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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER November 21, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


Austin City Limits and beyond: Recording Connection grad Charles Kirkpatrick expands his reach

If you need proof of how learning on the job can open doors for your music industry career, take a look at Recording Connection grad Charles Kirkpatrick. His apprenticeship with mentor Kevin Butler at Test Tube Audio in Austin, Texas has led to multiple opportunities to work with Platinum-selling artists and Grammy winning engineers, including working live sound at the famed Austin City Limits!   Charles had already taught himself the basics of working in DAWs like GarageBand and Logic Pro, but he came to the Recording Connection to try and up his game. “I didn’t really truly understand signal flow, any outboarding, a lot of gear. I had no idea about converters or anything like that,” he says. “I originally went in just wanting to figure out how to make the cleanest, most beautiful recording possible.”   When Charles went to interview at Test Tube Audio, he was immediately impressed, both with the studio and with his mentor, Kevin Butler. “I was blown away,” he says. “I knew immediately it was a very comfortable… logical, and just super nurturing place to learn…[Kevin] really knew his stuff. He would take me outside and have me listen to things that flew over my head so I understood the sound reflecting off my shoulders, you know? My sister’s a doctor, and I know more about the human ear than she does because of Kevin Butler.”   While learning from Kevin in the studio, Charles connected with other pros who were more than willing to teach him—most notably, Matt Noveskey, the bassist for alt-rock outfit Blue October, who was working out of the studio at the time to produce for bands he was bringing in. Charles says watching Kevin and Matt work together on sessions was eye-opening, to say the least.   “When we would record,” he says, “the combination of both of those guys, Kevin on the engineering part and Matt on the production side…Literally, in the middle of recording, Matt would lean down and turn the knob on the guitar pedal while this guy’s playing. And it’s just things like that that I never would have thought of. When I first started, I thought I was supposed to just press buttons and move faders.”   As Charles completed his apprenticeship, he quickly discovered how much “street cred” he’d gotten by learning in the studio with Kevin and Matt. “I just started sending [my] cover letter, resume, and letter of recommendation to every studio and broadcasting company from Dallas to El Paso, to San Antonio, to Houston,” he says. “I wanted everybody to at least know my name. And then before I knew it, I was getting phone calls.”   Among the first calls he got was from Grammy-winning engineer Malcom Harper of Reelsound Recording, the audio company who handles live sound and broadcasting for the famed Austin City Limits TV series. Charles landed the gig and found himself working with the team recording live sessions for many major artists.   “We broadcasted the Bud Light Stage,” he says, “which was Florence and the Machine, The Roots, The Black Keys, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Red Hot Chili Peppers…there was a ton of bands.”   Along the way, Charles also began establishing a rapport with other local artists, some of whom now call for him exclusively. His relationship with Malcolm Harper and Reelsound has led to referrals and connections with numerous other high-caliber recording studios in the area, including Mesa Recording Studios just outside Austin, with whom Charles now has an ongoing relationship.   “I brought a lot of artists there, primarily hip hop artists. But I’ve also brought live musicians to make instrumentals and stuff,” he says. “I’ve done a lot of work at Mesa, and I’m invited to every party they throw. I’m a very welcome family member at Mesa Recording Studios.”   Most recently, Charles began expanding his reach further, making a move to San Antonio, Texas, where he’s now in the process of building relationships with some of the other studios referred to him by Malcolm. Meanwhile, he continues to freelance with Reelsound and Mesa Recording as needed, and he has a long-term goal for adding studio design to his new engineering and production skills.   “Another thing Kevin taught me very well was acoustics and how to design studios,” says Charles. “I want to design studios, I want to build the equipment. I want to be with the musicians, I want to be a musician, I want to be a producer, and I want to be an audio engineer. I kind of want to be Rick Rubin, if you will.”   With his new career now well underway, Charles attributes much of his success so far to his on-the-job apprenticeship. “I learned so much from those guys,” he says. “It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience.”   
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Commitment to the art: Film Connection mentor Dean Ronalds talks about his passion for storytelling

Film Connection mentor Dean Ronalds (right)

Film Connection mentor Dean Ronalds (right)

Film Connection mentor Dean Ronalds is a bit of a rarity in today’s world of film. While many filmmaking professionals outside of Hollywood rely heavily on corporate clients for income while doing passion projects on the side, Dean makes his living almost exclusively from producing and directing artistic narrative films—thus far without the backing of major studios—which gives him a unique perspective when mentoring film students.   Chatting with us in a park a few blocks from his apartment on New York City’s Upper East Side, Dean tells us his path has certainly not been easy, and it’s required some tough choices and sacrifices along the way. But he makes it work, he says, largely based on hard work and commitment to the craft.   “I have the perspective of not coming from any opportunity other than hard work and persistence and due diligence,” he says. “The discipline I did have was always doing. There was nothing that was going to stop me from not doing something in regards to making a film, telling a story.”   Dean’s artistic journey began in acting, as a child growing up in Denver, Colorado. “When I was about 11 or 12,” he says, “my brother took me to an audition…for The Sound of Music at the Ascot Dinner Theater in Littleton, Colorado. I thought it sounded great, so we both went and auditioned, and I actually booked that part as the youngest Von Trapp brother in this musical dinner theater…So at that age, the bug bit me.”   It wasn’t until college that Dean began to realize his passion for storytelling would be better served behind the camera. “I always had a storytelling sense as an actor but I didn’t realize that filmmaking was really its final form and destination,” he says. “Part of one of my classes was I had to be a segment producer creator, a segment for this public access show. And once I got in front of the editing bay, I realized…this is what storytelling was, this was it.”   Dean says his passion for film eventually led to more collaboration with his brother, including a move to Phoenix, Arizona for his “day job” at the time. “I started to just make movies with my brother, acting, producing, writing, directing, everything, and we would screen them,” he says. “We became quickly part of the community of the Phoenix Film Community…people [began] being aware of what we were doing.”   Dean’s first big break came with an angel investor who began funding the brothers’ films. “We made a bunch of movies with this investor, met a bunch of actors, got in the Hollywood system,” he says. “I got to direct some wonderful people, and I got to make feature films. And that’s not something that many people can say…Along the way, we were fortunate enough, my brother and I got hired to work for Tyler Perry to write for Meet the Browns.”   When the relationship with the investor ended, Dean found himself at a crossroads, which eventually led to him ending his collaboration with his brother and striking out on his own. “I just wanted to figure out who I was as a person, as a filmmaker, all of it,” he explains.   After getting hired to produce and direct a film on location in Africa, Dean met and began collaborating creatively with writer/producer/actress Emanuela Galliussi which led to his move to New York City. While he says the reboot has been a struggle at times, he’s never wavered from his passion for the art of storytelling. Today, three years on, he stays busy juggling multiple film projects, including a docu-horror film, #SCREAMERS, which recently premiered at the Telluride Horror Show.   “We made the movie in Rochester…this was the first thing that I had written that I had directed,” he says. “Now it’s playing in like five more festivals, and it’s starting to do its thing.”   As a Film Connection mentor, Dean is also passionate about mentoring students who share his passion, and even gives them opportunities to worked on his own films when possible—including, recently, Film Connection graduate Imran Vasanwala.   “I had sent him out as PA on many other sets,” says Dean, “and so he gravitated towards the camera team, even though directing and writing is his main goal. So I brought him on as a PA for my camera team, and then he ended up being the second assistant camera on his first feature film.”   Given his unique perspective as an independent filmmaker, Dean stresses to his students that the path to success is to produce content, whatever it takes.   “These days, there’s no excuse for not being able to do something,” he says. “You can shoot it, edit it, and publish it directly from your phone… You don’t have to be rich or have all sorts of expensive gear. You just have to be passionate and want to tell a story… You eventually get to that point where you are able to achieve the quality work that you want, but it doesn’t happen right away…You can’t get there unless you do. That’s what I tell my students: one of the biggest things to do is just do, just do.”   Making a living as an artistic filmmaker isn’t easy, but Dean Ronalds’ own journey is an inspiration to students that with passion and discipline, anything is possible. “You do it for the art, not for anything else,” he says. “Do it for yourself, do it for the story burning inside of you…listen to your heart.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Film Connection student Alex Willey (Denver, CO), who apprentices with Johny Fischer, shares an insight he recently had while working on his own project: “I think getting a good rapport with my actors is the first step to a successful shoot. I want for them to be able to have confidence in their acting and to know that I have the ability to bring out their best performances. After a rapport is set, I try to keep the actors happy. If they’re not, I find ways to channel whatever energy they’re dealing with into their character… After all, they’re trying their best to portray your story and you’re there to guide them.”    joey-heier Recording Connection mentor Joey Heier aka “Uncle Joey” at Crystal Clear Studio in Philadelphia, PA never ceases to wow his students. RC grad and former apprentice Michael Luna says this about his former mentor: “It was almost like he just knew what was going on in my head before I even knew it. He definitely has that gift for seeing things like that and being able to, I guess, really relate with students in any way possible. I’m sure my lifestyle is completely different than a lot of the individuals that have had him as a mentor. But he really knows how to click and really fit into that that individual’s lifestyle and make them comfortable and really be able to digest what he’s saying.” Keep up the good work Joey. We all love you for it!  
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