All posts by Shahlayo Ranson

Smartphones and Cinema

Never before have we had the convenience of technology that smartphones have brought to society. Just 15-20 years ago, we would have had to carry multiple devices to have access to functions that are a given on current smartphones. MP3 player, telephone, computer, calculator, GPS device, point and shoot camera; having all of this in a portable package is now the everyday norm. Being able to have a nexus of technology in the palm of your hand has changed the face of many industries. From the news media being supplanted (to a degree) by social media to the publishing industry having to change their model to incorporate e-books, accessible tech shifts the foundations of expectation of these and many other industries. Now it seems that these waves of change are starting to hit the shores of the cinema industry.

The cinema industry is one of unrelenting change. Cameras become obsolete, software changes and techniques upgrade. However, this drive to the cutting edge largely made film-making a high dollar proposition. In an industry where a basic cinematic gear package can cost tens of thousands of dollars, undertaking a cinematic production has been for those with deep pockets. Of course, independent film and short films have flourished even with monetary constraints but these were rarely intended for theatrical release. Now with the rise of smartphones with high-resolution sensors, the device that most of us carry daily is capable of shooting video at an acceptable level to be shown on the big screen. With devices such as the iPhone 6s and the Samsung S7, and an investment of a fraction of the cost of purchasing a traditional video camera, you can shoot 4k video and get a professional product. These companies are already touting these capabilities. Samsung released a short film that was completely shot on its new flagship Galaxy S7 phone.

The movement of using smartphones as the main camera for cinematic content is moving beyond sheer promotional value though.

The best example of the movement toward using smartphones as primary tools in the cinematic space is the movie “Tangerine”. This movie was shot exclusively on the iPhone 6s. It was well-received at Sundance and went on to have a theatrical release and to win a Spirit Award. In addition to this project, there are projects such as “9 Rides” and “The Painter of Jalouzi” that have taken advantage of this innovative technology. Now that these projects have been released and been successful at proving the viability of smartphones as cinema cameras, we will have to see where the trend of cinematic innovation takes it.

We have already seen the wave of the democratization of media and it seems like it is here to stay. As artists find new ways to utilize this technology, we will undoubtedly see more and more interesting projects result.  From movies like “Tangerineand9 Ridesto music videos such as Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ “No Love Like Yours” and assorted TV show episodes and commercials, smartphones have shown staying power. With a growing market for aftermarket cinematic add-ons for these phones, smartphone cameras are certain to continue to gain reputation as a serious cinematic tool.

Can Short Film Content Stand Against Vines & Snaps?


After reading this article on Adweek about brands increasing interest in short film content, it got me thinking about the changing face of content production. In the age of Vine, Snapchat and Instagram where video content has been distilled to a 15 second maximum, can the general public’s attention span be captured by longer narrative content? Continue reading

Artist Intelligence-Melissa Czarnik (@melissaczarnik)

We were first introduced to Melissa Czarnik when we got the press release for the song “Saturday” that she did with The Eric Mire Band. We were feeling it and reached out to Melissa to find out more about her. Here is the 2nd installation of the Artist Intelligence series…

Not too many rappers hail from Milwaukee, what inspired you to get into rap?

I grew up on hip hop, in a way it raised me.  I began at an early age sitting on the phone with friends writing down the lyrics to our favorite songs…when I got older I would go to parties and jump in on ciphers. But I didn’t begin to take writing serious until about 19 when I was trying to form an all female emcee group with my homegirl Erica Heisdorf Bisquerra…but that sort of fell apart and eventually I linked up with Eric Mire who has been my producer ever since.

You fuse a lot of different sounds in the creation of your music, what are some of your major musical influences?

My major influences are probably jazz, hip hop and r&b.

If you had to describe yourself with any one of your bars, what would it be?

“Constantly pushin’ boundaries, went from trolley to worldly, I’m the avant-garde amongst your normalcy.”

Not many rap artists perform with live bands, but you often perform with the Eric Mire Band. How did you and Eric link up and how do you feel that influences your music and live shows?

Eric and I linked up about 8 years ago when he was the producer of another Milwaukee hip hop group called the Nowhere Mine.  We had a natural chemistry.  Similarly, the Eric Mire Band came about the same way, one by one we all connected and immediately vibed.

The band doesn’t really influence my writing as much as it influences my live show because often the songs are written before I ever play them with the band.

It’s not until after the song is written and or recorded that Eric and I bring it to the band, unless of course a member of the band is featured on the track.  The band operates a lot like a jazz band. Eric creates music charts and then the band improvises or puts their own style or flavor on the track… Our live show is never the same, songs are always done slightly different then the last time we played it. As an emcee I really dig that because it keeps me on my toes and I’m never bored.

What are your 3 favorite songs, not by you?

Right now, I’ve been listening to these three a lot…  Nneka’s “Heartbeat,” Mulatu Astatke’s “Yegelle Tezeta” and an all-time fav Outkast’s “spottieottiedopaliscious.”

What are some of your favorite artists to listen to in your free time?

Muhsinah, Outkast, Zap Mama, Maxwell, Tchaikovsky, Nina Simone, Diamond District, Grant Green, Gilberto Gil, Goapele, John Coltrane, Anita Tijoux… This list could really go on and on!

With the rise of artists like Nicki Minaj, the state of the female MC in hip-hop has been in even more debate than usual. What changes do you think need to be made so that women are seen as equal participants in the arena of hip-hop?

Artists like Nicki Minaj are so fabricated, so plastic, so wack. I would suggest checking out Invincible’s short video, “The Revival” for some footage on the REAL status of women in hip hop.   I think the underground scene is where real hip hop is for all emcees, men and women.  You can’t believe the status quo.  Search out good music.  Great hip hop is happening underground all over the world, I think that goes for both female and male emcees in hip hop.

You dropped Strawberry Cadillac in 2008 and have been featured on a few other Hyperdrive Motivator releases, what other projects should we be on the lookout from you in the near future?

Ahhhh yes!  I have set a release date for my new album, July 31st!  Look for it worldwide on iTunes, cdbaby, and

What would success in the music industry be to you?

Success to me would be touring the world and sharing my music with millions upon millions! There are so many places in the world I want to see, what better way to do that then by sharing my art and having it appreciated.

If you could pick any artist to collaborate on a project with, who would it be?

I’d have to say Lauryn Hill, because she is to me one of the best artists ever to grace the stage. Lyrically, vocally, and spiritually she sets the standard for what I think is top-notch artistry.

Get in contact with Melissa Czarnik:

Artist Intelligence: Eternia (@therealeternia)

In our first exclusive interview for the Artist Intelligence series on The Recon, we got the chance to talk to the Canadian rapper Eternia. As a veteran artist, she has honed her skills with the best. With some of her first work being with the supergroup The Demigodz, it is no question that her lyrical ability is top-notch. Her style gives you a feeling of the heyday of hip-hop, while still having a fresh and lyrically sharp delivery. After hearing her latest project, Get Caught Up, we had to taking advantage of the chance to get in-depth with a artist of her caliber.

If you had to describe yourself with one bar of one of your songs, what would it be?
“The Name is Eternia … Silk Kaya to few of you  /  Been doin this forever, so I got ‘to prove to you…”

Ok that’s 2 bars. My bad.

What are your favorite 3 songs, not by you?
Maaan – I find these Q’s way too unfair. I really do. (laughs).  I’m such a ‘everything is everything’ kinda chick, I feel sooo many genres/artists/vibes for different reasons on different days. ARRGH! Ok, so all u get is my 3 songs in my repeat playlist the past month, k?

  • 1. Unthinkable (I’m Ready) – Alicia Keys (‘cause I feel like this is my theme song for 2010. I’m ready… for everything. For love. For releasing “At Last”.  For making all choices without Fear).
  • 2. United States of Eurasia / Collateral Damage – Muse (ok, this new album isn’t as good as “black holes and revelations”, but this song is!  I love Muse’s political critiques. They’re great).
  • 3. Show me the Good Life – Blu & Exile (my definition of good music is: Music that Makes you Feel.  This does that. I know this album ain’t new, but it never gets old to me. I had a hard time pickin’ one song from this album, for this list… Cold Hearted is amazing.. so is The Narrow Path.. so is everything else).

3. How did your upbringing influence your rapping?

Well, I was raised with a very healthy self esteem, fierce independence & in a very non-judgmental environment. My father had cockiness, swag, and pride built into his DNA (laughs). My mom was the opposite: very humble. Very God-fearing.  Also very musical, she was trained as a Royal Conservatory classical pianist. My pops made lots of money (illegally), my mom raised us on welfare.   I moved out of the house at 15.  So I guess I got a lil of both: Church vs. cold world outside, poverty vs. affluence.  That probably informs my content to this day.  But I definitely think the confidence and independent-spirit I have now, was innately there when I was born.  My pops’ ego is off the charts, and he never cared what anyone else thought, he just did him.  I remember he picked me up at school once, in grade five. He rolled up in a white tuxedo, I kid u not, gold jewellery everywhere, fly whip.  For the next year everybody in my school was like, “Your Dad is PRINCE!”  I kid you not.  (laughs) Not: “he looks like Prince…”  but… “He IS Prince”.

What are some of your favorite artists to listen to in your free time?

Muse, Blu & Exile, Royce da 5’9, Ras Kass, Blitz the Ambassador’s dope, Reef the Lost Cauze blew me away way before we met and collab’d, Bocafloja inspires me, my sister Jessica Kaya makes me feel, I always have to listen to her songs on repeat for hours (seriously!) cause they put me in a mood, I listen to a lot of T.O.K when I’m working out (*laughs*), and Ciara too (*ducks*), Donny Hathaway & Nina Simone will always be two of my ALL TIME favorite artists to listen to, that goes without saying, Elzhi makes me wanna write better raps,  Jodeci will always be my favorite R&B group of all time (blame the era I came up in ha!), Lauryn will ALWAYS be one of the tightest emcees, period, of all time to me, I’ve always felt like Alicia Keys and I were… similar spirits – especially when I hear her speak. I really got into The Pierces a few years back, and Sia too, her album “Some People Have Real Problems” was my favorite the year it came out.  Zaki Ibrahim is ridiculous. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. And the list goes on… and on… now you know why I can’t do favorite lists.  (smiles)

Given the current state of the female MC in hip-hop, what do you think are key changes that need to be made in order to get females back to a position of prominence in the game?

That’s a good question.  I think a major change would just be the complete removal of misogyny across the board (hehe).  Hip Hop is just a microcosmic example of the systemic, global issue of gender inequality.  But Hip Hop is definitely still a boy’s club, for example we are still hearing, to this day, “girls can’t rap” without people even being corrected, or challenged on the statement. And when I say people, I mean heads of labels, DJ’s, A&R’s, promoters, you name it. Thankfully there are independent-minded individuals who support good music, no matter who’s making the music.  So I think the greatest change we need right now is for more independent-thinkers, with good music taste, to be in positions of power.  We need people like this to be able to make decisions in support of women who deserve to be in the spotlight. But, please understand: I’m advocating the support of good music, period. I don’t care if you’re a woman, a man, black, white, purple.  If it’s good, it’s good. Which is why we need people in positions of power who aren’t scared to back GOOD MUSIC.  Period.   We need leaders, not followers.

If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

I don’t know where to begin. (laughs). WOW! GOOD QUESTION! Lawdamercy. Man. I think I would want to wave a magic wand and make everybody Honest.  Like, unable to tell a lie.  At least in the music industry. It’s people’s insecurities, spawned by self-doubt and fear, that makes people lie I think. I hate having to tiptoe around insecure people. I’d take away the insecure people (who are often in positions of power, by the way, you’d be surprised!) and also remove the dishonesty.

What would success in your career mean to you?

Do you mean what success would look like, to me?  Making a living doing what I love, without worrying about being evicted or buying groceries.  That’s pretty much it.  But success in my life, beyond my career, is a different story. That involves a lot more than my career.  My career has ceased to be the “be all and end all” defining factor in my life, now.  Thank God.  I’ve let go of that.  This is all a bonus. You interviewing me? It’s a bonus.

Since blogs are such an integral part of the music industry now in terms of feedback, release of new material and promotions, do you take major stock in things you read on blogs or do you disregard it?

I had never really visited a blogsite before we started doing the “Road to Release” blasts ( I kid you not.  I mean, unless somebody threw something of me up there, like the Favorites video a year ago, ‘cause I have google alerts I’d check that out.  I’ve had to learn to care about the blogs, now, ‘cause initially I was clueless. I think their support is integral to any marketing and promo effort. Positive word of mouth is… priceless.  But at the same time, peoples comments and opinions under the post? I have blinders on. I only see the positive comments. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself (laughs).  I’m way too old to care about the peanut gallery anymore.  That’s for insecure folks. If I was gonna listen to everyone’s opinion, I woulda quit rappin’ a long time ago.

If you were not involved in the music industry, what area could you see yourself involved in?

When I was under the age of 10 I wanted to be a veterinarian, because I loved animals a lot.  Until I saw my friend’s Dad, who was a vet, stick his arm all the way up a horse’s you-know-what, up to his shoulder.  That got rid of that career aspiration.  Then, when I was in high school I thought I could go into forensic science, cause dead bodies didn’t seem to creep me out that much.  I was like, “COOL!”   But I’m not very strong in the sciences. I graduated with a B.A. in broadcast journalism, and I’ve lost count of how many people have told me I should be a TV or Radio personality.  I’m not passionate about jumpin’ thru the hoops of that biz: if it presented itself, I would walk thru the door of opportunity. I do want to go back to school and do a masters in Cultural Studies…I’d be a student for life if I could afford that luxury!  I also love gritty-docu style photography. Like photo-journalism.  That’s a passion of mine, a hobby.  We’ll see.  The possibilities are what excites me.

With so many artists making forays into the fashion scene, it seems that the two industries are becoming very closely connected. Do you feel this connection is very close? Why or why not?

Well, you kinda have to have fashion sense to be an artist. I mean, I’m not saying every artist has fashion sense, but I do think it makes for a more complete package.  At any rate, we all have a lot in common in many ways: singers, rappers, painters, graphic designers, clothing designers, make-up artists, musicians, any other fill-in-the-blank creative, artistic field.  So I don’t think it’s a stretch.  It’s 1+1=2 to me. I’m not interested in designing clothes. But I would do a T-shirt line, of dope slogans that make you think, on the heels of “My Favorite Rapper Wears a Skirt”.  And I would do an earring line.  Beatboxer Chesney Snow, who I work with, just sat me down one day, all serious, and was like, “You need to have an Eternia Earring Line…”.  (laughs).  These are the kinda people I have in my corner. I love it. Because you have no idea how excited I get over earrings.  I have a number of custom-made pieces, including my ‘eternia’ logo. It’s serious business. I’ve been rockin’ crazy earrings since I was old enough to have pierced ears.

Here at Recruit Zero, we started into the fashion industry with the idea that substance and support from like-minded people would be the key to making a lasting impression. What do you think is the key to making a lasting impression in the music industry now with the short attention spans of fans in the internet age?

Wow tough Q’s! (laughs).  Makin’ me think over here. I think talent is a given: you have to be good at what you do. But after that Given, I think it’s Knowledge of Self & Consistency that will give you longevity in the game.  Knowledge of self = authenticity. I think our fans are smart, and I think they can sense in-authenticity a mile away. At least I know I can. So knowledge of self = people BELIEVE you. They believe what you say, how you say it, they believe IN you.  Because You are identifiably YOU, not trying to be someone else you know? (A good example of artists like this are: Mos Def. Alicia Keys. Jill Scott.  People that are identifiably THEM).  So that’s importantly huge. I actually feel for people who take on a persona that ain’t them. Cause keeping up that façade only lasts but so long.  And Consistency = music that people can always count on you to make. That you won’t flip the script on them in a way that leaves them confused or disappointed.  I have been learning to be a more sonically consistent artist, the more knowledge of self I attain. So the two go hand in hand.  You need to possess one in order to possess the other.

Finally, with the success of your latest mixtape Get Caught Up, what can we expect from you in 2010?

I think you can expect to finally hear Eternia & MoSS: “AT LAST” from track one to track fifteen.  That’s a pretty big accomplishment in my books.  You can expect both MoSS and I to be doing a lot of press, and hopefully tours, in support of that release. You can expect some music videos, with some pretty crazy features, Lord Willing. And after that: who knows! Only God!

Thanks to Eternia for the opportunity! Any support we can give, we are down for it. Be on the lookout for more interviews in the Artist Intelligence series here on The Recon.

Stay in contact with Eternia: