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“dBs has given me the tools I need to thrive”: dBs Bristol’s Rob Kivits on studying Sound for Film & Television

We catch up with dBs Bristol’s Rob Kivits, who has just completed his ​​Sound for Film & Television degree and discusses how studying a specialised sound design degree at dBs has prepared him for the industry.

Rob Kivits has just handed in his final assignments on the Sound for Film & Television degree at dBs Bristol and is preparing for life in the industry post-dBs. His projects involve horror b-movies and pilots with Netflix. We caught up to discuss his memories of dBs and how our staff has prepared him for working in the industry.

First of all, tell me about yourself, what have you been studying at dBs and what is your background in sound & music?

Rob Kivits: I actually went to dBs Plymouth doing a diploma in DJ & Electronic Music Production there. That was when I used to want to be a DJ. I'd make loads of drum and bass and grime and stuff. Then we had a module where we made music for a trailer and I really enjoyed it. One of the teachers at the Plymouth centre recommended coming to Bristol and doing the Sound for Film & Television course. I looked into it and I was like, “Oh, yeah, this seems like my sort of thing!” It's been really fruitful and possibly one of the best decisions I've ever made.

What was your experience like on the course and what have you enjoyed about studying it?

RK: One of the main things I’ve really appreciated is all the people who were teaching me and all the people who were there to support me, like Sean Addicott, for example. Everyone's so caring and enthusiastic. We had such a small group of us. I think there were five of us, so they were really intimate lessons. If I was struggling with something, I could speak to whoever the module was being run by. They would sacrifice their own time to sit down and talk to me and help me. It's just that sense of being taught by people who really know what they're talking about, but also really care. Over the years, we've had Emmanuel this year, which was absolutely insane. Gil, I owe a lot to that woman. She's been an absolute legend. Also, people that taught us in the first and second year as well, like Jacopo. Everyone dBs gets in is boss, basically. You can see that they want you to succeed.

Rob Kivits on set close up

A lot of the people you mentioned have lots of industry experience, which is something that many of the students we speak to really appreciate. Is that something you’d echo?

RK: 100%. Almost all of my work ethics have come from people that taught me at dBs. Ben Philcox said in one of the first weeks I was ever at university, “Get out there, meet people and network and that's the way you get work.” For the first year and a half, I brushed it off just thinking “He runs the course he's trying to push us in the right direction.” Then I got a job offer and I was like, “Okay, I'll go do it.” Ever since that, I've never rejected a job. I've always said, “Well, if I can't do the whole thing, I'll come for one day,” just to meet new people. Since taking on that attitude, the number of people I've met now is absolutely ridiculous. Last night, I got in contact with a chap, who's just finished a series for HBO. This guy worked as production manager on Spiderwick Chronicles. There's no way I'd be able to get in touch and talk to these people if I didn't start putting myself out there and taking on Ben's recommendations.

I noticed some of the projects you’ve worked on are horror b-movies. How did that come about?

RK: There was a guy who was in the year above us called Aaron Kennedy. He got offered a job, but he couldn't do it. Because we'd spoken before, he basically passed it on to me. I had an interview with the director and the producer and they asked me if I'd ever been on set before. I told them I hadn't, but I had all the equipment, which was true. They basically just took a chance on me and the feedback from that shoot was that I did a good job. The things I was doing were obviously things we'd been shown on the course, but I'd never actually put it into practice. Since doing that, I met the director who hired me for another job. I met a producer, who hired me for another job. I met a camera assistant who I work with all the time. Every shoot I've gone to, there have been at least two people who I've made some sort of connection with, whether it's with work or friendship. Doing one of those shoots, I met a chap called Ruben. He's got a production company and I now work with him a lot. We're doing all sorts of projects together. We’re working on TV shows, there are feature films. The budget on the film projects with him compared to these B movies is just night and day.

Rob Kivits on set with sound equipment

That sounds so interesting. Tell me more about what you’re doing with him?

RK: He's a writer, director and producer. He's been involved in production from the age of seven.  His mum's an actress and his dad's a musician. So he really knows this sort of stuff and he's managed to basically acquire pilots for Netflix series and entered into contracts that, if we do the pilot, we get the contract for the series or the film. We're working on a few little things at the minute. They're only really shorts, but once they're done, we can move on to the project, as long as Netflix take them. If all of those go through, we've got back to back work with all these big networks for the next year, at least.

Have you worked with anyone that’s really impressed you on those projects?

RK: Aaron Rodgers is the second unit camera for House of the Dragon - the Game of Thrones prequel that's being released in September. Working with him was another level. He's a pretty incredible guy; insanely humble, really talented and very professional. What I'd been working on up until then was more laid back. Although we're all there getting paid, it felt a lot more like you're with a group of friends shooting a film for a week or two. You could muck around a bit more. Working with Aaron was amazing because it gave me an understanding of how professional you have to be on set. Even just having conversations about set etiquette but also hearing what it's like on the bigger stage. It was just an insane experience to work with someone who's on that sort of level.

What else have you got in the pipeline?

RK: There are a few things in the pipeline. I'm trying to push into more corporate work; doing events and things like that. They're happening quite regularly and it's a market that I've not really tapped into yet. I want to have as much going on as possible. I also handed in my final assignment and I'm currently working on a film, which I'm finishing off at the moment.

Rob Kivits inside with equipment

Coming back to the beginning, how do you think dBs has helped you get prepared for working in the industry?

RK: If I compare where I am now to where I was when I first started, it's night and day. I remember sitting in my first ever exhibition in the main lecture theatre and thinking, “Wow, everyone in this room is so much more talented than I am, I have no idea what I'm doing!” Listening to my work back and thinking, “Wow, that was terrible!” That was the point where I knew I needed to knuckle down; I needed to focus because this is something I enjoy doing. I wanted to do it as a career. All the masterclasses we had, the guest lectures, sitting down with Jacobo and having him go through his mixing process and having people like Ben going through stereo miking techniques and recording Foley and like tips and tricks. I honestly think pretty much everything about the way I work has been picked up in the last two years from being at dBs. One of the things I loved was the collaboration side of things and meeting new people and working with new people. That's something I've really tried to instil this year; getting the first and second years on the course involved with me on projects. I've met a couple of people who I can safely say I will be going to in the future. Hopefully, I'll be able to get them some paid work with me because they're there that good. I think if someone in their first year is on that sort of level, and they knuckle down and do exactly what I did, I think they would be ridiculously successful because dBs has given me all of the tools I need to thrive.

FIND OUT MORE:
“I hope I haven't peaked”: dBs Bristol's Ethan Harper on His RTS Award Win
Eduardo Gama on The Evolution of His MA Honours Project Post-dBs
dBs graduate lands scholarship with video game composer and sound designer Akash Thakkar


If you want to follow in Rob's footsteps and forge your career in sound, check out the sound, music and digital technology degrees we offer at Bristol, Plymouth, Manchester and online!

A photo collage including a eurorack synth, a female student wearing a Playstation virtual reality headset, two students using a Ableton Push 2 controller, a tutor and students using a mixing console and a student behind a Korg MS-20 synth