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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER February 4, 2019 by Liya Swift


NAMM 2019 was Better than Ever!

Recording Connection mentor Sean Giovanni aka "Gio" and Roxanne Ricks of Audio Technica

Recording Connection mentor Sean Giovanni aka “Gio” and Roxanne Ricks, Artist Relations Manager & Event Specialist at Audio-Technica

  The NAMM Show 2019 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California was bigger and better than ever. Team Recording Connection (RRFC) was there to see the latest in gear, tech, and instrumentation, and to connect with our many friends and mentors. With more than five convention halls stocked full of anything and everything related to audio and music, we had oodles to geek out on and explore.   Probably the most notable difference in this year’s offerings versus that of earlier shows was the growth of new integrative technologies designed to improve workflow, drive greater efficiency, and in-short, make all our lives easier. Among them is Apogee’s HypeMiC, a USB condenser microphone with built-in analog compressor and Waves’ CLA MixHub Plugin. Demonstrated at NAMM by Chris Lord-Alge himself, the plugin enables users to mix up to 64 tracks from the same plugin window. Then there’s Arturia’s AudioFuse 8Pre. An ADAT preamp expander and audio interface in one, it features USB connectivity, speaker outputs, and an independent output for headphones.   Legendary producer/engineer and mentor Ryan Hewitt (blink-182, The Lumineers, Red Hot Chili Peppers) and F. Reid Shippen (Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Lucie Silvas) were just two of the Recording Connection mentors we encountered at NAMM. We also interviewed Nashville-based Recording Connection mentor Sean Giovanni aka “Gio” (Balcony TV, The Record Shop) just prior to him giving a talk at NAMM U. We shook hands with new Hip Hop and Live Music mentor Eric Boseman of Star City Studio Productions.   To all our mentors, students, and graduates who attended, drop us a line and tell us about your experiences at The NAMM Show 2019. We await your feedback!     
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Recording Connection grad Shamar Kuteyi
Get’s Going in Nashville


Recording Connection grad Shamar Kuteyi

We recently connected with Recording Connection grad Shamar Kuteyi, who, in his own words says he went from “not knowing anything about audio engineering and production” to being “ready to go” in less than one year thanks to our Audio Engineering & Music Production program and the hands-on externship training he received with mentor Josh Gleave, producer/engineer at The Cave in Nashville, Tennessee.   What led up to you choosing Recording Connection?    “Music has always been in my life, but when it came to actually composing music and then production, I didn’t really start getting serious until about September last year [2017]…I was doing a whole bunch of research online, looking up good schools, and then I came across Recording Connection. I really wanted a school that was not like a traditional school, like learning in the classroom. I wanted to do things hands-on because that’s the way I learn best…and I found out that’s what Recording Connection does.”  What was it like working with Josh as your mentor?  “Working with Josh was awesome…I wouldn’t have chosen anyone different. He pretty much taught me how to mix properly and gave me all of his tricks and tips. He has a professional studio out in Nashville off of Music Row. We got so close that he just decided to give me the keys…Then he told me I could come in and work whenever I want…So he pretty much taught me mic placement, the ins and outs of production, and just every key aspect that you would need to know to get started…   I came straight out of high school…I knew I wanted to become a producer, and [that] I wanted to do audio engineering. I wanted to just be in the field…I came into this program not knowing anything about audio engineering and production, and within maybe five, six months, I was up and ready to go.”   Where are you at now in your career?   “I’m working with a ton of different artists, some locally, some internationally. I started off making hip-hop beats and selling those to local artists in Nashville, and then from there, from word of mouth and from marketing myself, it spread into this bigger kind of thing. So now I’m working on two albums and one EP. Yeah, it’s just been awesome…Honestly, it’s almost like a dream come true.”   What can Recording Connection students do to make the most of the time they spend training with their mentors?   “Just be prepared to learn and soak all of it in…You can always learn something. For me just watching Josh, even if I wasn’t basically doing anything and I was just watching, I would always learn something. To see his tricks and how he does things has really impacted how I create and do things musically today.”  What are your long term goals?   “I’m hoping to get my own label one day. That’s all the way down the road, where I want to end up, but I don’t want to just cover music. I want to cover all aspects of just entertainment, whether that be film and television, whether that be dance, anything creative…I love being hands-on, being able to just connect with people because there’s something about having an idea and bouncing that idea off somebody else and then bringing it to life. Just that feeling, that energy, I thrive off of it.”   Find out about Recording Connection’s programs and workshops in audio, beat making, and more.    

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Film Connection mentor Zef Cota
on The Trouble and Low-Budget Indie Production


Film Connection mentor, filmmaker Zef Cota

As a filmmaker, Film Connection mentor Zef Cota (South Bronx, New York) is an exemplar of keeping plenty of irons in the fire. In addition to heading up his own narrative film production company, Alphabet City Films, he regularly does film work for various clients, shooting commercial projects and music videos under his commercial company, Filmtek.   We recently caught up with Zef to talk about his indie feature The Trouble which premiered at the 2018 Action on Film Festival in Las Vegas and where Zef won “Best Director” in the feature film category. Along with being nominated eight times, the film also won the Hollywood Dreamz Award for “Best Cinematography” (shot by Alex Gray, DP).   So tell us about The Trouble, which you describe as an “urban western” and “love letter to the South Bronx.”   “The full title is The Trouble: Once Upon a Time in The Bronx. I co-wrote it with Mark Marini. We’ve written a bunch of our short films together…It centers on four main characters: Billy, who’s a geek, his girlfriend, Marisol, who is this beautiful Latina girl who is kind of unexpected…Then there’s the thug, named Enzo, and the hitman, named Pit. It centers on this guy named Billy who plays online poker. Then when all of his favorite websites get shut down, he starts playing at these in-person poker games, and he gets extorted by this thug, named Enzo.   When that happens, Billy reaches out to this guy Pit who’s this part hitman, part ‘private investigator of the streets’ type of character…Billy deceives Pit into taking on his case, into helping him out, and that leads him into more hot water…I would say the underlying theme of the story is don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Filmmaker Zef Cota directing a scene of The Trouble

Filmmaker Zef Cota directing a scene of The Trouble

  Did location play a part in keeping the budget low?   “Definitely. The South Bronx happens to be where my production studio Alphabet City Films is located. It’s right outside of Manhattan. Although we did shoot part of the movie in the northern Bronx, particularly the cemetery scene we shot outside of St. Raymond’s. The South Bronx was just sort of the epicenter of our base of operations…That’s how I was able to keep my budget down, [by] thinking, ‘Hey, how could we have as many things take place around here as possible?’”   How did the limiting the location to the Bronx inform and shape the story you ultimately told?   “When I was first thinking about the idea, I would walk around this landscape in the Bronx and get inspired by spending a lot of time in that area, almost like location scouting before I even had quite a story. I was just trying to let the story come to me, and the first idea, the first spark of a story was ‘geek versus thug.’ I was just thinking, ‘Whoa, that’s something you don’t always see,’ just the juxtaposition of the geek and thug and, like, ‘What would that situation look like? How would it play out in a movie?’   When I had my first meeting with Mark Marini and was pitching him on the idea. He was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea. What if we make it sort of like a Western?’…We know the musicians, the guys that did the original score for our movie, and I think that’s a major part of the film. Actually, these guys are Bronx-based musicians, Andrew Marinaccio and Michael Stephens, known as DATA 91. We worked with them on a couple of our short films, and so early on I knew that they wanted to be involved, and I knew it was always their dream to write a score for a Western. Even just thinking about the music and the landscapes, I feel like it helped with the writing, to form the characters, the plot, and everything.”  

Film Connection grad Jason Malizia

You invited Film Connection student, now graduate, Jason Malizia to work as Assistant Editor for The Trouble. How did he get to play such an important role on your film?   “He was very eager to get to the next level and was really excited about the story. When I screened the rough cut while I was working with him as a mentor, he just really had a lot of enthusiasm and what seemed to be a good attitude and good work ethic. Then I ended up getting him involved as the assistant editor. He just seemed eager to do more, and we needed somebody to do that. It just worked out…Now Jason’s traveling and just working nonstop on productions.”   So how did it feel to win for Best Director?   “It was kind of nerve-wracking because you’re like, are you going to win, are you not going to win? Everybody always says it’s an honor being nominated, but I’ve been in that situation when you’re at the table and they don’t call your name. It feels like you’re getting punched right in the gut…Even a couple days later, I was checking the list, like, ‘Did this really happen?’ I have the award. It seems too good to be true…They showed over 100 films at the festival, and I won for Best Director.”  What’s your advice to first-time indie filmmakers who want to do something akin to what you’ve done with The Trouble?   “Give yourself a deadline, because a goal is just a wish unless you have a deadline. Give yourself a definitive day that you don’t back out of when you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to have this script ready by this date. We’re going to have our start date on production this date.’   That sounds like a really simple idea, but if you do that, you’re way more likely to get something done than if you don’t have those hard deadlines. And the other thing is embracing the fact that filmmaking is about problem-solving. Problems are going to happen. You’re going to lose a location, an actor’s going to drop out, something is going to happen that’s going to feel like, ‘Oh, God, why is this happening to me? This is going to derail the whole production.’ But you just have to figure out how to keep that ship moving forward because filmmaking is about problem-solving. If you embrace the fact that it’s about problem-solving, then I feel like you’re more equipped to handle those problems if they spring up.”   Learn more about Film Connection for filmmaking and writing for the screen.    
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

Film Connection student Giovanna Caruso (front, in red) with cast and crew of the short film "A Life Worth Living"

Film Connection student Giovanna Caruso (front, in red) with cast and crew of “A Life Worth Living”

Congrats to Film Connection grad Giovanna Caruso on a great pitch to Hollywood! The award-winning filmmaker recently flew out to Los Angeles to pitch her film A Life Worth Living to producers.   The film deals with the emotional struggles of a terrible loss, and the different ways people face grief. Giovanna sees how far she’s come in a relatively short period of time:   “Making this short film was one of the best and most terrifying experiences of my life. When I first moved to this country, I wasn’t able to speak English and I used movies as a tool to learn this wonderful language. Seven years later, I have written a script and produced it alongside the amazing Rocco Michaluk [her former Film Connection mentor].”   We’ll keep you updated on Giovanna’s progress!    
Radio Connection student extern Lady Rocka Chi | Washington DC

Radio Connection student and rapper Lady Rocka Chi

Radio Connection student Lady Rocka Chi recently discovered just how much persistance can pay off. Here’s an excerpt from her student blog:   “This week’s chapter focused on something I’ve been looking forward to doing. We were asked to find a radio disc jockey and interview them. I did it finally, after almost two weeks of trying to pin somebody down. I actually went all the way to Atlanta to try to catch up with Big Tigger and never got to the place to see him. However, I did a cool interview right here in DC. I decided to catch an up-and-coming radio DJ who has made waves as a DJ before getting hired last year at 93.9 WKYS. I loved the interview. I got even more excited about it after doing my research. He was a rapper, like myself, who later became a DJ. I figured it would be interesting to interview someone who I could relate with in that way. As it turns out, it was very inspiring in that he even commended me on all my efforts and encouraged me to never take no for an answer! Like Jo’Iyce said, ‘No means not now and not now means, try again later.'”     
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