Local audio engineer breaking into film industry

Jeffery Reed, owner of Taproot Audio Design, sits at his workstation where he mixes and masters everything from songs and music videos, to documentaries and feature films. Photo by Petre Thomas

By Chaning Green

Jeffery Reed, owner of Taproot Audio Design, has a studio out on the edges of Lafayette County, just off of College Hill Road. The studio is in a small beige building that sits next to a house. Inside, the surprisingly spacious studio is lined with red curtains, carpet and bluish-purple lights. There is a large mixing board that sits in front of a large television screen; this is Reed’s workstation.

Reed fell in love with the recording process in high school. He was in a few bands during that time and one of his groups did some recording at a small studio in Vicksburg. Reed has worked in studios from Los Angeles to London, and yet he said that studio in Vicksburg is the coolest he had ever seen. The recording studio was in the attic of an old house, and Reed was so busy staring and the recording equipment and the engineer that he could barely focus on the music he was supposed to be playing.

Upon graduating high school, Reed went through the Yellow Pages and started calling recording studios looking for work. Malaco Records in Jackson had an opening for a sales person, and, much to his surprise, he landed the job. The job required him to use computers, which Reed had never touched in his life. Luckily, there were friends he could call on to walk him though how to use the machines.

He worked with the wife of an engineer at the studio and they all became friends. During the day, he would work the phones and do his job as a salesman, but at night, he would spend time with the audio engineer and learn the tools of the trade. After that, he landed a job at Parallax studios, also in Jackson, and then went to Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.

When he graduated from Full Sail, he had originally planned to work with movies. He wanted to do post production, which is a lot of what he currently does. However, when he graduated he was offered a position at Ardent Studios in Memphis and decided that he would be fool to turn it down. He worked there for six years before turning to freelancing. He even briefly owned a record label. He opened Taproot Audio Design in 2002.

“It’s an interesting dichotomy because I am not really a film buff, but when I’m at films, I’m paying attention to the audio,” Reed said. “I’ve always been an audio nerd. Especially the surround sound. The more I’ve learned about what I’m doing now, the amount of work that goes in to it; it’s all just absolutely incredible.”

Taproot’s filmography (listed in full on www.taprootaudiodesign.com, along with their discography) includes a mix of music videos, documentaries, the occasional independent film as well as a commercial for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. His credits include recording industry jargon like “re-recording mixer,” “mastering engineer” and others. Among his current projects, he is working with a filmmaker out of Los Angeles as well as on this year’s community film for the Oxford Film Festival.

Every year, the Oxford Film Festival puts out a community film. This film is shot and edited locally and stars all local actors. This year, the community film is being mixed by Taproot. The film is titled “Once A Month,” and is based on a Tom Franklin short story.

Oxford arts community veteran Alice Walker makes her film directorial debut with the production. She has been everything from actor in local production to the president of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

With all of this film work, Reed is hoping it will open doors for his studio to do more within the industry.

“Now that I’ve gotten my foot in the door and a couple releases under my belt, my primary goal is to approach more out of state companies and let them know that I am here,” Reed said. “There’s filming going on absolutely everywhere, but the post production goes away and is done remotely. I can offer pretty much everything you can get in the major market, right here in Oxford, Mississippi.”

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