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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER April 29, 2019 by Liya Swift


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Recording Connection grad Brian Piper
moves up at Audio-Technica!

  
Recording Connection graduate Brian Piper in recording studio

Recording Connection grad Brian Piper

Recording Connection graduate of our Audio Engineering & Music Production program, Brian Piper, was two and a half years into his college education when he made the decision to finish off the semester and enroll with RRFC. For Brian, it’s proved to be the right choice. He jumped into his externship with both feet and got hired by his mentor at Lava Room, the very same studio where he trained.   We recently caught up with Brian, who’s super busy nowadays, working fulltime at Audio-Technica. It’s a position that in many ways was ‘meant to be.’ In fact, listen closely and you’ll see how all of Brian’s choices ended up serving him well in a ‘roundabout way.’   Could you tell us where you were at in your life when you found Recording Connection?   “I was going to school at a traditional university. I had been there for two and a half years doing a recording and music production degree there. The school was new to the degree or new offering the recording arts. I don’t know if they were fully prepared at the time to take on as many students as they did or have the means for a facility, a recording studio, in order to fulfill everyone’s needs in the class. I was getting a lot of bookwork and it was a lot of, ‘Hey, study this and study that,’ on top of the core classes you normally have to take at a traditional university. And I was so focused on wanting to write music and be a recording engineer and music producer, but I wasn’t getting that experience that I really wanted or what I thought I was going to get.   I came across the Recording Connection after a few weeks of researching schools. It seems like such a long time ago. But after researching it, going over the program with my parents, and looking at the criteria and the course structure, it just spoke to me in a way where it was like, ‘Yes, this is what I was looking for.’”   What was it like interviewing at Lava Room? Were you nervous?   “I felt really good at the studio. I felt welcomed. Chris [Ebbert] is the studio manager there, and Mike Brown is the studio owner. Mike does such a great job with the aesthetic of the studio and the feel in order to make his clients feel welcomed and creative… Recording Connection did such a great job on getting me the information that I needed in order to go to this new place, and Lava Room did such a great job of making me feel so comfortable, so I wasn’t at all nervous. And…I had two and a half years of traditional school and some of the bookwork going into the program, so I wasn’t super new to any of the concepts.”   Did you have any eureka moments when you were going through the program?   “The hands-on aspect was the whole eureka moment for me. It was actually getting in there, taking the microphone, and putting it on the drums or the guitar cab or having Chris or Mike turning the microphone just a little bit and getting such a drastic change in tone. That was like, ‘Whoa!’ For me, those two did such a great job at explaining the importance of getting the mic placement right, right from the get go, instead of trying to fix it in the mix…Getting the desired tone before you have to go through and tweak it, add EQ and compression… [And] not only was microphone placement such a critical part, but knowing which microphone is best suited for what subject. Also, having real world experiences and real world clients, and being able to assist on those real sessions, that was the killer thing for me. I got into the studio as much as I could. Outside of working my job at Guitar Center, I was either at Guitar Center or I was at the studio.”   You got hired at Lava Room after completing your externship. Tell us a little about your time there.   “Yeah, right after I graduated, they offered me an assistant engineer role, which was awesome. It was a big thing for me, and I assisted on some really great sessions. Joe Walsh ended up coming in and doing some stuff for the James Gang record that he was doing. Being able to be in a building with legends like that is amazing. You just learn so much from even being in the same room as these people. That was a pretty incredible thing for me. It wasn’t very long after that Mike and Chris had offered me a full staff engineer role. Maybe two months, I think. So I was fulltime staff engineer at Lava Room for a long time, doing my own sessions and picking up my own clients. I had a blast doing it.   I think the thing that I liked the most was having a session in the morning that was a pop record, and then the afternoon you have someone that’s coming in and doing some voiceover stuff. Then at night you’ve got a hip-hop record that you’re doing. It was very cool being able to transition from genre to genre, and I actually think that it changed the way that I thought about music and mixed music. I took a lot of inspiration from each genre and kind of meshed them together. I think that’s what made some of my work maybe unique from other engineers.” Learn more about Brian Piper at his website.   So what led up to you working for Audio-Technica?   “It was kind of backwards. I had asked about a position at A-T in a shipping department, just to make some extra cash. I started at Audio-Technica picking product and packing it for shipment. I did that for maybe a little under a year before the Pro Sales directors at the time, interviewed me as a form of orientation that we did here, and saw that I had a sales background from working at Guitar Center.   So I would have weekly meetings with one of those directors, talking about ideas and opinions I had on products. He must have liked some of them because they created a position for me. So I went from being in the shipping department to being a sales support person in our pro division pretty quickly. I was in that role for a year, almost exactly actually, until I was promoted to become the National Distribution Manager for the U.S. and Canada…   I did that for about a year and a half in total, and just last August I was given an opportunity and a promotion to become the National Account Manager for our B2C. I manage half of our national accounts right now. Accounts like Guitar Center, Musicians Friend and Sweetwater.”   So you’re managing the Guitar Center account now, which are the same guys you worked for years ago.   “That was one thing that I said at our introduction meeting when I met them face-to-face. It’s kind of a full circle thing…In a roundabout way, Recording Connection gave me the tools to do what I do currently. It just so happens that the studio Recording Connection had me go to for school, their mic locker was 80% Audio-Technica microphones. It’s so interesting to me that I started learning the tonal quality and the sound of Audio-Technica microphones right out of the gate in school. Bringing that experience and knowledge with me to Audio-Technica as a sales person, I’ve been able to come up with a couple training seminars that we’ve done for our reps here and that I do with my accounts. In a roundabout way, Recording Connection gave me the tools to jump into a different part of the music industry that I never thought about as a career. It’s funny the way life takes you but I have really enjoyed the ride.”   View Recording Connection’s in-industry programs.      
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Film Connection grad Ananth Agastya
Completes Wartime short film, crewed by Grads and Students!

  
Film Connection grad Ananth Agastya on RED camera

Film Connection grad Ananth Agastya

If you’ve been reading our newsletter for the past year or so, you’ve definitely heard about Film Connection for Film Production & Editing graduate Ananth Agastya. Despite the fact that Ananth currently has a demanding career in the tech sector, he’s extremely committed to filmmaking. So much so, in fact, that he schedules his shoots on off days and during vacation time, and spends weekends and a great many weeknights editing, writing, and producing various film projects.   Ananth just wrapped post-production on his short film “The Fallen,” a powerful, nail-biting drama set smack dab on the battleground of the war arena (on IMDb). We caught up with the writer/director/editor, just as he was preparing to submit to a number of film festivals, in order to learn more about his experiences making his provocative short film.   Your film takes place outdoors and despite careful scheduling, you had rain on Day One of the shoot. Tell us about that.   “The first day, we started filming early in the morning, at 8:00 am. We completed the master shot, but then it starts to pour. Luckily, there was a screening-and-costume room, big enough to hold all of us, right next to that location. So, we stayed indoors and finished lunch; we lost about four or five hours to rain. Just when it got bright and sunny, we stepped out but it rained again! We risked losing the entire day to rain. Finally, we adapted. Some of the crew came out and said, ‘Okay, maybe there’s a portion that we can cover off and we can get a few close-up shots, and that way we’re not losing the entire day.’   So, [in the film] when you see some of those close-up shots where the guy has trouble reloading, he looks around towards the ‘enemy’ side … all of that was completed when it was actually raining…   When it finally stopped raining, we got a few more shots, but essentially we were done with maybe only 20% on the first day. We had rented a big house right next to the location. So we all went back there, got some rest. On day two, since this was in the summer, the sun came up at 5:30 am. So by 5:45 in the morning I was knocking on everybody’s door, waking them up; we began filming at 7:00 am. That was a grueling day. But we finally got done with everything we needed by the end of that second day.”

“The Fallen” cast & crew improvise during rained-on shoot.

  Your crew was comprised almost exclusively by Film Connection students and grads.   “Noah Cook and Jacob Sizemore, were both my camera guys. My First AC’s were Caitlin Cook and David Aguirre. And my first AD was Shaun Robertson. They’re all graduates of Film Connection.”   And when it came to the casting, the actors brought more than you had anticipated, even during their auditions.   “I did exactly what Film Connection told me to do, which is, ‘create that blueprint and go find the actors’. So I made that blueprint. The story wasn’t even set in stone…I didn’t think I would get any response. But I had 80 or 85 submissions for the three roles, and I think more than half of them were veterans. They really wanted to act in this. And I gave a pretty good description of the story and the characters on ‘Backstage.’ I told them that I wanted three really distinct characters, and I did several rounds of auditions with them.   [But before that] I had a discussion with them to see if we have a similar mindset when it comes to storytelling. Also, I wanted to see if we had a good matching communication style. If that worked, then I would go to the next level, and I would ask them to do something physical, because this was a very physical project, right? So I would ask them to bring a mock weapon, for example. I would ask them to hold onto a camera in front of them and run, because I wanted to make sure they weren’t panting after a minute of running; they wouldn’t last 14 hours with me. So, I kind of put them through these tests, so to speak, that gave me an idea of their perseverance and their interest in the project. That way, I saw their commitment come through.
From "The Fallen" film by Ananth Agastya

From “The Fallen”

  I also signed them up for weapons training; a veteran taught them how to properly handle weapons, gave them cues about military-style movement and communication; the entire experience was a revelation for me and the actors.”   Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers who want to do something similar to what you’ve done?   Create good working relationships through your Film Connection mentor. It could be either with the other students coming in from Film Connection or the crew that your mentor’s already got. That’s the way you network. You work for them, they work for you. It goes both ways. When they need something, you try to be there. When you need something, they’ll pull their weight for you. It’s very important to be very patient with all the students, because everybody’s got their own learning curve. If they’re new, they tend to understand things a little bit differently. It changes according to their level of expertise. So you’ve got to speak a different language with everybody. To have that modulation in language and patience is very important. And, you’ve got to respect the actors and crew. That was my biggest lesson here; these guys brought in a lot more than what I had expected to the project.   And it’s important to have fun, but it’s not funny business… If you get too serious, you’re going to drive people away. So it’s important to strike that balance of respect and keep it fun and also get them excited. Additionally, you also have to take care of all the logistics. Make sure the food, water, equipment is sorted, and ensure everyone is accountable for their part. It’s all about motivating them.”   Film Connection Graduates   Ananth Agastya (writer/director/editor/producer/voice actor)   Noah Cook (camera I/voice actor)   David Aguirre (assistant camera)   Jacob Sizemore (camera II)   Caitlin Cook (assistant camera)   Shaun Robertson (first assistant director)   Daniel Guerrero (assistant production designer)   Film Connection Students   Freedom Smith (unit production mentor)   Asa Denning (continuity)   Julia Chance (production designer)   Mentor   Deen Olatunji (co-producer/voice actor)     View Film Connection’s in-industry filmmaking programs.      
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RRFC mentors Parker Ament and Danny Ferrare
talk XLNT, Growing Production Skills, and Who They Train.

  
XLNT Studios, Hollywood, CA

XLNT Studios, Hollywood, CA

Powerhouse mentors Parker Ament and Danny Ferrare of XLNT Studios (Hollywood, CA) are the quintessential example of music producers who are entrepreneurial in their approach. In this interview we discuss how XLNT and their popular YouTube webseries XLNTSOUND came to be and we get their proven insights on making your own path in the industry.   So how did XLNT come to be?   Parker: About three years ago we were both making music separately, but showing each other our music and getting each other all pumped up and stuff… We wanted to find a vehicle to release our own music and produce individually. So, we were trying to figure out how to do that without a record label, without anybody else’s help…We wanted to do production clinics at the studio, but the studio wasn’t ready [yet]…We both watched tutorials online, like on YouTube all the time, and we were like, ‘Why don’t we just do production tutorials?’   Danny: We saw a niche, and also we just wanted to do it for fun. It just seemed like a fun thing to do.   Parker: So we could do those tutorials online and then have people come to the studio. In turn, that would get business for the studio and get our names out.   Many of your online tutorials instruct people on how to do remakes of popular songs. Do you consider that a good way to elevate one’s production skills?   Danny: When you’re remaking a song, what you don’t realize is that your brain is essentially learning, getting ideas and getting inspired by these things. So later, when you’re actually are creating your own music, you might remember a certain thing that you did for a remake that was really cool. It might be a completely different genre, and now you’re using that trick or that tool that you figured out while you’re creating music on your own (XLNTSOUND).
Recording Connection mentor Danny Ferrare

Recording Connection mentor Danny Ferrare

  What are you doing on that first meeting when an artist walks into XLNT Studios? What’s the objective?   Danny: We want to get their expression and creativity out, and help them achieve what they’re trying to do. We get a lot of artists that have the ideas in their head, and they give us their tracks or like an idea, but they don’t know how to achieve what’s in their head. So I feel like that’s the biggest objective. I would say Parker and I, we have a gift at being able to meet people and get close with them really quickly. It’s just because we like people…   Just getting somebody in the room and not even really getting right into it, just making them feel comfortable with you as a person, expressing your personality and your true self; if you’re confident in your own personality, people will like you. Once somebody likes you, and then the vibe is really, kind of, already there, because you want to be making music with your friend, not some stranger.   That’s been successful for us. If we just get somebody in the room, even with the kids that are interviewing for us, wanting to extern with the school, we want to bro down with them and get to know them.   Parker: And when we’re showing them our stuff and when we’re listening to their stuff, we’re watching them. You know? We’re watching their expression in their face to see how they react to certain parts, and vice versa…You have to be attentive in that way, instead of just looking at the screen while you’re listening to music. You have to be present with them, if that makes sense.
Recording Connection mentor Parker Ament at his workstation making music on DAW

Recording Connection mentor Parker Ament

  Completely. So how should an extern handle themselves when you let them sit in on a session?   Parker: They should be like an attentive fly on the wall. So, the first rule is: you don’t say anything unless somebody asks you. And even when they ask you, you should keep it short and sweet. You can’t kind of go on tangents, because then that might drive the session in a certain way…   That’s super important because the reason why they’re there, in the session, is not for an opinion necessarily, it’s to learn how the session is going and to learn the process. So, I think it’s really important to be a fly on the wall when you’re an extern and literally take notes, if that’s your thing, or sit as close as you can to the screen, out of the way of the client and engineer, while really watching. Because, with every little note or trick, you’re going to be learning something new every second. Even if you think that you know everything, there’s going to be something that you didn’t know when you’re watching us or a particular engineer.   If students are really serious about making it in their careers, what should they be focusing on?   Parker: I think the biggest thing is putting in the hours.   Danny: What I found is, if I do something long enough, if I commit to doing something and I say, ‘Look, I’m going to make money at music’ or ‘I’m going to be a musician or a music producer,’ or ‘I’m going to have a studio,’ if I make a conscious effort every day to try to attain that, eventually it will happen.   What qualities do you look for in the students you choose to train?   Parker: The word is passion. We can see who is passionate about what they’re doing right when they walk through the door. Even if they’re shy, we can sense the passion. And I feel like that is the most important thing. If somebody is socially awkward or they don’t really know what to say during the interview or something like that, we don’t base any of that on what we’re looking for. We’re looking for passion, we’re looking for dedication, and we’re looking for somebody that is going to create their own path. So if somebody has the opportunity to extern with us, we want them to make their own path with the opportunities that we are showing them.   Follow XLNTSOUND on Instagram.   Learn more about Recording Connection for audio engineering, music production, live sound, Ableton, beat making and more.    
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

  
Recording Connection student Kaizer Hazard

Recording Connection student Kaizer Hazard

Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production student Kaiser Hazard is enjoying soaking up the knowledge he’s getting at Engine Room Audio (New York, NY):   “I really truly love this school. I’m in awe at how quickly I’m learning and grasping the information required to be an efficient audio engineer and music producer…This is a very enlightening experience and I’m truly grateful to be a part of it. I’ve had opportunities to create songs utilizing methods that have helped me not only grow as an aspiring audio engineer but as an artist and music producer as well. Many other artists and producers don’t have the opportunity to be a part of [that].   I’m creating a solid resume as I move along, all while building and expanding upon a mass of knowledge, insight, experience and wisdom from RRFC and Engine Room Studio. I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you to Mark, Nacor, Vinnie, Derrick, Serj, Scottie and everyone else for contributing to my growth. And to think this is only the beginning. Wow! Training today with Mark, I learned how to create a roadmap which guidelines the song making process. What a powerful and timeless piece of knowledge!”        
Film Connection student Benjamin Cruz

Film Connection student Benjamin Cruz

Film student, Benjamin Cruz (Boston, MA) is heeding his mentor, producer/screenwriter Richard Brandes’ advice:   “With the help of my mentor…I will be executing my very first feature length script. After enjoying films like Seven Samurai, Mean Streets, and Reservoir Dogs, I’ve found myself taking a liking to iconic directors whose stories come to life on screen. Of course, I began to wonder, ‘How do they breathe life into their characters?’ and ‘How do they manage to capture ‘real people’ on camera?’ That’s where ‘Screenplay by Syd Field’ comes in.   I have never written a script of such length… so jumping onwards to a full feature length film is definitely a leap of faith (especially for someone like myself who wants to be sure that he can make the film to begin with). Having never dealt with a project of this size, it’s exciting and new yet [also] terrifying…Taking what I learned from my own short film scripts and Syd Field’s book, I look forward to breaking into the industry with a topic that touches viewers’ hearts.”   *Attention RRFC students: Would you like to be in our newsletter? Then, blog about your experiences. Tell us your story and be sure to subscribe!        
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