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Since Jeff Sullivan started his Film Connection apprenticeship with filmmaker Richard Brandes
of Brandes Entertainment
in Los Angeles, he’s witnessed firsthand how hard work and passion, even with the small stuff, can turn into bigger opportunities. Although his goal is to direct, during a recent gig as a production assistant (PA) on a Film Connection shoot at Quixote Studios
with film director Ti West, Jeff was completely committed to working in a below-the-line capacity for the shoot.
“It was cool to be a helping hand [because] if you want to go to the top, you have to start at the bottom,”
he says. “Even the execs at Warner Brothers can tell you stories about how they used to get coffee for their execs when they started.”
Jeff’s balanced approach to learning the ropes and “paying dues” has also impressed his mentor, Richard Brandes. So when Richard got word that some movie executive friends of his were producing a film for Lifetime
in December, he put Jeff’s name in front of them and recommended him as a P.A.!
“These guys make a lot of movies. The executive producer has made 70-plus films and was an exec at Paramount and on movies like Platoon,”
says Richard. “I recommended Jeff for the position [because] he’s gung ho, and a good kid with a lot of passion and determination, and I have a lot of respect for that kind of attitude…It’s going to enable him to meet a lot of great people and make connections.”
Before sending him to the shoot, Richard was careful to stress to Jeff the importance of a good first impression and making the most of the opportunity. “I told him, ‘You’re just going there to meet people,”
he says. “‘You’ve got to make yourself completely available to do the work and anything that’s required of you.’”
The importance of the moment isn’t lost on Jeff. “[Richard] called me yesterday and said ‘Jeff, I’m kind of putting my reputation on the line by putting you forward,'”
says Jeff. “I let him know that there are two things I can promise him: Number one, I will make him look like a rock star, and number two, he won’t ever hear any complaints about me on set.”
Jeff’s recent successes serve as a great example of how Film Connection mentors can become powerful allies in an industry where connections mean everything. “Richard has really been looking out for me,”
he says. “I’ve been trying really hard to impress him, and it’s started to really take off!”
When RRFC students make the most of their apprenticeships through hard work and building relationships, it quite frequently turns into a job. Recent Recording Connection graduate Geoffrey Goodwin experienced this firsthand when his mentor, Brian Stephens of Bonzo Tunes Studio
in Atlanta, GA, offered him a paid position at the end of his apprenticeship!
“Geoff was easily the best [student] I have ever had in the 14 years that I have been training students through the Recording Connection’s mentoring program,”
Brian, told us. “He was so good that after completion of his time here, I have hired him as a paid assistant on many sessions.”
Geoff is also very impressed with his mentor. “Brian has been absolutely fantastic to work with both from a ‘making industry connections’ standpoint, and also just in terms of his actual skill and expertise in the studio. He’s been both instrumental in getting me connected and also giving me the hands-on experience that I think is really going to be important in my overall success as a sound engineer.”
It doesn’t end there. As Geoff shadowed his mentor and learned his techniques, they’ve built a professional relationship that goes beyond the studio, to the point that Brian trusts him with some of his other projects, as well. “I have hired him to run front-of-house sound for me every week in one of the secondary performance rooms on campus at my Sunday church gig,”
says Brian. “Having Geoff mixing sound in one of our smaller rooms has been like having a clone of myself there on campus each week. He’s fabulous on that weekly gig, and every one of the musicians on that live gig enjoy working with him.”
Geoffrey says, playfully, that he’s reaping some of the other perks that can come along with knowing someone on the inside. “(Brian’s) constantly passing me opportunities to pick up jobs where possible, sending me links to important articles, telling me when certain gear is on sale, those sorts of things.”
Geoff will also be working with Brian on one of the studio’s larger upcoming projects, recording a classical piece with a 30-piece orchestra and 150-voice choir, on-location which they’ll then mix back at the studio.
Geoff has got the proven work ethic to make it work. The gig with Brian is part-time to start, so he’s currently working a regular 9-5 job to pay the bills while he gains experience and puts a few funds away for what he has planned. Geoff says, “My goal in a year’s time is to open up a home studio, I say home studio but I mean to make a very professional home recording environment.”
So how does Geoff sound when we talk to him? He sounds happy, maybe a bit tired, but happy and pretty excited too. When we ask him how he feels about the career he’s building he tells us “I feel great about it. You guys (at RRF) have been great to work with as well and I’m glad I found you guys online. That ultimately sealed the deal and hopefully changed the course of my professional career for good.”
Geoff is a perfect example of what can happen when you work hard on-the-job as an apprentice and build a solid relationship with your mentor. For Brian, it’s been nothing but an added bonus to have someone he personally trained now working with him in an ongoing way. “I just wish that more up-and-coming engineers were as dedicated to learning their craft as Geoff has been,”
Still wondering what it takes to make that career in audio a possibility?