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Issue #218

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Film Connection student Cheryl Gallegos Agbunag
Channels Military Career into TV Pilot


Film Connection student, screenwriter Major Cheryl G. Agbunag

To say Film Connection student Cheryl Gallegos Agbunag (Clearwater, FL) has had an amazing Air Force career would be a definite understatement. Major Cheryl G. Agbunag last two assignments were as the Senior Joint Collaboration Watch Officer at the National Reconnaissance Operations Center (NROC) and Senior Intelligence duty Officer at the Joint Space Operations Center, where she was responsible for leading a multi-faceted team charged with delivering real-time intelligence products to service members conducting national military operations worldwide and to national senior decision makers.   Prior to that, because of Cheryl’s sterling service record, she was hand-picked to be one of first females to attend Minuteman II, Modernized Undergraduate Missile Training, a combat position previously held only by men, which she completed as a Distinguished Graduate. Cheryl went on to be the first female missile launch training instructor, the first female Squadron Command Post Deputy Missile Combat Crew Flight Commander, and Commander of first all-female Minuteman II crew. Cheryl was also hand selected to brief Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin L. Powell and his Russian counterpart on Minuteman II mission system capabilities. Now retired from active duty, she’s penned her TV pilot “Cold War Charlie,” a fictional dramatization based on her career experiences as a dedicated, talented Air Force officer, and crusher of the glass ceiling during the Cold War era.   What are your big takeaways from studying with Film Connection and your screenwriting mentor Ron Osborn?   “I learned how the industry works and about what people want to watch, what pulls and draws the audience in, what will compel that person to come back from a commercial break, and how to keep that person tuned-in so they want to watch your series, season after season… sure, I could use a lot of my experiences, but I had to bring out Charlie to be that protagonist. I learned about how to keep the focus on Charlie while storytelling, and I really appreciated the mentoring every step of the way.”   Was there anything that you had a mental block around or a specific challenge that maybe took some work to overcome?   “The mental block that I had was the cliffhanger and how to resolve that in the next act, and making it flow so that it is an effective cliffhanger. So thinking through that process in like 10 pages of dialogue really took some processing and understanding. It’s a lot easier now.”   What can you tell us about Ron Osborn’s mentorship style? What was it like working with him as he guided you through writing “Cold War Charlie”?   “An honor, given his experience in the industry. I love his personality and the fact that he has a great sense of humor. His approach is, ‘You do the work to get all the credit.’ His mentoring style is very professional and easily understood. He doesn’t handhold you which is so important when you’re learning something new. You know, you get some mentors who may get frustrated if you don’t catch on to a concept and may end up doing the work for you to move things along. Whereas with Ron, he has tremendous amount of patience in how he explains things and plenty of samples of professional work he sends you. For example, when I was learning to build my characters and their personalities creating a bio for each of them his explanations and examples made my learning curve easy. So I felt like, ‘Gosh…I’m working with an actual professional screenwriter.’ Though I did the work, his mentoring is like working with a writing partner.”   When you came to L.A, you and Ron met face to face. Is there anything you can tell us about that experience?  

Screenwriting mentor Ron Osborn and Cheryl G. Agbunag

“Oh, it was wonderful! We met at a coffee shop and had a class there. I wanted to meet him and spend some time together to build a relationship with my new mentor. I highly recommend it to all students if the opportunity presents itself. I really appreciated his time, and I hope to be able to come up and see him when I pitch “Cold War Charlie” to producers.”   What’s your advice to screenwriting students who have a life experience they want to share and turn into a movie or TV show?   “I say don’t get disappointed if your mentor says, ‘You know what, I think your life experiences were great, but that may not make the best protagonist,’ to be okay to let go of some of that script you had in your mind for five years and be open to mentoring, and be open to the creative aspect of embellishing a bit, your protagonist and other characters. You can still use your life journey…You can walk your character through a lot you’ve experienced. That’s where the creative side comes in because your character can do anything as long as you write it. I mean, my character developed into this amazingly strong female character. In the military for example, women are not allowed to join SEAL Team SIX, but Charlie can join SEAL Team SIX…as a member of Special Forces she can use her abilities to kick butt. That’s how strong she is. So, it’s been fun creating Charlie in my mind.”   Considering your expertise in intelligence, missiles, space, and the Cold War, are you open to consulting for screenplays?   “Absolutely, positively, yes! That was another reason I wanted to become a screenwriter because when I see movies being produced, when it comes to getting the military involved, space and intelligence, I often say, ‘No, you got that all wrong.’ Not that we want to give away secrets…[but] let’s at least do a few things right to be a little bit more believable.”   So where are you at with “Cold War Charlie”? We hear you’ve been getting some very favorable responses from people in the business.   “Ron and I are coming close to our end of working together. So, he suggested getting my project out for feedback by me entering it into contests and asking for feedback notes. So, I’ve entered “Cold War Charlie” into several different screenwriting competitions and have gotten tremendous positive feedback. I think the highest was 8.7 out of 10…which means I am in the quarterfinals. So, this is great! I’m getting great reviews and the feedback from industry professionals has been very helpful to my project because I was just getting feedback from friends, and you know, of course they say, ‘Great, great,’ but they may not give you really what you need.   So that’s where we’re at right now, just getting the script out, finishing up the series overview. Then from there, I will come up to Los Angeles and work with Film Connection… [to] pitch “Cold War Charlie” to producers.   Film Connection has been an amazing experience for me. When I started my project, I was diagnosed with cancer while still on active duty. So, Charlie, my character, had to really come out of me as a person just to get through my cancer surgery and treatments. My character became even more determined of overcome all obstacles, because by golly, Charlie’s going to overcome everything!   Having Ron there, and having the school (RRFC) there and being very supportive during that process was very healing for me. I could have easily given up due to the stress of the news, had I been pressured to hurry up and finish my project—but that wasn’t the case, I want to thank Ron and Film Connection for their patience in my progressing through my screenwriting at a pace that has been comfortable for me and not rushed.”   *We’re very happy to announce Cheryl Gallegos Agbunag’s TV pilot script “Cold War Charlie” has been nominated for a Spotlight Award for “Best Role Written for a Leading Woman.” In the WeScreenPlay TV Contest, “Cold War Charlie” made the 99th percentile and has advanced to the quarterfinals!   We’ll see you the next time you’re in L.A. Cheryl. Go get ’em!   Learn more about bringing your passion project to the page by training with a Film Connection screenwriting mentor.   Contact Cheryl G. Agbunag on LinkedIn.    
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or call (800) 755-7597

Mentor News

Recording Connection mentor Bernard ‘IQue’ Johnson
Shares His Smarts & Hires from Within!


Recording Connection mentor Bernard ‘IQue’ Johnson and Efrain Matias

During his 20 years in the military, Bernard Johnson knew he had a love of teaching and a love of music and audio. During much of his service, he had run a department of 90 people. Once he retired from the military, he set out to achieve his goal to “educate people” and “transform some of that military training into the audio world.” In pursuit of that mission, he went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Audio Production and a subsequent Master’s degree. Today, Bernard ‘IQue’ Johnson chooses to mentor for Recording Connection.   We recently talked with IQue at Noize Factory Studios in El Cajon, CA, located in San Diego County.   We know you’re a big believer in our approach to audio education. Can you tell us why?   “It lines up exactly with all the feedback that I have been getting over the years from others, in addition to my experience coming up as a young 14 year old who wanted to do something like this. So that was very important to me. When I saw your model, I was like, ‘Wow, this is it. I love it.’ And it allows students to have the opportunity not to feel cemented to something like, ‘This is what you need to do, this is the direction and the route you need to do it.’ They actually get the opportunity to feel free and be able to get in a real environment and immerse themselves and learn from real professionals. That was big to me, to have that opportunity, because they get to take the skills that they’re learning and translate [them] into real-world situations…They’re actually are doing it and not just reading theory and text in the class.”   Your nickname IQue, is there a story behind the name?

Noize Factory Studios

  “This goes back to when I was that 14-year old, back when I went to a mass media certificate program. I was so intrigued with the technology…I was that guy who always would stay for hours after class…just pushing buttons and trying to figure things out…That’s how I learned so much. So the next thing you know, I’m just really good at things. So everyone would say, ‘He’s IQ, he has an IQ. He’s the IQ dude. He can figure out everything.’ When I asked one of [the students], ‘Why is everyone calling me IQ?’ someone said, ‘Because of your intelligent approach to things.’ And you know, it’s ironic because I’m still the same way now as I was at that age. I’m very strategic the way I approach my teaching, my mentoring, and just dealing with students and their learning. I’m passionate about it at this point.”   Have you experienced seeing the moment a student really understands something, you know, seen that lightbulb light up in their brain?   “Matter of fact, my current staff engineer, Efrain Mattias, who was a Recording Connection student who has been brought on board as an employee, his eyes would just light up like a lightbulb every time. He’s like, ‘You know, I’ve been researching and reading about this all this time, and I never could understand it like this.’ He just gets so excited, he gets up and paces around in circles in the control room, and his eyes just light up. Then he’ll go home, because he’s invested in his own equipment to have at his home, and he’ll try everything. [Then] he’ll send me an email or a text and say, ‘Bernard, look what I did here.’”   What made you want to hire Efrain?   “Now I’m not shaming education, because I went and got all my education and my graduate degrees but I had individuals who worked for me who had bachelor’s degrees in audio engineering and production and things of that nature from various schools and truth be told, Efrain has excelled more than them in my recording studio. His intuition about everything and how he deals with the clients and the business acumen, the production acumen, the engineering, he’s a go-getter, I mean everything. We love him and he’s a pleasure. I wouldn’t want to lose him for the world.”   What qualities do you want to see in the students who train with you? What do you want the process to be like for them?   “I do want to say commitment, passion, perseverance, and finishing until the end. I always tell my students, ‘Enjoy what you’re doing. Have fun! Let’s not make this work. Let’s have fun, let’s be creative. And I drill this into every mentored student that comes in here, I say, ‘This is audio. Although we work in a DAW, digital audio workstation, that’s just visual. But audio’s about the ears. It’s audio. It’s about the feeling, it’s about the energy, and music is a song. It resonates with emotion, and it triggers emotion.”   Teaching audio seems to tie into the big picture for you. Why do you choose to mentor future audio engineers and producers?   “It just takes that one person who is passionate. They’re not just doing something for money or just doing it ‘just because,’ they’re literally passionate about it…I’m passionate about it, that’s the big thing. You guys are passionate about it…these are people’s lives we’re impacting…We’re the first responders. We can be that person, that gateway for them to have a better life, especially if they’re an adult and they always felt hopeless, now they can have hope. Whether they go on to be a recording engineer or producer or whatever that may be.”   Learn how Recording Connection works.    
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or call (800) 755-7597

Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Film Connection grad Sam Freed (San Francisco, CA) has been too busy to interview just yet but he recently wrote in to share some great news!   “Hey there Film Connection, I am an alumni from your program and just thought it would be cool to share my career story after the program from the Film Connection. I officially work for the Oakland Raiders doing video!”   Congrats Sam! More on this in an upcoming newsletter!        Congrats to Film Connection student Ricky Long, who trains with Shaunn Baker at World Stage Media (Dayton, OH), on the successful shoot of a scene from his own original screenplay. Ricky set up the scene as follows:   “The script, Strange Liking is a paranormal horror film about a mental health case worker who is haunted by several mysterious entities after her troubled patient commits suicide. This scene is early in the script during the first act. The lead protagonist, Miranda Gilchrist (played in the scene by Che’la King), must uncover the truth behind the haunting before her life unravels…She strongly believes her troubled patient is being abused but has no evidence to bring to the authorities. She wants to dive in further to find out what’s going on, but her overprotective husband (played in the scene by Manny Hendrix) is dead set against her putting herself in danger (watch on YouTube).”
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or call (800) 755-7597