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Issue #112

Weekly Newsletter

by L. Swift and Jeff McQ

Student Successes
‘What is a Grind Opp?,’ you ask? It is a job opportunity. A help wanted ad.

Shooting in Times Square: Film Connection student Evan Zentar’s training helps him land a full-time job!

Film Connection student Evan Zentar

Film Connection student Evan Zentar

When we recently caught up with Film Connection student Evan Zentar, he was getting ready to shoot a boxing match in Times Square for his employer, a combat sports production company that films MMA and boxing events that recently hired the 20 year old as a full time camera op/editor with a salary enviable for someone ten years older.   “Every month we have this, it’s called Broadway Boxing,” says Evan of the boxing gig. “They tend to move around all over New York. Sometimes it’s at the Aviator in Brooklyn. Or at MSG [Madison Square Garden], we’ve done a few shows up there.”   Of course, Evan’s passion and drive have played a huge role in his early success. His interest in film/TV began in middle school, he says, and just kept going from there. “I got to high school and started working for the school district’s little TV network,” he says. “From there, I went to community college, got an internship at a combat sports production company, so they did basically the MMA fights and boxing stuff in the area. So I worked there for about 8 months for free, and then they hired me.”   Even so, Evan wanted to up his game—but he didn’t want to spend the time or money to go to an expensive film school. That’s when he found the Film Connection could get him on-the-job experience. “I started Film Connection back in June because I wanted to start working in movies as well as television,” he says. “I came from TV, and a lot of basic ENG style of filming, it doesn’t get as in-depth with lenses, and what an F-stop is, and what a C-stand is, and all these different pieces of equipment. I had no idea what they were. I didn’t have any contacts. And so I really wanted to get to know people and branch off and get more work by doing.”   Given his interest in film, Evan was placed as an apprentice with Nick Esposito of Backseat Conceptions in Philadelphia, PA. From his first meeting with Nick, Evan realized he’d made the right decision for his career.  
Film Mentor Nick Esposito

Film Mentor Nick Esposito (right)

“I walked into his office,” he recalls. “I shaved for the first time in months because I thought, ‘I’m going to meet some film guy, I should look like a professional,’ so I shaved. And then I went in, and then we talked…he was like, ‘What’s your background?’ I told him what I did.   He was like, ‘All right, great. I want you to work for me. Basically we’re going to be doing some movies coming up…We’re doing movies. A lot of gigs.’ I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ So I got what I paid for. I came here to do movies, and here I am doing movies…Since I’ve been in Film Connection, I’ve done one feature and two shorts, and I’m getting on another feature in April.”   Since starting his apprenticeship, Evan has been very impressed by the caliber of the company and his mentor specifically. “Nick’s a great guy,” he says. “He’s not this kind of PC, ‘Everybody is equal, we should all do this together, and let’s make a big learning experience out of it.’ It’s like, ‘All right, here’s what we have to do. Get it done. You have this long to do it.’ He runs it like it’s a real set.”   Evan Zentar Evan says learning to shoot from a film perspective has already helped improve his production value, as well, and it even impressed his boss at the combat sports company where he continued to work. “If I look back on it now, I knew nothing compared to what I know now,” says Evan. “I had a basic concept of it, but I didn’t understand shooting in 24p, or 30p, or 60i. I didn’t understand the difference…Just being in Film Connection made me do all these, ‘Oh my God, I can make a low budget TV production look like a high budget TV production if I turn my shutter on and set it to 1/250.’..After I had done this stuff to my cameras and stuff at the office, my boss was like, ‘Holy sh*t, what have you done?’ And it all looked great.”   And that’s what led to Evan’s new gig—the one where he now gets to shoot and edit boxing in Times Square.   Now at the point of completing his apprenticeship, Evan hopes to expand his work in film. A fan of war movies, he says he’s currently working on a script of his own about World War II, and he will be on the set of a new feature film starting next month. He says juggling filming around his new job is a bit of a challenge, but they are giving him the flexibility he needs to make it work. “I just did this whole film thing [with Film Connection], and I’m going to have a full-time job in television,” he remarks. “But they’re still letting me go and do movies and stuff when I want to, which is pretty cool.”   And so, at the ripe young age of 20, Evan is well on his way to a long and rewarding career. Given the choice between four years in film school and going to the Film Connection, he knows he made the right choice for his future.   “I’m not $240,000 in debt because I [went] to NYU,” he says. “I was, like, ‘All right, maybe I’ll make a $10,000 investment, do Film Connection, and see what happens.’…I just saved so much money, and I got to the same exact place faster.”   
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Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students

   jocelyne-berumen Film Connection apprentice Jocelyne Berumen (Green Bay, WI) got to gloss everything on the set of a recent Creative Edge shoot to make sure the lighting was perfect. “Out of all the HR videos I have been a part of, this was definitely my favorite. I had not slept for more than 24 hours due to my 3rd shift job just prior to this shoot, but I decided to join the crew anyway. This shoot was very creative and involved some more interesting lighting choices. DP Tony wanted to make it seem like a classic film as it starts, so the team arranged some graphics and computers to make the area seem like a top secret agent’s lair.”    studio Recording Connection apprentice Nicole Thorp (Sumner, Washington) has no problem with tackling stuff that’s somewhat daunting, thanks to her mentor Pierre A. Ferguson at Foundry Studios. “I always come into the studio with a great attitude and a willingness to learn. I’ve found over these last few months I’ve pushed myself harder than I really ever have before…One thing I appreciate so much is how patient Pierre is with me and how he understands that even though I may not get something right away…It’s really encouraging to me when Pierre tells me I’ve been a big help or that I’m really smart. It tells me that he sees that I try really hard to be helpful around the studio and that he sees that I’m dedicated to the program and what I’m learning is sticking. As always, looking forward to more!”   
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Mentor News

Passion and Perseverance: Life lessons from Recording Connection grad-turned mentor Matt Collett

   The career of Recording Connection student-turned-mentor Matt Collett is a great lesson in passion, dedication and perseverance. From his early days as a Recording Connection apprentice in Atlanta, Georgia, he eventually returned to his hometown of Savannah, where he and his business partner, Colin Motlagh, now run The Garage Savannah, a community-focused recording studio with an innovative business strategy, which they literally built from the ground up. And today, thankfully for us, he’s now become a mentor himself, passing the skills he first began learning as a student to the next round of up-and-coming audio engineers.   Matt first came to the Recording Connection in the mid-2000s, apprenticing in a recording studio in Atlanta, Georgia. “I couldn’t necessarily afford to go to school really, like a full-on college,” he says, “not that I would have wanted to anyway. I guess for me that was not the route, you know? So when I found Recording Connection, it just seemed like the obvious choice…I liked the idea that it put you right into the studio rather than another classroom. And it was a great program. [My mentor] definitely went above and beyond…I would definitely say the majority of my technical knowledge and my knowledge of recording itself comes directly from [my mentor] Chuck for sure, and this program.”  
Colin Motlagh and Matt Collett. Photo credit Keith Morgan

Colin Motlagh and Matt Collett.
Photo credit: Keith Morgan

After graduating, Matt stayed on in Atlanta for a while to engineer at his former mentor’s studio, along with doing session work as a drummer. But eventually, along with a partner, he decided he wanted to return to his home town of Savannah to support the local music scene.   “There’s just so much great talent here,” he says. “There’s just not really a lot of outlet for it. And the independent music community has come a long way in my time of being around, like from when I was a teenager to now. But there are definitely acts, and even whole genres that are really overlooked. Savannah, on the rock and roll side of things, isn’t hurting for representation because internationally Savannah is known for heavy music, you know? Three of the four biggest metal bands in the world right now are from Savannah… but other genres like Hip-Hop – Rap, R&B, Pop, and Country, while full of talent, are largely under represented. We both just wanted a spot where we could work with artists and other bands in town, but on our own terms…I guess you could say we’re trying to just bring a little bit more awareness to the other music, other than just the heavy music that is going on in this town.”   Of course, the process of building out the studio and setting things up—that’s where the perseverance came in. In fact, the entire process involved a learning curve of about six years.   “We tried for a couple of years to find a building that would work and that we could afford,” says Matt. “And the biggest issue was, when you’re thinking about all the different things that happen in this facility, location becomes really, important as well as security in Savannah, you know? Security for the artists, and for our client as well, for us…Being natives of Savannah, it’s a little easier for us because we know the area so well, where we want to be. So it took a long time to find that, and then once we did, we found a vacant lot, and it was just too much money for electricity and soundproofing and having all of the different things we were going to have going on…So, we took a little bit longer. We really had to beat the bushes to get the money together and get loans cause we’re just young…Neither of us had ever run a business before, we’d never been the owners before.”  
The Garage Savannah

The Garage Savannah

Being creative and cutting costs also meant learning some other new skills, as well. “We both worked at the same job,” he says. “My partner was a mechanical engineer, and I was working at a cabinet shop that built the stuff that he drew plans for, and whenever we found the land that we wanted, we put an offer in on the land, and then I left the job at the cabinet shop to go work with some of the musicians in town who owned an electrical company…I went to work with the company for a year to learn to do electrical, then hired them to do my job [wiring the studio] so that I could work for them on the site of my job and do it all here.”   The perseverance and dedication have paid off. Today, The Garage Savannah is a community-focused, multi-faceted music space that incorporates a project recording studio, soundproofed rehearsal spaces for rent, music lessons, workshops and other events—even yoga on Sundays.   “We just have this big open lobby,” says Matt. “We always thought it would be kinda cool to have yoga in here. Sundays are the only days we’re not totally jammed in all the time…It’s kind of like a nice reset in place for us for the week, or anybody that takes it. It winds up being like some of the guys’ bands there, and their girlfriends come.”   The collaborative vibe carries over to the studio, as well, as Matt and his partner Colin Motlagh take more of a producer role with the artists they take on, often contributing musically to tracks and even bringing on other musicians in the community to see projects come together. For Matt, the multi-faceted approach is all part of the plan.   “We could have easily done any one facet of the building that we did, and done it on a much smaller scale,” he says. “The whole point, really, was to set up something that served the community but also gave us a professional studio to be able to use with less overhead. We’re not, by any means, really profiting off the local bands. Basically the whole operation essentially just sustains itself and then the studio is really the X-factor… It was important to us just to set up a really stable model [so that] we would not have to, I guess, capitalize on local bands and the culture. That wasn’t the idea. It was really to supply and fill a need, but then allow us the resources that we need to now do bigger projects.”  
Savannah musicians Eric "Big E" Moore, Tony Coleman, Ray Lundy, Matt Collett, Colin Motlagh, Eric Dunn At the Blues Trinity Concert at The Lucas Theater- photo credit Taryn Collett

Savannah musicians Eric “Big E” Moore, Tony Coleman, Ray Lundy, Matt Collett, Colin Motlagh, Eric Dunn at the Blues Trinity Concert, Lucas Theater
Photo credit: Taryn Collett

Students who train with Matt at The Garage will have the opportunity to develop an understanding that’s multifaceted.   “Our studio is a bit unorthodox as far as normal commercial studios go. There are a lot of different things going on at the same time, and the majority of our studio projects we are the producers, engineers, the writers, the label, the publisher, everything. Our apprentices will be really immersed into every aspect of the record making process, gaining a better understanding of why we do things the way we do, not just how to repeat a process, but to learn to critically approach situations, both musically, and professionally.   Thus, starting off with the skills he originally learned from the Recording Connection, Matt’s passion and persistence have resulted in a unique studio that serves the needs of the musical community in Savannah. As Matt now takes on Recording Connection apprentices of his own, it’s obvious that apart from teaching the technical skills, he’ll have a lot of wisdom to share with his students about putting those skills toward a rewarding career.   “The thing that really drew me to mentoring for Recording Connection other than the fact that I myself completed the program, is that it gives both me and the student a clear cut end goal and timeline. Rather than just sitting in a classroom, or being a glorified coffee runner, they are really learning with an actual curriculum, and ultimately receiving some sort of accreditation for their work, and continued assistance with pursuing a career in what is definitely a complicated industry.”  
Check out a number of tracks produced and engineered by Matt Collett and Colin Motlagh’s label Aphelion Records:   Aphelion Records
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