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Issue #250

Weekly Newsletter

by Liya Swift

Student Successes

Film Connection graduate David Presto
Wins Emmy!


Film Connection grad David Presto

By the time David Presto (New York, NY) joined Film Connection for Film Production & Editing in 2006, he’d been on the periphery of the film industry for years, trying to find the “in” which would enable him to get to where he wanted to be—doing makeup for film and television. Thanks to his own persistence and the connections he was able to make while training with former Film Connection mentor Tony Travis of 2 Tone Films in New York City, David has worked on literally dozens of productions in both film and television. In 2019, David won his first Emmy Award for his work on the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon.   Read on to learn more about David’s journey to the top.   What led you to Film Connection in the first place?   “What led me to it was just the networking aspect, just to meet new people, people with the same interests in the same field.”   So your interest in film and makeup, where did that start?   “When I was nine, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ came out, and then they had the making of it on MTV. So I watched the behind the scenes and was like, ‘Oh wow, this is really interesting’ and something I wanted to do. So that really got me interested in the whole makeup and makeup effects thing.”   What’s your favorite type of makeup to do?   “I would say character makeups, making someone look like somebody else or something else. So those makeups, making someone look old or making them look like a character, like Popeye or something like that, even fantasy characters, those are the ones I like the most. I like to transform someone into someone else or something else.”   Success did not come overnight for you. What was your mindset when you were trying to find your way into the industry?   “It was like, ‘I’m not going to do something else. I don’t want to do anything else.’ But you know, as an artist, that’s how it is in this industry. Especially in the beginning, you just don’t know anybody. You know your craft a little, and you’ve just got to find the right people to get jobs. And then once you build up trust, people keep hiring you. Then word gets around and that’s how you keep getting the next job and the next job after that, and you build [your] reputation. Then, once you have a good reputation, you just consistently work, and that’s pretty much where I am now.”   How long did it take for you to get to where you’re at today?   “I would say it probably took close to 10 years.”   What’s the most important skill to have as a professional makeup artist for film and television?   “The biggest thing about this job is really not makeup. That’s the easy part. The hard part is the communication side, the side where your personality has to mesh with everybody else. So you have to read people, and you have to just be positive, and you have to be willing to work and put in the effort, and you have to be able to talk to people. That’s the thing, you have to communicate with a lot of people and you have to be able to deal with different personalities….You can’t have this personality that is argumentative. You have to be very humble, too, because even though you’re a professional and you’re with the actress or actor, and if they don’t like something, you can’t say, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about because you’re an actor, you’re not a makeup artist.’   You can never say that, because this is still their face and what they look like is very important to them. It’s a very give and take relationship. You can always coax them into doing something that you think you feel strongly about and say, ‘Hey, why don’t we try this? And if you don’t like it, we can take it off and we’ll go with something else.’ You have to be able to talk to someone about doing that, and you never say no. You just try to work with them. That’s what the job is. It’s a lot of working with people.”   How did it feel when you found out you’d been nominated for an Emmy?   “When I found out about, I was really happy and humbled as well. And then when we did win, back in September, I was just so proud to be part of that show….I had just finished a show that was very difficult…then I jumped right onto Fosse/Verdon literally the next day….It was great making characters. We had prosthetics, we had regular makeup, a lot of hair laying and a lot of period, too. We went from the 40s all the way to the 80s. So there was a lot of different types of makeup in that show.”   So did you attend The Emmys? If so, what was that like?   “Yeah, my wife and I went. It was one of the best days of my life, one of the happiest times.”   What did it feel like when they called your name at the Academy Awards, announcing that you had won?   “My heart was beating out of my chest….It was hard to walk up those steps. I was like, ‘Just go slow.’ Yeah, it was very exciting. It was just vindication for all the hard work that we did that year. You just feel like you’re appreciated by your peers, because that’s who votes for it, which is even better. So it’s like, everyone thought that this was one of the best shows, which is very nice, too, for everyone to think that of your work and admire it. So it is a very nice feeling.”   What’s your advice to current Film Connection students on how they can make their dream careers a reality?   “I would say just listen to the mentors, the teachers….Not everyone is going to make it. If you want to make it, you have to be the one that is willing to go that extra mile to get to where you want to go….You have to always work at your craft consistently, and you consistently have to network with people. That’s the most important thing I could tell anyone, any student that wants to make it in this business, to do that. Never give up on your dream.”   Learn more about Film Connection for Film Production & Editing, Cinematography, and more!      
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Student Successes

Recording Connection grad Vic Castaldo
Opens Recording Studio.


Recording Connection grad Vic Castaldo (Troy, OH)

Even though he’s still in his early 20s, Vic Castaldo has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve in life. He came to Recording Connection after having spent the past five years teaching himself music production. Now, after receiving direct, hands-on instruction and training with mentor Gary Pyles of Timeless Recording Studio (Cincinnati, OH), the graduate of Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production has made his first major life goal a reality—he’s opened his own studio.   He’s taking the business side of the business just as seriously as the art, and has a clientele of artists recording in the new space. We recently connected with Vic to talk about how he’s doing it day-to-day, and see what he’s looking forward to in days to come.   What brought you to Recording Connection in the first place?   “I pursued some other audio education programs and I wasn’t feeling satisfied with the detail. A lot of it was the Gen Ed courses. So I heard about Recording Connection and I did some research and found out that it’s really just about the audio, and that was a big thing that drew me in, and also, how you’re actually in the studio. With the other schools you sometimes get a little bit of time in the studio every couple months or so. With this, every time I was working with Gary, I was in the studio. And that really mattered to me because I’m a very hands-on learner.”   Have your parents been supportive of you and your music?   “[My first studio] was a guestroom for people to come and stay [and] my mom let me use that bedroom for strictly a studio. So she’s definitely helped out with that, and she knows it’s something that I’m passionate about. Before I found music, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was just going to go to college for going to college, and I didn’t really have a purpose….It’s good to have people that are supporting you from the beginning, because it gives you the confidence to push on with it.”   You recently opened your own recording studio? How did that come to be?   “So before, during, and after my education in…Cincinnati at Timeless, I had the studio at my mom’s running….As I was getting better and [was] getting more gear, more clientele, I outgrew the space. Obviously, it’s a little harder to get someone to come out to your studio and take you seriously if you’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s in a bedroom at my mom’s,’ versus a professional studio….   I researched some different cities in Ohio, further away, looked at the competition, the rates and everything like that, and I realized what I would need to make something like this work…. Now, I have a downtown location that’s in the historical district of Troy, Ohio.”   How are you getting people in your door?   “We’re reaching about a 25 mile radius from Troy, and a lot of that is through the different types of promotion and networking. We host a monthly networking event for all types of creators, be that painters, videographers, graphic designers, artists. [It’s] just for local creators to get together and realize that there’s really people doing this. If you need a videographer, here’s this guy. Get his Instagram. Start liking his stuff, share it on your story. That’s going to all come back for you, once you do that for other people, it’s a snowball effect. So, the networking events have been really cool to see the different people come out. I’ve been posting flyers in local businesses especially in downtown Troy, you know, coffee shops and music stores, things like that. Facebook and Instagram [are] probably the two biggest social media platforms so far that I’ve been engaging in.   I’m on one of the email blasts for my landlord who owns several businesses, just a little ad at the bottom of her ad. I put in window stickers around the perimeter of my building so you can read my, ‘It’s Victory Recording Studios’ sign and this is our business number. I’ve gotten a few clients from that. One of them is actually a client who’s going to do a podcast Friday, and it looks like she’ll be a residual client, so that’ll be pretty big for us, too. So I think it’s doing a little bit of everything, and especially utilizing all those free avenues that people don’t usually capitalize on.”   It sounds like you’re really tuned into the business side of owning your own studio.   “I’ve always been interested in the business stuff. I almost went down that path in terms of schooling. In high school I took the personal finance and the entrepreneurship classes, and definitely took away some tidbits from that.”  

Recording Connection grad Vic Castaldo, Victory Recording Studios (VRS) Troy, OH.

Have any projects you’re excited about?   “I’m excited about all of them….So my friend, who’s been contracting for me [and] who I’ve been doing this with forever, his artist name is Raza the King. He’s working on his second album. There’s an artist in Sydney, Ohio, a couple towns north of here, who’s got a couple thousand people following him. His name is Blvck Trev….Raza and I, we had our first show in the Oregon District in Dayton a couple weeks ago….[And] one of my artists is trying out for America’s Got Talent.”   Let’s flash forward five years from now. What are your goals?   “I am looking at growing my business….So I’m hoping maybe within three years actually to start another studio, and we’re trying to grow it in other ways. We have somebody making merch [merchandise] for us, and we have our own press and we’re doing all that.”   So what do you have to say about Recording Connection, about our approach, our curriculum and all that?   “I would suggest it over any other program for anybody interested in audio training….The studio time and being able to…watch how your mentor engages with the clients, and really learn how to do what you want to do, and see it hands-on is very important…   It is important to see where you’re actually at, because you might think, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this guy do it 10 times, I think I’m good now. Maybe I’m going to stop going to class. But if you don’t see that, you’re not recalling the information. Or, if you were to go to a networking event or some sort of conference and you’re not going to be able to understand the terminology, you’re going to be dismissed pretty quickly. If you don’t know what a DAW is, for example, no one’s going to talk to you anymore about how to record.   So I do like the dual approach [of the curriculum] because if you learn by reading and the illustrations, that’s there. But if you learn by the hands-on, that’s there. And at some point we all need to be able to do some of both. So even if it’s not your strong suit to be hands-on or your strong suit to read, it’s still something that is good for you to practice because there will be things that pop up, an update for your computer or Pro Tools or what have you, and you need to be able to do both. So I think that’s a great approach—being able to experience it in-person, there’s no classroom with a teacher and 25 students and a PowerPoint.”   Learn more about Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production, Beat Making, Logic, Ableton Live, Live Sound, and more!      
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Apprentices in Action

A Day in the Life of Our Students


Reem Rawi shoots Nashville tourism video

Recent Film Connection for Film Production & Editing graduate Reem Rawi has really stepped up to the plate by assisting on numerous commercial projects during her externship with mentor and Emmy-winner Zac Adams of Skydive Films (Nashville, TN). As a result, Reem’s graduated with  an impressive commercial reel, stellar résumé, and the confidence that comes from doing the work, hands-on. In a recent interview, Reem told us what she considered to be the real value of the program:   “Film Connection maybe looks weird to some people who are like, ‘Oh no, how am I going to do a program where I’m not going to meet in a classroom?’…but it is not that. It’s not the name of the college or the big studios and the fancy cameras. It’s all about your mentor’s mind. How experienced he is, and what your intention is in this program….What I care about is the experience, the knowledge that I’m going to get out with after finishing this program….And this is what’s most important about this program. It doesn’t keep you in classrooms with professors and stuff like that. It drags you from home, from where you are, and just puts you right in the business, connects you to the right people. This is so important.”   Speaking of his recent graduate, Zac says, “Reem is extremely reliable, hard-working, and has a great eye for cinematography. I truly believe she will do very well in this business.” Congrats Reem! And Zac, thanks for being such a terrific mentor!        

Recording Connection grad Kaizer Hazard at Engine Room Audio (NYC, NY)

Recording Connection for Audio Engineering & Music Production graduate Kaizer Hossain aka Kaizer Hazard shared an insight about just how far he’s come in his journey thus far. We know he’s not alone, so thanks for sharing with all of us Kaizer!   “[You know] what’s crazy? I manifested this sh_t with my mind. There was a time period from like 2017-2019 where I would just look at pictures of studios and mixing consoles like 2-3 times a day. Even when all hope seemed lost in my life and things were falling apart for one reason or another…I kept feeding my mind images of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do…   I guess, for me, the hardest part of all of this was what I had to go through to finally get things together and manifest my dreams. I had to face a lot of pain and adversity to strip away the negative layers and belief systems from my family and society and fake friends….But I never gave up….I couldn’t let God down, especially after the promise I made to Him. I couldn’t let myself down either.”     What to get the latest info on what RRFC students are doing? Subscribe.    

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