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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER November 13, 2017 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


Master of the Hustle: Film Connection grad Joe Paciotti gets gigs on The Voice and other big sets!

Joe Paciotti (in striped shirt) with Noah Cappe, host of Carnival Eats

Joe Paciotti (in striped shirt) with Noah Cappe, host of Carnival Eats

“It’s been weird lately,” says Film Connection grad Joe Paciotti of Philadelphia, PA. “Like every time I turn on the TV, I see someone I’ve worked with before. It’s the weirdest feeling.”   It’s a weird feeling most aspiring TV/film professionals would love to experience—but it didn’t get to be that way for Joe overnight. Since completing his apprenticeship with Film Connection mentor Nick Esposito, Joe has become a master of the hustle, working his connections, building his online presence, and taking almost any gig that comes his way.   “Once I graduated, I think my main focus was just basically getting on as many sets as possible,” he says. “When I first [graduated] I was doing a lot of volunteer short films and things like that, just to kind of get out there. And then all the volunteer stuff led to a lot of paid work, and that really helped me continue to build my resume.”   What kind of paid work? Gigs on NBC’s The Voice, for starters…plus opportunities to work on set for World Poker Tour on Fox Sports and various shows for The Food Network. Plus, he says he recently landed a gig with a marketing company serving multi-million dollar corporate clients!   “They’re actually based out of Texas,” he says, “and they basically hire camera ops from every state. I actually started as camera B with them and I pretty quickly worked my way up to the lead camera guy. And they’re working with some pretty big clients, making like $10+ million a year.”   It’s a huge jump for a guy who basically came into his apprenticeship cold and clueless. Joe says working with Nick in a real world setting truly prepared him for what he does now.   “Prior to the program I really had no actual professional experience,” he says. “I had no idea what an AC was or a director. I mean I heard the terms, obviously, but I never truly knew what they do…What I really liked about the program is you’re getting the hands-on training, and a lot of the people I talked to in the film industry, like assistant cameras and people that have been doing it for 30 years, they say they can care less about a degree. It’s all about the experience for them.”   Joe also says learning on-the-job helped him hone in on what he really wanted to do in the industry. “Actually for a while I wanted to be a director,” he says, “but then once I got on set I realized that’s not exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a DP.  Because I [had] always thought the director would be the guy framing up the shots and doing the filming, but then I later realized the director is more directing the talent rather than the actual camerawork.”   So how does Joe get these gigs? For him, it’s a combination of networking and saying yes to as many opportunities as possible, sometimes regardless of the pay—because all of it leads to connections.   “Here and there I’ll still do volunteer work, which normally leads to paid work,” he says. “I’m always gaining new connections, and 90% of the time if I do a project, the client normally comes back for more videos…And even if some of these gigs aren’t extremely high paying…it’s still worth it because you’re getting experience.”   Joe also keeps his online and social media presence active, even taking a unique approach. “I’ll do a blog after every shoot,” he says. “I like to do a little promotion stuff to show what I’m doing. I think all that type of stuff helps too, because when people see you on these big gigs, they’re more likely to reach out and want to work with you.”   Even more recently, Joe has taken the next step, from pure freelancer to entrepreneur. He’s set up his own production company, J Pac Productions, and is formulating plans to take things to the next level financially.   “I guess still finding my way in some ways,” he admits. “In other ways, I feel like I’m growing every day. So in terms of my income and getting to where I want to be, I think I’m getting very close year by year. This year alone has been a huge jump for me in terms of the bigger projects and higher paying projects. So I think moving forward, I just hope to continue to increase my rates and eventually get to the point where I can…make well over what your average person would make working a 9-5 job.”   How does he aim to impress his clients? With a combination of confidence and service.   “Always a firm handshake, of course,” he says. “Always [make] a good impression. I try to do the best job that I can, no matter what the budget is. That way I leave a good impression, and it usually leads to more jobs down the line.”
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THE RRFC INTERVIEW: Recording Connection mentor Sheldon Ellerby on the Atlanta hip hop scene, studio etiquette and the old-school engineering approach

   Recording Connection mentor Sheldon Ellerby is a true hip hop/R&B veteran—first cutting his engineering teeth on the pioneering hip hop scene of New York/New Jersey, then migrating to Atlanta, one of hip hop’s most prolific hubs. Over the years, he’s worked with many major artists including Ludacris, Patti Labelle, Anita Baker and many others. These days, he passes his vast knowledge to Recording Connection apprentices out of his Writer’s Room Studio in Atlanta, starting with the basics of analog to make sure they have a good foundation.   In a recent interview with RRFC, Sheldon talked about his early experiences coming up in music and his take on the Atlanta hip hop scene today, offering key advice and insights for Recording Connection students along the way.  
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RRFC: So how did you get started in music? What led you into doing what you do today?   Sheldon Ellerby: I think around the age of nine I fell in love with hip hop music, and it turned me into wanting to be a rapper…During my progression of rapping, I decided to go to little makeshift studios in the neighborhood, and I saw how the process was done in order to create a song, and ever since then it’s just been my passion…I had an older brother who was real big into hip hop, and he actually started buying albums from, let’s say, go back to Boogie Down Productions, Rakim, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and just anything that would be played on New York radio, where a lot of the hip hop radio stations would be playing it…I grew up in New Jersey, which is right next to New York…That just put me in that mindset that this is what I want to do. And after that, I had to understand how the process was done in order to create a record, a song, or a recording…with a 4 track and drum machines, and it was like, ‘Wow, this is how it’s done.’ And then from there, it just never stopped, and I progressed to doing production…I got a little 4 track myself, and then I’m recording in a little makeshift studio that I made in my parents’ basement, and I began engineering. Everybody in the neighborhood started recording at my house, and it just turned into a whirlwind of learning and passion.   RRFC: So did you have that house where everyone wanted to come over and be near the studio?   Sheldon: Yeah… [One time] I’m up at 6:00 in the morning with half of the neighborhood in the basement, and my mom comes downstairs and she said, ‘What is this?’ And it just was like, I was on my way, and like I said, everyone wanted to come over and record, and they saw it, and it was just me buying more equipment, bringing mixing consoles in the house, it was nonstop…I think the passion really pushed me to learn as much as I could, and this was before Internet, so you really had to go in and read and just pretty much brush shoulders with people who were doing it.   RRFC: You’ve actually had the chance to work with some very notable artists. Can you tell us a little about that? What is it like to work with these kinds of artists?   Sheldon: Angie Stone, actually I just finished her new project…That’s recent, maybe a couple months ago. So you should be hearing some stuff from that pretty soon…One person I can say that was really something huge for me was Ms. Anita Baker. I got to meet Anita Baker, and that ties into Ludacris. She did a song with Ludacris, and I had to come in and set her up, and she called in specifically to get certain tools for the recording session, which was a Sony C-800G and some Sony 7506 Pro headphones. So she specifically asked for these things, and I had to run around and grab these things from the rental service, and I got in, got it set up, and when she got there, she said, ‘Oh, fine. You got all my toys.’…And when she went to get on the mic, she said, ‘Could you add 10K to my voice?’ and, ‘Could you give me my reverb?’ and she threw all these things at me, and she was talking to me like an engineer, and I was like, wow…It was like I was talking to an engineer from the other side of the board…It was a real cool experience, a real humbling experience…   I’m just very fortunate and I feel blessed to be able to work with certain artists…I treat people like people, and I think that, at the end of the day, if you do that, you can kind of just work with anyone and just kind of feel them out, and not let it go to your head…If you kind of give them that atmosphere, you start to see people for who they really are behind the fame and all the the songs and stuff.   RRFC: Tell us a little about the hip hop scene there in Atlanta. What’s the scene there like?   Sheldon: For almost 10 years now. Atlanta has dictated the way hip hop has sounded…The one good thing I could say about Atlanta, and that’s me being a northern boy, being up from New Jersey, is, when you get in Atlanta you really see how it has a sense of community, people are open arms and welcoming, just different with new people and new talent. It’s not like you’re subject to closing doors. If you come down here and you’ve got the talent and you can kind of mix in with certain people, people will give you the chance and the opportunity to show what you’ve got.   RRFC: Let’s talk a bit about mentoring? What is your approach to breaking it down for your students?   Sheldon: My approach, is really to give them an understanding on what are the principles of recording—and when I say that, I like to go back to not just the start, but going back to even eras where you had The Beatles, James Brown, and the Motown era. Everybody has the same principles of recording, and we still use those principles to this day. I try to get people to understand that it’s more than just running a program. Anyone can push a couple buttons and say they’re engineers, but if you don’t know how to identify distortion, like  ‘Am I getting a good signal,’ or ‘What mic should I use,’ [and ask] ‘Does this mic complement his vocal tone?’…I like to go all the way back to the basics. And me being from the analog world, I’ve seen…the bridge to the digital world. I still try to incorporate a lot of the analog to this day, with the digital. So that way, you know, you don’t just get stuck in running plugins…That’s really my approach, is really trying to give you a little more of some history on music, and breaking it down to…give you a little more help to understand what we’re doing while we record.   RRFC: Let’s pretend I go to your studio to interview with you. What qualities are you looking for in an apprentice?   Sheldon: The main quality is the passion to learn and really be open-minded to learning. I’ve kind of been in the business for a while; people who have a good deal of arrogance, sometimes you just have to walk away from that. People who have that willingness to learn are usually the ones that I can kind of gel with.   RRFC: Let’s say you bring a student into a studio session with an artist. How should apprentices handle themselves in that sort of situation?   Sheldon: You want to conduct yourself in the most professional possible, make sure you don’t say something that’s going to rub someone the wrong way…[avoid] being star struck…A lot of artists and musicians come into the studio. It’s pretty much a safe haven for them, whereas they don’t want the paparazzi glitzing the questions. They don’t need that when they’re in the studio. They’re coming there for a purpose, so it’s best not to ask those questions that you want to ask, and really focus on the getting the recording done, focus on that process. Your input on recording shouldn’t be overwhelmingly present…I think it’s best to kind of reserve yourself a little, because it’s hard to say if they want your input. Because as fast as you get in that room, it might be even faster getting asked to be put out of the room…You really want to be like a fly on the wall.   RRFC: Any final advice for our apprentices? How can they make the most of their experience in the studio?   Sheldon: The best advice I can give is practice, practice, and more practice. If you learn something, go home right away and utilize it to the fullest. Repetition is what really makes us good at what we do in any profession. So if you take it and practice, and you use it with repetition, I think it will soak in. And also ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

Film Connection students Ryan Davis and Garic Griffin

Film Connection students Ryan Davis and Garic Griffin

Ryan Davis has hit the ground running with mentor Zac Adams of SkyDive Films (Nashville, TN): “After graduating college, I was still looking for a way to get into the film industry. I joined Film Connection and was partnered with Zac who’s taught me a lot about the filmmaking process and has given me lots of hands on opportunities to work on real film sets! I have been able to work on a sold-out country show at the Ryman Auditorium, crew of a corporate healthcare shoot, and just recently I got the opportunity to direct my own commercial!”  
On the set of commercial for the Nesting Project

On the set of commercial for the Nesting Project

Fellow apprentice and recent high school grad Garic Griffin isn’t wasting any time when it comes to launching his career: “I started right after high school and so far I’ve made a short documentary that was featured at one of the nation’s largest UFO conventions, I’ve been on a crew for a video that played at a sold out show at the famous Ryman auditorium in Nashville, and so much more!…Zac, my mentor, is just awesome. I’m learning a lot and getting all kinds of opportunities to further my career in film.”    Having just completed the midterm, Recording Connection student Dave Deines (Seattle, WA) who apprentices at Fastback Studios is excited to be getting his career right on track: “I’m really enjoying this new direction in my life and I feel like I am picking up the fundamentals of this field quickly…I’m really excited about a new endeavor that has surfaced, which is working as the sound guy for my friend’s band…I think it is an absolutely perfect opportunity for me to get experience doing live sound mixing…I went to their practice space yesterday for the first time and I felt like I made a pretty good impression and was able to use the knowledge I’ve learned here to communicate ideas and actually educate them on a few small things as well.”  
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