Recent grad Danni A. Esposito making waves in sound design

Danni A. Esposito. Photo by Jade Florence.
Danni A. Esposito. Photo by Jade Florence.

by Sarah Hall

Since graduating last year from a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production), Danni A. Esposito is already making waves in the sound design industry.

They scored a gig as sound designer for the Melbourne Theatre Company’s recent production of The Sound Inside for which they have had the opportunity to work alongside composer Steve Francis.

“My role was really to ensure we were aiding the story of The Sound Inside in the most delicate, nuanced way, and to really head into this world of introspection that our characters embark on in different aural ways.”

Danni says their immediate entrance into the industry after graduation has been surreal.

“It's quite daunting not knowing if you're going to get work or not… it was insane to receive an email from both Malthouse and MTC in the one week— it threw me by surprise completely.”

Particularly so, they say, as a non-binary person in a male-dominated industry.

“Personally, I only know two people; one that's non-binary and one that's female, who are colleagues and friends in sound design,” says Danni.

A mentor once told them that given the gender disparity, it may feel like they have to ‘prove themselves’ to earn their place in the industry. But they remain optimistic it is changing.

“As a queer person, I've had a lot of  people champion me in the industry, and I am lucky to have found chosen family within this industry. People who not only want to champion me, but want to champion gender diversity in technical design, which is inclusive of sound, lighting and vision/AV,” they said.

From 'bludge' to passion

Before entering the fields of sound design and composition, Danni was a practising musician who had trained as a singer, pianist and guitarist in high school. They were thrilled to be accepted into a music course in Hollywood at the age of 16 which would have begun in the year following completion of Year 12. But due to personal factors they were not able to pursue this opportunity.

“That was quite heartbreaking, and I was a bit of a mess in my final year of high school, as once the person who knew what they’d do for the rest of their life from 16 to completely clueless at 18; professionally and personally” they said.

“I was completely lost.”

They picked up theatre  “as a bludge”. But it was in that subject that Danni gained their first experience with sound design, working on a couple of school productions. Their theatre teacher asked if they had ever considered pursuing sound design as a career.

“I was so taken back, I was like, "I don't understand, I'm just doing this for fun, I'm not doing this because I have to."

Their teacher suggested that Danni consider applying for the VCA, and went to Open Day on their behalf.

“Like every angsty teen, I was quite reluctant to take her advice. But I credit her for the journey, and planting a seed that grew into something that is much bigger than me.”

They emphasise the ongoing role that teachers have played in their journey.

“Three of my VCA lecturers were actually at the opening night for The Sound Inside.”

“And, they've been there for me through the  highs and the lows equally, and everything in between. They were supporting  my Indie productions at FortyFive Downstairs, La MaMa, and Northcote Townhall. To have them there […] for such a huge milestone [the opening night of The Sound Inside] meant the world.”

Now that The Sound Inside has wrapped up, Danni has a number of other productions lined up in Melbourne and interstate.

Their advice for budding sound designers?

Be brave and be bold, and push through the impostor syndrome.

“I still feel it all the time, especially being first year out [of University], and getting the opportunities I am fortunate enough to have, it's very hard to not fall into the trap of, "I'm not good enough, the people around me are much more prolific in what they do, I don’t deserve this", they said.

“But,  I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember that no one can do what you can do, and what you can bring is so different, and you have to back yourself.”

Find out more about studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production)