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Issue #213

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Recording Connection grad Dre McNeil Talks
Touring, New EPs, and Growing Confidence!

audio engineering program grad

Recording Connection graduate Dre McNeil

We recently caught up with Recording Connection graduate Dre McNeil. The hardworking music producer is a graduate of both the regular and Advanced Audio Engineering & Music Production Program. Like many who find their way into music production, Dre started out on the performance end of things, as a rapper who was focused on building his career as an artist. Dre’s natural talent led him into the studio, and to a fateful meeting with producer CL McCoy. Read on to learn more.   Okay, so rapping led you into the studio where you connected with music producer CL McCoy (not affiliated with our program) who gave you some choice advice.   “I ended up going to a studio one day, and the guy there introduced himself as CL McCoy, and he kind of sat down with me and said, ‘Man, you have potential, but if you really want to have longevity money in the music business, learn the background as audio engineering.’ And that’s how I kind of got started, because he said making beats and editing music would never die down, but you only can rap for so long in your career. But you always can make beats and be behind the scenes and continue to make money.”   So you found Recording Connection and enrolled. What made you choose us?   “I wanted to advance my music career. So I figured for me to advance it, I need to actually study it and get a proper teacher. I looked at Recording Connection and it was hands-on and a better experience than going to a four year college…I went to college in New York. In a big classroom, a lot of times the teacher wouldn’t get to your question, you know? Or they’ll explain it, but they won’t explain it thoroughly enough for you to understand, whereas in the studio it’s one-on-one, so all my questions are answered and we don’t move on until I fully understand the lesson that I’m being taught.”   You completed the Audio Engineering & Music Production Program with mentor Dano Harry at Prismic Studios. What was that like?   “That was a great experience. A lot of energy with Dano…He taught me the basics of making beats from the beginning, counting tempo, and just making sure everything lines up. He took me step by step as far as editing music and stems, then showed me various ways to make beats from learning the keyboard to drum machines and piano.  He’s also the type to want to play with different sounds and synthesizers. [Now] I can create a sound that nobody ever heard of. Dano said I should just go from there, because, he said, if I separate myself from everybody else, then I’ll definitely get noticed.”   And you are getting noticed with your project Globally Inclined. What’s the vision behind your project?   “My logo’s a world, and  it symbolizes that everybody’s trying to climb up to a certain point in their life, [whether] it’s music or fashion, whatever they desire, so we try to motivate everybody to just keep moving forward in their path…I do music on my side, but we also have guys that do logos, t-shirts, everything. It came to me in a dream one day. Then as soon as I woke up, I got the LLC, then started designing the logo, and then I moved on from there.”   So tell us about Globally Inclined’s 3 albums which you’re releasing in stages throughout 2018:     “I feel like everything in your life is delivered to you by energy in the atmosphere. So that’s why I called it “Atmosphere,” and I try to make my beats so you can feel the emotion behind them (Atmosphere was released in May).   So my next album is called Faith, I’m going to release in a month or two. Then my last one I’ll release this year is called Destination  So your mentor Dano actually gave you leave when a pretty rare opportunity with CL McCoy presented itself.   “I was probably in my third month with Dano, that’s when I started touring with CL McCoy. He just invited me one day, he’s like, ‘Would you like to go on tour with us, see what’s going on behind the scenes and travel with us and make beats?’ I was like, ‘Yes, I would love the opportunity.’ We got to go on tour with the various artists, like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, LL Cool J, Riff Raff, Doug E. Fresh, so we got to travel quite a bit.”   So you got back from tour, finished the entry level with Dano at Prismic, then started the Advanced Audio & Music Production Program with Josh Franklin at Fifty50, where you actually started working on Atmosphere, getting Josh’s help and guidance along the way:    “And he definitely takes the time because he definitely helped me with this album I put out, Atmosphere. We worked on it for about a year before we put it out, and he’s my main guy I go to…We work a lot of hands-on…He’s very open to hearing the sounds I try to create, so I describe it the best way for him.”  

Fifty50 Studios

So as a writer of music, how do you operate? Do you hear something in your imagination first, and then try to create it? Or, are you playing with various sounds until something inspires you?   “I like to let a lot of things come to me. So I don’t rush it…I can sit there for hours until there’s a sound that clicks, and then I start building from that one sound. Or like, there will be days where I hear certain things in my head, then I try to make those. I’ll find the sound that first [matches] what I hear in my head, and then I build from there.”   So let’s compare who you were before Recording Connection as opposed to who you are today. Do you think you’ve become more confident throughout this journey?    “Oh yeah, definitely. Even as far as when I started rapping compared to now, because now I know how to edit my sound the way I want it instead of relying on somebody else. I can make my own beats to fit my sound. I’m definitely more confident in my music, and as far as giving information to others, like other artists that are trying to get out there, I’m very confident in relaying my information just from the knowledge I know from Recording Connection.   I started taking the music business more seriously, and actually learning the steps behind it… My mentors always told me that if I’m going to do this, make sure I take it serious and make sure I have the knowledge behind it, because if I have the knowledge behind it, I could go far.”    
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Mentor News

Film Connection mentor Buck Kahler Talks
Documentary Filmmaking, Mentorship, and Building Credits

Film Connection mentor Buck Kahler has more than 30 years of filmmaking experience, starting with his career as a combat photojournalist for the U.S. Air Force, of which he is now a retired Master Sergeant, and extending onto his career as an editor, cinematographer, and independent producer, director, and writer. He has worked with A&E, The History Channel, shot video for two specials on the National Geographic Channel, and aired footage and films on PBS, including footage for the East Tennessee chapter of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novicks’ The Vietnam War. As co-owner of Nolpix Media Buck is serious about instilling tomorrow’s film professionals with the knowledge he’s acquired through his decades-long career.   We recently spoke with Buck about documentary filmmaking, his experiences as a combat photojournalist, and garnered a number of valuable insights to share with our readership. Enjoy!   How did you get started in film in the first place?    “In 1987 I was in the Air Force…I was assigned to combat camera…So my job was as a combat photojournalist, and basically, I flew around the world to cover operations and stuff for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President.”   That’s hardly a normal start to a film career. Were you ever in combat war zones?   “I covered all the stuff leading up to and including the Panama invasion, everything up to and including the Gulf War, Somalia, the Bosnia situation, and then later Kosovo. Yeah, and I was assigned as an aerial photographer, which there weren’t that many of us. So I was actually an air crew member and had to go to survival school and learn all the escape routes on every Air Force aircraft ever. I even got to fly in the back of a couple fighters… I fell in love with the career and just kept doing it…   Then I got out for a couple years and got a job as an editor working on series for A&E and the History Channel. Then I went back in the Air Force to finish up my career, but I still freelanced on the side, and still edited and worked on The National Geographic Channel… Then after I retired I formed my own company and started doing stuff, mostly documentaries for PBS and that sort of thing.”   What is it about the documentary format that appeals to you?   “I feel that truth is stranger than fiction and is just as exciting as any feature fiction type thing. What’s exciting to me about documentaries is you don’t know how they’re going to end until the project is done. It’s like a surprise ending, even to me at the end. I don’t force something to end a certain way. It feels like it just organically creates itself sometimes.”   You also contributed to the massive documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.   “My involvement was at the local level. Ken Burns’ folks created a fund, basically a grant for 30 PBS stations across the country. So we got a $10,000 grant from WETA, which is the Washington D.C. PBS affiliate and we created three films here. Well, I helped create three films, and then I had a friend who’s a journalism professor over at the University of Tennessee, and he had three of his grad students create films. So they created half hour films each, like three mini, 10 minute films. So we had basically two hours of local material to support Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s Vietnam series.”   So The Mysterious Lost State of Franklin, a documentary you directed and produced aired on PBS. What can you tell us about that project?   “We looked into the history of East Tennessee and discovered this lost state that would have been the 14th state, you know, the original 13 colonies. This would have been the 14th state, but it lost in Congress by two votes.   So we basically had to go out and really just make friends. And that’s really the crux of making a documentary film is you have to make friends with everyone involved. So we made friends with a lot of the historic reenactor community, and they were all on board with it. They stuck with me for about three years without seeing a frame of footage…It aired locally. Then I sent it off to national PBS and didn’t expect to hear anything back. They called me back and accepted it and it became one of their most popular “interstitial films.” It was a half hour film. PBS looks for those because they fit nicely [and] help the scheduling managers.”   How long did it take to hear back from PBS?   “It really took about five months. I had pretty much forgotten that I had even sent it. I just assumed that they had rejected it because I didn’t hear a thing back, and then about five, it might have been six months later, I got a call, and they said they accepted it.”   What prompted you to start mentoring for us?   Shortly after completing the Vietnam series…a friend of mine who I work with, he’s a Grammy Award-winning sound engineer, had several externs and suggested I go ahead and give it a shot. …When I read up on the program, I realized it’s very close to how I used to train troops back in the Air Force, where I would bring people all the way up from the helper level to the journeyman level to the craftsperson level…   So they [my externs] have already got several credits under their belt, and they’re only halfway through the program. My goal for them is to make sure that each of them walks away with a short. You know, maybe a five to 10 minute short that they write, they direct, and we’re all there as support…   When it comes to building a career for oneself, are there potential opportunities students and newcomers don’t usually think about?    “What people don’t think about with films, they really think that you have to go work for a film studio or a television station or something like that but when you look at the business world, lots of midsized to large businesses have their own in-house video production, and there’s a lot of that going on. Every business out there needs a video, they need several, they need videos all the time. So I try to impress on these folks that it’s not just the film industry. There’s opportunities for professional video and film production everywhere… There is a demand for people who know what they’re doing.”   You also recently completed an archeological documentary which won an award.     “We’re looking at trying to turn that into a series…The Archaeology Channel International Film Festival in Eugene, Oregon had 800 entries, and we got Best Film, we got Best Educational Value, and several other awards for the production of the film. We were up against really stiff competition, including PBS, Nova, and there were several international folks who showed up for the festival to show their films.”   How can a Film Connection student make the most of the program while they’re in it?   “I would encourage externs to, while they’re in the program, start looking around for opportunities to be a PA, even on local indie films, no-budget films, whatever, but start building up your resume, start building up your list of credits, because the first thing that people will ask you is, ‘What have you done?’ and you can say, ‘I did all these things.’ I think that’s important to begin really working while you’re studying, get as much exposure as you can and start networking within your own community. Start getting to know people, even if you’re just a PA holding a light stand. That takes the burden off the director and it’s important to people, and people will remember that even if you’re just volunteering.”   It’s obvious that you’re really committed to mentoring our students. Why is mentorship important to you?   “I’m nearing the autumn of my career. So I’m trying to pretty much just do a big brain download into as many people as I can reach…I want to get as much information out there as possible to young people who are interested in this field, because it’s not going away. I mean, it’s changing, it’s evolving, but it’s not going away. So especially as far as cinematography tricks and techniques and just little hints that I can get across to people and have them practice, I think if they can take that with them, you know, when they’ve been working in the field for 30 years they can do something and say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember when Buck taught me that 30 years ago.’   One of my mentors was World War II combat photographer Doug Morrell (immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s documentary, Shooting War) and he taught me a lot of techniques that I use to this day. So I feel like his legacy works through me, and I’m passing all that he taught me onto them as well.”    
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Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Recording Connection graduate Efrain Matias got hired at the San Diego studio where he trained with mentor and studio owner Bernard “IQue” Johnson, who also recently invited him to NAMM in Tennessee! “I Landed a Job!…Since I’ve been getting a lot of tangible work under my belt and really applying the concepts and techniques Bernard has shared with me, I seem to have landed me a lead engineering position here at Noize Factory Studios.” More on this in an upcoming newsletter!   More on this in an upcoming newsletter!                 Film Connection student Alisha Simmons is happy to hit the ground running right from Day One of her externship at Rocco Films: “During my initial meeting with my mentor, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a production meeting, as the crew is planning to shoot a film next week. My mentor, Rocco [Michaluk], has placed me on the team and I will be serving as a Production Assistant. The film will be shooting for 5 days and I will be able to participate at least 4 out of the 5 days…I am really excited to work with the team next week and to continue to learn and absorb as much as I can.”               Film Connection mentor Sean McCarthy of Guerilla Wanderers Films sent word that their newest extern Gabe Gottstein had the opportunity of working on-set at Levi’s Stadium with, not one but 2 professional NFL players from the 49ers and the Seahawks.   That’s Gabe down on one knee, quietly observing and on standby.           
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or call (800) 755-7597