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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER January 7, 2019 by Liya Swift


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Film Connection grad Arronn Lepperman
Gets Mentored, Shoots Feature in 16 Days!

  

Arronn Lepperman with cast of Into the Haunt

We recently spoke with recent Film Connection graduate Arronn Lepperman, who after years of thinking about enrolling in our Film Production & Editing program, finally took the plunge and got mentored by Film Connection mentors Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir of The Dream Team (Los Angeles, CA). The result? Arronn graduated with the filmmaking knowhow he needed to write, direct, and produce his own feature film, Into the Haunt, mostly shot at a popular haunted attraction park in Caldwell, Idaho.

 
What led you to Film Connection in the first place?
 
“I started looking into Film Connection when I was just 17 years old and it just seemed like a great program, very unique and very hands-on, and it was just a way of learning that I feel like I could really excel in… For years would just dream and go onto the website and just look at all the different reviews and testimonies and stuff and just really thought it was something I wanted to do.”
 
What happened once you made the call?
 
“It was just a dream come true. So I met with Matthew Johnson [Director of Admissions] over the phone. He gave me the rundown of meeting with Daniel and Bayou, that they would interview me and see if I would be a good fit to take the program [with them], and if I would be accepted. Then, I met with Daniel and Bayou. It was really great…It just seemed that we clicked. So that’s where it all began, and I started working with them.”  
What did Bayou and Daniel ask you during the interview?
 

“They basically asked what I wanted out of this and what my hopes and dreams were. I told them that my goal was just to be a filmmaker. Kind of every aspect from the beginning to the end of making a film, I just wanted to do that and just tell stories, tell my stories that I’ve managed to conjure up in my 25 short years of life. So that was basically it, and I think things just clicked between us. We kind of shared this positive energy and uplifting type of demeanor about us that we just knew it would work between us. And we knew we were going to have fun… (Article on Arronn’s one-on-one training with Film Connection mentor Ron Peterson.)

 

Bayou was very, very intelligent and very good at what she does. She used to teach at New York University and she was very gifted working with the students. Daniel was more of the one-two mentor, [who would concentrate on] the actual program, stuff like that.”

Crew of Into the Haunt: Lee Harvey (grip, Jeff Utter (slate), AJ Duthie (sound) Chris Kulin (sound assist) Ryann Race (AC) Kody Newton (DP)

 
You shot your entire feature film, Into the Haunt, in just 16 days. How’d the shoot go?
 
“Little by little in any horror movie, it starts out, you know, mild and then it just keeps building to this horrific event…[so] I wanted to shoot completely in sequence because, especially in a horror movie, little by little things tend to get worse.
 
Our first day of shooting was at a motel, and everyone was kind of awkward…From the cinematographer to myself, to the sound guy to the grip workers to the actors, nobody really knew each other that well. So we got that out of the way. Then we filmed at the gas station. Then from there we ended up going “into the haunt,” into this haunted attraction. That’s when it really started to get fun, because now we were surrounded by all these giant props and spooky things, and it was just amazing. And it was day three, so we were all getting comfortable with each other and laughing together.”
 
Bayou and Daniel also helped you make a crucial decision in hiring your cinematographer.

 “I met with a [cinematographer] around here, and she works for HP, and she had a lot of very nice equipment and everything, and I was really impressed with her and I met with her in person. We got together and talked about the project, and she said it was something she’d really want to do… then at the very end of it, she wrote her fee, and she said, ‘I’m looking at $100 an hour for this shoot,’ and I about fell over…I told Daniel and he said, ‘That’s insane.’ That’s like Disney production type of dollars.’

 


If I didn’t have [Daniel and Bayou], I would just assume that that was the going rate and that I would just have to have some way to come up with almost $10,000 to pay somebody for 10 days. So yeah, without them to let me know that that’s not a good route to take, I don’t know where…We probably wouldn’t even have been able to make the film. So that was just a huge blessing…

 
It was amazing to go about this process with them in my back pocket, and any issues I ran into I would call them about and they would help me out. I mean, what else do you need, really, than that kind of mentorship? It was pretty phenomenal.”

 

Where are you at now with Into the Haunt?

Actors Olivia Abormeit and David Riley rehearse a physical scene.

“We’re in the editing process as we speak. I’m working with an editor. I’ll go over there to check on it and we’ll do some things together…He’s sending me the finished work that he’s getting done for the rough cut, and we’re going from there.”

 

What’s your advice for Film Connection students on how they can make the most of the program?

 

“Don’t be afraid to be unique and don’t be afraid to just go after it…I haven’t worried one thing about this production. I haven’t worried once about it and I’m not going to start now. Even though it came within about a week and a half of our first day of shooting and I didn’t have a cinematographer and I didn’t have a camera, I was like, I’m not worried…With the guidance of the great mentors that Film Connection provides, and the right drive and determination and faith in yourself, you cannot go wrong with the results.”

 

Learn more about Film Connection’s programs and workshops in film.
 
 


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Recording Connection mentor Seva Ball
on His Path into Audio & Who He Hires

  

Recording Connection mentor Seva Ball

Recording Connection mentor Seva Louis Ball (Knoxville, TN) has merged his love for technology and invention every day of a career spanning more than three decades and which also includes teaching audio in college. Seva has recorded, mixed, and mastered with artists across the musical spectrum from Dolly Parton to Metallica, David Bowie to Corrosion of Conformity. He’s also been entrusted with manning the transfer of analog to digital records for the Grammy™ funded archives of David Lewiston, now housed at the Library of Congress, as well as the father of the synthesizer, Bob Moog’s personal analog tapes, housed at Cornell University.   As chief engineer for Sequoyah Studios, Seva produces, records, mixes, and masters audio for media and music of all genres, including forensic audio. Other experience includes his prior work with Waves Audio (which won a Technical Grammy in 2011) since the popular plugins’ inception back in 1992.   We recently connected with Seva Ball to learn more about his journey into audio and to find out what he looks for in the students he trains, and especially, the ones he decides to hire.   What led you into audio in the first place?   “I was always fascinated with the stuff… Both of my parents taught in college for 37 years, they were music teachers, but dad was in charge of the music department. He had a very nice Ampex tape recorder. By the time I was 10, he had showed me how to use it so that I could help record recitals that were given by the music students.   By the time I was 12 or so, I remember I took his tape recorder apart and then put it back together and then took it apart again. He came home in the middle of that, and he said, very calm[ly], ‘I hope you know how to put that together.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve already done it.’ He said, ‘I’ll leave you alone.’…   And of course I was learning how to play piano, so music was part of what I was doing. And the music department had, of course, a music library with lots of records and maybe 20 places with turntables and headphones. You could sit down and listen to music for your music assignment.   I had a library card for the music library and the main library. So I was very much into everything, and I started listening to records and I discovered electronic music. A lot of young people think that means electronica or EDM. And at that time, it was more like the abstract electronic music. It was academic, it was coming out of Columbia University and Princeton and Paris and London, and it was seen as a very, very new form of expression, just like abstract art was after World War II. There was just an explosion of abstract art and an explosion of very new, difficult, dissonant music, including electronic music that was recordings of samples on tapes, spliced and reversed and mixed and slowed down and so forth. And I just thought that was the neatest possible thing. So I’m sure I was one terrible kid. I’m quite sure.   So I started making my own electronic music when I was 12 with tape recorders, and I built a Theremin and I built filters and my own patch bay.”   You then went to Belmont College (now named Belmont University) with several other future audio greats including Chuck Ainlay, Bil VornDick, David Cherry, and Kerry Kopp. What can you tell us about that learning experience?   “We were taught very early by the great guys in Nashville. Bob Johnson, who did Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline…We were being taught by the guys who had come up in Nashville from its very beginning. They had the old techniques firmly in their minds, and they truly understood what they were doing. For example, we came to class and the [instructor] got out a microphone and said, ‘All right, we’re going to mic the kick drum. ‘Put it in this place and we’re going to play eight beats, and we’re going to slate it. We’re going to say where the mic is, what mic it is, how far away from the head.’ Then he said, ‘All right, let’s move the mic. Hit it again.’ And we went through 128 different places to put the microphone on the kick drum. And he said, ‘All right, now for the next step.’ And we thought, ‘Oh, goodie. Now we get to play with the board.’ And he said, ‘Go get a different mic.’ And we looked at each other like, ‘Oh my…’   And yeah, that’s what we did. We went through the second mic, the same 128 places. Then he said, ‘Okay, now for the next part,’ and we thought, ‘Good, we get to play with the board.’ He said, ‘Go get a different microphone.’   We got about four positions into the third mic and he stopped and he said, ‘Do you get my point?’ And boy did we get it. Because when he put on the tape and played it, it was like listening to 256 different kick drums, and all we did was put the mic in a different place.”   You also have ample experience teaching audio in the college setting.   “Yes, I was teaching audio engineering for 17 years. I did 10 years at a four year college, the University of Tennessee and seven at a community college, and they overlapped for a while. So, on the calendar it was about 13, but it was actually 17 years’ worth of parking tickets.”   Do you believe one-on-one mentoring is better than learning in a classroom environment?   “Oh, by far. By far. It’s absolutely the best. It’s the best teaching experience I’ve ever had. It gives me the chance to individualize and to accommodate each person’s learning style and to accommodate their interest, and also I can push each of them out of their comfort zone in a different way.   What I couldn’t do in the classroom was accommodate each person. Now I can. So each one of them I teach in a different way because they all have different learning styles. And yeah, Gabby’s working for me in the studio, and we have a record label, and she’s also dealing with all of the rights management licensing, and distribution and all of the craziness and everything.”   What skills and qualities do you want to see in the students you choose to bring on as externs?   “I definitely want to see computer literacy. I want them to be comfortable with a computer. If they say, “I don’t do Windows or I don’t do Mac,” then they’ve got to change that attitude, because the difference between Windows and Mac and Ubuntu is just like rental cars…You’ve got to be ready to learn, you have to be ready to continue to learn. That’s the kind of people that we need in the business, the ones that are really hungry and not afraid of learning on a continuing basis. That’s where the Audio Engineering Society comes in, too, because they have student chapters and anybody that has an AES chapter nearby that they can join, they should do so because then you get to hang out with the old guys and the old girls, too. Because one thing I encourage is women in this business. There’s not very many, and I am so happy that Gabby is there and that she beat the pants off these other guys. And she has gained a lot of confidence because she saw that she could really do it. That’s fantastic.”   Yes, you recently hired two of your former Recording Connection students, Gabby Kilgore being one of them. Could you tell us more about that?   “Gabby, she’s my first assistant engineer and I also hired Ryan Moore. Ryan has this interest in equipment, too. He’s a very good musician and has an interest in old tape machines. And I told him, ‘If you want to learn about this, you guys, I’ll show you.’…And Gabby has the best ears of anybody that’s come in, and Ryan has the most interest in understanding all of the technology of anybody.   And the other students are very strong. Don’t get me wrong. The thing about, I think the thing about Recording Connection is that the students that come to that point have made a big decision. Their parents or whoever have said, ‘Okay, this is worth the money. We’re going to do this.’ So they’re not just people that are trying something out at a community college. They have a very strong idea about what they want to do. And I think it’s very important for the mentors to understand that each of them are going to do it a different way.” *More about Gabby in our Day in the Life of Our Students’ section below!   What’s your advice for longevity in the music industry?   “I think you’ve got to be hungry and you need to push yourself out of the comfort zone to find…Because that’s where the great moments happen…People will ask you to do stuff that you don’t have any idea how to do. But if you are good at researching stuff, then you can figure it out. I’m always amazed every day how I use the very same tools in completely different ways. It’s crazy. It’s hard to imagine. I tell people now it’s like having like snap on tools, the stuff that mechanics use. It’s like having an entire truck full of snap on tools parked in your front yard, but you only need three tools to fix it. So don’t get 50.”   Learn more about Recording Connection.    
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Recording Connection graduate Gabby Kilgore communicated her wants to her mentor Seva Ball. Then, she got busy learning and proving her value on the job. When the time came, Seva hired her on as his first assistant engineer and more!   ”I truly believe what led to my hire was the goal that I told Seva before I started the program. When asked what I hoped to accomplish after completing the course, I said that I wanted to start my own publishing company, and really get into branding and promotion of new talent. Now, Sequoyah Studios has signed some of our own artists which we help with promotion, social media, and branding along with the recording, mixing, and mastering…   Seva has been the best mentor I could ask for! While working with him, you really never stop learning. Everything is a lesson. I have been able to learn hands-on in sessions, tasks of my very own, and on projects. Seva really listened to what I wanted to do with this experience and made it part of my work at Sequoyah Studios!”         Film Connection graduate Giovanna Caruso Congrats to Film Connection grad Giovanna Caruso for winning an Accolade Global Film Competition Award for her short film “A Life Worth Living” which deals with the emotional struggles of a terrible loss, and the different ways people face grief. Speaking of the accomplishment, Giovanna says:   “I am honored to have received this award in such an early stage of my career. Making this short film was one of the best and most terrifying experiences of my life. When I first moved to this country, I wasn’t able to speak English and I used movies as a tool to learn this wonderful language. Seven years later , I have written a script and produced it alongside the amazing Rocco Michaluk [her former Film Connection mentor].”       
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Spotlight On… Joe Cilento, Academic Facilitator, RRFC.

Academic Facilitator Joe Cilento, RRFC.

  So Joseph, you went to the prestigious music school Berklee. What led you there and what can you tell us about that experience?   “My parents always had music playing throughout our house. It wasn’t just one genre, it was jazz, R&B, rock and before I knew it, I was able to fake playing guitar like Jimi Hendrix and lip-sync to Luther Vandross songs. As I got a little older, I realized that my dad had been playing guitar since he was 14 years old. He really was the first ‘rock star’ I knew. Watching him play (and how cool my friends thought that was) is what led me to ask for guitar lessons- I wanted to be like him and fit in with my older friends who played in a band.   The turning point for me was when I realized music started consuming all my thoughts- I couldn’t sit in class without singing songs I heard that day in my head! That led to me to pursue my guitar lessons more heavily and by the time I was in high school, I knew what I wanted to do with my life…   With that in mind, I applied to a lot of prestigious music schools including Berklee and most rejected me! In fact, I was even deferred from Berklee and wasn’t able to start in the fall like everyone else. That delay hurt at first but I realized that my hunger for it only grew and that confirmed my desire to pursue a higher education in music.   I showed up to school the first day thinking I’d be a jazz guitarist until the day I died, but being in a place that allowed me to explore made me interested in many different genres and aspects of music. I eventually found myself studying Music Production & Engineering as well as Film Scoring. This dual major path connected right back to my childhood of being exposed to so many styles of music. I barely knew how to plug-in a mic when I started but I kept digging and following those who were more experienced than me. Soon, I had some decent work under by belt. My time at Berklee was filled with work, self-doubt, laughter and a whole lot of self-discovery. Berklee prepared me for a lot but I quickly realized that there was a whole lot more beyond those school walls!”   What do you wish more people realized about our programs or offerings?   “I think a lot of people realize how great an opportunity the Recording Connection is but I think they are missing out on a few crucial points. The students in the program get unprecedented access to studios and engineers that many of my peers (and myself) would’ve died for even after graduating with a dual degree and 5+ years of experience! The history of the industry is brimming with stories of young engineer-hopefuls that began sweeping the floor at local studios just to show the head engineers that they were dedicated enough to stick around.   The students in the Recording Connection get immediate access to professional working studios with engineers who have decades of experience and best of all- the studio doesn’t view them as an intern but as a fellow contributor to the flow of the studio. The Recording Connection really puts the opportunities right in front of each student and it’s up to them to seize them!”   What advice do you have for anyone wanting to work in audio or music?   “I really did begin my career in audio barely knowing how to get a sound in a mic coming out of a speaker. I knew I wanted to learn it and humbled myself before those who had more experience than I did. I took my education seriously and showed up every day saying, ‘I may not know this but I promise you that I will work hard.’ This industry is HUGE and has DEEP roots with careers spanning decades. Every day there is something new to learn and someone new to learn from. The minute you start to put yourself before others in your own mind is when you start taking steps in the wrong direction.”   
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