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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER September 25, 2017 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


Running with it in Dallas: Film Connection grad
Noah Cook builds his reel!

Like many of our emerging filmmakers, Noah Cook (Dallas, TX) first found the Film Connection after getting discouraged with other film school options.   “I actually almost went to a film school in Santa Fe, like a ridiculously expensive one,” he says, “and I was looking into it, and the money seemed crazy. My dad had looked at a couple in the area and he was like, ‘You should check these out,’ and I was being super stubborn about it…I started looking at Film Connection…I did some googling and I found some Instagram accounts of kids going it, and it looked like it was legit. So I talked to my parents about it and called the school and everything, and it worked out super easy.”   Noah was placed as an apprentice with Film Connection mentor Deen Olatunji of Rehoboth Pictures. From the moment he met his mentor, he says he knew he was in the right place.   “Right off the bat, we really clicked,” he says. “I’m pretty shy normally. I don’t put myself out there a ton, but Deen made that super easy. He, from the beginning, was just super open to everything. Anything you want to talk to him about, throw at him, he’ll listen.”   As it turned out, Deen had a few things to throw at Noah, as well—and it only served to galvanize Noah’s commitment to immerse himself in the learning process.   “My first day, he had me crawling under a bed,” he says, “…to be a stand-in for a serial killer. He was having me put on the costume, and right before I crawled under the bed, he was like, ‘We’re going to get along pretty well.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘You just threw it on and did it. That’s what I need.’ I was like, ‘All right, I’m in.’”   From that point, Noah has gone on to become an integral part of the filming schedule at Rehoboth, working with his mentor on a number of projects, as well as serving as DP for a series they are doing for a local church.  He says Deen has also challenged him to start setting himself up for his own success.   “At the end of 2016, he sat me down one-on-one,” says Noah, “and was like, ‘Okay, this is what I think you need to focus on this year…I really think you need to try to make a few films and come up with a reel and make a website.’ He said he wanted me to really get stuff together because he knew that if I really applied myself and made a website and stuff, I could market myself…He gave me a list of things he thought I should do for the year and just told me to run with it.”   Since that time, Noah has indeed “run with it,” starting with adding to his reel. “I actually just finished a short film that I directed a couple weeks ago,” he says. “My dad had a really weird and interesting childhood, and there was a story he always told me about…his drunk grandpa… I always thought that was a great story. I went to South by Southwest and I saw this short film where it started out with some dudes talking, and then they showed the story. I was like, I really like that. I want to do something like that. So I had it where it was like me and my roommate. We were talking in a bar, and it goes into the story, and I voice all the characters and do the narration. So it’s like I’m telling a story, but you’re seeing it.”   Meanwhile, although he’s officially completed his apprenticeship, Noah continues to work with his mentor at Rehoboth on various projects while he looks at his own goals for the future. It’s progress he feels he never could have made by going the expensive, traditional film school route.   “I learn way better when I’m just doing the thing, hands-on,” he says. “When I found out that’s what this was, I was like, okay, that was it…I feel like in a big university, it’s super hard to stand out because there are 100 kids trying to do the same thing as you, and if you’re not just the best, no one is even going to be looking. I knew I’d do a lot better in a smaller environment, because then I felt like I could get one-on-one with…my mentor and actually talk to them about stuff.”   His advice for other students coming into the program?   “You have to see it as an opportunity,” he says. “You’re going to get as much out of it as you put in. You’ve been put with this mentor who has access to all these cool toys and spaces and stuff, and you have to get involved, or nothing will happen…On one project, do as much camera as they’ll let you, maybe even just shadow the camera guy and, on something else, do some editing. I just think that’s the biggest thing, with Film Connection especially, is just to really apply yourself.   “Don’t get discouraged if you’re not Quentin Tarantino after your first month,” he adds. “You’re going to make some stuff you don’t like at first, and that is totally okay. You’ve just got to keep pushing and you’ll get there.”
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Recording Connection mentor Leland Kracher on path, pragmatism, and digital-analog love

Recording Connection mentor Leland Kracher brings a unique perspective to the students he teaches. First, he’s a former student himself; having apprenticed under mentor Rick Rooney, he now teaches alongside his mentor at Empire Sound in Dallas, where he specializes in teaching Ableton to his students. Second, Leland is very much an artist himself, currently managing and playing in EDM livetronica fusion band MOJO, shorthand for “Modular Johnson.” And third…as someone who nearly lost his musical path, Leland is especially big on encouraging his students to be as creative as possible, both in their music and in the studio.   In a recent conversation with RRFC, Leland reflected a bit on his own musical journey as well as the importance of professionalism, artistry and the creative process.  
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  ON HOW HE GOT DISILLUSIONED WITH MUSIC, AND WHY IT EVENTUALLY DREW HIM TO THE RECORDING CONNECTION AS A STUDENT:   “I was in a good music program [in high school]. I was in the best situation you could be in and still it stifled my creativity. Never in high school did I ever feel motivated to make my own songs, ever. It was the opposite. It was, ‘I have to practice this sheet music. I have to be able to sight read all these things, I have to go play everyone else’s stuff.’ There was no place for me to create. There was no place for me to be able to do anything like that…After high school, I kind of distanced myself a little bit from music because the institutionalized music kind of ruined it for me…They present it like all you can do [professionally] is go down the path to be a musician in the sense of playing your instrument and reading music. They don’t show the creativity side, which is where the Recording Connection came in. Once I saw that I still loved music a few years after high school, and it wasn’t going to go away, I started looking for mediums to get that out with the proper education as well. That’s where the Recording Connection came in for me…I knew that although I wanted to be a musician and I wanted to create my own content, the way to do that was to get into a studio and fully know what I was doing. That’s why I chose the Pro Tools program and also specifically Rick Rooney because I saw the blend between being able to create and having your own drive and what this program presented as an opportunity to learn and how to operate truly in that world. So that’s what drew me to it, and it was a no-brainer once I got there.”   ON HOW HE GOT INSPIRED TO TRY AGAIN WITH MUSIC AFTER WORKING IN THE CORPORATE WORLD:   “It wasn’t this big epiphany moment for me. It was the building up of seeing that that’s really what I was going to have to do for the rest of my life. No matter what I did, I was going to have to wake up and I was going to have to go to work, no matter where it was…I saw that I had to work every day, and I did not want it to be for someone else. I wanted it to be for myself doing something I loved [and to] help facilitating other’s dreams, and that’s exactly what I’ve gotten to do.”   ABOUT HIS BAND, MOJO, AND LESSONS ABOUT COMBINING HARD WORK WITH ARTISTRY:   Everybody who worked with me has told me that they really respect and appreciate my ability to basically manage the band while participating in it. I book all the shows, I run the lightshow from the stage while playing keyboard. So I have all of this oriented and mapped out, and I have the set list and have everything tracked out. So the point of that is, while people think it’s separate and different, if you really think about your favorite artists…That’s how they got there. It’s because they worked their ass off trying to get there, and they booked the shows and they messaged people on Facebook and they went to the shows…Go to shows. Go to local shows. Go support people. I don’t care if there are 20 people there. You’ll meet one person out of those 20 that will change your life, and it happened to me. I went to an open mic in Denton, met the person who’s in the biggest band in Denton, and we started getting shows from there.”   WHERE HE SEES THE MUSIC INDUSTRY GOING, ESPECIALLY ELECTRONIC MUSIC:   “Really, I think we’re at a beautiful time in music…You know, Daft Punk playing Coachella really is the first time that the music industry understood that electronic music was not only here to stay but that they needed to be educated. And I think from that moment it allowed electronic music to have its own platform, thus leading us to the blend with rock n’ roll. However early Ableton and other DAW’s couldn’t hang, no computer could keep up. People had to use analog synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines which were very difficult to play with in a band since they didn’t have much flexibility… How it’s being bridged now is through Ableton, honestly. Ableton and companies like Korg, Roland and Behringer, I would say those are the main three that are making budget analog synths, allowing digital and the analog to be in the same studio. They’re marketing towards who we’re trying to help educate—the bedroom backpack producer whose things weigh two pounds and they can fit in your hand and run on batteries, literally, and they’re replicating classic synthesizers like the Juno-106 and the Jupiter-8.”   Leland Kracher in the Studio with RC Students BRAGGING ON SOME OF HIS RECORDING CONNECTION STUDENTS:   I’ve graduated five students…almost up to six students that I’ve graduated now…Bud Brinson was my first student. He has now moved back to Colorado, is in a livetronica band, much like what I make, playing drums and using Ableton, and has independent tracks that he’s produced that I was very proud of. So a little bit of nostalgia and whatever with him, as he was my first student, but a very talented producer and very talented musician, and has literally moved out of state to follow his musical aspirations… I truly think that Blair [Auzenne] is going to be something. It’s incredible. He’s just so good. It’s just all different types of music. He can play piano, he played French horn, he was classically trained…Just an incredibly talented musician, and just an incredible producer…Hunter Thomas—he is an active DJ, and just starting to work his way up and getting shows, playing mixes, things he produced, just mixes in general of DJ’ing. And then Bennett Rofsky is about to graduate. I think he’s just a couple lessons away. In the middle of his program he had to go back to Miami to finish his Marine Biology degree [and will be returning]. And so he’s really smart, and multitalented, but still…someone who’s getting a Marine Biology degree chose to go through the Recording Connection as his alternate form of education because that’s what he really loves…He has such a unique mind for coming up with modulation and matrix routing. Just very talented, very fun to explore synthesizers with.”   ON WHY HE JUMPED AT THE CHANCE TO MENTOR STUDENTS AFTER BEING A STUDENT HIMSELF:   “When the opportunity got presented to me to teach, when Rick asked me if I was interested…it was an immediate yes. I was given this, and I know how happy I am and how free I felt. So any ability to give that back to anyone is—I just feel like I had to do it.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Recording Connection student Justin Hardman (Denver, CO) is surprised at how fast things are progressing for him during his time in the program: “I interviewed for an internship position at Colorado Sound Studios where I’m studying with Steve Avedis [and got it]…It’s been super busy but I’m loving every minute of it.  The other week I worked 44 hours in the studio sitting in and doing some vocal recording and comping on an album recording for a band that flew in from Chicago. I also got to go help doing a live recording of the Trailer Park Boys at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO.  I also figured out how to set up a comms system for the AXS TV camera crew.  The Red Rocks day alone was a 16 hour day but I never thought I could have that much fun working a 16 hour day…   Everything has been more than I could ever hope for from my experience doing Recording Connection.  I’m doing things that I thought would take years to get to do and I’ve only been in this program for a little over 4 months. You definitely have to work hard and go after what you want, but this program has given me a pathway to the career I have always wanted.”  
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Daniel Lir, Katz Carter and Bayou Bennett

Daniel Lir, Katz Carter and Bayou Bennett

Already an experienced actor, screenwriter, and videographer, Film Connection scholarship recipient Katz Carter (Los Angeles, CA) customized his apprenticeship to focus on developing a stellar, industry-standard pitch package to take to producers, all with the expert help of mentors Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir of The Dream Team. In a recent interview we asked Katz to give us the lowdown on what’s in his pitch package: “What’s in it basically is the budget in detail, and I have contracts from SAG, locations where we’re shooting at, administrative things like that. And I have the cast list and my actors and their bios, a breakdown of the script, and like a character breakdown as well. I have story structure, I have plot points, a summary, all of that, and the whole package looks very artsy, I should say. That’s the most important part is that when you go through it, it looks really entertaining because it’s all themed with the story. And it has some colors, has some pictures, has an idea of the concept of the look that I want, because I’m taking it from Alfred Hitchcock. So I have like Alfred Hitchcock-esque pictures throughout.   [Daniel and Bayou] are really fun to work with. They explain things and break it down with examples, and they make it really easy to understand and to get the concept. And of course, you have to put the work in yourself. They can give you the tools, and it’s up to me to use the tools or not.”  
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