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Issue #238

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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Mentor News

Film Connection mentor Sean McCarthy offers students
real-world experience on award-winning webseries
and other projects!

FC mentor writer/director Sean McCarthy and producer Elizabeth Mitchell of Guerilla Wanderers

FC mentor writer/director Sean McCarthy and producer
Elizabeth Mitchell of Guerilla Wanderers

As the founder/owner of Guerilla Wanderers, a full-service production house in the San Francisco Bay Area, Film Connection mentor Sean McCarthy maintains a huge roster of projects that includes films, music videos, commercials, animation/visual FX and more. As such, Sean is able to provide plenty of real-world opportunities for his Film Connection students to learn hands-on—most recently so on his studio’s current pet project, a comedy called Doucheaholics! Episodes 3 and 4 of the webseries premiered at the Dances With Films Festival, at the historic TCL Chinese Theaters on Hollywood and Highland and nabbed the Audience Choice Award for Best Web Series! A number of our Film Connection students were involved in the making of the comedic series and were on hand to celebrate.  Doucheaholics is a comedy series that I co-created with Elizabeth Mitchell, who’s a producing partner and the head of creative development,” Sean explains. “We put this series together with our Guerrilla Wanderers team, which is Dustin Strocchia and Kevin Loader, and we have a lot of people on our Wanderers team, including people who’ve come in through the mentorship program…We’ve shot six episodes for the first season and we’re already shooting episodes for the second season, and so we have students working on everything from pre-production and development before we shoot. We have students on set during production, then we have them on post-production and everything from post-production to working on episodes themselves to working on the promos, really giving everyone a hands-on experience.”  
Cinequest 2018

Film Connection externs & “Doucheaholics” cast & crew at Cinequest

Talking with Sean, you can easily pick up his passion for helping students grow, and that for him, involving students on his project isn’t just about filling out the crew. He has a genuine interest in identifying the strengths and interests of each Film Connection extern and tailoring the experience and training they receive to fit each student’s particular goals, interests, and talents. Sean gives several examples:   “Ruben Dayao, who’s a phenomenal student, was with us for the last year,” he says. “When he first started, he had very little editing experience, and he actually had—I hope he wouldn’t mind me saying this, but he had a bad experience with another film school or program, and he left that film program to come to the Film Connection. Then we sat down, we went over his goals…His main focus is editing…I’ve had him on set in other positions so that he can gain perspective and insight to grow as an editor.   Then another student like Eric Whitehead, who’s been with us a shorter period of time, he went to UCLA for acting and he had a whole career as a professional actor and as a filmmaker himself, and he just wanted more growth…I look at his needs different than someone like Vi Bui, who’s 18 and just trying to get experience, and he’s a very talented, smart kid, but he’s in a different place than Eric. So instead of just a general class where people would sit down with us and [we] go, ‘All right, let me just teach everyone what a close-up is,’ I look at each person and go, ‘Where are you at, how can we grow you, and how can we attach you to real-time projects?’”
Film Connection grad Alex Geranios at the premiere of Doucheaholics

Film Connection grad Alex Geranios
at the premiere of Doucheaholics

  It’s a teaching approach that’s not without risk—placing inexperienced students in roles of responsibility on a project. But in Sean’s mind, there’s no better way to learn and grow.   “Knowing what [the students] want and need,” he says, “and then pushing them to grow, obviously there is going to be an experience of, ‘I’ve never done this before,’ or, ‘This is new to me.’ So they’re pushing themselves. I say, if you’re feeling a little frustration or if you’re feeling a little stressed, that’s good…You’re going to be definitely stressed, and you’re probably going to be intellectually and emotionally tired because you’re pushing yourself to areas you’ve never gone to before. But that’s how you grow.”   Of course, the payoff for Sean is watching students break through. “It’s a beautiful thing when you see people who are trapped in something and they’re really talented, really smart, and you see them unlock,” he says. “I think that’s a key thing as a graduate, to be free and unlocked, and now not just be the inexperienced child, but…have the experience and awareness of an adult who’s gone through a variety of professional experiences and grown their craft…Someone like Alex [Geranios], who started with us as a PA on episode 2, and worked his way up to script supervisor and assistant editor by episode 5. So it’s really cool to see that evolve over time.”   Sean also says he loves the unexpected surprises that come from involving students on the set.   “There’s so much DNA from all the people, all the great creative artists, actors, and filmmakers that are involved in the show,” he says “and there’s a large portion of Film Connection students that we tried to get involved in this too…It’s almost like jazz. There’s an element of planning, from the writing to the shooting to the editing, there are a lot of planned out things, but there’s also an element of, ‘Oh, we need a person for this. They can fit this.’ Alex is actually in Doucheaholics. He has a small role. Eric, I talked to him about getting him into little cameos and things like that…You just never know where this is going to go. You don’t know if they’re going to end up behind the camera, in front of the camera…As these relationships grow and you start to learn people’s skillsets and talents even more, you start to work with them in different ways. So there’s a lot of surprises and you never know where this can lead.”  
Cast and crew of Doucheaholics at Dances With Films

Cast and crew of Doucheaholics at Dances With Films

For Sean, the relationship with the student doesn’t necessarily end at graduation, either; he sees them as potential long-term teammates. “I really enjoy working with Eric,” he says as an example. “So even when he’s done with the Film Connection, he’s someone that I think of that I would like to collaborate with in the future.   What I like about having a longer term mentorship with a student is we’re able to build trust,” he continues. “And just like any kind of relationship, you get to see people at their best and worst, and you get to give them opportunities when you see it’s the right opportunity for them.”   Learn more about Film Connection’s in-industry programs.    
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or call (800) 755-7597

Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students


Film Connection grad Aaron Weitlauf

When Film Connection mentor producer/director Zac Adams (Skydive Films) got the call for a shoot and was already booked for the day, he reached out to two of his former externs, Ryan Davis and Aaron Weitlauf, confident that they’d do a great job shooting a commercial for Nashville’s top party bus company:   “Ryan’s been getting paid gigs from me [and] from friends of mine because he’s always so good, he goes above and beyond. You send him a text, he responds right back. You tell him call time is at 7am, he’s there at 6:30. Things like that will get you hired.”   Zac has already entrusted Aaron with directing a number of projects including an EPK for Real Country finalist Jamie Floyd and a commercial shoot for a restaurant chain. Now, Aaron’s one of his go-to people:   “By now, he’s been on tons of shoots and he’s very reliable, he’s a go-getter. He’s got a lot of talent and he seems to have a clear vision.”    
Geoffrey D. Calhoun

Screenwriter Geoffrey D. Calhoun

Congratulations to Film Connection graduate Geoffrey Calhoun (Los Angeles, CA) whose new book “The Guide for Every Screenwriter!” reached Amazon’s #1 New Release for Screenwriting and has now been accepted by Barnes & Noble!   Unlike those of us who consider ourselves born auteurs, Geoffrey’s induction into the craft of screenwriting started with a bet:   “I was at work, and a guy was an editor in film; it was his side job. He bet that he could write a better story than I could. And I’m a bit competitive, so I went home that night and started researching how to learn screenplay. I wrote a treatment that night…”   Read about Geoff’s epiphany and how he went from MRI technologist to screenwriter.  

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