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Issue #217

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Recording Connection grad Jordan Duffy
Gets Hired at Earwolf!


Recording Connection grad Jordan Duffy at Earwolf

Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production graduate Jordan Duffy is no stranger to education in the arts. A lifelong musician and vocalist, she attended Worcester State University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she received her B.A. in Vocal Performance. As her senior capstone project, Jordan made the most of her four octave vocal range and proved that she can sing everything, from pop, to rock, to Broadway, to opera.   In just less than a year on the job as a point engineer at popular comedy podcasting network Earwolf, Jordan has worked on multiple comedy podcasts including “Queery” with Cameron Esposito, “Unspooled” with Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson, “Throwing Shade” with Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson, and “Hollywood Handbook” with Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport, to name a few.   We recently touched base with Jordan to talk about her job at Earwolf, hear what she has to say about being a woman in audio, and to discuss bringing studio smarts into the performing arts. Enjoy!   So you graduated Worcester State then found Recording Connection. Did you have a specific goal in mind?   “My big goal is that I want to record and produce my own album, all my own original material. I want to pick the bandmates, I want to be behind and in front of the scenes 100%. When I came across Recording Connection, I had experienced so many times where I would reach out to either record labels or recording studios, and it became a hassle. No one understood my vision. Working with Recording Connection and my mentor Dr. Barry Johnson…it came to light that I want to be in this program to do not only my own material… I also want to help other musicians or vocalists or whomever it’ll be…   I would actually love to create an educational program to showcase the studio side. I think we have a lot of people who go to school and it’s just performing and being in practice rooms, but I think it would be extremely beneficial for these universities [because] even if you’re going for a performance degree, you still need to have studio etiquette…   Even for someone who’s talking on a microphone, you need to learn how to hold that microphone and where it should be placed, like how many inches away from your mouth. There are so many little details that make such a big impact.”   So tell us how you landed the audio engineering position at Earwolf?   “Right before Earwolf, I quit a corporate job…packed up and I drove myself to California and I moved in with my sister and her boyfriend…They offered me a place to stay, they said, ‘We believe in your dream and we think you should just come out here.’ I had to give them an answer in one week, then I was leaving two weeks later.   When I got here, I said, ‘Okay, I’m here and I’m not going to stop until I get the job that I want.’ So I was applying everywhere, I got a part-time job at Starbucks just to have some cash. I was completely broke at this point, and probably the day after I moved to California I actually found an ad on LinkedIn for an audio engineer for midroll. I didn’t really know the full details. They were just saying, ‘We need an audio engineer. You need to know this, this, and this.’ And as I’m reading the description, I’m like, ‘Oh man, I’m already doing this.’ So I applied not thinking I would ever get the job, and I’m a very impatient person. So probably over a month later, I got a random email saying they wanted to interview me, and I was freaking out. I had a series of three interviews. I had one over the phone, then I had to go in in-person and talk to Brett Morris who’s now my boss…   They really wanted to make sure my personality fit well with the people I’d be working with, comedians, elite people. So during the interview they wanted to make sure my personality was good. I’m an extrovert, so I’m always talking to people…   About a week later, they said, ‘It looks like it’s going to be you.’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’ So I got the call, and I was like, ‘This is insane!’ I was in total shock. Because this is a dream job and I was so proud. All those hard days and nights and feeling like nothing was going to ever happen, to now get this call and it’s like, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re going to pay you and you’re going to be a full-time audio engineer.’”   Audio engineering is still largely a male-dominated profession. What do you have to say about being a woman in audio?   “My prerogative is that if you’re doing the work and you’re making the quality, that’s all that matters…I grew up in a family where your gender didn’t matter, your race, nothing mattered. It was more about, ‘What are you contributing to the project?’ and ‘How are you contributing to the world?’ So as far as being female, [and working as] an engineer, a producer, whatever. Wherever the majority is male-oriented, a lot of people will remind you that you’re female. It’s one of those things that you either have to get used to and just be like, ‘Yeah, I am female, okay. There have been moments where people questioned my ability… I’ll go into a certain music store and I ask for certain equipment, and they ask me why I need it and if I know how it’s used…   At Earwolf I am treated 100% like any other engineer…Especially the hosts of the podcasts who have been doing podcasts for years, or they do movies, they’ve been extremely kind to me.”   That’s great to hear. Have any side projects you want to talk about?   “I do a videogame podcast with some amazing guys. It’s called “Level Up Lore.” It’s going to start being biweekly. We’re making stories out of videogames and we’ve had some great luck with it. We actually had Bethesda, the videogame company in Maryland, retweet our stuff because we did a series for “Fallout” when it came out…It’s been super interesting, and some of our episodes have been very well-received. I’m actually really proud of an episode we did for “God of War.” I was able to sing in it, I composed all the music for it. I was super pumped. I was so proud of how it came out, and I was able to use all my abilities in this one episode.”   What’s your advice to students who are currently going through Recording Connection? How can they make the most of their experience?   “Don’t be upset if you don’t know everything during the program…take as much opportunity as you can just to shadow sessions, [whether] live or in the studio. There were definitely moments where I thought, ‘I’m not good enough or I don’t know this enough.’ Even being at Earwolf, the other engineers here have been extremely helpful, and I’ve learned even more Pro Tools and different EQs and de-essers and compressors. You’re constantly learning, and just remind yourself of that daily. Don’t get discouraged. Also, be bold and try to take on a session on your own. Everyone’s going to mess up. It’s part of our experience but be bold and take on that challenge, because it’s not fun being scared, especially in the field that you want to be in.”   Learn more about what it takes to study audio engineering with us.    
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or call (800) 755-7597

Mentor News

Film Connection mentor Sean Taylor
on Training Tomorrow’s Pros


Sean Taylor of Visual Jedi

As the founder of Visual Jedi, Film Connection mentor Sean Taylor produces in an array of different formats. From training videos to documentaries, weddings to commercials, music videos, and short films, he’s an experienced film and media professional who’s highly versatile and ready to step up to just about any challenge, including sports broadcasting. We recently caught up with Sean to learn more about the time he spent working in the adrenaline fueled environment at ESPN, talk about recent graduates, and to find out how he takes a layered approach to music video production.   So recent Film Connection graduate Frankie Caruso got hired at Yale’s video department.   “He already knew a lot of what he was doing with editing. He just needed a real handle on Final Cut Pro X, and he was able to do that and get his certificate…It’s kind of a place where you submit an app to go into the video department…He just needed to get his credentials to do it, and that’s what happened with him.”   Well that’s great. You recently hired your former extern (apprentice) Film Connection graduate Clint Sousna for a car dealership commercial. What made you want to hire Clint?   “He had initiative, ambition, and drive. He reached out to me after he got his certificate and graduated… He bought a drone, told me about it, and said…I said, ‘Okay, I’ll call you for a commercial if something comes up.’ Something came up and I called him and we did some work together. And he’s still doing some other things with his drone.”   What do you like about mentorship?   “If they really grow professionally and become a Jedi, [which] is what I call it, I can use them to help me work. I’m trying to build another me so we can go out and execute more jobs. So that’s why I teach, to kind of build an army or build a community of people who are professional and understand what’s going on…You just want to get a good crew that knows what they’re doing.”   You’re a big believer in the hands-on method. Why?   “Because you learn by doing in this field. I know other fields you can read books and study and blah, blah, blah, but in the technical field, what I’ve found is… when you actually touch the camera, you get muscle memory. Even with the computer programs, you learn by doing. When I’m teaching the programs, I sit back and have the student use the mouse…I have them do it to develop muscle memory.”   You’ve talked about using different kinds cameras on different shoots. How do you approach shooting music videos?   “For the music video projects, I select the DSLR cameras or one of the small 4K Sony cameras. I also have a broadcast camera…So I would pick one of those cameras first of all for a music video. That’s the first [priority]—the format: the camera, how the video’s going to look, the quality.   Then, we go through lighting scenarios, storyboarding, listening to the song. We do three takes and a cameo, three different takes at three different locations. Then I do a cameo of the artist. Then [during editing] I take all of those layers and go back and forth between them. I treat it like a layer cake. Layer one is just kind of lining up and syncing up all the video. Layer two is kind of chopping it up, and layer three is adding your effects.”   ESPN SC Regarding your time at ESPN, they say in order to work in sports broadcasting you’ve really got to be on your game because oftentimes it all comes down to the second.   “It’s very on the edge. [There are times when] you’ve got the talent showing up one minute before we go on air… and we’re trying to get the lighting on them and we’re trying to mic them up and we’re trying to set the camera focus on them and all of that stuff…   Another thing is just the overall amount of information in these producers. They’re obsessed. They want to bring in the latest information… when something in sports happens, these producers want to mix up the content…So people have got to scramble and rearrange the script, rearrange the teleprompter, rearrange the video that they talk to, within the commercial break, within seconds…   You’re pushing all these buttons and you’re hearing the speaker go to break, three, two, one, and break time. And at the break time we’re doing something called ‘fixes’ where, if we made a mistake on something we will re-voice it and redo it in the commercial break, then cue it back up again and get ready to go back on air again. It’s kind of an adrenaline rush.”   What’s your advice on how Film Connection students can make the most of the program while they’re in it?   “I would say to be a sponge, basically. Observe as much as you can and do as much hands-on as you can. Really, honestly, I would say take this opportunity to gain real-world experience while you can, because the real world is changing, and when these mentors are with you, they’re actually preparing you to take over or assist with the company.   That’s really what my main goal is when I’m with a mentee (extern), just trying to prepare them to eventually sit in my chair so I can walk away. That’s what I told a guy who said, ‘How do I know when I’m ready?’ I said, ‘When you can sit down in my chair and just edit a wedding from beginning to end. You can take out my camera, pop in an SD card, ingest it and edit it and know what you’re doing. And when the glitches happen, you can get over it and actually finish it…That’s how you know you’re ready.   Other than that, you can have as many pieces of paper as you want in your hand that say that you did this and that and helped out halfway with a project, but until you put some muscle into the game, and build your own confidence level and actually do it, none of that matters.”   Learn how Film Connection works.    
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or call (800) 755-7597

Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Recording Connection student Recording Connection student Brandon Durden, who externs at Madison Records, is glad to be back, learning all he can:   “There were some personal matters that led me to take a break from the program for a while but after they were taken care of, I hit ground running with my studies again. Firstly, I had to complete my sine wave assignment which was definitely a joy to complete. I got reminded quickly of past lessons as I ventured through Pro Tools and carefully crafted my 1 minute tune…   I had to complete my midterm which helped me take extra time to review all of my past lessons and it definitely brought me back up to speed. I ended up passing it with a 95% missing only 2 questions. What a treat! I jokingly told my mentor that I was ready to sit in his seat to which he laughed…It’s good to be back!”       Film student Jonathan Presa Film Connection student Jonathan Presa (Virginia Beach, VA), who externs with Niko Brabham at Soundvision Studios, has recently found opportunities springing up in some unexpected places:   “I’ve recently joined the film team at my church and I’m having an amazing time creating for something more than for myself. It also keeps me sharp as an editor. I’ve also recently had the opportunity to be a Production Assistant with Digital Thunderdome Studios, working on their latest ESPN 30 for 30 documentary project. I got to meet Greg Scott, a former NFL player! It was amazing! I learned so much as one of their PA’s and I thank my mentor, Niko for prepping me on how to be a productive PA…It’s been a crazy month.   Last Saturday, my mentor took his students around Norfolk to get shots for a “Day In The Life” documentary that we are creating…I feel like I’ve grown exponentially since I’ve started the program. I can’t wait to see what these next few months have in store for me.”       
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or call (800) 755-7597