Bridging the Gap to Opportunity: A Conversation with 3 First-Time NAB Show Attendees

Imagine this: you’re in your early twenties, at the start of your career in post production. You come from a working class family with no connections in the media industry, and you’ve had many challenges to overcome along the way. You’ve been working hard to maintain momentum by keeping your bosses happy at your day job — a day job that doesn’t pay you quite what it should — while taking on side projects and extracurriculars at night. You do all the right things, including networking and getting involved in your community.

One day you get a notification: a technical paper you wrote as one of those late night extracurriculars has been accepted at an enormous industry conference! You’re invited to present it to your peers at the conference. Well, not really your peers so much as the kind of established industry professionals who have been interviewing and hiring you at this early stage. But at this conference, they’d be your peers. This opportunity would open many doors and grant you incalculable credibility. It’s career-changing.

But wait, back to reality. The conference is on the opposite side of the country. You don’t get paid time off, and you’re in the middle of crunch time anyway. You work paycheck-to-paycheck, paying insanely high rent and endless student loans. You don’t have family to ask for a loan, and you wouldn’t want to anyway. You have to turn down the opportunity.

A situation not so different from this is what led Blue Collar Post Collective co-founder Katie Hinsen to spearhead the creation of the Professional Development Accessibility Program, or PDAP. The program is aimed at helping emerging talent in the film and television post production industry further develop their skills by providing financial assistance to attend valuable industry conferences, trade shows and development opportunities. The Professional Development Accessibility Program helps to create a bridge between the industry and the diverse membership of the Blue Collar Post Collective, breaking down the financial barriers to prevent people from taking their careers to the next level. Bringing new faces to major events helps remind the wider industry that all professionals, including low income earners, have voices that are of equal value and importance to the post community.

PDAP was originally announced by Hinsen while she attended NAB in 2016, and the first three NAB recipients attended in 2017: Nolan Jennings, Tara Pennington, and Eugene Vernikov. They were selected by a committee who sorted through the applications for BCPC and received airfare, hotel and passes to NAB, including additional passes donated by the National Association of Broadcasters and Future Media Concepts.


PDAP recipients (L-R) Eugene Vernikov, Nolan Jennings, and Tara Pennington at the BCPC meet-up.

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News: BCPC Leadership Evolves and Expands

This week we announced some changes to the leadership in Blue Collar Post Collective, including my promotion to president of the organization.

Creative COW coverage

Post Perspective coverage

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Women are tired and I’m watching them leave post production

In lieu of a tweetstorm, which I briefly considered, here’s a short blog of a realization I’ve had lately.

For years I’ve been citing research about women leaving the post production industry in droves once they hit the glass ceiling and have had enough. A lot of people say women leave at this point because they’re just not that interested in pursuing it any further or they wish to raise kids and start a family.

Their presence at this point isn’t questioned or missed. Half the crowd says “what are you talking about, I work with tons of women” and the other half says “well, what can you do? Women just want to leave.”

I’m on the verge of being 31. In the last year of my twenties and the first year of my thirties, I have met more women in my new age bracket than ever who have changed careers or are seeking to make a change. And this change isn’t prompted by unrest or a desire to try new things.

No way. These women? They’re tired.

For years I’ve been citing research and anecdotes from people an arm’s length away at least. Now I’m talking about my peers and seeing it happen first hand.

These women have spent the entirety of their twenties and then some trying to prove themselves like anyone does, but they’ve had to do it even harder. And once they proved themselves they had to KEEP proving themselves. They have had to work to command respect and be treated like peers and not subordinates. They have had to remind the men (and women) around them that they aren’t children but rather experienced professionals. They’ve had to have uncomfortable conversations about their family planning strategies or future plans with bosses in order to shake any assumptions away that could destroy their careers. They’ve had to constantly balance between being too ambitious or not wanting it hard enough. They’ve had to find a way to be strong without being bossy. They get stuck in assistant editor and coordinator and junior roles while their male peers are promoted more rapidly. They’re paid less for their work and given fewer benefits. And they’re supposed to be grateful for these opportunities.

Women show up at networking events and get hit on, so they have to think hard about what they’re wearing and have a plan to leave when a stranger goes too far. They get over-talked and interrupted during meetings, so they must strategize or force their hand and risk an issue with their tone. Their opinions aren’t taken seriously, so they must carefully craft and design every argument ahead of time. They’re infantilized by their coworkers and must find a way to demonstrate their experience and skills without insulting anyone. Their experiences are put down by other women who have bought into the gender bias that pits women against each other.

And on top of all this, they’ve had to learn and grow as professionals in our industry, constantly meeting new people, finding more opportunities, and gaining new skills. On top of the normal stuff anyone has to do to make it in this industry, women have a whole separate agenda to focus on.

And it’s not like we really want to do that. I would love to never speak about diversity ever again. I’d love to just focus on my tech work and build my skills. But I can’t stop talking about diversity until it’s resolved.

I know what you’re thinking. This industry is hard. Navigating your career is hard. Before you think these women can’t cut it, think about this: if you’re able to scale a mountain much quicker and easier than a person wearing 50 pound weights on their feet, would you say you’re better or more worth of being at the summit than they are?

Because women pursue careers in post and technology with weights on their feet.

And now these women are so tired and I’m watching them leave. They wouldn’t leave if they weren’t so tired. They would stay and use their incredible skills to tell the stories that need to be told with so many important perspectives.

This is the excessive emotional labor we put on women, which has been well-documented as a major stressor that wears women down. Tack on dealing with an industry with long days, egos, and tight deadlines, and it’s a small wonder so many of us make it at all.

We all need to fight harder to make our workplaces more inclusive and welcoming. We need to do gender bias training. We have to aggressively seek out women to hire and provide a path for ascending within the industry.

Because if we don’t have these diverse people working in an industry that is evolving and changing so rapidly, we’re going to miss out on vital innovations that would allow it to be a sustainable business in the future.

But even worse, we’re going to keep destroying passionate women who work hard to stake their claim in our industry. And no matter what that means for your business bottom line, it’s plain wrong.

Update: Although I did not originally add much in this piece about the difficulties for women who choose to have children, that aspect has become a major talking point in response to this blog. Some of the dissent has mentioned that women being handed the biological task of having babies is just the way it is, and it means a lot more of them are going to leave their careers behind because they have other responsibilities.

It’s true that many women do choose to leave employment to raise children. I think that’s great. I think men and women both should have that choice presented to them. However, there is no path back into the industry for women who choose to do this. There are women who spent six years raising a son or daughter and wish to go back to work, but no employer will entertain the thought of hiring someone with a gap in employment, regardless of why or how much work they did to keep themselves up to date with their tools.

There is also the matter that there are women who will not choose to have children. You can’t assume anything from anyone. Your management contingency plan for hiring women should be to treat them fairly, pay them equally, and restructure your workplace so they can thrive regardless of their choices.

But I can’t shake this idea of shrugging off child birth as a simple fact of biology handed to women. There are so many women in this industry who have children and want to return to work within a year. A lot of them can’t find a way to make it work, physically or emotionally, and leave. “Ah well,” the employers say, “we can’t help what responsibilities nature gave them.”

We can grow human organs in dishes. We can replace lost arms and legs. We can perform transplants of nearly anything anymore. We can transfuse blood. We can perform c-sections. Biotechnology has never been more advanced — and you’re telling me we can’t find a solution to helping mothers stay in their jobs when they choose to stay?


Further reading from me on this topic:

Sexism in Post

Open Letter to Companies Exhibiting at NAB

Sexism in Post podcast interview

Sexism in VFX podcast interview

Ten Questions on Gender Issues in Post

Gender Equality in Post Production

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Make It: My Interview on Adobe’s New Talk Show

Last month, Adobe invited me to San Francisco to be a guest on their new talk show Make It, discussing my career, my job, and my inspirations. I ran there and back from Burbank on the same day, spending a rainy day eating fresh seafood and dropping into my favorite SF shops (including Paxton Gate, where I picked up a lovely possum skull.)

It was an honor to be invited to share my experience as a workflow supervisor with Adobe’s Jason Levine. Creative COW also wrote a bit of an article on the thing.

If you’ve found me thanks to this interview and would like to know more about anything I mention (or anything I didn’t mention), please email me or reach out on social media. I rarely check the comments on this blog.

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Blind Resume Evaluations Don’t Make Your Company More Inclusive

Whenever I’m involved in a discussion on inclusive hiring practices, whether it’s a panel or a forum discussion or a one-on-one conversation, there is always someone who urges me (or the audience) to simply take the names off resumes for initial screening to prevent any conscious or subconscious assumptions.

“It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it works — now the hiring manager has no idea if they’re hiring Joe, Jane, José, or Jamal. They can see the person for who they are!”

The idea is that hiring managers are not calling back candidates based on an unconscious bias they don’t know they have linked to names because of their gender or ethnicity. And there’s been data to back this up. People with African-American sounding names have to send 15 resumes before they get a response, compared to just 10 for white sounding names. Easy to pronounce names are favored over difficult names. Women are less likely to be brought in for interviews on STEM jobs than men. Even in faculty mentoring at colleges, Asian sounding names got far fewer responses to requests for mentorship than white names.

There’s loads of research to back up this claim of unconscious bias in hiring practices. The solution seems pretty simple and actionable. Just take the names off.

My response to this suggestion: that’s stupid, don’t do that.

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NAB 2017 Meet-Up: BCPC + #PostChat

If you’re attending the NAB Show this year, put our Blue Collar Post Collective/PostChat mega-meet-up on your social calendar. Instead of having two different events, we’re combining forces to have one hang-out. No raffles or announcements or vendor pitches — just a bunch of post production pros hanging out near a bar on NAB Show Eve.

The meet-up starts Sunday, April 23rd at 6PM. We’ll be hanging out in front of O’Shea’s on the LINQ, where #PostChat has been for the last two years.

If you’ve never been to a BCPC meet-up, our non-profit group is dedicated to supporting emerging talent in post production and making the industry more inclusive, and we do this through regularly getting together in places where “everybody knows your name” and by holding free events. Many of these events are live streamed and available for viewing later.

Whether you’re emerging talent, an established pro, or somewhere in between, come hang out with people from ALL areas of post production and have some fun. Meet up with friends and make some new ones, and see what makes our non-intimidating community so rad.

 

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BCPCWest Post Talks: Being an Assistant Editor in Scripted TV

On the last Saturday in February, BCPCWest had its first panel of the year: being an assistant editor in scripted television. The panel, moderated by AE Ashley McKinney, featured Josh Kirchmer (Vice Principals), Shiran Amir (The OA), Richard Sanchez (Last Man on Earth) and Monica Daniel (Colony). It covered everything from favorite Avid errors to coping with unpredictable long days and finding a theme song. You can watch the entire panel here thanks to The SIM Group, which is also where the discussion was held!

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NAB For Free: How BCPC is Eliminating Financial Barriers for Trade Shows

My first time attending the NAB Show (the National Association of Broadcasters, the largest trade show our industry has all year) I stayed in Las Vegas for a week and came away feeling connected. All the people I’d met through the internet ended up being real people with interesting stories and useful advice. My network expanded, my knowledge base increased, and my self-confidence grew. It was a turning point early in my career — a next step from being a young staff editor in central Indiana to getting where I wanted to go. And it was subsidized by my full-time job. Otherwise, I never could have made it. Who knows where I’d be now.

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A Brief Summary of the State of Women in Film

Whenever I discuss gender in the film industry, someone usually pops up and says “yeah but it’s waaaay better than it used to be!”

And every year, San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film publishes their annual Celluloid Ceiling Report on womens’ employment “below the line” and shows just how not at all better things are right now.

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Blue Collar Post Collective West: 2016 in Review

I formed the committee to launch BCPC West in Los Angeles in April.

In June, we officially launched with our first meet-up at The Powder Room in Hollywood.

Since then, we’ve had a meet-up every month at the same place, same relative time. We’ve become an inclusive meet-up group. We’re not a user group. We just happen to be a few dozen or more people who share the same challenges, ambitions, and goals when it comes to our professional lives. So when we can get together and make time for each other once a month, it helps to make this contact and stay sane.

In July, we launched our first in a series of three summer panels on lifestyle topics in post. To continue to help make BCPC as accessible as possible, these panels were held on a Saturday afternoon in a central location. They were free. And they were streamed on YouTube so anyone anywhere could watch and participate. They’re all archived forever, so if someone learns about BCPC, they can go back in time and get the same education.

We had Emmy-nominated editors on our panels, and up-and-coming amazing young people with fresh insight. We had people from the creative and technical side, men and women nearly equally at every panel. We aggressively seek to be the change in the industry.

In December, we had our final meet-up of 2016. It was our first with sponsors and prizes. We packed out the bar and had a wonderfully spirited Winter Wonderland party.

As we begin to crawl ahead in 2017, we have so many good things on the horizon. And most of all, we’ve created a safe place for anyone in post who wants to be listened to and advocated for — or just wants to relax!

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