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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER June 27, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ

‘What is a Grind Opp?,’ you ask? It is a job opportunity. A help wanted ad.

Into the Fire: Recording Connection student Justin Smith fine-tunes his skills behind the board!

Justin Smith When Justin Smith first began his Recording Connection apprenticeship with music industry veteran Larry Goetz at The Lair Studio in Los Angeles, CA—a top-shelf studio serving clients like Katy Perry and Ariana Grande—little could he have known that within a few weeks, his mentor would already be putting him behind the board to run sessions!   “Larry said he was going to throw me into the fire,” says Justin. “He heard that I have my master certification in Pro Tools, so he’s like, ‘If you can run Pro Tools, I need…’ – His assistant was sick, and he called me in and he was like, ‘Hey, can you run a session for like three to four hours?’…We just recorded a lot of different takes and then we went in afterwards and did a lot of vocal comps.”   Justin says his journey into music actually began with some key advice from his uncle, whom he admired greatly. “He just kind of inspired me,” says Justin, and he said, ‘Do what you love. What do you love to do? What do you love to do and what can you make practical and make a career out of?’”…I love music. That’s the only thing that stayed consistent in my life. All the different phases of sports and jobs and kind of figuring out what I wanted to do, music has always been consistent and I’ve always had a love for it…So I was like, ‘I want to go into recording. I want to record.’   Justin began taking courses, got his Pro Tools certification, and even made a move to Los Angeles, but still found himself without any real connections. “I thought that was really going to open doors for me, and it really didn’t,” he says. “After a year in Los Angeles, that’s when I found the Recording Connection. I was just here making music in my room, making music with a buddy that I had, and I was just trying to find a connection…Instead of going through the bar scene and jumping around trying to meet people in Los Angeles, you know, people who say they can do this, it’s like, ‘I’d rather get my foot in the door with a real studio.’   Besides his recent opportunity to track a session on his own, Justin says his mentor is taking his prior training into account and tailoring the curriculum to where he’s at.   “I really enjoy mixing,” says Justin. “I like creating my own music. I make my own beats through [Native Instruments] MASCHINE. And he has MASCHINES, too…He has me tracking, setting up mics and drum sets. We’re doing all kinds of stuff, but he’s really tailoring it to what I want to learn.”   Justin also says working at The Lair Studio with his mentor is helping him fine-tune his mixing skills by giving him context. “In Pro Tools, I know how to use compressors, but I didn’t know the history of compressors,” he says. “I didn’t know why they’re using them…I knew the theory of what it did, but the why, it’s kind of helping me in practical situations of why they use these things then. Instead of just, ‘Oh, you’re putting compression on a vocal to bring it…No, this is why we use it. We don’t always need it.’ It’s helping me to see more practical situations for all of the things that I’m learning about.”   Now gaining the real-world experience and connections he was lacking before, Justin is well on his way to a solid career. “In five years I would love to be producing,” he says. “My niche is hip-hop, so I would love to be producing somewhere in hip-hop…I’m inspired by people like Chris Lord-Alge, Tony Maserati, big mixing guys. So that’s kind of where I want my career to be.”   Having now gotten some studio experience under his belt, does Justin have any advice for other apprentices?   “The more you eager you are to soak up knowledge and step back and take a second to learn, the more your mentor’s going to be willing to want to teach you,” he says. “My mentor says there’s a lot of people that come in and they think they kind of already know what they want to do, and they just want him to help them make their stuff sound better without going through the things that they need to know…What a mentor is looking for [is] someone who really wants to learn and has the respect that they have a long ways to go, but they’re willing to take that process.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students


Trinidad James and RC grad Morning Estrada

When rapper Trinidad James told Recording Connection mentor, Donny Baker at ES Audio (Glendale, CA) that he was looking for an engineer who could come on the road with him, he didn’t waste a moment at getting his former apprentice Morning Estrada in the mix. The two hit if off instantly. It’s done wonders for Morning’s career. Donny says, “Now any time Trinidad goes anywhere, he brings Morning with him…He is killing the game now, driving a nice car, lives in the hills, he’s doing well. Eminem flies him out to Detroit to work at his studio… He’s doing really well.”    cassie-fisher-1 Recording Connection student Cassie Fisher, is diving in with both feet at Salmon Peak Recording (San Antonio, TX). A high school jazz band came in to record and Cassie got to help mic up the huge ensemble, including a horn section of six, a bass, two electric guitars, bongos, a drum kit, and a vocalist. “Afterwards,” Cassie says, “I got to see the mixing and editing part of it as well. We also did some overdubbing on the bass player, as well. I couldn’t believe all the different things you can do with a little technology in Pro Tools and Melodyne.” On a subsequent lesson, Cassie had a friend come in and sing while she did some mixing and editing hands-on! Not bad for being just weeks into the program!   
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Movies that Matter: Mentor/film producer Sharon Tomlinson takes on a script by a Film Connection grad!

sharon When we caught up recently with film producer and Film Connection mentor Sharon Tomlinson of Atlanta-based Studio 11 Films, she was preparing to fly to Nigeria for the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), as her recent film Skinned was nominated for Best Film by an African Living Abroad. The film addresses the widespread but little-discussed phenomenon of skin bleaching, practiced by women all over the world.   “It’s a worldwide epidemic,” says Sharon. “Eighty-five percent of the women in Nigeria have bleached their skin. But across the world, from Asia, to India, to—it’s just really an epidemic, and it comes from just what they think society expects.”   Sharon says the initial idea of the film came from her producing partners, who hail from Liberia where skin bleaching is prevalent. “Our goal for Studio 11 Films are always to make movies that matter,” she says. “And so I wanted to do something that was a subject matter that wasn’t talked about. And when I started talking about [it], we started really finding there are a lot of people from a social standpoint that had problems with it, had problems growing up with their skin color and being teased, and just what society puts upon different people, so I wanted to write more about it in terms of just bringing awareness.”   Sharon’s background in industry marketing definitely feeds into her passion to produce quality films (she worked for years at Universal Music and Video Distribution before starting Studio 11 Films), and she has found a happy medium between the creative and the business sides of film. “I have 25 years in marketing,” she says, “and so as a producer, I’m always thinking of the marketability of the product, as well. Because it’s one thing to have passion for a project, but it’s another thing to market it.”  
Victor Cobb

Victor Cobb

Interestingly enough, Sharon initially became interested in being a Film Connection mentor through contact with one of our graduates, Victor Cobb.   “I’m a strong believer in education,” she says, “and so I’m always in teaching mode…When I met Victor, he told me about Film Connection. He said, I’m going to recommend you.’ I was like, ‘Wow, this is something I think that I could really do and be of service to.’”   Since then, Sharon has lost no time in training up Film Connection apprentices. One of her current standouts, she says, is Caroline Beyermann. “Caroline is amazing,” she says. “I see a lot of myself in her and her passion for wanting to always do more and do better, and ask questions, and so we have just made this amazing connection between the two of us. And she’s somebody that I’m like, ‘Listen, I want you on my team long-term. Whatever you decide to do, I will definitely have her onboard any project that I’m working on.’ I’m going to be shooting a film over the summer, she’s going to be involved in that.”   It gets even better: the film Sharon’s planning to shoot comes from a feature-length script written by none other than Film Connection graduate Victor Cobb—the student who first recommended Sharon as a mentor for the program!   “We’re in contracts right now,” says Sharon. “I started reading the script, I started looking through it. I could not put it down…I downloaded it on my cell phone, and during my son’s football practice, I’m reading the script on my phone…So I called my partner Cameron, and I sent him the script, and I said, ‘I’m not going to tell you anything, I just want you to read it.’ He read it, and we both called each other and he’s like, ‘This is our next film that we’re going to produce.’”  
Producer Sharon Tomlinson interviewed on the red carpet at AMAA

Producer Sharon Tomlinson interviewed on the red carpet at AMAA

Victor’s script, called Misguided Behavior, deals with the topic of bullying—a movie with meaning that falls right into Sharon’s wheelhouse as a producer. “It was so refreshing to get a well written script that moved so good and read so well,” she says. “It has a great message about gun violence, dysfunctional families, bullying—a great story.”   Hand in hand with Sharon’s passion for films with meaning is her passion for mentoring, and she makes a point of getting her students deeply involved in what she does. “I have had some great mentors in my life,” she says. “And that’s why I’m so passionate about being a mentor with you guys, because I get it.”   She also offers key advice to Film Connection students as to how to get the most out of their apprenticeships. “Attach yourself to your mentors,” she says. “I tell the mentees that I mentor to utilize whatever resources that I have, because that’s what mentors are supposed to do. Open those doors and help the program that they’re going through…You guys have an amazing curriculum, it really…even myself as mentor, when I was able to go through the entire curriculum, it gives you a true appreciation for the industry…it makes you become a professional in the business and to know what to look out for, and know how to prepare yourself.”     
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