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Issue #248

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Film Connection graduate Tyler McGraw
gets hired on Showtime’s Homeland.


Film Connection 2015 graduate Tyler McGraw (Los Angeles, CA).

By the time Tyler McGraw (Los Angeles, CA) enrolled in Film Connection for Film Production & Editing, he’d spent years trying to find his “in.” In fact, he’d even gone as far as making his way into a Hollywood studio where he pitched several reality TV projects. While that pitch didn’t culminate in the happy ending Tyler had been hoping for at the time, it set him on a new trajectory which led him to us, and ultimately to working some very big projects including Showtime’s Homeland.   So tell us about that fateful pitch which set you on course to find us.   “I was really good at cold calls. I was able to get one of my shows looked at by NBC on a cold call, literally just by calling them up and then also sending a cold email to the vice president of Development’s office. Two days later they called me and asked me to send them the pitch materials for my show. I was able to make the same thing happen at Sony. (They both passed.) I got a lot of other production companies to look at the shows I had been developing and pitching too, including Profiles Television, which is the company behind The Amazing Race. I wish I had gone to them first, because they gave me really good advice…   They let me pitch all seven of my shows to them and they took not one, but two meetings with me. They even passed me up to their vice president who looked at all of my shows and said, ‘You’re doing everything right, your shows are great. We’re not going to take any of them because we don’t know you.’   I said to myself ‘Okay, well great advice…I need to get to a position where people know me… I need to get on set.’ I’m starting to research and I’m thinking, ‘Maybe I need to go back to film school’. That’s when I stumbled across Film Connection.”   You called us up, enrolled, and were matched with Richard Brandes (of Wild Horse Pictures, LLC.) as your Film Connection mentor. What happened next?   “First of all, Richard got me, very briefly, into a production office. After that he got me on the set of a Lifetime movie where he introduced me to Marianne Wunch, who I worked with for four years. She’s now an executive at Mar Vista. Marianne really helped in terms of grooming me and helping me grow up in the ranks of the non-union world. We were specifically doing a lot of Lifetime movies.   It was also on the very first day working on Marianne’s set that I met a Location Manager. His name was Sean Hernandez. He took me under his wing and introduced me to a couple friends in locations who also trained me, namely Remy Elles, Sheila Ryan and Dujuan Johnson…Locations seemed to be this mishmash of all these life skills that I had developed over the years from waiting tables, acting, pitching and developing shows for Reality TV. It’s a lot of social skills, it’s a lot of cold-calling and cold-knocking on doors, relationship building and it requires a lot of organization.   It wound up being a good fit for me, but furthermore, it turns out is also a big part of the job that producers are already doing anyway. Which is what I’d ultimately like to do one day… Produce. So it seems like just through the energy that I was putting out there and through the relationships that I was making, this nice little pathway is starting to form.”   How many features have you worked on to date?  

Tyler McGraw on the Paramount Studios lot for ABC Studios production starring John Stamos.

“I’ve done a lot. I’ve probably done close to 20 Lifetime movies. I’ve done a handful of commercials, a small handful of music videos, and a couple TV series. I worked on the first season of Love/Sick, which was produced by Awesomeness TV and I think they went for a second season. And now, yeah, Homeland is added to the resume!”   How did you get hired onto Homeland?   “Over the course [of a feature I worked on], I had become really familiar with Ed Duffy, who’s the vice president of the union, Local 399. I had been talking to him a lot. And also, all my location manager friends who I had become friends with over the [past] four years (all of them recently became union within the last year). The moment I became union, they were all were blowing up my phone trying really hard to get me onto their sets, because they’re like, ‘You’re union now. Let’s get you on!’…   Remy got me on two days of a new upcoming Mindy Kaling show. It’s untitled right now, but she got me two days. Apparently I did well on those two days because Ed Duffy then sent out my resume to a bunch of location managers. I got 13 calls for union jobs (literally overnight) and the very first call was Homeland.”   What’s your advice for Film Connection students on how they can make the most of their time in the program?   “I think what they should realize going in is that Film Connection can provide the opportunity and provide you with a foot in the door… but after that you have to realize, what you do with that opportunity, is entirely up to you…   Coming in the door with an escort, Richard Brandes, who says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a Film Connection student, they can be helpful to you. They’re hungry and they’ve got a good attitude, but they’re super new.’… That buys you patience. Nobody expects you to know everything right away. They know exactly where you’re coming from. You’re a student. That was extremely helpful because it bought me the time that I needed to learn and grow.   However, you have to show that you’re responsible, you have to show that you’re hardworking and that you have a good attitude. You should also have a healthy respect and understanding for how hard it is to get in, because it’s hard. I spent twelve years trying to break in on my own and I couldn’t do it. Film Connection, on the other hand, provided the open doorway and I was able to break in only four years. There’s a lot of people that try to get in and don’t, but what Film Connection is providing here is incredibly valuable. My advice to any current or prospective students is to seize the opportunity they are providing. It works.”   Learn more about Film Connection.      
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or call (800) 755-7597

Student Successes

CASA graduate Justin Zhao gets Skills, Lands Job Offer from Famous Chef!


CASA grad Justin Zhao (center) with Chef Iñaki Aizpitarte (right) and sous chef Antonio – just a couple of the chefs he worked with at the Lexus All-Star Chef Classic 2019 (Los Angeles, CA).

Recent CASA Schools Gourmet Chef program graduate Justin Zhao (San Francisco, CA) had spent two years completing his Associate of Arts degree in college with plans on pursuing a degree in Business when he realized he just wasn’t at all excited about his career path. After some serious soul searching, he came back to food. His parents owned and ran a restaurant which served what he calls “Americanized Chinese cuisine” so food had always been a mainstay in his life. But Justin’s interests had less to do with following in his parents’ footsteps than those of his culinary heroes, Tim Hollingsworth and Gordon Ramsay.   We caught up with Justin to talk about his experience in CASA and a recent opportunity that came his way thanks to Gervais Maillard in Career Services. Although Gervais presented the opportunity for Justin to volunteer to work the Lexus All-Star Chef Classic in Los Angeles, it was Justin who said yes and brought his A game to the 3-day event, which resulted in more than one job offer, including one from someone he’s looked up to for years.   What brought you to CASA in the first place?   “I was looking at other culinary schools around California, etc. I saw the CIA in Napa and that was really expensive…It was a little bit too expensive and it was going to be kind of going back into the college realm, which I was trying to stay away from. I wanted to be more hands-on. So CASA was like, ‘This is really great, this is really what I wanted to do.’”   You were matched with Jeremy Blaringhem, Executive Chef/Owner of Bouche in San Francisco. Can you tell us about your first meeting with Jeremy, when you went in to interview?   “Oh my goodness. It feels like it was so very long ago, but it wasn’t…I remember going in, I was super nervous, wasn’t sure what to expect. I walked into his restaurant, and then we had an interview. Basically we just went over my story, where I come from, my basic bio, background, what I wanted to do,…what my goal was. And I asked him, ‘What do you expect from me as a student coming in?’ He said, ‘From the beginning, I don’t expect anything. You’re here to learn.’… So that gave me a little sense of relief. I wasn’t like jumping in and doing everything. That’s what I was worried about at first, but he made sure that it was going to be okay.”   So if we contrast Justin before CASA and then you today, what can you tell us about what you’ve learned and how you’ve improved over the past year?   “I think pretty much everything, to be honest. You know, my confidence level, my knife skills, my drive, and, even more⁠—my passion for food….Before this program started, I didn’t know where I would be, where I would belong. I didn’t know what I could do….I didn’t have any knowledge or any real skills in the kitchen, even growing up with my parents’ restaurant, they wouldn’t really allow me in the kitchen. They would always have me in front of house and stuff like that…   I wasn’t sure if my skills would be enough. But afterwards now, growing and learning on the line, just doing all the certain things that I’ve done already, it certainly has improved my confidence. It validates that this is really what I want to do. This is what I love.”   So give us the lowdown on doing this year’s Lexus All-Star Chef Classic in Los Angeles, including the job offers.   “So the first one was from Chef Holly Jivin at The Bazaar by José Andrés, she’s the executive chef at Bazaar. So we were doing her course for the Spanish Masters on the third night. Basically, we were on the line plating….Midway through it, she was right next to me, and she was just like, ‘All right, guys. Double time it,’ and then we were just going at this super-fast pace, plating and getting everything done. Towards the end, she was like, ‘Are you with Wolfgang Puck or are you volunteering?’ And I was like, ‘I’m volunteering.’ She was like, ‘Well, do you need a job?’ And I told her, ‘I’m from SF unfortunately, but I would have loved to take your offer.’   That’s one. How about the other two?   “Then my second one was with Chef Tim Hollingsworth, which is someone who I’ve looked up to because he worked his way up from being a dishwasher at 18 [with] no culinary school experience, no college experience, and then three years later ending up at the French Laundry, and being there for 13 years, and being the executive chef for four years. I was like, ‘This guy is the real deal.’   [So] I requested to the coordinator, Stevie…’Hey, Stevie, am I going to work with Chef Tim Hollingsworth? Can I be his volunteer?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, sure, you can do whatever you want.’ I was like, ‘Perfect!’ So I was able to be paired up with him.   When I went to his tent that day, all his sous chefs, his team, were there, but he wasn’t there yet. So, I introduced myself and asked if they needed help. And they were like, ‘No, we don’t really need help.’ And I was like, ‘Oh man, that sucks.’ So I was kind of heartbroken at first. I was like, ‘Oh no, what am I going to do?….So I kind of just lingered, being a little bit more persistent, just hanging around like, ‘All right, if you guys need anything, I’ll be right here.’ They’re like, ‘Okay.’ And then afterwards they were like, ‘Yeah, you can grab us some ice?’   So I went down the street, grabbed a 40 pound bag of ice for them, and put their stuff on ice. Then afterwards, they left for a little bit, and then came back right before the event started. I offered them water and stuff like that, and I grabbed them drinks and showed them around the place and where to grab stuff. Then afterwards, when dinner service started, they asked me to jump on the line for them…and then the chef arrived 30 minutes later, after the event started, and it was awesome. It was a surreal moment to be right next to him, working for him….Then the day was over and they asked me where I was working. I was like, ‘I work at a very small French place in SF.’ And he said, ‘Oh, well we’re opening in SF, in Union Square during New Year’s.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, we’d like to hire you if you’re interested.’”   And you had one more job offer, correct?   “So basically Wolfgang Puck Catering Services provides staff, chefs, and equipment and stuff like that for this event. They’ve seen me run around and do all this stuff. On the last day, one of the supervisors offered me a job as well. She was like, ‘Justin, do you want a job?’”   That’s great. What’s your advice for CASA students on how they can make the most of their training?   “Put yourself out there. Don’t be shy. And ask questions, for sure. Just be able to talk and communicate with your chefs and your team that you work with, and just always practice at home as well. Keep learning. There are so many things to learn. I’m sure in 30 years from now I’ll still be learning.”   Learn more about CASA Schools’ Gourmet Chef Program.      
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or call (800) 755-7597

Special Feature

Audio-Technica, Recording Connection & Clyne Media Host Third Annual Csaba Petocz Master Class Workshop with four-time GRAMMY® Award Winner Chuck Ainlay.

  Since 2017, Recording Connection, in partnership with Audio-Technica and Clyne Media, have presented the Csaba Master Class Audio Workshop. Taught by audio greats who need no introduction, the intimate workshops enable attendees to interact with the pros and learn how they approach tracking, mixing, production, client interaction and other key aspects of the craft.  

Csaba Petocz in studio.

A three-time GRAMMY nominee with 37 number-one record credits and 32 platinum or multi-platinum albums, Csaba was one of the greats, living and recording in Los Angeles and Nashville while working closely with the top names in the industry, from Metallica to Larry Carlton, John Michael Montgomery to Alanis Morissette, Aretha Franklin to Elvis Costello, Morrissey, Al Stewart and more.   This year’s Third Annual Csaba Petocz Master Class Workshop was taught by Csaba’s friend, Chuck Ainlay, a four-time GRAMMY® Award-winning mix engineer. Held at Peter Frampton’s Phenix Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, Ainlay focused on the essentials of being an engineer/producer, with special emphasis on mixing, production and gear, along with the relationship between artist and engineer, and how to get the best performance out of an artist. Attendees also dissected The Peter Frampton Band’s recent release of the Willie Dixon classic “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” mixed and co-produced by Ainlay himself, who was glad to be able to pass on the knowledge to some of tomorrow’s pros in honor of the late great:   “Csaba was a dear friend of mine, and I feel honored to have been chosen to teach this master class and help keep his legacy alive. I spent a good deal of time talking to the students and trying to emphasize the importance of interaction with the artist – a quality that Csaba always brought to his projects. I also want to thank Peter [Frampton] for donating the use of his studio for this worthwhile event and thank Audio-Technica and Recording Connection for putting this together.”   Pictured L-R, back row: Recording Connection mentor Sean Giovanni (The Record Shop), Roxanne Ricks (Audio-Technica Artist Relations Manager), Frank Wells (keynote speaker), Anthony Vaticalos (student), Alec Wingfield (student), Lisa Roy (Csaba’s wife), Jones Nelson (graduate), and Robert Clyne (Clyne Media). Front row: Chuck Ainlay and assistant engineer Todd Tidwell. [Photo credit: Corey Walthall, Clyne Media. © 2019.]:
  The workshop was attended by Recording Connection for Audio & Music Production graduate Jones Nelson who found it enriching to his production practices. “It’s an incredible experience to come here and get to see how Chuck does things behind the scenes. It was great to see how he’s able to go through and fatten-up vocals and piano and guitar tracks. He gave me a lot to think about, and I’ll be deconstructing a lot of the work I’ve done up to this point and re-thinking some of my habits.”   Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production student Alec Wingfield remarked, “Getting to spend time with an engineer of such high reputation as Chuck Ainlay was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of: getting to pick his brain and understand how he uses his gear and the musical touch he adds to the projects. I think it will help me forge my own identity and vision as an engineer moving forward.”   Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production student Anthony Vaticalos also took a lot away from the workshop. “I learned a lot about how to interact with the musical elements in the engineering process….Chuck gave us a lot to consider in what to expect in certain scenarios, different techniques to employ, and how to be a great engineer overall. I especially enjoyed getting some hands-on time on the SSL board.”   We send our deep appreciation to all of the professionals who attended and shared their knowledge and memories of Csaba, including Lisa Roy, Csaba’s wife; Roxanne Ricks, Audio-Technica Artist Relations Manager, Chuck Ainlay; Frank Wells; and Todd Tidwell.     
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or call (800) 755-7597

Mentor News

Roundtable discussion with Recording Connection mentor Nathan Jenkins at RRFC.


Recording Connection mentor, engineer/producer Nathan Jenkins

  Providing real-world education, support, and opportunity is something we take very seriously at RRFC. In order to ensure we continually set our students and mentors up for success, we’ve started inviting mentors into RRFC “headquarters” in Los Angeles for roundtable conversations with our Admissions and Academic Facilitators team.   Here are a few excerpts from our recent conversation with Recording Connection mentor Nathan Jenkins (Beyoncé, David Lee Roth, Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, The Voice) covering a number of topics including how he assesses where students are at in their knowhow, utilizing the curriculum to meet students’ goals and interests, and how the newly-graduated can get gigs.   RRFC Team: What led you to becoming an engineer and producer in the first place?   “I went to Berklee because I thought I wanted to be a guitar player, and I got there and I hated it. I loathed it. I was like, “It’s all jazz.” It was a different scene back then, and I was trying to find myself, who I was as a musician. I met my neighbor in the dorm. He was spray-painting his boots silver in his bathtub. I’ll never forget that. I was like, “What do you do?” So he was into this crazy electronic music and stuff. This was like 1995. And he kind of opened my eyes to all this other stuff that was going on, and I was like, I want to do that. So I got into the recording side and the synth side at the program there, and after that I never looked back.”   RRFC Team: On that very first lesson with a student, how do you assess where they’re at in their knowledge of audio and music production?   “[If they’re observing me working with a client], just to keep the flow of the session going…I give them a notepad [and] just have them write down all the questions. ‘Just write this stuff down, and at the end of the day I’ll sit down with you.’ I just spend this extra time with them….That’s when they realize, ‘Okay, I’m really only at step one. I’m not even at step three yet.’   How I came up and how kids are today, or young adults, it’s completely different. I mean, we were just thrown in the trenches…You can’t do that today….And it’s not linear anymore….For me, it was like one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. [Today] they’re like eight, 14, 42. They just grab like, ‘Oh, I want to learn how to side chain,’ but they don’t understand how it’s really working. They just know how to do it. So, I think learning the basics of how the software really works, even at the basic level, is a big help.”  
Full body shot of muscian producer Christian Joy-Ito in Los Angeles

Recording Connection graduate Christian Joy-Ito

RRFC Team: How are you able to make the curriculum suit the needs of different students with different interests and goals?   “One [Christian Joy-Ito] was like, ‘Here’s all my music. I want to just write music and do music.’ He was very focused on that. The other one [Miguel Giron] was very clear, ‘I want to be an engineer.’…   Both were very smart kids, but just their style of learning was different. What I found best is just to talk to them. I kind of spend the first three hours or whatever, just kind of hanging out with them, listen to their music, see what they’re into.   I had Miguel sit with me for the first week..I work on The Voice for the Live Rounds. We do all the music that goes to iTunes. So every week we do 12 songs, start to finish, in three days, 72 hours straight and I mean that literally….There are six of us. It starts with the tracking. They track the songs. Then it goes to me where I cut everything and chop everything and make sure it sounds perfect. Then, it goes to a room where they record the vocals, then [from] a comping guy to a tuning guy. Then, it all gets put back together and goes to the mix guy. I’m in the funnel-hose of the whole thing….Everything comes through me, all the music.   So [Miguel] just sat with me for 12 hours a day, [looking] over my shoulder, and watched what I did over and over again. Then on the second day he watched. Then on the third day, I had to send him home because he was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know what’s happening anymore.’   But by the next week you could tell that he was getting it. He understood what was happening…So I gave him one of my sessions, and he had a laptop. I was like, ‘Okay, go cut the drums.’   Christian was different. He was very, ‘I want to write music, I want to work on production, I want to get better as a producer.’ So, I’d have him come in every week, put him on a station and he would just work on his production…then we would interact throughout the day about what he should or should not do. And, for him, it was really about learning how to listen to himself as an artist….It wasn’t a very like, ‘I want to learn how to cut drums.’ But he got really good at listening to production, to himself, taking a step back. I think as a producer, or as an artist, you really need to do [that].”  

Recording Connection student Miguel Giron

RRFC Team: What’s your advice for our graduates on how they can get work when they’re just starting out?   “Go to a club…You’ve got to get outside your network, because if not, you’re never going to have any work, because you’re going to just be stealing work from each other. You’ve got to go outside of people you know. So go to a show, approach people…’Hey man, I really like your stuff. Let’s do a track,’ or, ‘Do you need help with something? I can help you with your mix,’ or whatever. That’s what they’ve got to do.   That’s how I survived. I went and saw shows. I still work with a ton of indie bands. A ton of them. I probably do five or six indie groups a year. And it’s great….I just did this darkwave/shoegazer/industrial thing. It was cool. I met all these great people out of it, and it was fun. And these are people that were not in my network at all….   I told Miguel, ‘If you can chop drums, I can get you work.’ It’s whatever, $100 a song. But if you can tune a vocal, there’s a lot of work out there.”   Learn more about Recording Connection for beatmaking, Ableton, audio engienering, and more!  
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or call (800) 755-7597