CRAS Grad Panel Part 5

May 31, 2013

Following up on our Grad Panel post from yesterday, here is the continuation:

From left to right –

Jeremy Hinskton – A2 Engineer at Music Mix Mobile
Callie Thurman – Sound Dialogue Editor at Wildfire Post
Andrew Wuepper – Mix Engineer, Freelance
Maggie O’Brien – Production and Operations Manager at Blue Microphones
Eric Rennaker – Studio Manager at Bedrock LA

When we left off yesterday, the grads were going over what they look for in an intern they are interested in hiring.

Andrew: Another thing for me, people that I look for, is musical instincts. I can teach you the use of an 1176, or I can teach you why we use a Neve. I can teach you how to get a good snare sound, but I can’t teach you what a good snare sound is. You have to study music. Just as much as you’re in this school studying how music is recorded and how it’s mixed and how it’s produced, you have to study what makes great music great music. From a composition stand point, the way different music is arranged, different sounds, different vibes. Different sounds that  create different vibes. So your homework doesn’t just have to do with what are great compressors. It has to do with man, those are great records, they were timeless. Listen to how they feel. Because a lot of producers don’t speak the language of “can you give me 2 dB of compression” or…some of them do but a lot of them, it’s all about the feel for them. A lot of people can’t hear past good. They just know how it feels.

Rachel Ludeman [internship coordinator]: What were you saying about P. Diddy?

Andrew: Aw man. So, this was like four years ago. I was in Miami doing some sessions for Diddy when he was doing his “Last Train to Paris” album. We were doing the mix and he was in the control room and he was listening. He was like, “It’s good, but it needs more…like, it needs that thing like this.” [dancing, waving his arms around] So the way that I interpreted that was OK, he probably wants more hi hat because…the groove maybe? The way I interpret moving like this is the way the track grooves. You’re going to get a lot of colorful interpretations. Chocolate bass, I’ve heard. I’ve heard a lot of things that just don’t make sense but…

Eric: Farty bass, that’s my favorite. It needs more farty bass. What?!

Andrew: Most of the colorful terms are easy to understand. Can the snare slap more? A lot of times they relate a noise, or a feeling, to an actual sound. So those are more easy to put together. But you studying music and how it feels will help you decipher the producer’s colorful terms. It’s really important that you understand music as much as you understand the equipment that’s used to make the music.

Rachel: Maggie, what are you looking for in an intern? You’ve actually taken several interns in your time.

Maggie: Yeah, it all plays into what they guys have said. Attitude is everything. Enthusiam is so important. I think that you have to do your homework before you work anywhere, whether it’s a studio, or whether you’re going into manufacturing or whatever. Spend 10 minutes on the internet. That’s one of the things that always trips me up. If I’m interviewing somebody and I go “Have you heard of us, or what do you know about us?” If you don’t know anything, that’s fine. You can say I want to learn manufacturing, or I’m into tech work. That’s good. But the worst thing that happens is when people go “yeah yeah I totally know of your products.” You’re like, cool. Then they say “you make something for USB, right?” It’s like, well yeah. Sure. It’s one of those things, and I’ve had people that have done that. You know within 30 seconds of meeting somebody whether they are into it or whether they are there for the right reasons. Or “we heard you have a studio and saw this artist come in…” For internships with me, you’re going to be doing production stuff. It’s going to be service. It’s manufacturing. We have a studio in there, but don’t ask me how much time you’re going to spend in the studio, because it’s not going to be anything. That’s just not what we do in my department. On the flip side of that, one of the best things that I ever saw somebody do, was a CRAS grad who came in and interviewed and in the middle  of the interview he pulled out a notebook and said “So what’s expected of me?” And he jotted down notes the entire time. That was incredible. You hear “what’s expected of me” and you’re like, you gotta do this, we’re gonna teach you this so you’ve gotta do that… But to sit and take notes, and then have him pull out a notebook every time that something else came up so he can go back and  reference that stuff was incredible. He ended up getting hired full time, so…You really need to just take time, do research and make sure that you know what you need to know going into it. And even if you don’t know everything, know what questions to ask. There’s no shame in any of that.

Andrew: And don’t bullshit, because you’ll get caught.

Maggie: Or the right amount of bullshit you can get away with. It’s completely normal to be a “yes” person, 100% I think is fine. But you have to know how to back it up. Don’t just say yes and not know anything…

Andrew: Know enough about it where you could figure it out with the basic information that you have. Like, yes I can do that, and I’ve done that were I’ve never done that [task] before, but I know in my mind that I could figure that out. But just because an opportunity comes up, just because it’s a great opportunity, if it’s over your head…

Maggie: Don’t ever over promise and under deliver. Always say “I’ll figure it out.” Or when they ask do you think you could do this? “Yeah, I think so. I’ll figure it out.” If you say yes, and the minute you miss that, you are that person. But if you are the person that’s resourceful and you’re like “yeah I think so, I’ll figure it out or I know how to figure it out”… Those people ask the right questions, learn the right things and they get the right attention. Definitely be positive and be the go-to but don’t always promise everything, other than “you’ll figure it out.”

Eric: Also, use the internet. If you don’t know how to do something, I bet you could figure it out on the internet. Most likely, if you don’t know how to do something in Pro Tools, YouTube. It’s amazing.

Jeremy: “How to insert a marker”

Eric: Yeah, there you go!

Crowd Question: First of all I’d like to thank you guys for coming out! And this school is awesome isn’t it guys? My name is George Doman, I’m in 8th cycle now, and although everybody’s kind of helped me out with my disability, because I have cerebral palsy, I just wanted to ask you guys…as far as being a runner, now I will do what I can, but I’m asking you guys, have you ever ran into someone who is in the industry who has a disability? It is a bit discouraging. It’s like the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. I’m glad that it’s all about attitude. Just wanted to hear your opinion.

Eric: Actually, when I first started at Westlake, one of the runners had cerebral palsy as well. It didn’t stop him from doing anything, and he was being an awesome asset to the company. So keep doing what you are doing!

Jeremy: Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of guys on some gigs, movie award type stuff that are more like stage A2s or stage hands that are setting up mics, who have disabilities as well. I don’t know what disabilities, but I have seen it and it may not be the most common thing in the world, but it is there.

Maggie: If you want it you’ll go for it, and you’ll get it.

Jeremy: Absolutely.

Andrew: And you’ll probably work harder than everyone else, which will make you better than everyone else. In the end, what you hear right here is what matters. It’s what’s in here and what you hear with this, and if you train that properly, nothing else matters. All that matters is what comes out of the speakers in the end.

Eric: And whether or not your clients are happy. Well, if what comes out the speakers is good, your clients will be happy anyway.

Becky Fimbres [internship coordinator]: So I have a question for you guys. What next, for all of you? What is your plan of action?

Jeremy: I’m gonna keep going doing what I’m doing! I’ve got a great gig and I love it. I get to work with crazy amounts of people doing awesome things. I’m going to continue to do it. I only do a couple of gigs a month. You don’t always find something that pays so well. Luckily you can. So by doing that… I mean, this is the first time that I’ve been completely freelance. I quit my regular job back in October and haven’t had a steady job since then. I’ve been just only doing this, twice a month if that. Luckily it’s working out and I can do my own freelance other mix gigs, and producing and being in a band. So I have a lot of free time to do other things so I can keep doing the job I have and I plan to keep going. I plan to keep going like that. It’s great and I don’t plan on changing.

Callie: I want to get into more editing, but you know, things can change very quickly when you are out there. You could be working one minute and not working the next and have the rug ripped out from right under you. It happens a lot, it happens all the time, but you always got to keep going with it. There’s so much that’s out there, and just in film and TV world there is so much. There’s commercials, there’s trailers, there’s cartoons, animation. There’s so much film. Everything. YouTube videos, internet web series. You can always keep moving forward in a lot of different areas, so it’s always kind of constantly, just keep going to the next level of it. Whether you want to edit or mix or be an administrative. Whatever it is. Me personally, I just want to keep going up the dialogue and ADR editing and see what happens.

Andrew: I’m going to keep mixing until my phone stops ringing. I just finished building my own home studio. I mean, I’ve been building my studio up for the last three years. I’m a total gear junkie, gear head, so I collect analog, old vintage gear and new gear. So I’m just going to keep building my studio up and just keep getting more toys to play with and keep mixing. People call, and I mix. Once people stop calling, I guess I’ll figure something else out. For now I’m just going to keep going doing what I’m doing.

Maggie: Always just trying to grow. I try not to set expectations. I try not to focus to hard on what’s next because I’ve had decent luck doing that. How I got where I am today is just a combination of being in the right place at the right time and be willing to work for it. So it’s gone decently well. I’m always looking to grow, I’m always looking to learn. And always in those situations trying to be creative. As I said, with a 9-5 you’ve got time to work on other records. I’ve worked on some video stuff, some film stuff. So I think that’s important, and it’s also as I continue…my company now as it grows I get a bigger team. It’s teaching people what I know and getting people to grow as well. I’m always looking for more. I’m always ready for whatever happens, I’d say.

Eric: Just going to keep continuing on, expanding and trying to build up Bedrock and continue to produce artists and engineer. You know. I have kind of a tunnel vision where the only thing that I ever see is directly in front of me. So it’s hard for me to think years ahead of time. Which is why I’m a big fan of…the past you can’t change, the future you can’t expect, the present you can change. That’s the only thing that you really have control over, so I try not to think about it too much. As long as I keep doing this every day that I wake up, and I work on music, or I connect with a new client, or anything like that, I’m happy. It definitely doesn’t suck.

Andrew: Any day where you don’t have a real job is a good day.

Eric: I don’t have to wear a tie, and I don’t have to sit at a flat desk…just one with a whole bunch of knobs.

Andrew: It’s been five years since I had a real job.

Eric: Doesn’t that feel awesome?

Jeremy: Cuz this isn’t a job. It’s not a job when you love it like that.

Eric: I woke up at 2pm yesterday, it felt awesome!

Andrew: I wake up at 2pm everyday!

Jeremy: I wanted to add something too. When Andrew was talking about being a gear head…I am so not a gear head. I am not this technical person that loves all these pieces of gear and all this stuff. So when you come across that, don’t be intimidated because there are plenty of people who aren’t like that. It’s cool. But I got into this for music, not for technical…I wanted to make my own stuff better as opposed to getting into some studio or something like that. There’s a lot of gear heads out there that will run circles around you with knowledge of what things do. I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about half of the time. As long as you can do your job and do it well, and people like you, that’s good. Don’t be intimidated.

Andrew: It’s not at all about the gear. The gear, I like, just because I like it. There are mixers out there who clean my clock using nothing but a Distressor and one Focusrite. Two pieces of gear! It’s all about your musical taste, the way you hear things. Putting your feelings, what you are feeling, your attitude, your personality into the record. That’s why someone hires one person as opposed to another. Different engineers have different personalities and different feelings and different ways they go about doing things. That’s what it’s all about. The gear is just a bridge to get you there. You could get there with whatever you’re using. Hit records are made on laptops these days. It’s not about the gear, it’s about how the person using it feels and what they can accomplish with what they have in front of them.

Maggie: I think also to play into what both of these guys said…that’s another part where networking is so important. The person who has a great personality or the person who can go out and meet clients might not have gear and might not have that knowledge. So you make friends with the gear head. Not everybody has every quality. I know some techs who are better off not talking to anybody. And they are brilliant! So that’s a great marriage, if you love talking or whatever, get a tech to back you up. Don’t write checks you can’t cash. There’s everybody out there you just have to find that right mix and you’ll be successful.

Crowd Question: I just have a question for the women on the panel. From what I see it is a pretty male dominated industry. As a woman what kind of issues or hurdles did you have to overcome, and how did you deal with it at the time?

Callie: Yeah, that’s a tough one. Some places you go to, some people you work with, there is a little bit of sexism. You know, you’re on the pirate ship with all the guys. It’s partially understood that there’s a little bit more you might have to do…I’m not sure how to say it without sounding…you know.

Becky Fimbres: You just gotta let things roll off your back.

Maggie: Yeah, you gotta have thick skin.

Callie: Let things roll off your back. You just have to pretend that sex is not an issue and you’re just one of the guys. You can do anything they can do. If you don’t let them treat you in that way, then you won’t be treated that way. If you are going to go in it as Ms Barbie, you’re going to be treated like Ms Barbie. But if you going and say I’m gonna do this and it doesn’t matter, then that is just the way it’s going to be. And you run across all kinds of females in the industry. Various kinds with different successes and different things they want to do. A lot of admin, there’s some editors. There’s some female mixers. It’s really growing, especially in post production. This year I finally got to supervise a short film, and the whole crew were female. Even the director. So that was the first time in the almost eight years that I’ve been at Wildfire that we could have a whole female crew, from the mixers to the editors to the directors. So it’s happening.

Maggie: Yeah, it’s really important to in a sense just remove all emotion. You’re going to hear shit you don’t want to hear. You’re not going to agree with a lot of it, but you have to be confident with what you want to do and who you are. You’ll be in really awful situations, where it’s like…I worked at a company where a tape echo broke, and three dudes couldn’t fix it. Every time I stood up, they were just like, no, nuh uh, no. You learn how to splice tape here. I had it fixed in 30 seconds. They were like “holy shit!” Yeah, you guys are jerks. Just get thick skin, expect it, don’t take it home with you and know you are just as good as they are.

Callie: Yeah, cry elsewhere. I know I felt bad. That was one rule someone told me a while ago. Don’t cry in front of the boss. I did it once, and I felt terrible. It happens. You just gotta play tough and be tough. Just thicken your skin and if you need a moment just step outside and have some chocolate and you’ll be fine.

Maggie: You can’t ever forget you’re equal.

Crowd Question: My question is just sort of a little side thing. How much sleep do you guys usually get?

Jeremy: I get a lot of sleep, man. Like I was saying, I have gigs twice a month maybe, besides my own freelance stuff which I make my own schedule. I pretty much do what I want when I want, unless it’s a two or three day gig where it’s usually a 15 or 16 hour day each day. But five of those a month, it’s nothing. For me it’s easy.

Callie: At the facility I work at we have our motion picture union. So union hours you put 10 hours in a day with an hour lunch. So we get in at 9, we’re out at 7, and that’s most of the days. It makes for a long day, but we don’t typically have overtime. It wasn’t always like that, and if you take extra projects outside of work sometimes you’re not getting any sleep. But once you get settled into the position  you’re going to be in, I’ve gotten more sleep. Usually I can get the 8 hours a night.

Andrew: For me it’s a little different. Being primarily a mix engineer these days, we tend to work the longer hours. I probably average…I usually get to the studio at 1pm and I usually leave about 4:30 in the morning, six days a week. I try to always take Sundays off. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more. If we are under the gun to deliver and album for a deadline, I may be at the studio for three days and never go home. We have showers and all that, comfortable couches and everything to sleep on. As an assistant engineer, none. I probably averaged three hours a night for three years. There was a stint where I worked eight months without a single day off, with Dave. When we were really really going hard, eight months without a single day off. So that’s the type of…like I said earlier, the only word that can justify it is obsession. There’s people out there that will be that obsessed and will work that hard. That’s your competition. The way you get to the next level is you assess what your competition’s doing and you work harder than that. That’s just my story of what I did. Plenty of people made it to my level probably not working the extreme conditions that I worked, but that’s just what I did and what I went through.

Maggie: I agree, when I was at studios I never slept. Like never. I would get there at probably 2pm and then leave at 11am the next day. And then you’re just waiting for that call, “they’re at the studio, go open it up. You should have been there an hour ago getting fruit baskets or whatever ready.” But now 9-5 dude. I’m 8 hours, unless there’s….you know I sit at a desk where there isn’t faders, but I can wear a laser cat shirt, so it’s ok. At the same time if you take up other gigs, you adjust accordingly.

Eric: When I was an assistant it was about the same. You were working seven days a week, getting three hours a night, give or take, maybe, depending how far you live from your studio. Which is why you should live really close to your studio. I live right next door to the studio that I work at –

Andrew: No more than a mile away.

Eric: – and it is incredible. I get so much more sleep now because I don’t have to commute. But now I’m in at 11 and out a 2 or 3 in the morning, give or take, depending on how busy it is. It’s funny, you get to a point where you sleep so little that your body just gets used to it. And then when you have that day off and you sleep 8 hours, you are useless for the entire day. You are so tired. You’ve almost overslept. That’s why when I would go on long stretches, I would try to keep kind of the same hours so I didn’t hit the wall. If I only had one day off, I’d have to spend the entire day doing basically the same hours. Can’t really sleep in because you’re gonna be tired and it’s going to make you really cranky and you’re gonna be off the next day.

Andrew: It can be tough. There’s moments where on top of being sleep deprived, you have to be sharp. You have to be the sharpest one in the room, even though you’re probably the only one who hasn’t slept. It can be difficult, coffee is your best friend. And Red Bull. I know that stuff is bad for you but only do it temporary. It will be your friend to get you through these couple of years and then…Whatever it takes to stay sharp.

Eric: And don’t discount the little 10 minute, 15 minute power nap. That will keep you going. It really will. Just 10 minutes in a quiet dark place, with just nothing, and you’ll have another 8 hours of energy. I learned that from the owner of Westlake. I never ever saw him sleep. He was at the studio all day and night and I remember once I walked in, and he was just taking a power nap. He was like “yeah man, that’s how I survive.” Just take 15 minute power naps throughout the day.

Andrew: Yeah, I know a lot of producers like that, they basically live at the studio and they just…every three or four hours they will sleep for an hour, or 40 minutes. They literally work 24 hours around the clock and they just take power naps every couple of hours.

Eric: Some people are just hard wired for that. It’s different for everybody. I’ve known a couple of people who I swear the first time I was working with them that they were on meth. I swear. I was like, I know these guys are smoking meth. There is no way they can be that excited this late at night after working these long hours. It’s not possible! But sure enough, it’s just coffee, and cigarettes.

Check back in here for the final installment of this series!

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