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Meet Manuel Rivas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manuel Rivas.

Manuel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up surrounded by a lot of music in my childhood house. My mother was big on music from the 1950s, my dad was into 70s, 80s, and 90s pop, lots of new wave, disco and funk. My brother Erik introduced me to hip hop meanwhile my brother Hector was more into the alternative rock, and heavy metal stuff. As a kid, I was always drawn to movie soundtracks. I remember wanting the Titanic soundtrack as a ten-year-old and my dad refusing to buy it because he and my brothers thought I didn’t understand that it was all orchestral music but I really wanted it because of that kind of music haha.

Fast forward to now, I translated my love of music to loving sound, and how sound worked scientifically. I used to sound design my own recorded mini static video clips before I even understood what sound designing even was. When I was living in NYC, I used to record these one-minute videos and would replace the noisy background audio with my own, volume-controlled, soundscapes. I then moved back to Los Angeles and enrolled in an audio engineering program and was further introduced to the world of post audio production and immediately fell in love with it and decided from then on I wanted to work in sound for the entertainment industry.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I mostly freelance which is very difficult, especially starting out. I’ve done a lot of free work of course when I first started, but the real challenge is understanding and learning to view more worth and value in yourself to try and get more paid work. I’d be lying if I said the ratio to paid vs unpaid work was 50/50. Not only that but constantly maintaining your confidence in yourself and your skills in this line of work can be very challenging especially living with mental illness.

I have a very bad anxiety disorder that challenges my strength in this industry every day but I get by with the love and support of my family and my friends and I appreciate each and every one of them, even on days I know they fully couldn’t comprehend what goes through my head. Chasing an artsy career is hard enough on it’s own but major shout outs to anyone out there chasing that career while living with some kind of mental illness. It’s underappreciated the amount of double work you just have to put in.

Please tell us about your work.
I formed a little sound group, well actually my friend Danny is the one who founded it, named STeMD Audio. He took our initials to come up with the name which is also a reference to “stemmed audio”, a way of mixing down audio tracks for music and film. We at the moment specialize in location sound recording, and a lot of post-production recordings (ADR, foley, sound design, sound mixing, and editing).

So I was lucky to have met equally passionate classmates in my recording program. They’ve since have gone on to get their BS in Entertainment Business while I get mine in Film Production. We’re all audio professionals but in our own way. I’m more geared to film, my roommate and good friend Travis is a dialog editor, music producer, and film audio professional, who’s deeply rooted in the business side of things. Then there’s Danny again who’s ultimate goal is to become a music supervisor for the entertainment industry. We’re always looking to add more passionate sound individuals to our group so by all means if you’re in the LA area, feel free to reach out to us!

I, in particular, am self-taught in iZotope’s RX audio editor program, which focuses on the repair of bad audio (too much wind in dialog, boom noise, electrical interferences, and the big one; distorted audio!), and I spent a year learning how to use this program and now that I’ve gotten really good at it, it’s helped bring more attention to us as a collective and translate that into our other fields of expertise. So I like to think that sets us apart from the others for now.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Without our mistakes and challenges, we wouldn’t be an ounce of who we are today. I needed all the bad and good that has happened throughout my life to be the person I love being today. Major shoutouts to my mom and my brothers, Erik, Hector and Josh, who remind me every day that it’s okay for me to have bad days so as long as I know I can pick myself up and try again. The most important advice I had ever received through all my struggles was that it’s okay to have multiple breakthrough moments. That alone has helped me really manage my bad days.

Also major shoutouts to my friends in Kansas, Rhode Island, NY and in LA, who always remind me that they’re there for me even when some days I feel like I’m losing everybody and another major shoutout to my dear close friend Vionna Lam who always stays inspiring me to become not only a better person but who is re-inspiring me to truly fulfill and nourish myself as the artist I see myself as, deep down. We shouldn’t live in fear of ourselves and who we wish to become, and whether it be through music or cinema, I know she will always support the ways I choose to express myself, and I am very grateful to have a friend like that. She’s the artist I aspire to be.

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