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VOL. 128 | NO. 68 | Monday, April 08, 2013

 

New School Media Blends Film, Music Into ‘Funky’

By RICHARD J. ALLEY

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In 2007, Sean Faust and business partner Brad Ellis came together with Memphis music icon Doug Easley to create a company offering full-service audio and video recording and mixing services.

Both Faust and Easley had recording studios that burned in 2005 and New School Media is the Phoenix that has risen from those ashes.

“We had all the ingredients,” Easley said of their new project.

And indeed they do. Easley has recorded music heavyweights from Sonic Youth and Wilco to Jack White, Loretta Lynn and Jeff Buckley.

The team of New School Media includes Adam Woodard, from left, Brad Ellis, Sean T. Faust, Brian Wurzburg and Doug Easley. New School offers multimedia services, including film and video production. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey )

Faust earned degrees in theater and documentary film production from Syracuse University, has more than 15 years of experience and grew up running sound with his father, saying that his Saturday mornings were full of cables and amplifiers as opposed to cartoons.

Ellis is a writer and director with 10 feature films under his belt, including “Act One,” which claimed Best Narrative Feature, Hometown Award in the 2005 Indie Memphis Film Festival.

The studio is a 3,300-square-foot complex swathed in grass cloth walls, swag lamps, retro seating and original Lamar Sorrento artwork. To take a tour of the facility is to walk through a museum of vintage styles and scenery, ending in a top of the line, 5.1 audio mixing suite, something more akin to mission control at NASA with dim lighting punctuated by bright LEDs and computer monitors.

The advantage of a fine-tuned mix of the auditory and visual under one roof is best explained by creative director Adam Woodard, who recounts the producers of the popular wrestling documentary “Memphis Heat” coming to New School Media (nsmedia.com).

“Sean had done scores for film before, and they came to us needing a soundtrack,” Woodard said. “What they wanted was something kind of funky and Memphis, and Doug was a good fit for that because he’s kind of funky and Memphis. So we scratched that out and that was a pretty collaborative effort from our film side and our music side.”

The team has worked on the upcoming Antenna Club documentary, the score and sound design for Alan Spearman’s viral “As I Am” documentary, a Myla Smith music video and the ongoing video production of Sun Studio Sessions, a weekly music program shown on PBS affiliates across the country.

Branding and training videos have been produced for the likes of General Electric, ServiceMaster, Hilton Hotels, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, what Woodard calls “the sausage work.”

“We love doing this creative stuff, but obviously we’ve got to pay the bills, too,” Faust said.

“We make the sausage nobody wants to see us make,” added Woodard, “but it keeps the lights on and gives us the opportunity to do a lot more creative stuff.”

A video for Victory Bicycle Studio seen on the Victory website is an introduction to what the company and its mission are, and is the sort of project the New School Media team takes to heart.

“That’s a good example of things we really enjoy doing,” Faust said. “It’s a company profile, but it takes a different approach.”

Easley has recently recorded The Oblivians, Harlan T. Bobo, the Magic Kids, Perfect Vessels, Love Clowns, Bosco Delrey, Linda Heck and Snakehips in his studio. While he concedes that the proliferation of home recording via an Apple computer and expensive software can get the job done, it is Easley’s years of experience and gifted ear that make the venture worthwhile for any artist looking to record.

“A lot of bands haven’t even seen this place and most of the time when they do come in they love it, just the vibe of it,” Woodard said. “Every musician I’ve ever brought in here, they just fall in love with the place.”

When it comes to video shoots and production for their corporate clients, their advantage is a network of freelancers and subcontractors at hand, allowing them to scale up or down depending on the clients’ needs so that overhead and costs are kept as low as possible.

The group is focusing more on work such as they did for Victory and other corporate profiles as they look to grow and knit together the steady, money-generating work with their creative itch.

“Where we’re able to do something for a company that has a budget, but that we also feel creatively satisfied doing,” Woodard said.

The niche Woodard and company looks to is a smaller business just getting started that has a Web presence but doesn’t yet have their story told in video. “Those are profitable and creatively rewarding.”

They tout themselves on their website as “… a small group of production specialists with a passion for storytelling.” Telling stories, whether through video, audio or both; whether independent or corporate film, is where the fire burns for them.

“It’s all a balancing act between that sausage work and that creative work and making it make sense,” Woodard said. “Memphis is the kind of town where you really have to do that, you have to play that balancing act.”

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