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Issue #61

Weekly Newsletter

by L. Swift and Jeff McQ

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Student Successes


When Jimi and Brian get you learning on-the-job, you not only get the chance to forge your own career, but you also form powerful industry relationships that can last a lifetime. Read below about one successful Film Connection graduate who now works with his former mentor to give current film students real-world experience on the set of his own productions!

Student Successes
 

A tale of two Steves: An Atlanta Film Connection grad’s ongoing collaborations with his mentor

    From the moment Film Connection student Steve Pitts was first connected with his mentor in Atlanta, Georgia in 2011, it seemed like the fates were involved.   Steve Pitts and Steve Carmichael“I got the call [from Student Services] saying that my mentor would be calling me,” he says. “He told me my mentor’s name, Steve Carmichael, and my name is Steven Carmichael Pitts! We’re both from Alabama, which is kind of funny. It was like fate, sort of, because he kind of got me to where I am with my company right now.”   The serendipity doesn’t end there, and the collaboration between the two Steves goes far beyond just “staying in touch.” But we’ll get to that…   An aspiring film director, Pitts first discovered the Film Connection while searching the Internet for ways to educate himself and get his foot in the door of the industry. The apprenticeship method immediately appealed to him.   “I don’t like school,” he says. “I learn better just doing than I do being told how to do it. So it definitely just made more sense for me to try and just get out there and do it, rather than sit in a classroom, and read books. It seemed right up my alley.”   Steve Carmichael’s teaching style was also a great fit for Pitts, mainly because it didn’t feel like school. “I think the most valuable thing that he was able to do is that he [taught] it in an interesting way,” says Pitts. “He was a fantastic storyteller. He would just tell set stories a lot. That was a lot of the education, hearing the things that can go wrong, and the things that he did to kind of adapt or adjust, things like that.”   Steve Pitts, Camera Op for Janelle Monet music video.As Pitts finished his apprenticeship and began stepping into more active roles in directing projects, he says he continued to rely heavily on the wisdom from his mentor, especially when encountering something new. “It was a lot of learning, a lot of trial and error,” he says. “but definitely a lot of, ‘What would Steve Carmichael do?’…I can just kind of fall back and be like, ‘Oh, I heard this story from Steve, and I know what he did to resolve the problem.'”   As fate would have it, the two Steves have continued collaborating in a unique way. The “company” Pitts mentioned earlier is Rite Media Group, a film collective where Pitts became one of the primary shareholders and film directors not long after completing his apprenticeship. Now one of the mover-and-shaker film companies in Atlanta’s burgeoning film scene, Rite Media also now serves as a home base for none other than Pitts’ former mentor Steve Carmichael, who not only utilizes the space to teach his current Film Connection apprentices, but also gets the apprentices working on Rite Media’s film sets! For Pitts, it’s more than just a coming full-circle kind of thing—it’s a way to pay it forward.   “Now that Steve’s teaching out of our space, for him to be able to say, ‘This guy was like you, and now look,’ it’s kind of humbling,” he says. “I’m now contributing to people that were [once] in my position…I try to help out the best I can as far as getting these guys on set and teaching them. I try to make myself available as much as humanly possible to any questions that they have, or anything that they want to know.”   Film Connection students on set of a Rite Media project.Talking with Pitts’ former mentor, Steve Carmichael, it’s obvious that the respect flows both ways. “I consider Steve [Pitts] a really good friend,” says Carmichael. “It’s great to be around him and, in effect, be working together, working on the outline of script. It feels at certain moments like we’re the only two people in the room. It’s not ego, [or] trying to outshine everybody else—we just communicate well with each other.   “Being able to take what I know, pass it on to people, and see them begin to work at this—Pitts is still my favorite example,” Carmichael continues. “Other than having and raising children, it’s about the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done… On the [Rite Media] website, he [Pitts] does an interview where he talks about learning his craft first the ‘old school’ way. I thought, ‘Aha. You’re talking about me!’ And then, taking that and Rite Media, making their own films their own way because they know what the rules are, and now they’ve figured out how to break them.”   When Carmichael gets his Film Connection students working on Rite Media projects, Pitts often gives them the following advice: Don’t just stand by and watch. “Something we always like to tell folks is, ‘You’ve got to ask.’ Observing isn’t always the best way to go about it. When any of [Carmichael’s] students come onto our set but they just kind of stand there and watch, we say, ‘No. Dude, grab something, ask somebody something, bug us. You’re not helping anybody out by just standing there watching.'”   One of the more recent Rite Collective projects that involved Film Connection apprentices was a music video for R&B artist Totem for his song “Pride”—a film shoot Pitts describes as “one of our most ambitious passion projects ever.”   “We did it on the 30th of December,” Pitts says. “I think we had a majority of [Film Connection] students helping on that one. We’ve never done anything like it before. It was futuristic, sci-fi, space adventure movie. It was a music video but we did it kind of like a short film…Everybody had a good time. It was a huge benefit to have all those hands there.”   As for recent and future projects, Pitts says Rite Media is aiming to have a more direct hand in their upcoming films.   Steve Pitts“We produced a film [last year], but it was someone else’s baby, so to speak,” he says. “This year, from the beginning of the year, as my goal, I’m going to make a movie this year. So right now we’re writing the script. I’ve got some potential investors already. That’s my goal this year, as a director, and for my company, is to have us making “start to finish” concept to post all of it in-house, us making it…I want to keep everything in-house for this one.”   As for the previous film, a low-budget action flick in which Pitts is credited as 2nd unit director, he says it was fun, but also a challenge. “We didn’t have a lot of time to get it done,” he says. “We were in the middle of the woods in Columbus, Georgia, and in the heat of the end of the summer. We did it in early September. The property belonged to the director, so we had the location for free. It was away from Atlanta, so we had to figure out housing situations for everyone…So trying to figure out where the crew of, I think it was 46 crew members, where we were going to be housed, feed, and make sure that they’re bathed when they need to be—we ended up getting eight camper trailers and parking them in a field. We had a storage shed that we converted into like a barracks, like an army barracks sort of thing. Then, we had the house that a few people slept in. I was just trying to get that done, and just shooting in the middle of the woods in the summer time. It was not the ideal situation.”   Back in 2011 when the two Steves met, Steve Carmichael taught Steve Pitts the art of filmmaking by telling stories. Now, with both the former mentor and apprentice working together on set with today’s Film Connection students, Steve Pitts is sure to have some stories of his own to tell.   (Check out the music video by Totem and behind-the-scenes footage in the Apprentice Media section below!)   

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Apprentices in Action
David AllisonDavid Allison, Recording Connection apprentice of St Paul, Minnesota is working with his mentor, composer Adam Frischhertz, on one of his own songs! Together, they’re going through the process of recording, editing, and adding the electronic instrumentation David envisions as part of the final mix.    Alex EffertzRadio Connection apprentice Alex Effertz was recently ON THE AIR on KMOJ in Minneapolis, MN, his second time to run the show! “Got some compliments from some callers which was nice to hear,” he says. “Things went smoothly. Getting really comfortable with it!”    Ray ColeRecording Connection apprentice Ray Cole at Salmon Peak Recording in San Antonio, TX, is wondering, “Where did I leave the tape?”    Mark DosterRecent Film Connection graduate Mark Doster of Orlando, FL just won an Award in Accolade Global Film Competition for his short film Rest Your Soul. Congrats Mark!  

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Mentor News
Imagine cutting your teeth in the recording industry by working with a mentor on an album for a major label artist! For Recording Connection apprentices working with producer Sax DMA in New York City, this has become very much a reality. Read on to find out how…  
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  Mentor Sax DMA & Apprentice Frank PoulinIn industry circles, he’s known by the moniker “Sax DMA,” but most people just call him Sax.   A major producer/engineer in the heart of New York City, Sax started off as a rock guitarist but soon found himself thrust into the heart of New York’s burgeoning R&B/hip-hop movement in the early ’90s, first working with artists like Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest as part of Jive Records, then with Missy Elliott, Wu-Tang Clan and Lauryn Hill as a tech for the world-famous Quad Studios in the heart of Times Square.   By the time Sax began mentoring students for the Recording Connection several years ago, he had already taught thousands of people on his own as part of Quad Studios for more than a decade. Today, he works out of Terminus Studios (formerly Tainted Blue), occupying the top-floor penthouse in the same Times Square building as Quad Studios.   RC Apprentice Kristin BonanoSax is generous with his praise when it comes to his top apprentices. “When Kristen [Bonano] came in to be interviewed, she didn’t know anything about the studio,” he says. “Just like me, [she] didn’t know anything, but read every Beatles book and Led Zeppelin book about how they recorded all this stuff, and knew all this equipment…I was blown away. I was like, ‘How do you even . . .’ I called the school immediately. I said I want her in my class. Now she’s learning these things and she’s just picking it up so quick.   “And then there’s Frank [Poulin],” he continues. “He’s just that guy that you want in your recording studio. He’s already got the demeanor, the personality, the attitude, the humility. He’s just a pleasure to be around and he’s just ambitious as hell.”   Sax says he’s also quite impressed with 18-year-old Marcus Charles. “He just absorbs stuff so quickly,” he says. “I teach him something and as soon as I tell him once, he’s just got it. Now already he’s on Lesson 13, I think, and he’s tracking Sharrief… He’s like a natural.”   Speaking of Sharrief, Sax is currently working on a major release album for the AMG/Universal R&B artist—and not only has he involved several Recording Connection apprentices in its production, but he also plans to share credit with them! “All my students, at least the top four who have been ambitious since the beginning…they’re going to get album credits for this,” he says.   Danny, Sharrief, and Sax DMASo what makes an apprentice stand out for Sax? “I tell them, it’s 50% skill and it’s 50% personality,” he says. “I can teach you the skills in school, but I can’t teach you personality. So you’ve got to kind of have some of that on your side too…From my experience as a studio manager, I did not care what your resume looked like. I did not care where you came from. Within three seconds of coming off that elevator, I knew whether I was going to hire you based on your vibe, your presentation and your personality.”   Having taught for years before becoming a Recording Connection mentor, Sax couldn’t be more clear with his opinion about the mentor-apprentice approach: “Recording Connection is an incredible program,” he says. “Their whole structure is just brilliant…You are teaching in a facility, in a recording studio that’s already established. Because of the no overhead facility, in all these States, it’s the cheapest, most affordable school, at least that I’ve ever come across…in my personal opinion, this is the best way possible to get an idea of what to expect, because you are in the studio environment.”  

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Special Feature
Rafa Sardina and Brian KraftLast week, Brian took a drive up to “the Valley” and spent time with Recording Connection’s latest “Masters Program” instructor Rafa Sardina — a 12-time GRAMMY®-winning producer/mixer/engineer. “Rafa and I connected right around Winter NAMM and hit it off immediately,” stated Brian Kraft. “We talked about him growing up in Spain and his background as a musician, then coming to The States and becoming an engineer and what is really important in getting an audio education. Last week, we finalized his relationship with Recording Connection and we are so pleased to have him as part of our Masters Program.”   Rafa has built an eclectic and impressive client list over the years and has received 35 nominations from the GRAMMYs or Latin GRAMMYs for his work with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Luis Miguel, Clare Fischer Big Band, Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas, and Alejandro Sanz. “When I first met Brian and we talked about the Recording Connection mentoring/apprentice program, I said to myself, these guys get it and it’s the right way for someone to get a real-world audio education. I’m looking forward to working with them and hopefully I can share what I have learned over the years with their students.”   Brian’s meeting with Rafa was truly an inspiring visit, and we are so pleased to have him on board. More to come from Recording Connection and our talented new associate.  



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