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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER September 18, 2017 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


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Recording Connection grad Robert Macias broadens his industry skills, lands Platinum album credit!

  
When you learn the music industry from inside it, you get opportunities you won’t get anywhere else. Within months of starting his apprenticeship at Beacon Hill Recording Studios in El Paso, Texas, Recording Connection grad Robert Macias has landed an Assistant Engineering credit on a Platinum selling album—namely, American Teen by pop/R&B sensation Khalid, winner of MTV’s Best New Artist VMA 2017!   Ever since deciding he wanted to develop as a musical artist in his teens, Robert has had a common-sense view about preparing himself for the industry—which is what initially led him to the Recording Connection.   “I really got into the program because I have a firm belief that the future artist is going to be…fluent in all areas of the business—the creative, the technical, and the business side,” he says. “So I wanted to jump into the technical side and learn about it as much as I can, and just add that to my skill set.”   Given Beacon Hill’s rising reputation as a world-class studio in the El Paso area, Robert admits that he was sent to the recording studio for his initial apprenticeship interview, he was a bit overwhelmed.   “It was very scary for me,” he says, “because I was like, ‘Man, these guys are so cool, these guys are so big.’ I was just nervous, but then it got to me and I was like, ‘No, wait. I’ve got to shoot for the stars.’”   Robert soon found himself immersed in studio life and all the tasks it entails, and says it really helped him up his game in many ways. “I know myself in the sense that hands-on work is the best type of training,” he says, “because when you’re working in the field so to say, you’re not just learning it in theory. You’re learning it hands-on, therefore you’re learning so much, your mind is registering so much more while it’s building a skill set, while you’re building muscle memory of what you’re doing…Of course, it wasn’t just like, ‘I’m going to throw you to the lions to figure it out for yourself,’ but sometimes it was the pressure that allowed you to push through and learn to get through those obstacles.”   The opportunity to work with Khalid on American Teen came while Robert was studying as an apprentice under mentor Alfredo Gonzales, alongside fellow grad and now-staff engineer Orlando Gomez, whom we recently featured here.   “Khalid’s a freaking genius,” says Robert. “It also uplifts you because you’re in this inner circle of successful people, so you can also borrow from what they have to say or from what you can pick out of their brain.”   Because he worked in sessions with Khalid as part of his training, and because his mentor Alfredo believes in sharing the credit, Robert earned an Assistant Engineering credit on the record, which has since gone Platinum. “I was into half of the course when that happened,” he says. “I’m honestly really lucky because I know that this credit doesn’t happen to everybody.”   As for broadening his skill set, the Recording Connection program has gone well beyond Robert’s initial expectations. Not only has he learned the technical side of things as we wanted, but he’s also learned about the business side, picking up morsels of wisdom that can help him to develop his presence as an artist in his own right.   “When I get to go out to eat with Orlando or Alfredo,” he says, “they’ll start talking about just different lucrative ideas on how to make the artists money, because CD sales aren’t what they used to be. So it’s all about giving your listener an experience…what kind of content to put out as an artist, and how to get noticed, how to network with different YouTubers and try to monetize your music, copyright your music, become part of a performance rights organization. There’s a lot more that goes into an artist’s sales funnel than just good recording, and to their success. So a lot of that is being brought to my attention, so I’m learning what’s a performance rights organization, which one’s better, BMI, ASCAP? Do the research. What is CD Baby? How do I get music on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon? Things like that.”   Even better, as he learns in a true mentoring environment, Robert says he’s become part of the studio community. “Orlando, he’s going to become a life friend for me,” he says. “The vibes at the studio are nothing but love and nothing but openness for creating and acceptance…Being at Beacon Hill has helped me so much. It’s helped me develop as an artist, it’s helped me develop as a person also, even maturing myself as a person, having nothing to do with the technical or artistic side. It’s really helped me develop as a person and become more focused in understanding where I want to go and what I want to do.”
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NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Film Connection mentor Eric Abrams offers key insights into successful screenwriting!

  
Film Connection screenwriting mentor Eric Abrams (Los Angeles, CA) is no stranger to the Hollywood film and television scene. Over the years, he’s written scripts for films like Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, as well as multiple TV shows like Married…with Children and Disney Channel’s Liv & Maddie. He’s also passionate about making sure his screenwriting students understand the structural elements of what makes a good script, and as you’ll see below, he insists on having them create an outline so they don’t lose their way in a 100-or-more-page script.   During a recent conversation with RRFC, Eric offered some practical, tangible advice on scriptwriting that we feel is pure gold for our students. The best nuggets from that conversation have been mined for you below. Enjoy!  
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  ON DEMYSTIFYING THE BASIC ANATOMY OF A SCRIPT:   “It really starts from story. What are we really trying to say? I try to demystify the process, because I think most people with normal lives have not written a 110-page document, which is a screenplay…It’s a story. It has a beginning, middle, and end. What is the beginning? We introduce the characters, introduce the problem. In the second act, we have fun with the premise. Things get worse, things get really bad, things couldn’t get much worse at the end of the second act. In the third act, we resolve it. That’s every story. And of course there are a million variations, but I think once you realize that, it makes [you] breathe a little bit easier.   ON DEVELOPING TENSION IN A SCREENPLAY:   “You always want to make it as difficult as possible for characters, or else why are we watching this? Challenges met and mastered. You want to make it an obstacle course for them. The second act is when things are looking most grim…[Your characters] should always want different things. That’s how you get conflict…She wants him to get a better job, and he wants to get out of there as soon as possible. Those are two different wants, and yet they’re forced together and it’s going to be awkward. If they get along great, you probably don’t have a very interesting scene. We want that in real life, but not when we’re paying, what is it, $12 to see a movie these days.”   ADVICE ON CREATING INTERESTING CHARACTERS:   “I think [characters are interesting] because you can put yourself in them. Most of us are not on top of the world. I’m a mildly successful screenwriter, I’m able to support myself doing it, but yeah, I’m certainly not on the A-list. So I identify with these people that, you know, aren’t exactly where they want to be, but they’re never going to stop until they get there. And I think most people identify with that.   WHY RESOLVING THE STORY SHOULD BE BY CHOICE, NOT BY CHANCE—WHY THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST MAKE A CRITICAL DECISION:   It has to be—otherwise you really don’t have a narrative. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, and it’s certainly not original: Coincidence can get you into trouble, but it can’t get you out of trouble. I mean, sometimes it happens in real life, but it’s really unsatisfying as an audience member, like, ‘Wow, good thing that guy showed up.’ No, there’s no way you can count on that. That’s not good storytelling.”   ON WHY HE INSISTS THAT HIS STUDENTS CREATE AN OUTLINE BEFORE STARTING A SCREENPLAY:   “I don’t think [it’s possible to] spend too much time on an outline. I mean, I don’t like to write my name without an outline. It’s such a great safety net to have. That’s your story, and if you ever get stuck, you can refer to this…I think they should be at least 10-15 pages. Sometimes they’re really raring to go to script. I’m like, ‘Trust me, I get it. You will thank me when we nail the story down, when you actually do write it. Don’t go to script until we’re ready.’ If anything, it makes my job a lot easier when it just goes to script, but I prefer to do it right.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

  After apprenticing with Rehoboth Pictures, recent Film Connection grad Noah Cook (Dallas, TX) isn’t wasting any time. He’s just wrapped his own short film based on a family story:   “My dad had a really weird and interesting childhood, and there was a story he always told me about… I went to South by Southwest…and I saw this short film where it started out with some dudes talking, and then they showed the story. I was like, I really like that. I want to do something like that.”   When asked if he has any advice on how students can make the most of their time in the program, Noah says, “You have to see it as an opportunity…you’re going to get as much out of it as you put in. You’ve been put with this mentor who has access to all these cool toys and spaces and stuff, and you have to get involved, or nothing will happen. If you don’t try everything, you won’t know, especially if you’re trying to figure out what you like. You need to try, like on one project, do sound. On one project do as much camera as they’ll let you, maybe even just shadow the camera guy and, on something else, do some editing. I just think that’s the biggest thing, with Film Connection especially, is just to really apply yourself.”   
L to R: Artist Saxx, Mike Brown, and RC mentor Jim Fox

L to R: Artist Saxx, Mike Brown, and RC mentor Jim Fox

Mike Brown (Wilmington, NC) has been offered some work with his mentor and he’s even got his own EP in the works!   “I feel one step closer to achieving my goals I’ve set for myself in this industry. This was definitely the program I needed to sharpen my skill set and elevate my own and others’ music. I feel more confident as an engineer and my workflow has become a lot more efficient. I learned more than I could imagine from my mentor Jim Fox at Low Tide Studio. To witness firsthand the ins and outs of a professional studio were the most eye opening moments of my life and I hope to keep a long lasting relationship with my mentor.   ‘My Past’ is the first single I will be releasing from my self-titled project “Mike Brown” which I’ve been working on since in this program. My mentor was kind to let me utilize some vital equipment I was missing from my home studio… I have mainly been making hip hop music but I have been experimenting for years trying to formulate a sound that was original and relevant to a broad audience plus my musical tastes are everywhere. Sounds like Gary Clark Jr. met up with the Beastie Boys!” 
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Check Out Our Students’ Work

       




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