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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER August 22, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


Film Connection grad Jonathan Ramos Gets in at Univision!

Film Connection grad Jonathan Ramos

Film Connection grad Jonathan Ramos

When Film Connection grad Jonathan Ramos recently told his family that he’d landed a job at Univision in Atlanta, GA, he says they didn’t believe him at first.   “They watch the news, the Univision where I’m working in Atlanta,” he says. “They watch it, and I told them, yeah, I’m going to work with them…they’re like, ‘No way.’ …And once they found out I was, they were excited. And they are like, ‘Wow!’ It’s funny because they started telling their friends.”   Perhaps a sign of the times, Jonathan says he first got inspired to pursue a career in film and video by watching YouTube videos—in particular, a set of videos from the filmmakers at Wong Fu Productions.   “It’s a group of three agents that met in college,” he says, “and they just decided one day they wanted to do films together, and they just started recording, uploading the stuff on the Internet, and people liked what they were doing and it kind of blew up from there…They have the liberty to do what they want creatively, and they get to share that with other people through a source, through YouTube, and people appreciate their work. That’s what got my attention, like I wanted to do that stuff too.”   Finding an affordable film school was another story, though—until he discovered the Film Connection.   “I was working at a construction with my uncle and my dad,” says Jonathan, “and I couldn’t go to college because they are expensive. So I was trying to find an outlet…I was just hoping I could find something that would be in my interest and wouldn’t be that expensive. I was just on the Internet one day looking at film schools, and I found the school Film Connection…it was very affordable compared to other film schools.”   Jonathan was placed as an apprentice with award-winning filmmaker Jason Winn in Atlanta. He remembers being apprehensive on his first day at the studio. “I was really nervous,” he says. “All I knew was that filming was really cool and interesting, but technical-wise, writing-wise, I knew nothing. I kept thinking, ‘Now, what if I go in there and they expect me to know how to work the camera or know what all these film terms are?’…   But when I met [Jason] he was very cool, chill guy. He’s very free, he’s open minded. When he first met me, he was just telling me how things work…He was like, ‘Hey man, feel free to ask me anything. Don’t feel nervous about it or anything.’ I felt comfortable because of that.”   Jonathan was particularly impressed with Jason’s calm directing style in working with people. “He has actors, producers, he has the PAs and he has all these other people,” says Jonathan. “The staffers, the DP, they are all leaning on him, but he doesn’t show his stress in front of them. He maintains his cool…I’m like, ‘I like how you maintain yourself. You don’t go crazy or anything. You don’t scream at any other people working with you.’ He was like, “Yeah, man. You’ve got to do that, or else if you start losing it, then they lose it and then the whole movie loses it.’”   At the same time, Jason employed a unique exercise to help his apprentices get used to working under pressure: an assignment to write and shoot a ten-minute silent film.   “When you are [shooting] the scenes, you have to do each scene within 10 minutes,” says Jonathan. “He times you. So, for one scene if you do it before 10 minutes you are okay, we move on. And if you don’t do it by 10 minutes, it’s fine, but you are losing time…He’s trying to make you feel the pressure so you can get used to it.”   Jonathan’s training and on-the-job experience with Jason certainly paid off, as it helped to land him the job at Univision.   “I found Univision’s number,” he says. “I just gave them a cold call, I’m like, ‘Hey, I was just wondering if you guys are looking for production assistant or need helpers? If you are let me know, call me back.’ And then they called me and they told me that they were looking for a camera guy for sports… They told me to show them my resume and asked me basic questions…I was interviewed by the manager from that department…Then in a couple of weeks I was working with them for their sports category.”   Now gaining even more experience with his paid gig, Jonathan continues to work on writing scripts, preparing for bigger steps as a filmmaker. “I want to write stories that make people feel something at the end of the video,” he says. “For me, it’s like I better focus on this film stuff or else I know I’m going to go back to doing construction, which is something I don’t want to do. I need to be on my game.”   
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NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor
Andy Shoemaker on the importance of gaining real experience, a solid work ethic, and more

   Recording Connection mentor Andy Shoemaker is a Grammy-nominated audio engineer who has worked with some of the hottest known artists in music today. At the same time, he’s got a very down-to-earth common-sense approach to teaching the craft of engineering to his students and showing them the ropes at Rax Trax, one of Chicago’s top-tier multi-room recording studios.   Every time we talk with Andy, he drops several key nuggets of knowledge that any audio student would do well to pick up. Below, Andy talks about such key things as the importance of a strong work ethic, combining knowledge with real-world experience, and being a go-getter in a competitive business. Enjoy!   
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ON HOW HE GOT INTO RECORDING AND ENGINEERING:   IMG_3982 “I got into recording through the technical side of things. I was interested in checking it out and trying to record, so my brother and I bought some cheap software, found a toy microphone, and we gave it a go. I found that it was really interesting to me to work to manipulate the recordings to try to get the sound we wanted. I was interested in music, but it never really dawned on me that recording music was a job that people did. When I found that out in college, I thought ‘I’m going to give it a shot.’ I started to study audio formally instead of just on my own. I really fell in love with it. It became something that was really engaging to me on a lot of levels.”   HIS THOUGHTS ON THE RECORDING CONNECTION TEACHING APPROACH VERSUS TRADITIONAL EDUCATION:   “I went through a traditional four-year style school. In my final semester, I started an internship and I found that I was learning a lot of things that I’d never learned about in school. I was three semesters in at my school before I was doing some of the stuff that I might have my students do in their first week of the Recording Connection program. There are a lot of different audio programs out there. How effective any program is going to be for you personally really depends on what you put into it. You could really dive into any program and get something out of it, but I think Recording Connection provides an opportunity to do that in a different and more efficient way because it isn’t isolated from reality.”   ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMBINING KNOWLEDGE WITH HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE IN THE STUDIO:   “To me, there’s a separation between knowledge and understanding. The one-on-one times are giving a lot of knowledge…If you’re working on it, you’re getting knowledge. But it’s up to any given individual to turn that knowledge into understanding. The way to do that is through experience…   I can think of early on when I was at the studio that I’m at now, I had almost no experience on the type of mixing boards that we have there. The routing and the flexibility of SSL consoles is much more elaborate than your average mixing board. I would see some of the other engineers use the console in ways I was unfamiliar with. I’d say to myself, ‘Okay, I know that they’re doing this technique,’ but I wasn’t sure how they set it up. So I’d read the manual for the console and think, ‘Okay, so they’re pushing this button, they’re doing that.’ But it wasn’t until I was running my own sessions and doing it all myself that I could say, ‘Okay. Here’s the process of setting up this particular routing, this particular technique…this all is making sense now and I can do this.’ After reading the manual, I had a certain amount of knowledge… But the actual doing of it begins to unlock understanding. So in terms of my students, something that I tell them in our one-on-one lessons is that I’m going to tell you about a lot of things, I’m going to demonstrate a lot of things, and we’re going to do some of them together. I’m going to give you the opportunity to gain knowledge, but you have to be practicing these things on your own if you actually want to understand.”  
Control Room in Rax Trax

Control Room in Rax Trax

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WORK ETHIC AND DOING THE SMALL THINGS OF RUNNING A BUSINESS:   “There’s a lot of people that have a dream of, ‘I am going to open my own studio.’ Okay, but you don’t just set up some equipment and then get to make cool records. You have to do everything. You have to do all the marketing, you have to make all the phone calls, handle all of the e-mails. You have to manage your accounting, you have to clean the bathrooms. And if you skip over the stuff that feels just like grunt work, if you’re just like, ‘Oh, I’ve just got to get this done, whatever,’ instead of actually doing a good job, you’re missing important work ethic things that you absolutely need if you’re going to survive.”   ON WHAT HE LOOKS FOR IN AN APPRENTICE:   “I try to look for people who I think are going to be a good fit for the team, someone that I think we can get along with. Someone that I don’t think is going to respond inappropriately around clients. Someone who I think will be teachable…those are a few of the things that I have been mainly looking for.”   ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING PEOPLE SKILLS, NOT JUST TECHNICAL SKILLS:   “The way young engineers get early opportunities often comes from a situation where they can fill in at a time of need. But before I start saying, ‘Hey man, can you do this session?,’ I need to see, technically, they know enough of what they’re doing to trust them enough not to screw up and also that I don’t fear that they’ll conduct themselves in a negative way with a client. There are people that I think of very highly, like, ‘Man, this guy is great. He knows what he’s talking about,’ but I just don’t know that I can hand him a session because his people skills are a bit lacking. If someone can’t read the artist and interact with them based on what the artist needs, then it isn’t a good fit between engineer and artist.”   HIS TAKE ON WHICH STUDENTS TEND TO BE MOST SUCCESSFUL:   “They have to be proactive about it. They have to go look for it…You have to say, ‘I’m going to go sit in on that session. I’m going to go watch what’s happening. I’m going to make sure that I write down some notes [and] find out some questions.’ I’ve got a guy who’s not even actually one of my students, but he keeps a little notebook with him…and then he’ll ask me stuff about it at appropriate times; ‘So tell me about this…, why did you decide to use that? Help me understand this.’ That to me says, okay, you’re really interested in this and you’re working on connecting a lot of these dots. If you just think that you can hang out and learn in the lesson times and read the book and do some stuff at home, you’re actually missing out on a major part of the program. You need to actively engage with it—and then I should also add appropriately, because there are ways to not do that right—but if you actively and appropriately engage in the work of the studio, you will benefit far, far more than you would if you if you don’t. And that, realistically, is a major part of who continues on and who doesn’t.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

Photo taken by Sainbileg Battulga while on a shoot with FC mentor Six Cobb

Photo taken by Sainbileg Battulga while on a shoot with FC mentor Six Cobb

Film Connection student Sainbileg Battulga recently assisted shooting footage of none other than Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, the current mayor of Baltimore, Maryland. Sainbileg says, “It was a great experience to work with a big studio like GreiBo. We interviewed the mayor of Baltimore city. The interview is going to be used as the intro section for a video about Baltimore city. A fellow professional who worked with us, brought his teleprompter and installed it on a camera so that the mayor could read it while looking at the camera. It was quite fascinating to see how it worked in an outdoor shooting environment. I really want to thank Film Connection for giving me the big opportunity to ‘boil in the film industry pot’”    madd-maxx Recording Connection student Maximilian Garrison aka Madd Maxx (Manhattan, NY) is committed to the program even when times are tough. “I have been struggling in my personal life but it’s actually the program that keeps me balanced because being around other likeminded individuals and working with the tools I’m being given keeps me motivated, humble, and focused on the big picture. The engineers and other apprentices have been nothing but supportive of EVERYONE, including myself…It’s been a real pleasure to learn with the ease of hands-on and direct teaching from those who have helped create monster Grammy award winning hits. Patience is perseverance is all that is needed, then the sky’s the limit.”   
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