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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER September 26, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


Full-time in the industry: Recording Connection
grad Joey Mora finds his footing

Producer/Engineer Joey Mora aka The Klassiks

Producer/Engineer Joey Mora aka The Klassiks

Since graduating from the Recording Connection several years ago, Joey Mora has become well-established in the Los Angeles recording industry. These days, he works full-time as a producer/engineer, working on both his own electronic music career and producing other artists.   “I personally have three records out now through a label out in New York called Teknofonic Recordings,” he says. “And then I’m working with a bunch of different up-and-coming artists. One is Frankie Catalano. She’s got an EP that’ll be coming out probably in the next few months here…Another kid that I’ve been working with…his name is JohnBoyCOOL. And we’ve been working with him pretty much ever since about five years ago, doing all his production.”   From an early age, Joey says he had an obsession with music in general, and electronic music in particular.   “I grew up with a lot of cool electronic music influences like Fat Boy Slim, and The Crystal Method, and stuff like that,” he says. “I listened to those CDs over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and just, like, wondered how they did all that stuff with, like, a computer…I was just always, like, really into the technology side of music as well as just learning how to play instruments. So it was like kind of like my whole life I’ve been messing around with music and making music with computers and trying to record myself.”   Even so, when Joey graduated high school, the idea of a music career didn’t really occur to him at first. He considered both film school and law school before looking at audio schools, but shied away from all of it because the classroom approach wasn’t a good fit for him.   “I had gone to look at all the different schools around Hollywood and LA that do recording/engineer programs and whatnot,” he says. “And I would walk into a classroom and see all these kids taking notes and tests, and I was like, ‘Oh man, I don’t know about all this, I’m not a school person.’”   Joey settled down to a day job he describes as “crappy”—then he found out about the Recording Connection’s on the job training approach. “You’re…working with an actual working engineer in working sessions, learning how to deal with clients and do all that,” he says. “I was like, ‘Okay, this sounds like something I can excel at,’ because I’m much more like an on-the-job, like hands-on type person, as opposed to sitting in the classroom.”   Joey was placed as an apprentice with Recording Connection mentor Donny Baker at ES Audio in Los Angeles. Right away, there was a connection, and Donny recognized that Joey already had acquired some skills from exploring music and recording on his own. “I brought him some sessions and some stuff that I had worked on,” says Joey, “and he was just like, ‘Woah. All right…well, why don’t we just kind of accelerate you through this program? I’ll get you to start working with clients as soon as I feel you’re ready.’”   Toward the end of his apprenticeship, Joey recalls having a crisis when he lost his job. By that time, however, his mentor had plans for him. “I remember being really upset,” he says, “…not really knowing how I was going to make money, and [Donny] just coming to me and being like, ‘Look man…I know it’s stressful right now…but this is going to be the best thing that ever happened to you because now you can do this full time. And you can put all your focus into it, and I’ll help you to make sure that you have money coming in.’ And he did.”   Within a couple of weeks, Joey was working at the studio full-time, and not long after that, Donny handed him the keys to the studio.   “That for me was like, wow, this guy really respects what I’m doing and wants me to be involved on a bigger thing than just being an engineer that sub-contracts out of the studio,” says Joey. “that was a really cool feeling…[that] someone that’s already successful believes in me so much, like, that meant a lot.”  

Joey Mora and artist JohnBoyCOOL

During the next few years, Joey continued working with Donny at ES Audio, which he says gave him an advantage while building up his own client list. “Donny kind of gave me free rein,” he says. “He’d say, ‘All right, this is kind of the base of what we need to make to kind of keep the studio afloat, and whatever you want to charge on top of that, go for it.’…It was cool because it was like, all right, I have this whole studio, so if I want to meet with someone, I don’t have to meet them at like Starbucks, I’m like, ‘Come down to the studio, check out where we can work.’ It just gave me that edge.”   Within months of going full time in audio, Joey also had the opportunity to meet and work with some top producers and engineers—including, it turns out, Grammy-winning engineer Dave Pensado, who mixed one of his client’s records at the world-famous Larrabee Studios!   “We walked in there, and I didn’t know Dave,” says Joey, “and I’m expecting him to be kind of arrogant…He’s like the nicest, chillest guy ever… It was a really cool learning experience…I think we ended up spending a week at Larrabee when it was all said and done, and just learned so much from them, so much from those sessions.”   Now several years on, Joey stays busy with his own projects, but he says he still stays in close contact with his Recording Connection mentor, and he still credits Donny for believing in him enough to help him get his start.   “I’ve been super busy doing my own stuff now,” he says. “But, I mean, if it wasn’t for Donny, I would have never met Jim Roach, I would have never met Alex Cantrell, I would have never met The Jackie Boyz or Josh Minyard…All that was because Donny put me in the right position at the right time, and I’ll always appreciate that…Donny will always be that guy that helped me get my foot in the door.”   Connect with Joey Mora on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.   
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Forks in the Road: Film Connection mentor Ron Peterson’s insights on effective screenwriting

   Film Connection screenwriting mentor Ron Peterson is head of development at Crossroads Entertainment. Ron has many years of experience in the film industry, having written screenplays for production companies such as Namesake Entertainment, Jenkins Entertainment, and the Fun Group. Passionate about passing the baton to promising young talent, he has taught in various capacities over the years, including at the David Lynch MA in Film.   In a recent conversation with RRFC, Ron elaborated on the process of screenwriting, which he describes as a series of choices—“forks in the road,” as he calls them. We think all our students can learn from his sharp insights, so we’ve compiled a number of his insightful screenwriting tips below. Enjoy!  
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I always say when I’m working with students, “I never worry about the story that I’m writing. I worry about the story I could have written if I’d made better choices.”…This is a difficult thing because most beginning screenwriters are not used to creating something from nothing—because that’s what writers do, they are in the creation business.   I always refer to that poem by Robert Frost, which is such a simple poem: “Two roads diverge in a wood…” You know the story of that poem: I, for having taken one, am different for it. You go down that fork in the road.   I wanted to be a doctor…So what happened was I got in the waiting list of four or five medical schools like Albert Einstein, Stony Brook, and Downstate, New York Schools, and I didn’t get in because I messed up on my MCATs. So I was going to apply the next year. And guess what? During that time, I wrote a screenplay, and I got an agent. And I never went back…If I would have gone to medical school, well, I wouldn’t be here.   And the same thing I say to them in their stories; there are choices that make a difference like the forks of your road in your story. And there are choices in developing your screenplay that are meaningless, like the height, the weight, the backstory. You have to know what choices you need to find your story and really make it work, like the forks in your life. The forks, for example, of who the main characters [are] and certain key dramatic climaxes in the movie. And if you don’t have that, you don’t have the foundation of your house or your story. And as I say to students all the time, “You can’t build a house from the roof down. It will collapse on your head. You’ve got to build it from the foundation up.”   LESSONS FROM ROCKY   Anybody can look at the movie Rocky and realize, for example, that the main character in the movie is Rocky, a down-and-out fighter who gets the chance fight for a championship in the world…And [you] realize how great the story is because the choices have been made for that writer because you’re looking at the finished product. But try starting with a blank page, not seeing the final product, because that’s your job. I know if I were writing that screenplay, I could have easily made the main characters Rocky and Adrian, and then been allured by the choice of making a down and out fighter fall in love with a girl that works at a pet shop. And, through love, they find success and happiness.   Now, I’m not saying that’s not a good story. What I’m saying is, is that the best story? Because if I looked around a little bit more, I found the right main character with the right conflict, I would have found Rocky. And you know what? I [could] go down that fork in the road and write that story about Rocky and Adrian [and] once I’m on that road and I can take a left on that fork, I can flip it, loopty loop it, and turn it upside down. I’m still on that road…You’ve got to know exactly what makes a difference [to the story] and what doesn’t, because otherwise, you’re wasting your time.   CHARACTER AND CONFLICT   There is a direct relationship between character and conflict. As a simple example, what if I start with the movie of Rocky with a fighter, because we’ll agree that that conflict of Rocky is great, right? But…I can ruin that conflict in two seconds. What if I start the movie where Rocky is not an out-of-shape fighter, but Rocky is a fighter that can do 50,000 pushups, takes Vitamin B12, is in great shape, is like this wonderful person, and now that fighter gets to fight for the championship of the world? If that’s how I put his character, do you think there’s a conflict now? I just destroyed the conflict. So your choice of your character has as much as to do with the establishment of the conflict as the conflict itself.   THE ONE QUESTION   Then, ultimately, really what it comes down to is very simple: You have to realize that there’s only one main conflict in the movie, and you really have to focus on that one main conflict. All the other conflicts are inconsequential because what you’ll find out is that that main conflict, that one conflict, you could always identify because it because it poses itself as a question in the movie. That question is what lasts the whole movie. So for example, in Rocky, if you watch the beginning of the movie, 20 minutes into the movie he gets the chance to fight in the championship of the world. And all of a sudden, a question arises that is the conflict in the movie: that is, Can Rocky get himself into shape physically and mentally and win the championship of the world? When do we answer that question? At the very last scene of the movie. That question is the conflict of the movie.   There can only be one question that is the main conflict of the movie. That is what drives the story…that is not to say there aren’t other questions, but those other questions are subplot. Will Rocky marry Adrian? Will Paulie get into the mob? Will Nick become his trainer? Will Paul agree? Those are all secondary questions; those questions don’t last two hours. So you have to focus on the one question that can last two hours…The question of Lord of the Rings: Can Frodo throw that ring down Mount Doom and destroy Sauron? When do you answer that question? At the end of the movie. Can Bruce Willis help this boy who’s scared of his own shadow in The Sixth Sense? When do you answer the question? At the end of the movie. Can Erin Brockovich win this case? When do you answer the question? At the end of the movie.   I can go on and on and on…The only reason you’re watching that movie is to find out the answer to that question….[So] I first look for the character and see the question, and then I really ask myself, “Can that question hold my interest for two hours?”…If you answer that question in the middle of the movie, the movie is over.   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Kayla Parker Recording Connection student Kayla Parker (Atlanta, GA) has been having a whirlwind of a time at Twelve Music Group: “I’m just in disbelief at all the opportunities the Recording Connection has already provided me…The main thing I take away from Twelve every single time is to never limit yourself and always continue to grow [and] that the people around you are just as important to your career as your actual music is. How you nurture each relationship will determine how successful you are…I have been working with two of my mentors; both have taught me so much so far. My second mentor is Rondal “Caveman” Rosario… He has one Grammy under his belt with singer/songwriter Ashanti for the song titled “Rain On Me.” With his experience, combined with my main mentor “CAT” [Chris Taylor], I am learning so much words can’t even describe. I am looking forward to everything that’s about to take place.”    Libby Belcher Just weeks into her apprenticeship, Libby Belcher (Amarillo, TX) is getting first hand insight into audio engineering at Animal Kingdom Recordings with her mentor Nick Schmitto: “This week we mixed and mastered several songs for different artists of different genres. I also observed my mentor while he created beats for use in hip hop songs. My mentor is working on my first single as well and showing me all the details that go into making a song from start to finish.”   
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