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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER June 5, 2017 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


Thriving over autism: RRFC student Dylan Rothbein graduates Recording AND Film Connection, releases debut short film!

Shot from Mirror Indifference

Shot from Mirror Indifference

Talking with recent Film Connection grad Dylan Rothbein of Brooklyn, NY, not only is it evident he is something of a creative auteur, but it’s also evident he has some stories to tell. Catching up with him in person on the final day of his studies with Film Connection mentor Zef Cota of Alphabet City Films in New York, he was just putting the final touches on his debut short film Mirror Indifference, which he wrote and directed and for which he provided the original music!   Dylan describes his film as a satirical piece exposing some of the corruption he’s witnessed within the disability rights movement. It’s a topic close to his heart. As someone who lives with autism (he specifically identifies as Asperger’s), he has firsthand experience with several residential treatment centers and considers himself an activist for disability rights.   “A lot of the people who are in these settings can’t speak for themselves,” Dylan explains, “either because the severity of impairment is too great for them to do that, or they’re not in a position to. So I figured this would help give a voice to those people.”   To give context for his recent success, it’s worth mentioning this isn’t Dylan’s first experience with RRFC. A few years ago, he went through the Recording Connection program for audio engineering, which he explains was a natural progression from a passion for music he developed in his early teens.   “When I was 12 years old,” he says, “I was what’s called selectively mute…selectively I was not speaking. It’s considered to be a psychiatric disability. During that time, someone played me [the rock opera] Tommy. I became obsessed with rock and roll. Three months later, I wanted to start playing guitar. A couple years later, I started writing songs, and then when I was 14, 15, I went through therapy so I could speak…I got into all different types of rock and roll, folk music, blues, and all these things. That led to an interest in recording.”   After high school, Dylan says he tried college but soon found it wasn’t for him. “Through no fault of my own, the nature of the impairments…made it such where I was unable to complete college,” he says. “When college didn’t work out, I had to find a program for myself…I found Recording Connection, and I called them up and said, ‘This is what my needs are,’…I would have to say that Film Connection and Recording Connection, out of all the programs that I’ve been to, they’ve been the most accommodating by far.”   During his time in Recording Connection, Dylan’s interest in film was sparked when he inquired about getting his music placed in an indie film project called Keep the Change. “They ended up casting me as an actor, and I performed one of the songs I wrote in the film,” he says.   Dylan had an interest in writing stories, but because he was severely dyslexic, writing a book seemed impractical. Filmmaking offered an excellent alternative to tell stories visually, so after checking out several film schools, he returned to RRFC and enrolled as a Film Connection apprentice. His mentor, Zef Cota, who was also present for this interview, picks up the thread:   “I didn’t know much about autism until I met Dylan,” says Zef. “I wanted to make sure that I was the right fit…because I’m not a guy that always sugarcoats things. So our first meeting together, we kind of put that on the table…I think we had a good rapport right away, and I saw that he was very driven and very passionate about kind of telling stories about this cause that he wants to raise awareness to and his own life’s story, which is pretty interesting…I saw that he was very serious about doing things.   Dylan doesn’t let obstacles stop him from accomplishing what he wants to achieve,” Zef adds. “That’s something that resonated deeply with me and something that I respect, quite frankly. So then it kind of fostered that collaboration of me wanting to help him even with a short.”   The resulting short, Mirror Indifference, became the focal point of Dylan’s training; Zef not only used the project as an opportunity to show him the ropes, but he also took an active role in producing the film. Meanwhile, Dylan shows no signs of stopping; he’s since written a script for his first feature, an autobiographical film based on his experiences. Due to his dyslexia, Dylan says he wrote the 100-page script by dictating it to a scribe.   “I figured out that the most marketable story I had was my own,” he says, “and there’s a market for the story I have to tell.”   Dylan is putting his original soundtrack for Mirror Indifference up for sale online, and plans to use proceeds from those sales to help fund the feature. In addition, his mentor, Zef, helped Dylan procure a producer to help with the next steps in getting his feature made!   “He’s in really good hands [with this producer],” says Zef. “I want him to be independent enough to hit the ground running, and then I want to basically be in the loop of all these wonderful things that are going to be created.”   Now embarking on the next stage of his creative journey, Dylan sees his time with Zef and the Film Connection as very formative for his future work.   “It’s not just film,” he says. “I’m more critical of my own work than I used to be. Because I realize a lot of principles, especially around writing…I’m now taking more time rewriting the songs that I’ve written and redrafting that…Also as a filmmaker, from a production standpoint, I learned a lot about production, about storytelling…I think I’m a better quality artist and a better musician because I was here, as well.”   
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RRFC INTERVIEW: Recording Connection mentor Don Heru talks about the art of producing and working with artists

Recording Connection mentor Don Heru is a busy producer/engineer who works in several of the top recording studios in New York City, working with artists like Trinidad James, Mack Wilds, and more recently a track called “Monkey Suit” with Miami artist Bruno Mali featuring Rick Ross.   When we caught up with Don recently for an interview, he weighed in with some helpful perspectives on producing and working with artists, as well as advice for apprentices. Enjoy!  
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  RRFC: So tell us about your journey into music. What got you interested in this industry?   Don Heru: I come from a very creative background, my parents are musicians. My father in particular is a multi-instrumentalist, self-taught, and my mother was a singer and also a dancer. That’s actually how they met. So I was always around a lot of creative people growing up, and through the years I transitioned to different forms of artistic expression. I used to paint, I tried to dance at one point and I even tried to sing…I [eventually decided [on] music because music has always been a part of my life.   RRFC: So what is it about the craft of producing that really speaks to you, that sort of feeds you? Are you more of a tech guy? Are you into working with the artists?   Don: I would say using my technical expertise to bring out the creativity of a project, I think that’s what’s dope about it. Because at the end of the day I think what speaks to people is how they feel. I can listen to a song that’s in another language, feel the expression and the passion that the artist had without fully understanding their words. I think that’s the goal of music, to really bring that energy out in whatever song, make every song feel like a record where the emotion and words and production and everything is just glued together that just kind of sticks with you…The technical aspect is important, but the I think the creativity and the feel of it is more important.   RRFC: Working with artists, can you give us a few insights that you’ve gained over the years about how to get a good performance out of them, how to communicate with them?   Don: You have to pay very close attention to body language…Just try to get an understanding of what kinds of things they might be interested in. I think it’s really good to do your homework, like literally read up on the artist, if you have the opportunity to find out who you’re going to be working with before the session. But I would say just really be very attentive to what it is that they want, and that sometimes it’s not so much what they say, it’s what they respond to. When you’re doing some type of edits, mix tweaks or something like that, and sometimes if there’s one second where they might stutter with a bop or they’re like, “Hmm,” or they have an unsure look on their face. That might be when you could ask, “Hey, what do you think this needs?” or something along those lines. Ask questions…but then use your intuition as well, because sometimes it calls for you to actually bring something out that they might not have heard.   RRFC: Do you see the role of a music producer as sort of a guardian or conduit for the project? How would you describe it?   Don: I say a music producer is a liaison between the artist and the audience. They’re the glue that kind of brings things together, because obviously they want the artist to be pleased, but at the end of the day they’re also thinking about the audience. Sometimes even though you are the producer and you’re part of a project, you could also be the audience. You could also look at it in the way of, “If I wasn’t working on this song, what would I want to hear? How does this make me feel or how would I want it to make me feel?” So your job is to be kind of the middle man.   RRFC: Can you tell us a bit about your mentoring style? How do you approach a new student when we send one to you?   Don: I introduce myself, I make them feel comfortable, I ask them questions: what makes them want to be a part of this program, how long they’ve been doing music, what they love about music, just so I get a feel of their preference and style…I learn as much about them so I can actually teach them the way that I think they absorb information. So once I bring my apprentice into the studio with me I make sure I introduce him or her to the artist and everybody else that’s in the room. I have them close to me while I’m while I’m working. I ask them questions and I’ll actually make them be a part of the process. [However,] I do try to stress to my apprentice…to be a part of it without getting in the way of the session. If I can’t explain it at the moment I’ll tell them, “Ask me when I’m finished tracking or after the session,” or sometimes even write it down. That way I can give them the full attention that’s needed without taking away from the creative process in the studio.   RRFC: Speaking of students in the studio, what advice can you give about proper studio etiquette? How can an apprentice be valuable in a session without getting in the way?   Don: I want them to have a very open, inviting spirit in the studio, because it’s a vibe thing. When you get in the room and people are working, it’s a very intimate thing and they’re trusting you to make whatever vision they have come to life. So it’s always important for you to facilitate whatever it is they need to let their ideas and creative juices flow and to have an amazing session. And be hospitable…Just make sure that the artist is comfortable at all times…You have to actually set a vibe that kind of sets yourself in a place apart from where else they could go. So the little things count.   RRFC: What is it about the Recording Connection’s particular approach that you find the most valuable?   Don: What I find valuable is the fact that you guys allow the learning environment to be where the creating is happening…When you’re in a lecture room and somebody’s telling you about the basics of recording techniques, it’s not the same as when you actually see it happening and are physically doing it. It’s important to get that real world experience, and not just on a technical aspect, on a creative aspect. When you’re in the room while something is happening, you actually learn things along the way…At the end of the day this is music. So it’s important to get that understanding and be able to give that kind of guidance.   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Film Connection grad Andre Larc (Los Angeles, CA), who formerly apprenticed with Dream Team Directors Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett, got hired as an Assistant Editor for a show in NYC. Mum’s the word on the project but he’ll be in the Big Apple until September. Have fun Andre! #WorkIt    Congrats to Recording Connection student Kemal Erdem aka AXENZO (San Diego, CA) on DJing at Coachella! The ever-humble Kemal says, “I absolutely love the vibe, crowd and the energy at Coachella. People were extremely friendly. I definitely would love to go back and share good vibes and good music…I played a little bit of deep house, a little bit of trap…I just read the crowd and I play what the crowd feels like.”  
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