explored them as I worked on assignments. The collaborative projects where particularly relevant, since I fully understood the importance of having a sound script and a proper concept-based communication with the visual team when making a movie.

Congratulations on your New Talent award for Sound Design, in the Scottish BAFTAS (2015). How did the collaboration come about?

It started off with an assignment called 'Experimental Film Project', where I met director Veronika Koubová. I loved her aesthetic views right away for being challenging and rather uncommon. She gave me lots of space to try things out and I learned a lot from her influences. Our project turned out really well, so she asked me to be the Sound Designer on her graduation film. And that's how Lemuria happened.

What got you interested in sound, and in particular sound design, in the first place and how did this lead you to Edinburgh?

I got interested in sound from a musical perspective while growing up. That eventually led me into an undergrad degree in Music Production & Sound. My favourite class back then was 'Sound Post' and I also took some classes from the Film programme, but the turning point from music into visual media came after graduation. As I landed a job in sound design for video games, I found a new perspective and the term 'sound design' was brought into my vocabulary.

When I started looking for postgrad opportunities, there was one thing I was sure about: I wanted a programme that encouraged sound as an interdisciplinary creative tool, rather than just focusing on a specific application of it. So after months of research, Edinburgh was the best option and, luckily, my application was accepted.

What are the main challenges facing young people in the creative industries in Ecuador these days?

When it comes to creative practices, the main obstacle is that there are no 'industries' yet. The average citizen is not used to having access to art, hence they don't demand spaces and they don't develop as an audience. Although there has been an improvement over the last 10-15 years, there is still a long way to go before creative work becomes an active economic force in Ecuadorian society. That does not mean there is a lack of creative processes, quite the opposite, there are so many talented people over here, but institutions are not supportive yet and the public still needs to be educated. On the other hand, this has led to the development of independent creative communities, managed by young people, who are leading most of the art-related initiatives we currently have.

Can the arts help in making life better for people across society in your country and in Europe? What role might sound play in this?

Yes! No doubt about it. Whether it is here, there or anywhere else in the world, as long as there are people, art is a gate through which language can be expanded and experiences multiplied. To me, the power of art relies in its capacity to blur boundaries, promote free thinking and embrace failure (as part of the process for those who create and as a way of breaking prefabricated judgements from those who experience it). When it comes to sound, I believe that exposing people to its artistic manifestations can result in an enhanced appreciation of the environment. Being aware of this vast sound world we live in makes us conscious of a myriad of elements coexisting with us. It makes you more sensitive, more coherent regarding your surroundings. At least that is what sound did to me, and it would be great if others could experience such sense of place.

Have you any advice for the students on the MSc Sound Design programme to help them get through?

I would suggest one thing: don't limit your experience to what happens during lectures and/or assignments. Meet people, go places, discover the library, book gear for random recordings, attend every concert and event you can, share with others, go to Teviot [one of the University's student union buildings]. Your cohort is a pack of extremely active brains; imagine what could happen if you put them together regularly! Oh, and try using sound maps/visual timelines to guide your ideas, they work wonders!