Sound Bites

Behind the Title: Executive Producer, Dana Villarreal

Get to know Sound Lounge's new EP as she shares some industry intel and predictions

Sound Lounge’s Dana Villarreal is executive producer of Sound Lounge’s commercials division She was recently promoted from her role as senior producer. The studio is an artist-owned and operated New York City-based audio post facility providing services for commercials, feature films, television series, digital campaigns, gaming, podcasts and other emerging media.

Can you talk about what your new job title entails?
As the executive producer of the commercial division, I am responsible for nurturing Sound Lounge’s long-standing relationships with clients and other key players in the advertising industry and supervising the commercial production team and its services.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
What doesn’t fall under that title… producers do it all!

What’s your favorite part of the job?
I love that every day is different. Audio post moves at such a fast pace. There is a constant flow of jobs happening at all stages — from bidding to production to invoices out the door. You’ve got to keep that train moving. I love to witness the Tetris puzzle of daily scheduling fall into place. I love problem-solving, whether with a client or a colleague — that moment when talking with a client about a job, and I can tell that they know they’re in good hands.

I love being around people who love audio! Perhaps I’m biased, but audio is so, so important. Even though we are one of the last stops in the post process before delivery, the mix is what provides that final spark to truly bring a spot to life.

What’s your least favorite?
If I had to choose, then I’d say actualizing jobs. It’s a bit more tedious, but it’s so important to make sure my team and I stay on top of it. I do enjoy a good Excel sheet in a right-brain sort of way though, so maybe this is my favorite too? I love it all. There are so many aspects to making a successful studio (or any company, for that matter) run smoothly, so you have to take it all in stride.

What is your most productive time of the day?
Probably the morning while it’s still relatively quiet. It’s when I have the opportunity to review my goals for the day and touch base with my team before things get crazy.

How has the COVID shutdown affected the way your studio has been working?
The COVID shutdown completely shifted our industry and the way we approached audio, especially recording. We spent so much time in those early days advising and troubleshooting home record setups for VOs so that we could receive the best quality record possible.

Thankfully, we were still able to keep that audio train moving remotely — from recording VOs in closets to mixing in our basements, living rooms and bedrooms and then finishing it off with a Zoom happy hour.

Do you see some of these workflow changes remaining with us going forward?
Even though we have developed a great remote workflow, nothing creatively beats having a VO in a proper booth and mixing in a proper studio with clients in the room. We are having more and more clients come back for in-person sessions too, which is so great to see.

That being said, I don’t foresee the concept of a hybrid workflow going away anytime soon. The silver lining of this pandemic was that it showed our industry that a work-life balance is possible, and people don’t want to let it go. Who doesn’t love being able to do laundry during the day in between emails, you know?

Regardless of what our clients choose, Sound Lounge will continue to deliver high-level results across the board. Need a two-mic record, with one VO in-person and the other remote over Source-Connect? No problem. Some clients want to be in-person, but others want to stay remote over Zoom? We can do that too.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
If I had continued in my studies, then a violinist in an orchestra.

Why did you choose this profession? 
Growing up, my mom was a traditional pencil-to-paper animator, and seeing the process of all those drawings coming to life through sound was fascinating to me. I originally thought I was going to be an audio mixer, and I did start my career down that path, but I ended up making the leap over to producing and haven’t looked back since.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
I always enjoy when we work on M&M’s campaigns. Since animation is such a large component, we get to be involved earlier on in the process of recording character voices, premixing and then ultimately bringing it all together during the final mix session.

We also recently mixed a Chevy EV campaign using a Fleetwood Mac song (“Everywhere”) — it became such an earworm in the best way possible.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our Film + Television division team, who mixed the Hulu show The Bear that aired over the summer. It was such a treat to see how popular the show became.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
My cellphone and laptop, unsurprisingly. Probably my air fryer too… I hated on them for so long, and now I think they’re the best.

What social media channels do you follow?
I’m more of a social media lurker, but like most, I’d say I follow a mix of highbrow and lowbrow accounts. One of my favorite audio-related accounts is Dust-to-Digital. I look to Big Little Feelings for parenting solidarity. Ironic Boat and Tote makes me chuckle ever since that account went viral this past spring. And the James Webb Telescope keeps things in perspective.

Do you listen to music while you work? 
Sometimes! I used to be an active violinist, so I like to listen to orchestral pieces I’ve played in the past, or I’ll listen to ‘90s music. I guess I veer toward my version of nostalgia. Sometimes, though, I just need silence.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I love to knit — I find it very meditative and a good way to clear my head of unwanted noise. I also love going on hikes with my husband and son. I don’t read as much as I would like, but I just finished “The Pillars of the Earth” – I highly recommend it!

Finally, would you have done anything different along your path? Any tips for others who are just starting out?
I try not to dwell on wishing I did something different, as all experiences both good and bad provide opportunities to learn and grow.

For those starting out, I would generally say to take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, ask questions and learn the hows/whys. For those specifically looking to break into producing, get to know your creatives/editors/mixers and observe sessions whenever you’re able. The more you know about how a mixer thinks and approaches a mix, the better you’ll be at dissecting a creative deck or script during the bidding process, and the better you’ll be at defending your bid when someone inevitably tries to cut it back.

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