: Kylee Peña's Blog
Yesterday was the first day of the 2015 NAB Show, and appropriately enough I got too busy to write a blog. In fact, I fell asleep in front of my laptop. That pretty much sums up NAB for most people. Especially if they're me. (To my credit, it was well after midnight, and I'm from the east coast. I'm not THAT lame.)
Part of the reason yesterday was so crazy is because my panel "Working Together to Close the Gender Gap in Post Production" happened. It was a crazy success because we filled the room and had a passionate conversation that was clearly needed. But I'm going to recap that in another blog because ya know what? I need to decompress. I've been thinking of the panel content since last November!
Instead, I want to talk about a woman I met again after the panel. I'll keep her nameless for now (but she can totally comment if she wants), but she's a really cool lady working in a technical post job that clearly identifies with all we were saying. I'd forgotten about this, but she approached me last night to tell me I had made a difference to her last year. At a meet-up of editors the night before the show, she didn't know anybody. She said I grabbed her (I don't like when people are by themselves at meet-ups!) while she was standing solo, we talked, and I introduced her to people. And that made a difference in her experience in the show, and in getting connected to other editors online for the rest of the year.
I think there are two things to learn from this story. One: what a huge difference you can make to someone just by being nice to them once. Think about that if you're at the show, or if you're following along at home. And two: imagine if all of post production were so inclusive. If we took the time to seek out people on the fringes who don't have the connections because of gender or race or a number of other factors and give them opportunities to join in. Not handing it to them -- this woman still had to take the initiative to keep talking and follow up -- but open the door so things might be different.
Not the kind of daily NAB recap you might hope for, but the theme I've heard this year even more is that the people are what matter when you come to NAB. You see the tech, but the connections you make with peers and company representatives (that you talk the tech with, or not) are what serve you year round.
I spent half of my day at the convention center and the other half aggressively socializing with the entirety of the online post production community. Because of this, I have some observations to make on this NAB Eve.
1. Blackmagic Design has some interesting stuff to announce, and we know this because there are like 9 different signs and banners all over the convention center exterior. It's pretty awesome that Blackmagic is taking the opportunity to paint up Vegas with visions of Ursa Mini and Blackmagic Cinema Camera Mini. And no, I'm not giving specifics until I hear them from Grant Petty himself tomorrow. Instead, accept this photo as a tease.
2. Cameras are top priority for everyone. Even those of us that don't shoot. Cameras and codecs drive the media we get, so everyone is anxious to see what new thing could be coming.
3. The theme of this year for me has definitely been collaboration, but mostly in the sense of vendor to vendor. Third party development is something I've heard from every company so far in one way or another. I bet there's a lot more to come, although it may not be as high profile. I don't remember hearing so much about making propriety systems accessible or agnostic before.
4. People are very much looking forward to our panel on closing the gender gap in post tomorrow at the convention center. If a recording is available after the panel, I'll be sharing it soon after the show ends.
Those are my expert observations. I have to go put out milk and cookies so the NAB Fairy will leave an Ursa under my pillow. (Ow.)
Fresh off a week of some of the craziest night shift hours I've ever worked, I'm desperately trying to gather myself together (with Bloody Marys applied liberally and responsibly) for an even crazier week ahead in Vegas where I'll again be covering the NAB Show with lots of blogs and articles. (Woo.) I'll be talking to all the top companies and individuals working in video today, gaining insight into where the industry stands and where it's going.
I'm scrolling through my social media feeds while I wait in ATL airport, and so far I'm getting a distinctly cynical feel about the show. Another codec? A fixed lens? Only those Premiere updates? I hope this is just an annual pre-show lowering of expectations because this level of meh-ness doesn't reflect some of the cool new infrastructure and camera technology I've seen lately. But we'll get to that eventually.
I'm looking forward to starting my Monday with back to back press conferences from AJA and Blackmagic Design -- the latter of which has to be accessed from a secret entry since the show floor opens later this year, which makes me strangely happy. I'll end the day with our panel Working Together to Close the Gender Gap in Post, happening at 5PM in N252, open to all. I between I'll share lots of stuff here and on Twitter (@kyl33t).
And if you see me around, say hi! We're all a bunch of weirdos anyway. May as well be weird in larger groups.
(Or any trade show, for that matter.)
Trade shows in all industries are notorious for being a spectacle with every vendor competing with the other to be the loudest, shiniest and sexiest. I'm writing to you -- any of you involved in the design, staffing or operation of a booth at the upcoming NAB Show in Las Vegas -- to ask you to consider how your conduct can help make the exhibit hall a more inviting and inclusive experience for everyone.
Casual sexism is a huge problem in our industry. Trade shows are merely a symptom of a larger issue (and I invite you to a panel on gender equality on April 13th
to learn more about how to begin to change these patterns at the source) but they're a highly visible symptom. Trade shows are maybe the most face to face interactions your company will have with customers and potential customers all year, and your booth and its workers are a symbol for your company.
We all know that sex sells. You didn't invent this concept, and at first glance it's hard to blame a company for using what is proven, especially in a city known for debauchery and sleaze. It's just a bit of fun, right? Except it isn't so much fun to feel like the only way I'm being represented in my industry at a trade show is for decoration. To clarify, I have no problem with so-called "booth babes" themselves. I have a problem with a company feeling that the best way to represent their products is with a bikini show. I urge you to think beyond easy, lowest-common-denominator kinds of marketing and strive for something better. Lots of vendors have figured out how to make their booths engaging without sacrificing inclusiveness.
When you're deciding who will staff your booth, I strongly urge you to place women and minorities in these positions too. The maleness and whiteness of NAB (and trade shows in general) is so common, it's almost its own joke. I've spoken to people about how they staff their booths, and they've told me they didn't think women would want to work in these positions because
trade shows are so male-dominated and Vegas is so icky. This is generally an incorrect assumption. You should find women in your organization and ask or encourage
them to represent your company at NAB. Just like the way you market your products stands as a symbol for your company, the diversity of your booth can represent what you want your company to be. By putting women and minorities in your booth -- on stage running demos, on the floor talking about products -- you send a strong message about equality to your customers, other companies, and NAB's attendees in general. When seeing women on the show floor is more common, casual sexism takes a hit.
And if you're working inside a booth at NAB this year, I urge you to work extra hard to put your internalized sexism aside. Since women are somewhat rare in the sea of guys (both on the show floor and in the industry), there is a tendency for booth workers to make assumptions when they interaction with a woman: that she's a journalist, an assistant, someone's significant other. There are plenty of journalists, assistants, and dragged-along-spouses of all genders on the show floor and it's great to have so many perspectives, but when your first assumption is that every woman inside your booth is anything BUT a working professional in some area of post production who is currently seeking to learn more about your products to potentially implement them within her organization, we have a problem.
Nearly every woman I've spoken to about attending NAB has experienced a booth worker -- a both worker of any gender-- making assumptions about them and treating them differently than if they were a man. Some have been malicious, and most have been oblivious internalized sexism taking over in that person's mind. So I urge you to try very hard to look at your interactions with people objectively. Is there a gender bias that is making your approach different? It should
go without saying that jokes at the expense of a person's gender or appearance have no place in a booth or on a stage, but in a male-dominated Las Vegas environment, good judgement sometimes goes out the window.
Solving sexism at trade shows like NAB is not the solution to sexism in the industry, as I've documented before
. But with the show coming up and on everyone's mind, it's worth this reminder: you're representing your company on an international stage. Do you want people leaving your booth feeling like they don't belong in this industry? Or do you want to lead by example by making gender parity a priority for your company?
I just realized I haven't formally invited the entire internet to a panel I'm helping to put together at this year's NAB Show. After reading my Sexism in Post article, Adobe reached out to see how they could help the visibility of women in the industry. Long story short, I've been working on this for the last two months, thanks to Adobe and their cooperation with Post Production World (who are a bunch of super cool people, by the way.)
So hear this: if you'll be coming to Vegas this April, please spend an hour and a half of your time at this discussion
. It will be open to anyone holding any NAB badge
even though its home is within the Post Production World conference, and I'm thankful to PPW for making arrangements to allow a wider audience into the room. Seating will be limited (as it is at every conference), but please put this on your schedule and make it a priority.
We're working on some other things, but in the mean time put this on your schedule right now. In pen. It'll be educational and entertaining and enlightening.
"Working Together to Close the Gender Gap in Post Production"
Monday, April 13th | 5PM - 7PM | Room N252
The first hour(ish) will be a panel discussion. The next hour(ish) will be a mixer and meet-up with drinks and such (thanks to Adobe!) where attendees can meet panelists and other attendees and continue the conversation.
Moderated by Amy DeLouise, the panel features me, Ellen Wixted (Adobe Senior Product Manager), Megan McGough Christian (Production Manager, PBS Frontline), and Siân Fever (UK-based freelance editor).
Just 18% of editors in Hollywood and beyond are women, yet media programs are approximately 50-50 male-female. The visibility of women in producing and coordinating roles is often cited, but there is an undeniable gender gap in technical roles -- editing, visual effects, or sound design -- and that gap has only widened since the 1970s. By working together to understand the root of these issues and committing to make changes, women and men can make a significant impact that will move our industry forward. This panel will discuss the impact of gender equality in the post workplace, strategies for recognizing and un-learning our own internalized sexism, and how we can all work together to adjust hiring practices and erase gender biases in order to ensure the future of women in all post production roles.
• The gender gap in video post-production - why did it happen and how can we work together to fix it?
• Casual sexism affects everyone in ways they don't realize and it's difficult to detect. How can we recognize the patterns and work to eliminate it?
• Committing to hiring and mentorship practices: what can both men and women do to ensure the future of women in post?
• The visibility of women within the industry, and how it affects the next generation
• Discovering your own gender bias - how women can avoid selling themselves short in the workplace, and how men can support them
"I hadn't even heard of that movie until the nominations."
"Oh, it's Oscar nominated? I'll have to see it."
"I need to see all the best picture nominees before the Oscars are on!"
How many times do you hear these things during awards season? All the time? And then also through the rest of the year? Yeah, me too. Because it turns out that no matter how apathetic you can be toward awards, this is the one award that most people use to judge the worthiness of a film. It makes them seek it out.
That's the first reason why the Oscars matter. Here is the second reason.
After the Oscars were announced this morning and I aired my grievances -- not shock by any means, but annoyance -- on Twitter, I got some push back. Who cares about awards? Well, a lot of people: see above. But mostly, my displeasure comes from the fact this is another greater representation of how skewed Hollywood is.
In the entire history of the Oscars, since 1927, there have been four women nominated for best director. That's four out of 423. Less than one percent. There have been 637 people nominated for cinematography -- zero of them women. That is also less than one percent.
There are some women nominated this year, like Sandra Adair for her editing work on Boyhood
. Becky Sullivan for sound editing on Unbroken
. Laura Poitras' documentary CitizenFour
. Documentary shorts Crisis Hotline: Press 1
directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Joanna
directed by Aneta Kopacz. Some nominations for songwriting, make-up and hair, production design and costuming. And yes, actress categories, haw haw. But my point is that beyond the editing nominees, this is pretty much how Oscar nominations for women tend to go in a good year.
Things don't change unless people in places of power and decision-making seek to change them. Studios don't take chances on women because they're still "different". People hire from within, and they tend to hire people that look like them. All of these things that come back around to internalized sexism -- sexism that is mostly just casual and societal rather than outright malicious -- and it feeds into Hollywood and gets spit out on Oscar nomination morning in the form of eight best picture nominees about men.
That's why awards matter: they bring attention to stories that might not get attention, and they represent what Hollywood has to offer us which often serves as a reminder of what Hollywood lacks. The visibility and success of these films from Oscar season tells Hollywood what "we" want to see, which circles back around into creating next's year crop of things. And the lack of diversity in what "we" desire does nothing to help eliminate the gender gap in Hollywood.
(Okay, maybe the headline is a LITTLE strong, but I HELPED.)
In the world of corporate video, the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world didn’t come around often for me. I know that’s not true for many people in the “corporate video” world, which is a general term I could use to mean anything from industrial how-toe or non-profit event highlight reels. But in my little piece of that land, my videos were generally not going to make a change that would last for future generations. At least, not a positive one.
When I started working on the PBS series This American Land, I finally got the opportunity to see what it was like to work on content with consequences in the real world, specifically the natural
world and everything in it. The two seasons I’ve spent on it have been focused on the angle of people working toward a greater good to solve an issue — an endangered species, shrinking wild land, or polluted river.
In 2013, I edited a segment about the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains Forever
campaign was trying to get the area designated as a national monument so it would be protected from development in the same way other natural lands are in the United States, and with its proximity to Los Angeles, the conservation of the area for providing drinking water and green space is important. It was kind of a tough edit because, to put it delicately, the field producing wasn’t tops. The executive producer (who did not produce the segment) was worried we wouldn’t have what we needed because it was pretty rough, but he gave it to over to me with the hopes I could find the story. We emailed back and forth a couple of times about the mission of the piece and what they hoped to accomplish, and I dug in without a script or guide or notes and came back with a six minute piece called Backyard Wilderness. The EP was so glad I did what I did with it, he gave me the producer credit for the story.
Late last year (in 2014), I got a news alert on my phone that President Obama was going to designate the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. I was like hey, whoa dude, I edited a thing about that and now it happened. Not to say my editorial work had any impact (or maybe it did, for the right people — it’s on the campaign’s main page and was broadcast nationally and all) but I’ve never felt that kind of connection between cutting a video and then seeing the direct outcome of that. I felt a smidgen of ownership in that because I had dived so deep in the material to draw out pieces of the story that would make the best case for the campaign.
People have been working on this for over a decade, and I’m sure it’s been hugely rewarding to finally see it come to fruition. My part of it coming in the final year before the designation was given is pretty cool too. I hope everyone in post-production gets the opportunity to edit something that has meaning beyond the half hour its broadcast to the world. It certainly gives you a new perspective when you’re still working on it.
Another edit I really enjoyed was about an area of West Virginia that contains the beginning of six watersheds that feed into bigger rivers downstream. Birthplace of Rivers
is a campaign to designate this area a national monument, so the quality of drinking water can’t be affected by oil and gas development or other industries. This edit was another where I was given a bunch of stuff and a loose guide — not out of necessity but rather to see what I’d make with it — so it was another I’ve grown attached to. I hope Birthplace of Rivers will see the same kind of success as the San Gabriel Mountains.
If a thing happens and nobody blogs about it, did it really happen? Of course the answer is no, which is why I'm writing a post about a project I finished editing in September. But there is some freshness to it: it's actually airing nationally(ish) this week. You could have seen it online this whole time, but there's something about a thing airing nationally(ish) that brings a new layer of legitimacy to it.
Editing a show filled with shots like this was okay.
One of my most complicated projects to date at Biscardi Creative Media (or anywhere, really) was started in July, right after the conclusion of the fourth season of the This American Land
for PBS…so ya know, "okay good job, *shoves you out window*" basically. It was a web series called Arson Dogs, featuring beloved dog trainer Victoria Stilwell
as she visited and learned from State Farm's arson dog training school in rural Maine. Arson dogs are super-duper energetic dogs that are trained to go into a fire scene (after the fire is gone) and try to find accelerants like gasoline so samples can be taken and arsonists can be convicted at a higher rate. It's really hard to find this stuff in a fire scene since petroleum is found in everyday products, but the dogs seem to have no problem. In fact, a large part of the schooling is really training the eight handlers in the class to handle and read the dogs. The training is based upon positive reinforcement, which aligns perfectly with Victoria's personal training mission too. But to make it difficult for her, the arson dogs' energy isn't curbed and they're never trained not
to pull on their leads, so working with such dogs is much different for someone who typically deals with obedience.
This show had 6 black labs and 2 yellow labs and I still know this is Fresca.
BCM cut a trailer for the show before I started my edit, so I was vaguely familiar with where some things were. But once I actually began to look at everything for real, I had some concerns. For one thing, there was a massive amount of footage. Like not just a lot of clips, but a lot of multiclips where conversations would last for over 45 minutes and cover two dozen topics between 10 people. And for another thing, almost ALL of the dogs were black labs. I'm not exactly sure why that was a concern, but I had a brief moment of panic about not being able to tell the dogs apart, like it really matters. (And by the way, at the end of this edit I could easily tell all the seemingly identical dogs apart.)
Victoria was the audience POV as she became a student again to learn new training techniques.
Victoria's team did some logging and organizing of the footage THANKFULLY which really allowed me to find my way around much more quickly than if I would have had to do all that myself. They handed off the Adobe Premiere Pro project with all the logged clips, and I duplicated it and started working within it after reconnecting all the media from a NAS. Everything was split up by day, and then put into bins based on major events or locations. Interviews were separated out and labeled, which helped me figure out who was who in a cast that included 8 handlers, 3 trainers, 1 spokesperson, and a lot of dogs. I spent the better part of a week watching almost everything and adding markers to the timeline with descriptions.
The Marker window was especially helpful in long multiclips.
Here's the thing that made it complicated for me though. I had a sort of
outline. Maybe like twelve sentences? It was more of a suggestion based upon the experience the team had in the field. Like "maybe you can split the episodes up like this?" Or maybe not. It was up to me. If 20 three minute episodes was best, I would do that. Much fewer longer episodes? Do that. Okay. While I was watching everything, I was trying to take notes about what story lines might emerge and what characters were best to focus on for each episode. With the school being fairly linear, and with the footage covering the first three days and the last two days of the five week schooling process, I had a basic structure to work from. But besides "second day of school", what was it really about?
And how much sponsor information do you sprinkle in? When?
Victoria's team logged and organized the 4000 clips in the project.
These weren't on a tight turnaround necessarily, but I knew once I started delivering, they would be due on a weekly basis. And I was doing all the color correction, sound and graphics myself. I wanted to get to the edit as quickly as I could, so I decided to just start making harsh decisions as quickly as possible. As I watched and placed markers, I made notes in a text file about sequences that would work in each episode. It became an ever-changing living document where I constantly moved segments around, shuffled them within an episode, or pushed them back to another episode. I'm really weird about outlines. I find it difficult to write things without an outline of some kind. When I edit unscripted stuff, I'll write down a quick roadmap of where I think I want to go. It's impossible for me to start doing anything until I have a scribbly little list that I'll never look at again.
My favorite dog (yes favorite), Sadie, after investigating a fire scene with Victoria.
I was thankful to have a basic understanding of a higher level of finishing audio within Premiere, too. So many microphone sources, many of them with wind or underneath a scarf. I'm not an amazing sound mixer by any means, but a little compression and EQ was going a long way for me. Color correction was done with Red Giant's Colorista II, which is about a million lightyears better than the 3-way color corrector inside Premiere. I had minimal issues with Premiere Pro (2013), except for autosave becoming really slow toward the end…and the occasional export not exporting correctly for no particularly good reason.
I built the minimal motiony graphics inside Premiere (2013) so I could react to feedback more quickly.
Here's the other thing that complicated it for me: there really wasn't any established structure to the show. So while I was putting together the actual content for each episode, I was simultaneously considering how to package it together, and pulling clips for a title sequence. I ultimately decided on a fairly tried-and-true web series formula: a cold open with some kind of hook, a short catchy title sequence, the episode content, then a tease for the next week. There's nothing inherently difficult about any of this, I know. It's just thinking about it all at the same time was a little challenging at times.
I used a lot of Rampant Design light leaks for some quick transitions with minimal effort.
I held back the first two episodes (which were more of a two-parter for the first day of training, setting up the training and introducing the guys to their new dogs) until they were both entirely finished before I showed the clients. To my utter relief, they were totally thrilled with the style and structure.
So that's always a whew.
After that, I put my head down and tried to keep editing as quickly as I could to turn in episodes on a weekly basis for posting the following Tuesday. I had selects timelines with all the moments I wanted to use for each episode, so if I was skimming for something for episode 4 and I saw something I thought I'd probably want for episode 6, I'd take it and toss it in the other timeline. I was relying heavily on clip descriptions and markers for orientation within longer multiclips (rather than subclips) and I liked that method a lot.
Dogs are awesome.
From a story perspective, this is fascinating content any day. But a challenge I had was keeping the energy levels up for the viewer. The guys in the class were there for the long haul. And they were law enforcement officials, so it's not like they're going to be overly dramatic or bouncing off the walls with fear and excitement. So it took a little editing magic to keep things fast and exciting. Nothing tricky or fake, just condensing time and combining it with the best, most heartfelt moments, like you do. But man, there was a lot of sifting to find those.
Dogs are really awesome.
In the back of my mind through the editing process, I knew the ending was going to be a challenge. There was no footage of the actual certification process (and I'm not sure it would have been allowed), so I had to deal with a time jump from anticipating certification to a post-graduation celebration. There wouldn't be any moments where anyone found out on camera that they were official an arson dog handler, which is a bummer. I didn't really have anything to use other than a celebratory dinner in a dimly lit room. But I did have one thing, possibly unintentionally: after certification, all the guys had official portraits taken in their dress uniforms and someone had left a camera to run on the scene. So I let music and heavy visuals drive the point home that they had passed and were celebrating. Did it work? I think so, especially considering what was given.
The handlers are all fire marshals and fire fighters throughout the country.
I edited eight episodes of the show (6 in the linear narrative and 2 training-related supplements, a little over an hour of show content) and I've seen endless positive comments on it which is gratifying considering trying to put together the whole package of the first two shows probably took about five years off my life expectancy. Not that it was the client that did that, no, they were great. It was self-inflicted. I love dogs and I wanted to do their show right, man.
The only bit of the show made in After Effects - provided logo plus fire elements and smoke from Rampant Design.
Serving as my own producer on this made it kind of a new experience for me. I mean, I've cut plenty of unscripted stuff before and I've been a producer on that stuff. But the experience of working on so many episodes at once was…kind of new. I really enjoy the problem-solving side of editing, and a lot of this edit was just that, trying to make things work together that were almost
working together. Sinking into the actual craft of the thing was a little harder since I was never really entirely dedicated to one show, always trying to keep eyes open for bites that would be THE defining bite for a later episode. But I really enjoyed it. I learned things about myself. Like every time I do a project like this, I have faith in my first judgment decision making skills. If you can't go into a project with a whole huge mess of stuff to work with and make quick editorial and structural decisions, you can't hit deadlines. And you can't satisfy a client unless those gut instincts are usually right. And my time management and estimation skills are pretty spot on. Eyeballing a project and estimating the time it takes? I'm not terrible at that. Any time I can add a little bit of faith in these kinds of abstract skills, I'm appreciative of the project.
As a cat person with a reputation, this dog's face makes me want a dog.
And you wanna know a confession? I miss all the dogs. ALL OF THEM. I can tell them apart by their little faces, and I miss hanging out with them. I would be their friend. I'm hoping for another season (which looks very promising!) so I can meet more dogs and be their friend too. I loved editing a project about something that really matters to people and animals. These dogs are generally considered to be undesirable because they're too energetic, and many of them were in line to be euthanized. Instead, they're working with law enforcement, in an atmosphere where their crazy energy is put to good use dramatically increasing the number of arson convictions. Dogs on the brink become heroes. I'm not crying you're crying.
Look at his vest, I can't even.
Which brings me back to my opening paragraph. You can meet these dogs (and humans) online. Or you can watch them at some point on DirecTV's DogTV channel
, which is apparently 24/7 programming for dogs -- except for this week, which is human-related dog programming. Like Arson Dogs. (Newbie tip: If someone asks you to cut something exclusively for the web, keep your graphics title safe anyway. Because you never know when they'll say "actually, DogTV wants to air it.") They're doing a free preview of the channel for Thanksgiving week, maybe so your dog will get hooked and you can order the channel for them for Christmas!
Stills in this post are from Arson Dogs, copyright Victoria Stilwell Enterprises, except for my interface screenshots which copyright nobody.
Here's a hot tip I've been chewing on for a while, especially for younger editors:
If someone offers to speak with you about your career -- a coffee meeting, an email, an informational interview, anything -- follow up with them.
If someone hands you their business card and says "stay in touch", do it.
Because you know what? In my experience, almost nobody does it.
Over the last few years, I've grown a lot as an editor and I've gotten some good experience so far. But I'm still close enough to college graduates in age that I think my experience in today's economy is relevant to them, so I try to give back as often as I can. I've done workshops, panels, small group mentoring in high schools, Twitter chats, and networking events. If I talk to someone at length trying to break into the industry and they
express interest in continuing the conversation, I will always give them my card and an open invitation to contact me.
You know how many of them actually email me? Like two out of a hundred is being generous.
(That's out of people that have asked me to continue the conversation. Whenever I make a presentation to a class or group of younger people, I always post my email address at the end with an open invitation to follow up -- I'm not counting these, but if I were it would make the number more like two out of four hundred.)
Heres the thing: if you ask someone for help and they say "yes, here, contact me", follow up with them. If you're in college and a professor you like has office hours, go for a visit. If a company invites you to shadow an editor or do an informational interview, set up an appointment.
If someone says sure, bother me all you want? BOTHER THEM. You should be trying to make as many contacts as you can, an that includes "bothering" people who haven't
offered you their time outright. What chance do you have at making connections if you aren't even taking the free space in the middle of the board?
This is important: there will be people who are blowing smoke and don't actually have the time or interest in meeting with you. That's okay. There are plenty of others that can make the time and have the interest, because different levels of mentorship are mutually beneficial.
I often learn just as much about the industry when I talk to younger people as they might be learning from me.
I've been where young editors probably are: too much work, too little pay. Maybe trying to balance classes and internships and work and a shred of a social life. I've been handed a business card with an open offer to communicate. I've let it slip because I didn't have time or I didn't think they really
had the interest. I've potentially left a lot of opportunities on the table because I couldn't put aside a few minutes to throw an email at someone who already welcomed me to do so.
Keep track of your contacts and follow up
. If someone is opening up their busy schedule to potentially share their knowledge and connections with you, for the love of everything, respond. If they get kind of wobbly in the response, keep bugging them. After all, they started it.
Everybody tells you to network and meet people. The part that comes after -- where you actually start to make the real connection -- is the part that will help make you successful.
This week, I've seen maybe a dozen articles about "Millennials". What do they want? Why aren't they buying houses? What brands do they like? Why don't they vote? What's their favorite color? They're mostly all written by people from the Baby Boomer generation, and they're mostly filled with generalizations and assumptions like "all Millennials care about is texting each other." Seriously, that was a comment. Not even a clever burn. Like offensively non-clever
First, a definition: Millennials are people born between 1983 and 2003, give or take some years depending on who you ask. To define a generation does sound a little generalize-y on the surface, but people born during this span of time do have a lot of things in common: they're typically more open-minded about social issues, they marry and have children much later (if at all), they're less likely to be religious, they have more student loan debt than any generation before, and they're described as liberal do-gooders by some and self-entitled narcissists by others. Again, speaking in terms of statistics based on this twenty year time span.
And people are desperately seeking to understand them. To market to them, campaign to them, sell to them...basically, to communicate with them.
I feel like this is a topic worth exploring for the video industry because the Millennial generation is clearly dealing with a lot of factors that Baby Boomers and Gen X did not, just as those generations were affected in ways that their parents were not. Millennials go to the previous generation for life and career advice (which is great, the best way to learn) but there’s a disconnect when it comes to applicable advice.
Some facts evergreen: work hard, keep learning, understand the theory. But a lot of specific advice can’t be handed down like in other careers because the industry has changed so much, and it seems like older people mistake this disconnect for arrogance. All of our jobs as we know them didn't even exist thirty years ago, and Millennials came of age in the digital video world. As the era of the hundred thousand dollar Avid suite was winding down, I was creating videos at home on a consumer Dell computer. This inherently gives me a different perspective on the industry, and it's hard to wade through knowing what's "right" instinctively and being told what's "right" historically or cynically.
In an effort to help mitigate the generational divide, here are some things about the Millennial Video Producer (or shooter or editor or whatever) that I know to be true more often than not.
1. We're more interested in happiness than financial stability
-- at least, so far. In a Millennial Branding report, 45% of respondents chose job flexibility over pay and 72% want a job where they have an impact. Millennials are highly entrepreneurial and generally like to see themselves making some kind of change. There's some conflicting information about just how civic-minded Millennials actually are, but it's definitely easy to see the social patterns reflected in the kinds of businesses they align themselves with.
A statistic like this really seems to make Baby Boomers’ heads spin, spitting words like “selfish” and self-entitled” despite the fact these young people are saying they want to make change happen
. There’s a generational shift away from prioritizing family first: in ONE way. One could easily argue that by pursuing the things that make a person happy, they are doing more for their family life than they ever would being utterly miserable but financially stable.
2. We're generally under-employed and kind of resent it, especially since we're very educated.
A lot of Millennials (the most educated age group after the economic downturn according to the Department of Labor) started their careers (or tried to) at the downturn of the economy in 2008, graduating from college to find job postings that contained such comedy as "entry-level editor: 5 years experience required." Pair that with the fact they have the highest amount of student loan debt any generation has seen (nearly 40% of debt for people in their 20s according to a recent analysis by TransUnion) and it's no wonder they're being a little more careful about buying homes or moving out of their parents' place altogether. Which sucks, considering most Millennials spent their childhoods being told that a degree was the key to a career.
After the worst of the recession had passed, employers remained cautious about the job market, not hiring and not paying pre-2008 wages, either because they hadn't recovered or didn't want to take any risks, or maybe just because they could get away with it. A note of personal experience here: when I started college at Indiana University, I was told that no student left the program without three or four job offers on the table. When I was in my last couple months of school four years later and hadn't gotten so much as a rejection from any potential employers, I asked my advisor what I should do. He laughed and said "gosh, I don't know. Maybe go to grad school to wait out the economy." No doubt a temporary solution that too many people in my generation took advantage of and are paying dearly for, literally. For a lot of them, it was probably worthwhile. For this industry? Not so much unless you wanted to pursue a teaching career.
3. We're likely to freelance.
A recent survey by Elance found that 83% of Millennials say working independently or freelancing is a part of their career strategy. Coming from a blue-collar family heavily involved in the automotive industry, I can’t imagine any of my previous generations talking about freelancing as a major part of their long term career goals. That's completely bananas. Maybe it’s a result of increased self-reliance, being conditioned to poor economic times, or just a decreased willingness to work for The Man since he's not paying you anyway (and often not giving you insurance or other benefits), but more of this generation is looking to make it on their own and work for multiple clients at once.
And it's definitely possible, especially with healthcare reform providing (sometimes arguably) affordable ways for sole proprietors to manage their own health insurance. From subscription based software and workstations that are within financial reach, a lower cost of doing independent business all around hasn't been great for brick and mortar video production, but freelancers in many parts of the country are thriving, especially if they're as connected as Millennials. In a few years, 50% of the workforce will be Millennials, and many are predicting a cultural shift from the 9 to 5.
4.To finish the point of the last bullet, we're unlikely to settle in and spend twenty years with an employer
. Millennials have been cited as the job-hopping generation, looking to get lots of different kinds of experiences instead of settling in to one employer for the entirety of our careers. We're used to an uncertain job market, so we value exploration over making our way up the ranks in one company that may not even exist in ten years from our perspective. According to a 2012 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median time spent at a job for someone 25-34 years old was about three years. Most people I know have already had three or four jobs, if they took full-time work at all.
And especially for a video producer of some sort, the allure of freelancing usually includes a more diverse portfolio and more chances to learn new techniques — something that we’ve been told time and time again is very important if we want to make it in this industry.
5. We value individualism and that doesn't make us (all) narcissists.
Yeah, we share our lives online like an open book and take selfies and spend hours a day looking at screens. But one thing our parents seemed to do for us is give us a good sense of self-esteem. Or maybe they drove us so crazy, we collectively rebelled. Either way, this individualism plays into the freelancing spirit and career exploration, but it also means that Millennials are marrying and reproducing later and less often (with a Pew study reporting that 25% of Millennials don't wish to ever get married.). And that's not good or bad, it's just a generational fact that home life in our 20s is very different than home life in your 20s might have been.
6. We like you but we kind of hope you can retire soon.
Look, we know that the retirement age is going up. Boomers don't want to retire, either because they can't or they just don't feel like it's time. That's cool. Yay, people are healthy and living longer. But dang, nobody wants to be a 40 year old junior editor, probably. The post-recession job postings asking for a million years of advice for newbie pay are still pretty common, and those jobs are being filled by you guys, which sucks just as much for you as it does for us. I see a lot of people say they're getting beat for work by young people, but plenty of young people are being passed over for older people who can't leave the industry yet.
Which is likely a major reason so many Millennials are going solo with their careers pretty early. May as well control your own fate, right? But whether it's a staff gig or freelance work, we hope the economy works itself out so you can retire and we can take your jobs. In the mean time, you can't blame us for being aggressive.
So what I'm trying to say here is that the Millennials are coming and they want to learn from your experiences, but there's always going to be a gap. The gap isn't arrogance or self-entitlement, but rather a pile of a whole mess of other kinds of experiences that shaped us, each with their own benefits and challenges. There's an assumption that things are so
much easier now for young people, with the low cost of of entry and the wide availability of tools. But while we're not fighting through the analog to digital transition or spending life savings on computers, there are a lot of challenges: a highly saturated market that includes the original experienced pros, an economy less willing to put money into video production, and a culture that requires instant gratification for work. So we thank you for what you did to get us to this point and we want to learn from you, but just don't mistake our generational differences for something more malicious.