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Issue #239

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Recording Connection grad Frank Demilt:
From Stage Fright to Head Engineer and A&R!


Recording Connection grad Frank Demilt

  Since graduating Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production, Frank Demilt, hasn’t wasted one moment. When it comes to building his career in music, he’s totally committed to making it happen for himself 110%. Before enrolling in RRFC, Frank was hardly a stranger to audio. In fact, Frank studied Audio Production at Ithaca College prior to enrolling with us, where, entering as a sophomore, he graduated their 4-year program after just 2 years. Nevertheless, Frank recognized the value of getting trained in-industry and building his connections with Recording Connection. We recently caught up with Frank to learn more about his multifaceted position at Water Music Publishing (Lonely Island, Tiësto, Fifth Harmony, Lionel Richie) , learn more about his day-to-day, and to see how he’s helping artists gain traction in today’s music industry.   So what’s your day-to-day job at Water Publishing?   “My main job is to be the head engineer for the publishing house. So anytime we have our writers come in or our producers or our artists come in that need to do songs, do recording, mixing, mastering, that’s what I do. Because it’s a publishing house, I also help with the A&R side, finding the artists and then helping them build and grow to the point where we can shop not only their music, but shop them to labels and get them signed and get them deals. Water Music Publishing is the publishing side of our business. The umbrella for everything is Sloppy Vinyl where we do regular studio time, mixing, mastering…So, I run the studios, I’m in control of the sessions, I’m in control of all the mixing and mastering for Water and for Sloppy itself, all the artists that are signed to us, writers, producers, and stuff. I’m the mixing engineer for all of them.”   What led you into audio in the first place?   “As a kid growing up…me and all my friends thought we could rap, and thought we were cool and found it fun. But then I found out very early that I have stage fright. So I kind of had to put artistry on the backburner knowing I could never get on stage…that’s kind of how I got into audio engineering, was trying all the aspects of music and failing greatly at everything except engineering.”   What led you to Recording Connection?   “I went to Ithaca College and graduated from their audio production program, and was trying to find my way into the industry…but I couldn’t really find my footing. So, I was trying to find another avenue to help bolster my skills but also help put me into reputable studios. That’s when I found Recording Connection. And I did my research on it, talked to a couple people, and found that it would be cool to not only bolster my skills in the way that you guys help, but to be able to sit in a studio whenever they let me and gain experience and get to network that way. It was beneficial because from there, it helped me get to here where I’m at now.”  

Engine Room Audio

You were placed with Mark Christensen and Michael Bader at Engine Room Audio in New York City. Did that experience help you build your skills or knowhow?   “It definitely helped. Previously I was working in smaller studios. Then working at Engine Room, a big commercial studio with the big boards and big rooms, the mastering rooms and all the stuff, that I’d never got a chance to see before…broadened my experience to different things [which] I wasn’t able to do coming straight out of college.   Mike helped me understand music composition when it comes to arranging tracks and creating a flowing structure of the song. When I was learning from Mark, a great mastering engineer, [I] got to see a side of the creation process that I was not previously given access to. Being able to gain the perspective of the producer (working before mixing) and learn from the last person to work on the song before it’s finalized (the mastering engineer), gave me an overall sense of what each individual is looking for when they get the tracks, and what they are doing to enhance the tracks. This has made me be able to go more in-depth when talking to artists about the full process of their song creation.”   What do you think is particularly helpful about the way that we train our students?   “You get to actually pick the brain of somebody working in the industry. I can’t account for what Full Sail or SAE offers because I didn’t go through those programs, but going through just a regular four year college program for audio engineering, you’re thrown into the fray with people of all different aspects. So there could be people that know nothing about audio and are just starting, and there could be people like me who already had a background in it going into college. So I was kind of ahead of the curve. [At those schools] they have to just do a baseline, like, ‘This is the class. This is the curriculum. We can’t really cater to you if you’re ahead of the game or falling behind.’   With Recording Connection you get to sit and talk with your mentor one-on-one, so that mentor can gauge where you are. So if you’re a little bit ahead of what the lessons are teaching you, you can kind of go a little bit ahead. That’s what I did.”   Do you find having a leg in both A&R and engineering beneficial?   “It has definitely helped because not only do I now know how to see certain musical trends to get the artists that we’re working with and the sound that we’re working on to be competitive and maybe ahead of the curve…it also shows me what different labels and executives are looking for in an artist, in a sound, in a writer, producer and different songs, so [that] when I go out and try to find my own production people, my own writers, my own artists to work with and bring into the publishing house, I know how to guide them into what the labels and execs are looking for instead of just [saying], ‘All right, come in. Let’s make music and hopefully somebody likes it.’ I can now guide them, ‘All right, this is the sound people are looking for. This is how your social media and branding needs to look…Now, let’s gear it so that you, as an artist, not only fit the mold, but let’s help you stand out so you can get recognized.”   Have any artists you’re excited about?   “We recently released Lawand’s EP project Pedestal, available on all streaming platforms. She’s an R&B pop act from Kingston, New York. I don’t want to compare her to anybody, but for readers to understand, she’s kind of like a Jhené Aiko or Kehlani. Then we have a DJ DoughBoy compilation project called The DoughBoy Project Anticipation, releasing any day now. You can find the singles we’ve released from the album on iTunes and Spotify and all the other streaming platforms as well.”   Learn more about Recording Connection’s programs.      
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Mentor News

Film Connection mentor Zef Cota
on The Trouble and Low-Budget Indie Production


Film Connection mentor, filmmaker Zef Cota

As a filmmaker, Film Connection mentor Zef Cota (South Bronx, New York) is an exemplar of keeping plenty of irons in the fire. In addition to heading up his own narrative film production company, Alphabet City Films, he regularly does film work for various clients, shooting commercial projects and music videos under his commercial company, Filmtek.   We recently caught up with Zef to talk about his indie feature The Trouble which premiered at the 2018 Action on Film Festival in Las Vegas and where Zef won “Best Director” in the feature film category. Along with being nominated eight times, the film also won the Hollywood Dreamz Award for “Best Cinematography” (shot by Alex Gray, DP).   So tell us about The Trouble, which you describe as an “urban western” and “love letter to the South Bronx.”   “The full title is The Trouble: Once Upon a Time in The Bronx. I co-wrote it with Mark Marini. We’ve written a bunch of our short films together…It centers on four main characters: Billy, who’s a geek, his girlfriend, Marisol, who is this beautiful Latina girl who is kind of unexpected…Then there’s the thug, named Enzo, and the hitman, named Pit. It centers on this guy named Billy who plays online poker. Then when all of his favorite websites get shut down, he starts playing at these in-person poker games, and he gets extorted by this thug, named Enzo.   When that happens, Billy reaches out to this guy Pit who’s this part hitman, part ‘private investigator of the streets’ type of character…Billy deceives Pit into taking on his case, into helping him out, and that leads him into more hot water…I would say the underlying theme of the story is don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Filmmaker Zef Cota directing a scene of The Trouble

Filmmaker Zef Cota directing a scene of The Trouble

  Did location play a part in keeping the budget low?   “Definitely. The South Bronx happens to be where my production studio Alphabet City Films is located. It’s right outside of Manhattan. Although we did shoot part of the movie in the northern Bronx, particularly the cemetery scene we shot outside of St. Raymond’s. The South Bronx was just sort of the epicenter of our base of operations…That’s how I was able to keep my budget down, [by] thinking, ‘Hey, how could we have as many things take place around here as possible?’”   How did the limiting the location to the Bronx inform and shape the story you ultimately told?   “When I was first thinking about the idea, I would walk around this landscape in the Bronx and get inspired by spending a lot of time in that area, almost like location scouting before I even had quite a story. I was just trying to let the story come to me, and the first idea, the first spark of a story was ‘geek versus thug.’ I was just thinking, ‘Whoa, that’s something you don’t always see,’ just the juxtaposition of the geek and thug and, like, ‘What would that situation look like? How would it play out in a movie?’   When I had my first meeting with Mark Marini and was pitching him on the idea. He was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea. What if we make it sort of like a Western?’…We know the musicians, the guys that did the original score for our movie, and I think that’s a major part of the film. Actually, these guys are Bronx-based musicians, Andrew Marinaccio and Michael Stephens, known as DATA 91. We worked with them on a couple of our short films, and so early on I knew that they wanted to be involved, and I knew it was always their dream to write a score for a Western. Even just thinking about the music and the landscapes, I feel like it helped with the writing, to form the characters, the plot, and everything.”  

Film Connection grad Jason Malizia

You invited Film Connection student, now graduate, Jason Malizia to work as Assistant Editor for The Trouble. How did he get to play such an important role on your film?   “He was very eager to get to the next level and was really excited about the story. When I screened the rough cut while I was working with him as a mentor, he just really had a lot of enthusiasm and what seemed to be a good attitude and good work ethic. Then I ended up getting him involved as the assistant editor. He just seemed eager to do more, and we needed somebody to do that. It just worked out…Now Jason’s traveling and just working nonstop on productions.”   So how did it feel to win for Best Director?   “It was kind of nerve-wracking because you’re like, are you going to win, are you not going to win? Everybody always says it’s an honor being nominated, but I’ve been in that situation when you’re at the table and they don’t call your name. It feels like you’re getting punched right in the gut…Even a couple days later, I was checking the list, like, ‘Did this really happen?’ I have the award. It seems too good to be true…They showed over 100 films at the festival, and I won for Best Director.”  What’s your advice to first-time indie filmmakers who want to do something akin to what you’ve done with The Trouble?   “Give yourself a deadline, because a goal is just a wish unless you have a deadline. Give yourself a definitive day that you don’t back out of when you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to have this script ready by this date. We’re going to have our start date on production this date.’   That sounds like a really simple idea, but if you do that, you’re way more likely to get something done than if you don’t have those hard deadlines. And the other thing is embracing the fact that filmmaking is about problem-solving. Problems are going to happen. You’re going to lose a location, an actor’s going to drop out, something is going to happen that’s going to feel like, ‘Oh, God, why is this happening to me? This is going to derail the whole production.’ But you just have to figure out how to keep that ship moving forward because filmmaking is about problem-solving. If you embrace the fact that it’s about problem-solving, then I feel like you’re more equipped to handle those problems if they spring up.”   Learn more about Film Connection for filmmaking and writing for the screen.    
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or call (800) 755-7597

Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students


Recording Connection grad Trey Hogan and bandmate

Shout out to Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production graduate Trey Hogan (Boca Raton, FL) who’s engineering his own clients, as well as his band Escapism’s forthcoming EP, just months after graduation. Speaking of his time in Recording Connection, Trey says:   “Recording Connection helped further enhance my knowledge of mixing and mastering, as well as connect me with a studio where I could learn the day-to-day tasks of an audio engineer. Being in the studio allowed me the opportunity to record my own band’s music…and my mentor helped show me the correct techniques to achieve everything I wanted to do with those songs. I’ve also been able to record for other artists since graduating, helping me to perfect my craft.”   Connect with Escapism on instagram.    
Film Connection grad Rashaan Sampson II

Film Connection grad Rashaan Sampson II

  When Lead Career Services Advisor Gervais Maillard reached out to recent Film Connection for Film Production & Editing grad Rashaan Sampson II with a job opportunity, Rashaad didn’t hesitate and went for it. Now he’s the new editor at DaeRae Media! Rashaan tells us what led up to him landing the job:   “So I spoke to the company, and then they said that I sounded really nice, that I sounded really professional. They said that they don’t really get that a lot. After that, they wanted me to do a sample video for them. Apparently I was in competition with other people. After I did the video, which took me like two days or so, and I sent it to them and automatically they were like, ‘You’re hired.'” Congratulations Rashaan!   They’ll be more on this in a coming newsletter so stay tuned!

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