S1E8 David Almeida Ribeiro, Sound Designer and culture protagonist

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David Almeida Ribeiro and Mark Abouzeid on “Walking out of Lockdown”

In this episode, sound designer and culture protagonist, David Almeida-Ribeiro reflects on the noise vacuum of lockdown and recording urban scenes that would typically be impossible. Mark Abouzeid and David, who is based in Vienna, Austria, reflect upon the nature of time and giving yourself a break while questioning just how long freelancers can continue to survive the crisis.

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David Almeida-Ribeiro is a film sound recordist and sound designer. Originally from Lisbon, Portugal, he started working on film sound in Madrid, Spain, in 2007, and then moved to Vienna, Austria, where he has been working in diverse film projects for the last ten years, ranging from small-team documentary to feature film productions. He is passionate about creative field recording and is thrilled to capture all sorts of sounds in all sorts of places, from the rumble of a megacity to the stillness of a desert.


Every week, Mark Abouzeid reaches out to freelancers, artisans, creatives, culture protagonists and everyday people on how they survived lockdown and what the ‘new normal’ means to them, personally and professionally. In an intimate conversation between friends, Abouzeid asks them about the future, what changes they will make to adapt and how they intend to rebuild.

Director: Mark Abouzeid
Producer: Real Lives Channel on youtube

Interviewer: Mark Abouzeid
Editing and Postproduction: Mark Abouzeid

Creative Commons Stock footage:
Woman Washes Hands – Cinesim Media
SFDPH Wash Hands Spanish – SFGovTV
Wash your hands, grab your hand sanitizer, keep Corona and other related infections away – #CapitalFmKenya
200129_01_Medical_4k_005 – Videvo
200314 – Work Life_Hand Sanitiser_04_4k_003 – Videvo
WASH Your Hands Mr Bean! | Bean Movie | Classic Mr Bean – Classic Mr Bean

Music from http://www.Epidemic Sound.com:
“Safehouse (explicit version)” – Iso Indies

Thank you to Zoom for webconferencing and recording.

Copyright Mark Abouzeid, 2020. All rights reserved.


Mark Abouzeid 0:23
welcome to walking out of lockdown today. I’ve got Devin. I’ve made that he Beato. He’s a film sound designer and culture protagonists. David, thanks for joining us.

David Almeida Ribeiro 0:35
Thank you. It’s good to see you.

Mark Abouzeid 0:38
It has been a while actually. I think the last time we saw each other in person was in Florence now. Yep. Wow, that has been a few years. Yeah. Let’s, let’s go back to New Year’s New Year’s Day. What are your expectations for the coming year both personal and professional?

David Almeida Ribeiro 0:57
Well, professional

David Almeida Ribeiro 1:01
It was an exceptional situation in the sense that usually

David Almeida Ribeiro 1:08
there is not so much film activity over New Years after Christmas, there’s like a break. And that’s dependent on the weather obviously, there’s not so much going on over the late autumn, early part of the year, because it’s over here in Austria, it’s cold, the not so many hours of light so it’s not like a reasonable time to shoot. However, I did have like a exceptionally a feature film shoot, which started around the mid end of January. So New Year’s was this time it was not such a calm period of the year where either you are optimistic or anxious about how the year will go. But it was like We’re getting warmed up for the shoots taking place in a couple of weeks. So in that sense, it was exceptional. And it was good. It’s obviously very good to start the year with a big project, which gives you like a gives you a cushion for in case spring doesn’t bring as much as as usual.

Mark Abouzeid 2:24
All right, so now, four months later, and we will talk about lockdown, but four months later, how is your perception on that change? How’s the situation change?

David Almeida Ribeiro 2:39
I guess there’s two things. One thing is the inherent unpredictability of our field, and of my specifically my profession as a freelancer and specifically as a sound person. So I’ve been I’ve been living with that. Ever since I started my freelancing career 1314 years ago, so a lot of feelings and a lot of disinterested in, and predictability is not new. And so I found myself in having similar thoughts then, basically other years and other times of my life and of my career, which maybe got amplified by by this Khurana situation, but we’re not really surprising or unsettling in that sense.

Mark Abouzeid 3:36
Well, let me ask you a question right there because you you bring up an issue that a few people have discussed. It’s true that a lot of us freelancers found ourselves with nothing as soon as the virus started. But it’s also true that to most of this, this is not uncommon. There are periods when you just don’t have anything and maybe we’re more adaptable. Do you think that’s an advantage to freelancers coming out of this

David Almeida Ribeiro 4:03
I’m not sure if it’s an advantage because I think it carries with it a degree of existential stress that I’m not quite sure if it’s if it’s very positive and productive. Although I understand the concept of working under pressure and producing under pressure. I’m also aware that people, even people who are able to produce under stress, I think creativity achieves a peak when when you when you’re not under stress, yeah.

David Almeida Ribeiro 4:42
So, getting used to it.

David Almeida Ribeiro 4:47
I think it’s more out of Yeah, maybe out of necessity. But overall, I don’t know if it’s a desired state of things.

Mark Abouzeid 4:56
Okay. Did you find yourself during lockdown actually taking advantage of some of that to explore your creativity to open up things that you wouldn’t otherwise do. I have been looking at your photography lately, which I hadn’t seen before. And I’m quite impressed. And I’m sure some of that started before locked down. But you know, as you say, less stress, not as many deadlines did you find this a period of creativity?

David Almeida Ribeiro 5:26
No, I cannot really say that I started anything new under this situation. I’m also you know, as you know, in film business, it’s, we have periods of extremely intensive work where you don’t even have a personal life or like the bare minimum. And you have periods where you have you don’t have anything in between shoots in between big projects. At least for me, it has been like that, especially because I mainly do cinema projects. So It’s not like I’m doing like small promos or advertising like small half day one day projects constantly week here week there. So I’ve, you know, the last 1314 years I’ve always taken new creative projects on the side, which I’ve been they’ve been there all these years and and the consequence now is that I cannot really say that I have more time to dedicate to them because in between projects I already had this time so I could develop them and then go back to my work projects and then go back to the to the hobby project. So it’s not like I was waiting for this opportunity to finally have time. Yeah. So

Mark Abouzeid 6:50
do you think much is gonna change after this? I mean, you know, you’re talking about your process, which, in very many ways, could stay the same But either because of production issues or because of just pipeline issues, or maybe not, do you think there’s going to be any significant changes for your business or for the work you’re doing? Or is it more a matter of just, you know, scaling back up again?

David Almeida Ribeiro 7:21
Well, no one knows at the moment how things will turn out. There’s the level of

David Almeida Ribeiro 7:31
the level of

David Almeida Ribeiro 7:34
the amount of unknown factors. It’s so big at every level, from the level of the worker to the level of the companies to the level of the government, that I think right now, there’s, you know, everyone is trying to keep themselves busy in working out possible scenarios for the future. But I think everyone also knows that We are very far away from having a reliable criteria, you know. So, I think for me personally, in terms of my attitude to what I do and what I’ve chosen to do if the market has keeps keeps giving me opportunities I don’t think I will radically change you know, I don’t think I will, you know, I don’t feel like an essential unhappiness about what I do.

David Almeida Ribeiro 8:30

David Almeida Ribeiro 8:33
But you know, I’ve also been, you know, the last couple of months or the last one and a half months I’ve been following very, very, very closely all the developments in you know, what, what our unions and associations have been talking about what I’ve been talking with producers, I’ve always I’ve also had, you know, I’ve had canceled shoots I have planned shoots for now which have been canceled or Hold on hold. And I’m in contact with those people and I’m gathering like all kinds of opinions and feedback and predictions. And it’s the once again, you know, the spectrum of possibilities for the future is, is very big. And the possibility of radical change in how the industry works is huge. So the it’s likely that things are going to change a lot. But I am skeptical about believing, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m waiting. I’m waiting. What, what, what, what happened?

Mark Abouzeid 9:40
Um, let’s just take a scenario. All right, lockdown ends today. You’re standing at the doorway, you’re looking out at the doorway. You can do anything and everything you want. What’s the first thing you want?

David Almeida Ribeiro 9:58
I want to go out drinking And dancing with my friends you know

Mark Abouzeid 10:04
good answer. I like that answer very much. Yeah. Now is there anything from lockdown that you did? Or that you thought or that you realize that you’d like to carry out of lockdown into your life?

David Almeida Ribeiro 10:26
I can’t think I can’t think of anything specifically.

David Almeida Ribeiro 10:34
I don’t know if it has you know that the thing is, I don’t know if it has to do with lockdown but I’ve been in maybe it has amplified or it has it has accelerated my reflection about how to manage how to emotionally manage this this downtime when you’re not working and how much anxiety is it is a positive, you know, regarding your future and

David Almeida Ribeiro 11:07
I think locked down maybe

David Almeida Ribeiro 11:13
I think I’m managing like a healthier relation with time, you know, not not hurrying up things so much and

David Almeida Ribeiro 11:20
you know, I obviously no one likes the thought that that that you progress your views

David Almeida Ribeiro 11:30
under influence of external factors, you know, we want to be masters of our fate you know, but I think but but but I do think that being limited in social you know, social possibilities mobility and being restricted to a smaller space and being restricted to a smaller space and a bigger time so to speak. You know, I think it has contributed to

David Almeida Ribeiro 12:01
Being able to slow down.

Mark Abouzeid 12:03
Yeah. I don’t know about you, but I know that our first week, you know, we have an NGO with projects in Peru with projects everywhere and literally in one day, and even before lockdown came to Austria, because of our Italy connection. In one day, everything disappeared. We literally found ourselves with no projects, nothing going forward. grants were canceled everything and my initial reaction was anxiety was Jesus Christ with this going on? How am I gonna save things? But after about a week I don’t know if it was acceptance of lockdown or acceptance as a freelancer that this isn’t that different to September for me, usually, you know, people go away for the summers things kind of dry up their vacation. Um, I seem to get a healthier relationship and it does come back But did you find something similar? Do you find something different? What was your experience from the shock to then what you just said of feeling better of how you’re managing time to deal with these issues?

David Almeida Ribeiro 13:17
I think I think this experience of lockdown put us a bit in our place in the sense of maybe shifting the balance again to a more healthy equilibrium of what you can control and what you cannot control and not worrying about what you cannot control you know, and this this, this huge, this this constant bombarding with

David Almeida Ribeiro 13:44
you, you have to produce you have to perform

David Almeida Ribeiro 13:51
to the deepest core of yourself. You have to perform yourself you have to produce yourself Yeah. I think this it’s a window to just look at that

David Almeida Ribeiro 14:04
exaggerated pressure, you know, Mm hmm.

Mark Abouzeid 14:09
looking outside Vienna? What are your feelings on? How locked down or more importantly, social distancing is going to impact the culture going forward. Do you think it’s a major impact for Australians or not?

David Almeida Ribeiro 14:31
I think that’s where this this social distancing issue is exactly one of the has brought to light. Many cliches, you know, revealed themselves to be sort of true. I noticed you know, of course, being on lockdown and and, you know, social contacts reduced you most of your impressions come through social media, but what I think they’re not less valid because of that, but what I’ve noticed was that I have a feeling that this kind of social distancing and lockdown

David Almeida Ribeiro 15:06
is very suits Austria very well.

David Almeida Ribeiro 15:13
Okay, I’ll speak of Vienna because

Mark Abouzeid 15:16
I can tell you star Mark I couldn’t agree more it seems to be the most natural thing to the Australian culture. Yeah,

David Almeida Ribeiro 15:22
I think I think in a city these issues are in Vienna at least these issues are even more stark to see because you know, people were happy suddenly not to have you know, cheek kisses or handshakes or too much physical contact or but I think it boils down to too much human contact, which people are I think people are skeptical of enthusiastic human contact here. You know, skeptical of warmth that seems to be hiding for them, some some some

David Almeida Ribeiro 15:55
disappointing disappointment or some some some whatever. Now, and then contrast to that. Yeah, yeah.

Mark Abouzeid 16:02
No, it’s interesting that you brought that up. Because one thing I noticed, and you know, we live in the country, so I could walk through fields and walk down paths. And I have literally a private little island, where people have a walking path on the other side of the river. So I could see everybody and I’ve been walking there for years now. And nobody ever says hi, from the other side of the river, they just kind of look at you. But suddenly, especially in the middle of it, people were stopping to wave and smile, something I don’t usually experience most of the time people notice I’m a foreigner quite early, and that always creates a little bit of attention, but maybe doubt. I don’t know, when people were smiling and things like that. Now that things have opened up again. Even though we’re supposed to be wearing face masks. People only seem to do that in stores, but it’s gone back to this. Okay, we’re kind of glad just to have to say hello and keep moving on. It’s been a strange cycle here I don’t know about Vienna

David Almeida Ribeiro 17:06
Yeah, I think it’s it’s

David Almeida Ribeiro 17:11
it I think it varies broadly according to also according to

David Almeida Ribeiro 17:17
cultural backgrounds and and you know

David Almeida Ribeiro 17:25
it’s hard to generalize. No. You also saw since the beginning of lockdown you also got this you got these news stories about people being completely oblivious to it and just ignoring it and being, you know, reckless about it or just ignoring and being in groups outside as if, as if that that also expressed a kind of anxiety of will we will this get any worse let’s let’s just be together before this gets any worse. And so I think on the other hand, there is obviously this this, this longing for for social activity and being out on the street, and I just I think it varies considerably depending on your cultural background.

Mark Abouzeid 18:13
All right, you’re in audio man, which means that you live a lot of your life noticing sounds, I must believe that a lot of your experience here your daily experience is is sound related. Last night, we had a helicopter land just behind us. There’s a doctor’s office. It’s not the first time but it was quite close. But right away, a part of my mind heard that sound and thought, I wonder if they’re picking up a case of Corona virus here which we haven’t had in our town. Have you noticed at all that your reaction to city sounds Emma’s is whatever has been impacted by this as somebody who really, you know, experiences sound probably more than most of us.

David Almeida Ribeiro 19:01
Although the it’s impossible to ignore the overall much, much lower level of noise, you know, much lower level of amount of sound events going on it’s it’s not as it’s it’s it’s it’s increasing again but but yeah, I mean Vienna is particularly silent city anyway

Mark Abouzeid 19:27

David Almeida Ribeiro 19:29
sure from the beginning of lock down there was also a lot of talk among sound nerds that that would come particularly good opportunities to record ambiences that are not that that would be exceptional you know ambiences of places which normally are too crowded and maybe have too much noise preventing from from capturing, like, like a smooth ambience of location, I’m thinking of particularly streets particular squares, particular places where maybe, you know, you don’t have the radio blaring from the kiosk and now you just have like, some passers by and occasional car so things things are more or not as dense. In the end, I’ve been out recording ambiences I’ve been out on the outskirts of the city. And one of the things that we film sound people obviously notices like the

David Almeida Ribeiro 20:35
almost total absence of air traffic and yeah, so, you know, it’s just

Mark Abouzeid 20:41
phenomenal. I can’t say it from a sound perspective because I noticed more vibrations, cars, trucks, things like that even in the distance and I noticed that vacuum. And, you know, my my downstairs neighbor is a he’s very into the conspiracy of material chem trails and things and I don’t know one way or the other, I don’t get into it, but he’s always pointing out how many lines there are in the sky. And to me, I guess I took it as somewhat normal. But in the middle of this, I was out walking in the field and I looked up and I suddenly had a flashback to childhood. And I realized that’s how the sky had always looked to me. And I just somehow gotten used to it and it was beautiful. It just filled me with this feeling of how beautiful the sky is without these trails going through. You know? It’s just it’s it’s unique situation. Let me just see something here. Yeah. All right. Is there anything that scares you or makes you nervous about lockdown ending? Or this phase of lockdown? Let’s call it

David Almeida Ribeiro 21:54
Yeah, the not so immediate future makes me nervous. You know? I’ve, it’s it’s, it’s, you know, like, like, like we were saying in the beginning, you know we freelancers are, we don’t have the anxiety of being in a completely new situation. You know, we’re also in a way if we don’t have the privilege of having like a contract and the long term association or a long term stability, but many people who have had these long term stability now are jobless. And and suddenly, they, you know, they’ve been maybe all their lives, assuming that, you know, with a better or worst wages that this stability would remain, and I guess they’re in a much darker emotional spot than than we are. So that means we’re, I think we’re prepared for you know, we can deal with a couple of months more of this exceptional circumstance, but the thing is, people don’t know how accepting This really is right now, if the exceptional is going to remain longer you know, I live my family’s not here. It’s my family’s in Portugal and yeah, one thing that I that makes me slightly nervous is I don’t have to deal with it every day because you know, my dad doesn’t live two kilometers from here so I don’t have to like, like many people do, you know, talk with him over the garden fence. But I do ask myself, you know, when you know flights are going to be resumed to Portugal. I had one flight canceled in March and I wanted to go there. And yeah, ask myself flights will be I will be able to physically travel to Portugal. But will I be able to fly be able to have my dad you know, will I be able to deal with the stress of, you know, I don’t want to be the 100 Thinking the virus or you know, oh.

David Almeida Ribeiro 24:05
And, and for him, it’s it’s

David Almeida Ribeiro 24:11
Yeah, it’s a worry. I worry, you know, when is it going to be a safe time for him to just do his normal life?

David Almeida Ribeiro 24:21
I’m more worried than him, you know, I’m sure.

Mark Abouzeid 24:24
I’m sure. But you know, this is an issue. Look, I have been in lockdown since Italy mainly because I have weak lungs. I get pneumonia. I get bronchitis. I had it just a year and a half ago, you know, so we decided early on. No, I’m not over 60 so I’m not in that but I’m not that far away. Okay. And we decided early on that I would go through full lockdown. But you know, I’m a I’m a photo journalist. I travel I’ve been on an expedition, things like that. This is not natural to me. I cannot Do this so long. And literally now as we both noticed, I’m a cage lion or a cage. I don’t know chimpanzee. I don’t care lions too big for me but a chimpanzee baboon, they’re big red as whole thing. And I’m just I can’t do it anymore. And there comes a point where I’m kind of like, okay, yeah, I might risk it. But I can’t do this only it’s been fine for two months. But this isn’t my life. This isn’t who I am. At a certain point, I find myself having to decide whether the risk versus the experience which I choose, and I’m taking it slow, but it is an issue. I cannot if another wave comes through, I don’t know that I can stay inside. Again.

David Almeida Ribeiro 25:48
You know, and I think also, that’s also one you know, if you if you expand that to the social political arena, that’s one of the more interesting things happening, you know, That this this, this this discussion how how much of our individual rights are going to be limited? And how much are we willing to limit? Because one thing is the individual decision, you know, we say, you know, we’re going to take the risk, and we’re going to go out there and travel and expose ourselves. The other thing is, are we going to have a legal frame allowing us to do that and not repressing us, or preventing us from doing that? So I’m worried about the I’m worried about the political direction that things might take in Europe.

Mark Abouzeid 26:41
Yeah, definitely. And I should emphasize that of course, everything I do I do safely and I would never do something like what I’m talking about that would expose anybody else to risk or anything like that. I’m not an adrenaline jockey. It’s what I do for a living but yeah, you’re right. Will we be able to and I know Yeah, I’m also probably in a unique position that with my press credentials and stuff, I can do it. But that’s one person. That’s not all of society. And I think we’re seeing in various places that already This is being used not just for the virus, but for consolidation of power and rights. We’ve seen it, you know, around. I mean, forget Brazil. That’s just an obvious case. But even in more subtle ways. Sure, everywhere, I think, everywhere.

David Almeida Ribeiro 27:31
Historically, it has been like this.

Mark Abouzeid 27:34
Yeah. All right. Well, David, anything else you’d like to add?

David Almeida Ribeiro 27:45
No, I don’t think. I don’t know. Mark. I could talk for hours with you, but I don’t

Mark Abouzeid 27:50
know. I forgot something. Yeah, and we will and I’m hoping that we can actually get into the same place at some time again soon because That’s where we really get to talk. And that’s why I really enjoy it. And one of the things I’ve noticed in locked down is how much I miss just not the zoom thing, not the, you know, just real conversations with people. I mean, my thing for walking out the door is to sit at a cafe with a cup of coffee, watching people and just talking with one or two friends. You know, just that the conversation, the dialogue the life around us. So yeah, I hope that comes back soon more than anything because that to me is more important than than all of this.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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