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Issue #99

Weekly Newsletter

by L. Swift and Jeff McQ

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Student Successes

When Jimi and Brian get you learning on the job, regardless of your prior experience, you’ll gain the real-world know-how you need to be confident in your new career. Read below about a novice Film Connection student who gained valuable experience and confidence by problem solving on the job!

STUDENT SUCCESSES

 

Film Connection student Michelina Friss: Gaining confidence through experience

   
Film apprentice Michelina Friss

Film apprentice Michelina Friss

When Michelina Friss decided she wanted to pursue a career in film, she admits she was something of a “blank slate.” She says she was interested in producing, but with no real prior experience, she wasn’t sure what to expect. “I felt very lost from the get-go in regards to what I was looking for [with] any kind of education in film,” she says.   One thing she did feel sure of, however, was that she needed was one-on-one guidance, not simply a classroom experience. So when she found the Film Connection online, she knew right away it was for her.   “I Googled it online, and I’d never heard of Film Connection before,” she says. “I started reading about it, and the philosophy of the school was immediately what caught my attention. And so it didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t really need to look any farther.”   The Film Connection placed Michelina as an apprentice with filmmaker Sebastian Triscari in nearby Harrisburg, PA. Right away, Michelina says her mentor put her at ease. “From the moment I met him, my first impression was that he was incredibly professional,” she says. “I felt like the guy knew what he was doing. I was a little bit nervous, of course, because I didn’t know what I was going to find, and I felt like he had prepared for my coming.”   Sebastian also took Michelina’s lack of experience in stride. “I let him know from the get-go that I was very much a beginner…like I’m coming in on a blank slate and I need to learn the foundations,” she says. “He gave me a blank piece of paper and he wanted me to write down three professional goals, three things that I wanted to try out. And he made it very clear that he wanted to make it his priority to make sure he hit all those goals…He wanted to be able to expose me to a lot of different areas of filmmaking, and through that, be able to see where I thought I could grow.”   As it happened, part of her training meant throwing her into the deep end of the pool, so to speak. Michelina had an idea for a documentary exploring life for the locals who live in the tourist-heavy boardwalk communities, so Sebastian made that her Film Connection project.  
Film mentor Sebastian Triscari

Film mentor Sebastian Triscari

“He gave me one of his cameras and gave me a crash course on how to use it, and he sent me off to the beach,” she says. “I remember I was really nervous. I was like, ‘Oh God, I don’t want to screw this up.’”   The entire experience was a lesson in problem-solving for Michelina. “I remember the first thing right off the bat, I don’t know if I did something when I loaded the camera in my car or what, but as soon as I set it up on the boardwalk, there was just an immense amount of static that was coming up through the audio,” she says. “At first, I went into panic mode, and I kind of had to learn how to work around that. That was one of the things that happened. And I remember there was another, I was going up to people on the boardwalk, and I was just asking them if they would let me interview them on my camera. And I remember one lady, where she had grown up in the area and she was a local, and I got talking to her a little bit, but eventually, she didn’t want to be on camera…There was a few little technical things, and just figuring out how to work with people on the fly, so it was a really good experience.”   While it was stressful in the moment, Michelina looks back and see that her mentor’s approach worked brilliantly. “What I think was the beauty of the whole process was that you go and do it, and you kind of have to learn by doing how you work around those things,” she says. “Now I can use a basic camera, and I know when I go to use it what I need to think about, what I need to look for in regards to shooting film. And so, that was probably the biggest one for me because any kind of technology side of things is very much a weakness of mine.”   Another facet of Michelina’s training was to get her in the midst of some professional shoots. She recalls having the opportunity recently to shadow at a shoot for a sizzle reel for an upcoming reality TV show, and what she took away from the experience.   “It’s one thing to know intellectually or to read about it or hear about it,” she says, “but it’s another thing to really go on set and see really what they have to do, like all the details and all the things they have to think about…One of the spaces that we were shooting in, it was a really small store, and they were trying to figure out how to manipulate the area and to see what the best shots were that they could get. And so, I went back and forth thinking, ‘Oh my God. This is crazy. I don’t know if I could ever do this.’ And then on the flip side of that, I was like, ‘This would be so much fun to do. Oh my God, this could be great. The possibilities are endless.’”   Now approaching the end of her apprenticeship, Michelina has a newfound sense of confidence in her abilities, and she has a long-term goal of being a film producer.   “I am definitely a bigger picture kind of person,” she says. “I feel like I can communicate ideas to people in ways that might be a little less cliché or a little less common or a little less mainstream. And I really feel like I’m able to present that in a way that can be very appealing and can make people think.”   Meanwhile, she’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had to learn and refine her goals with the Film Connection. “Anybody who knows anything knows that the film industry is very competitive,” says Michelina. “It can be a very cutthroat place, so I just felt like the pressures of those kind of things were put on hold for the time being because I’m learning, and I was free to be able to figure out, like, ‘Hey, what’s this all about over here? What’s this?’ I mean, just to really put yourself out there and just go explore, and take some risks…The program, that’s what this is set up for.”    
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Mentor News

MENTOR NEWS

 

NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor Doug Wallace

    With more than 30 years of professional music industry experience, there’s little that Recording Connection mentor Doug Wallace hasn’t seen. Since beginning as a drummer and guitarist, playing in several bands, then moving to the production helm, Doug has built a solid career with combined expertise in live remote recording and studio production, which has kept him quite busy over the years with a variety of clients, including 90s hip-hop star Krumb Snatcha, singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards, blues-rocker Rick Derringer and many others. As the owner/operator of Studio 128 Recording in Springfield, MA, Doug is able to give his students a well-rounded experience both in live and studio recording.   During the following interview with RRFC, Doug shares a bit about how he came into the business, how he involves his students in his projects, and how mentoring others keeps him grounded as a professional.  
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Control Room in Studio 128 Recording

Control Room in Studio 128 Recording

RRFC: What got you started as an audio engineer / producer?   Doug Wallace: I played on a bunch of records for local bands or my peers and so forth, a couple of my own bands…and the process of mix down or whatever happened to be in our heads at the moment, it just was very difficult to articulate to whoever was producing a record or engineering a record, and saying, “This is not really what we are hearing in our heads,” and kind of getting the feeling that I’m looking for a little bit more control in the overall sound of the album or particular track or whatever the case may be. So I decided to just basically build my own studio. Of course that came a little later, like 10 years later. But you just go through motions and acquiring the gear and just kind of record some records and tracks…And having the opportunity to experiment and kind of play around with different sounds and compositions and so forth, and not having to pay somebody $40 or $50 bucks an hour or $100 bucks an hour to do so, was a huge, huge education for me. And anybody who happened to be there at the time, there is a lot of input playing with other people, and they have their ideas, and you’re able to take the time to articulate those ideas and really make it known because you’re not under the pressure of a clock ticking. So then once word got out, and lots of peers would hear the results, then they’d be asking for me to record the album, and it just kind of blew up from there.   RRFC: How did you come to the decision, “I want my own studio now”? You mentioned it took about 10 years, but was there like a final breaking point where you said, “I’ve just got to do this”?   Doug: I lost a really good job…The recession kind of forced my hand on it, I think. I would pick up gigs here and there, been playing in the same band for about 16 years and had some other projects I was dabbling in, and it was okay. But on the off season here in Massachusetts with the snow and all that, there really is a seasonal break when it comes to live music or live gigging…Losing the 9 to 5 gig and really having to buckle down and say, “Well, if I’m going to do anything, now’s the time to do it.”   RRFC: Was that sort of a blessing in disguise in that regard?   Doug: I think so, myself and my family certainly look at it that way.   RRFC: Are you happier now that you have a little more control?   Doug: Way happier.   RRFC: Any great sessions or clients that you’ve gotten to work with lately?   Doug: Just wrapped up a live album with Jonathan Edwards. He’s known for big songs in the ’70’s, “Shanty” and “Sunshine.” …There is a TV station in Palmer, Mass. about a half hour from me here in Springfield, and one of the board members on this particular TV station happens to be a huge music buff, and he side-jobs as a videographer and he has full use of this TV station. What he does is he’ll…Any big national acts like Rick Derringer, Robin Trower, Les Dudek, all the big names of blues, if they’re supporting an album or supporting a tour or whatever the case may be, they’ll swing in and do a one-hour shoot with five high-depth cameras in front of a live audience. My position in this particular project is being the front of the house supplier and also tracking the session, and then we’ll track eight to ten songs or whatever they can fit into an hour in front of that live audience. Then we bring it back to the studio, we mix it down, and then send it back to the TV station or the video studio, and they drop my audio in their video, and then it gets released wherever they happen to be slated, whether YouTube or a documentary or a movie or whatever the case may be. That happens two, three times a month, It’s kind of a cool gig. It’s great for students as well, because they are able to attend the actual tracking. They get involved in the micing, they get involved of routing and things of that nature. We get there long before the band shows up and get the PA set up, so they’re not only looking at just a sterile environment as a studio and can be really in control, but it helps them in troubleshooting, because once your studio is up and running and everything is kind of labeled out and tacked down and taped up, there’s not really a whole lot that goes wrong other than some glitches that’ll happen and some DAWs versus the others.   RRFC: Are there any of your apprentices that are doing particularly well right now?   Doug: Tim Barry, he’s building a studio, a home studio at his residence with his father, and seeing him come from [being] an aspiring hip-hop artist into really developing a strong ear for not only composition in hip-hop but an engineer as far as mix down process goes too, and being involved in these other genres other than hip-hop…A composition in hip-hop is just way simpler versus say a pop song or a rock song or modern country song. And we do all that here…So I think listening to that and seeing it develop has really made a difference, especially in Tim’s mind and on his ear. You see his beat-making skills, you see his composition that comes into play because he’s experienced that in other types of genres that wasn’t present a year ago when he started.   RRFC: What can an apprentice do in his off time to impress you when he or she gets back in the studio?   Doug: It’s funny, It seems like they never really go anywhere…I constantly get emails, I constantly get quick little texts here and there, things that they’ve heard or things that have inspired them…  
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