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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER May 23, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


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

Wes Hagy finds his groove and gets to work

Recording Connection grad Wes Hagy

Recording Connection grad Wes Hagy

Recording Connection grad Wes Hagy is a busy guy these days. Recently hired as a tracking engineer by his mentor Ira Parker at Maximus Music in Charlotte, NC, he’s making the most of the opportunity to expand his working knowledge of audio engineering.   “I just want to try and master the tracking/engineering situation at Maximus as much as possible,” he says, “just get as much experience as I can, with working with artists, working with that equipment, just getting the feel for that environment, and that would give me a little bit better idea of what I’m going to want to do specifically on a day to day basis in the music industry for the rest of my life.”   Wes’ personal journey into a music career is an intriguing combination of trial-and-error and self-discovery. Having a naturally analytical mind (“math head,” as he calls it), it seemed apparent he was meant for some sort of engineering, but finding his passion in it was another story.   “I was pretty good at math, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” he says, “so I went for Mechanical Engineering at NC State. Did a couple internships there, and just couldn’t really find the passion associated with it that I was looking for, but I knew that I really had the engineering mind.”   Disillusioned, Wes dropped out of college for a couple of years, to the chagrin of his parents. “My parents were telling me, ‘You’ve got to do something. You’ve got to legitimize something. You got to go to school. You need to figure out another place you want to go,’” says Wes. “Because to my parents, how they grew up, that’s the way it works. You go to grade school until you’re 18, and then you go to college, or you go to trade school, or you go to some sort of school. That’s the way there were taught, and, necessarily, the way that I work doesn’t really have to be that way. I was trying to make sure exactly what I wanted to do and the exact education that I wanted to get before I just jumped into another school.”   All the while, a different passion began to stir inside Wes’ soul—namely, a love for music that had first begun when taking piano lessons as a kid. “After about two years, [I] met up with a buddy of mine who had been making music, really, since he was about…honestly, ever since I can remember,” he says. “He used to sing or rap for everyone [with] his Apple Mac computer, like those ones that were like the station that had the microphone on the back of it. We got together and just started talking about the things and what we wanted to do as far as music goes, and it just really intrigued me.”   That rekindled passion eventually led to Wes taking up music again, along with an interest in shifting from mechanical engineering to audio engineering. But he knew he didn’t want to go back to school in the traditional sense.   “My mom and I were doing a lot of research looking for a place where I could get hands-on,” he says. “I had been in so many schools and learned from someone just talking at me in a classroom. I was like, ‘If I don’t get in a place where I can actually work hands-on and see how a real studio operates, then I don’t think I’ll ever get the balls to actually start it by myself.’”   That’s when Wes says his mom discovered the Recording Connection. “I talked to a couple of admissions counselors,” he says. “I was actually amazed at how interested they really were in what I wanted to do, and really the direction I was trying to take my life, and they were very helpful every time I called back. It was just impressive to me, and it was worth the money and the time for me to see what the Recording Connection was like, because I’d never heard of anything, really, else like that before.”  
Control Room A in Maximus Music

Control Room A in Maximus Music

From his first meeting with his mentor, Ira Parker, Wes says they hit it off. “He was a very welcoming guy. I didn’t feel intimidated or anything like that. I just really felt welcomed and at ease…After the interview, for the most part, every time I gave him a call, every time I texted him, or really, if there was an opportunity for me to come in, he would let me know…It seemed like he really took a liking to me, and it seems like we may have a little bit of future working together.”   Eager to learn, Wes immersed himself in the process, coming to the studio as often as he could, helping out with organizing and asking questions from his homework during the early part of the week, and sitting in on sessions over the weekends. As he learned the ropes and made himself useful, his passion paid off when Ira hired him as a tracking engineer. These days, even as a paid member of the staff, Wes considers himself in learning mode.   “Some of my favorite interactions with [Ira] are when I get to actually watch him create,” Wes says about this mentor, “when he’s not really in that box mode, but when he’s getting to work with artists, and he gets to do some productions. It’s probably one of my favorite things…And in my head, I’ll have questions, just nonstop questions that I wish I could be like ‘Ira, stop. I need to ask you this right now,’ but you can’t always do that, especially if there’s an artist in the area…[so] I’ll write stuff down, and then we’ll have little interim conversations whenever he gets time…I learn by observing and then doing. I watch him, I watch him in his mode. I watch how he works, and then really just hone in on the key questions I want to get answered.”   In addition to his work at Maximus Music, Wes says he’s collaborating on some tracks with his buddy Justin Allie (the music friend mentioned above), and the two are working on some long-term goals, as well. “The 5-10 year goal is really to have a writing and production company,” he says. “My buddy Justin, he’s into writing lyrics, writing hooks. We call him ‘Captain Hooks’ because he can pull a hook out of his you-know-what in less than a minute and a half. But either way, he’s really good at writing, and I love to produce and create beats…really, that’s the way that I feel like it can get money to start with, to fund the ultimate goal.”   So how does someone transition from a technical career like mechanical engineering to a creative career like audio engineering? While some people see the technical and creative sides as two worlds in conflict, Wes sees them as collaborators, and as an engineer, he actually views his technical skills as a way to give creativity a voice.   “It’s really kind of like you’re this to the point where you’re either one [or] the other, and you see some people that have both,” he says. “But it doesn’t always work that way…I feel like I have that, to the point where I can communicate between the people that have people skills and the creative artists. That’s why my seat as an engineer and my seat as a producer is that much more important, because that artist is going to want to try and communicate to me the message they want to get across, [and] I also need to interpret that message and help them present it in a fashion that these people who don’t understand creativity…can understand it, and feel the music the way that artist intended. Otherwise, that artist could be hidden and not really heard at all…I believe creativity has to start with structure.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Nikita Sackson Recording Connection apprentice Nikita Sackson (Los Angeles, CA) is getting a lot out of his apprenticeship at Studio 1 Zero. “So far, so great!” says Nikita. “Zach (Perry) is an extremely experienced tutor. I’m humbled to work with such a genius producer and have an ability to go through each question step by step and get full insight on top notch production/mixing. I got an opportunity to meet other producers and musicians through this program too! Eric and Josh are great and always helped me out with anything I ever asked. Studio 1Zero is like home to me now!”    mary-anne-on-set Production still taken by Film Connection student Mary Anne Zamora (Charlotte, NC) during the making of People Trap, a dark psychological thriller, co-starring Film Connection student Gage Mullen. Mentor Wes Cobb of West Art Video is on camera.   
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NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Film Connection mentor Deen Olantuji
on having the passion, learning on the job
and playing to one’s strengths

   Within moments of talking to Film Connection mentor Deen Olantuji, his passion for film becomes both obvious and infectious. As the owner of Rehoboth Pictures in Arlington, TX, Deen does everything from documentaries and narrative shorts to commercials and live footage for his clients. Deen is also quite passionate about nurturing the next generation of filmmakers, and as you’ll see in his remarks below, he has a unique approach to teaching his apprentices by not only helping them with their own projects, but also by generating student-led projects where they collaborate together. In our recent conversation with Deen, he offered lots of key insights into his process, as well as helpful advice on adding “soft skills” to your technical skills. We’ve mined some of the best nuggets for you below.  
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Film Connection mentor Deen Olantuji

Film Connection mentor Deen Olantuji

“My journey to film basically started because I used to act before. That’s what really started me off. As a young lad, I always loved video capturing. As a kid, I had a camera. I used to save a lot of videos of people. My dad did not like that at all, coming from a background—I’m originally from Nigeria, and you can come up with the perspective that anything you have to do, you either have to be a medical doctor or you have to be a lawyer…But going to England then coming to the United States, I got the opportunity to meet a lot of acting groups and studied acting. Then after a time, I realized there was more work, and that you had more to do and more to impact, by being on the back end. And that’s how my filmmaking thing started back then…I’m all about telling a story that has never been told before…I’ve seen so many things from different perspectives, so I felt that filmmaking was the way for me to tell the world how I see things and also a way to impact people in the way I felt was getting them from point A to a point B, and also telling my own story and other people’s stories that have not been told.”   ON HIS PERSONAL PASSION FOR FILM, AND HOW HE CONVEYS IT TO HIS STUDENTS:   “I always introduce myself as a filmmaker by passion not by profession, and I always let them know that as much as this something for me beyond any other things, this is what I love to do. I always let them know that if you wake me up anytime in the morning even at night, anytime of the day, if you want to talk about anything in this world, it’s going to be about filmmaking. I love it. I breathe this. I use it all the time. So when I’m interviewing [students], my expectation is not to meet my standards, but to require them to be passionate about what they do…I’m passionate about this, and what makes me get along with people is that the fact they have the same passion for it. So that should be my connecting point…It’s not something you do because you have to have a job. The job will come, but the first thing you need to do is love what you do. That’s the bridge.”   HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT ON-THE-JOB TRAINING IN FILM:   “I have a master’s degree, an MBA in Information Security. Now, education is great. What I tell [students] is this program is awesome because it teaches you—there’s some things that you learn from school, and [things] you can’t [learn] in school. A program that teaches you in the field is the best thing you could ever do, because now you are learning hands-on. It’s like teaching you from the end, moving backwards, because now everything that you’re learning, right away you have to use it. It’s almost like you’re learning on the fly. That’s the fastest way to remember. It’s cost-effective, it’s good, you learn a lot, you learn from the best, you learn from the field. And most importantly, you don’t have excessive student loans.”   ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BLENDING BUSINESS AND PEOPLE SKILLS WITH THE TECHNICAL SIDE:   “You need to not only have the technical skills, you also need to understand the soft skills. When you put both of them together, that’s what sets you apart…Don’t just be a technical person. You also have to understand how to translate your skill set and make it useful to your environment. That’s how you generate money, that’s how you can become successful, and that’s one of the things that [my students] also need to learn. So I think by the privilege of me being a business person as well…we are constantly talking about the business side, this is how you promote it. You’re not just holding cameras, it’s how that camera connects and translates into something productive and gives you a sort of leverage.”   ON HOW HE HELPS HIS STUDENTS PLAY TO THEIR STRENGTHS:  
Ananth Agastya (student), Joslyn Greenard (student) and Big Obi (client) on a recent shoot

Ananth Agastya (student), Joslyn Greenard (student) and Big Obi (client) on a recent shoot

“I tell [my students], ‘Give me your goal, what you want to be, so I can help you get there…we are going to work with that goal. We are going to create milestones to make sure you are on the track to get there.’ Joslyn is more into animation. Ramiro likes more drama. He’s really intrigued by that, and Ramiro brings a lot of culture into what he does, just like me. Brian he’s an analyst, he analyzes movies a lot. I’ve been motivating him to start his own blog, coming up with his own movie critique, start his own YouTube channel, things that are going to make him successful…Pretty much motivating them based on their own skill set, motivating them on their own goals and motivating them so that they are the ones driving themselves, not me. If I drive them based on what I understand, then I’m driving them wrongly. So everybody, even though we are seeing where they’re all walking individually towards their individual goal, and once they come up with their goals, we all go in there help them achieve their goals. So that’s how we work.”   ON HOW HE ENABLES STUDENTS TO COLLABORATE WHILE WORKING ON THEIR OWN PROJECTS:   “Right now, we are working on a short film. It’s called The Alarm Clock. It’s all student-driven. I’m doing directing but they are co-directing with me. It’s a collaborative effort. We are all going to edit it together. We are all going to do the producing together. It’s low-budget, but it’s one of their first movies they can put on their belt…[Also], one of the things I have realized amongst all the students, because we talk a lot…Most of them come from a background where we parents, or we leaders, or we people who are the head of [other] people, always discard people’s dreams…So based on that fact, because it was a common thing amongst all of them, I’ve tasked the students: ‘We need to come up with a script based on following your passion.’ We called it The Director. It’s something that’s also coming up. We’ve written a script, and it’s 100% student-driven, and it’s their own stories.”   
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