• Ethan Stafford

The Perfect Score

I’m currently a Senior at Western Carolina University and finishing my last semester here. It’s been a wild ride working with the students and faculty at Western, where we get to collaborate, produce, and distribute our thesis films for film festivals.


I have been working in the film industry since 2017, when my cousin Dan Pena, an actor and comedian in Los Angeles called me and asked me to work on a 48-hr film project with him. I was introduced to the film world through my love of stories, especially stories that moved me to see the beauty in things, stories that made me laugh, and stories that made me think in new ways.


I started playing Euphonium in the school band and quickly picked up playing bass and guitar shortly afterward. I write my own music, and I mainly play guitar now, but I also play bass and sing, depending on the gig. I have played in my friends’ band Halden Vang as the bassist in 2019, and I am also getting out to performing my own shows post-COVID. I love all things related to sound, so getting to work with Local Cinema Studios on their productions of Bruiser and Holy Irresistible have been some of the most exciting things in my film career so far.


I will be playing live at the Milestone Club on May 20, 2022, in Charlotte, NC at 8 pm!


I learned a lot this past year working under my mentor John Bottrell, who showed me how to enhance my craft as a Boom Operator. You may think holding a pole with a microphone is

easy, but there is so much of a methodology involved that makes the job more interesting each day you work with it. John Bottrell showed me a neat trick when it comes to “lavv-ing” an actor. A lav mic is a small hidden microphone, and as a part of the sound crew, one of the neat tricks I learned was how to keep the microphone stuck to the chest, without getting a rubbing sound. To do this, take a piece of medical tape, wrap it in a cone shape so that the two sticky sides stick to each other, and then stick it right in the cardioid position of the actor's chest – where their heart is. This region of the body projects the clearest sound and can be easily hidden with the actor's shirt. The fact that John and I both build guitars is pretty rad, too.


The arts of film and music often converge together on feature film productions, and I used to think that one day I would have to pick one profession or the other, but the team at Local Cinema has proven that that isn’t true; they’ve always been happy for me to bring my guitar along to social events with our film friends. My favorite evening I recall was a campfire the whole crew attended. Another crew member, Ethan Hacker, performed alongside me and we played all night for our celebrity guest Lea DeLaria and the above-the-line team as well. It was a great night. Connecting my music to an audience like that was amazing.


Being on a film set has taught me how to work in synergy with my colleagues, and it’s also taught me how to think outside of the box and solve problems that don’t often occur in day-to-day life. That is what makes it even more worth it to work on a film crew, especially with the team at Local Cinema Studios!