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.
There are a lot of young people (or mid-level career changing people) out there right now in the situation I found myself in. I had a job and experience, but I didn’t have the income to support making a move for myself, whether it was going to a large trade show, investing in an educational workshop, or traveling to a conference.
I managed to talk my employer into sending me to NAB, but a lot of people can’t make that happen. Instead of being able to take the next step that will make them more valuable and visible to employers, they might get stuck trying to find another way. And these financial barriers tend to affect young people, women and people of color the most — the exact kinds of people a trade show like NAB NEEDS in attendance not only to push innovation and long-term sustainability in our industry, but because it’s the right thing to do.
That’s why Blue Collar Post Collective — a nonprofit organization that supports emerging talent in post production — created the Professional Development Accessibility Program which funds attendance to events like NAB Show for low-income post professionals. Donations throughout the year from the BCPC community get funneled into a fund which sends applicants to professional programs for free. Through February 28th, they’re accepting applications to send someone to NAB.
PDAP applicants must be residing in the US, working full-time primarily in post production (including freelancers and interns who don’t have another source of income outside the industry, but not students), and making less than or equal to the median income for their city. The application can be found on the BCPC website.
A program like this almost seems too good to be true (or too impossible to really work) so I asked BCPC board member and previous co-president Katie Hinsen to tell me more. And if you think you aren’t experienced enough or important enough to be considered to attend NAB, read this blog post twice.
What is PDAP? How does this work?
Katie Hinsen: The Professional Development Accessibility Program is a program that we run through the Blue Collar Post Collective to help our lower-income colleagues in the post industry have equal access to important trade shows, conferences, events and professional development opportunities.
The idea came after a member of our community had a paper accepted into a major industry conference. However, as he was working at the time as an intern at a major post house in New York, he couldn’t afford to attend the conference to which he had been invited to speak. With travel, accommodation and conference passes, many people who don’t have the support of their employer, aren’t seen as “decision makers” or don’t have the money to spend, are excluded from opportunities that could be incredibly valuable to them.
For the young man who wasn’t able to present his paper, he might have missed out on a huge break in his career. Furthermore, the conference attendees missed out on seeing more of the true diversity that exists in our industry. I was so upset that this happened, I vowed to find a way to make sure it never happens again, so I started the PDAP program.
What’s the catch though? Where do these funds come from and what does someone have to do in return?
The BCPC is unique in that it is a community run entirely by volunteers who work full-time in the post industry, and are focused solely on supporting each other. We raise funds by “passing the hat around” the community throughout the year. We also have “friends and family” of the BCPC throughout our industry’s vendors. These are companies who share our core values and want to support us with donations. Everything we do, we try to do for free or for very little so that we can commit almost every cent we get to providing as many opportunities as possible to those who need them the most.
We don’t ask for anything in return from PDAP recipients. Those of us who have ever attended a big industry event will know that everyone has their own journey and you have to go for yourself if you want to really get something out of it. We have a committee of people who select both the recipients and the events worth supporting people to attend, and both are chosen based on how much of an impact that person will get out of that opportunity.
Why is it important for someone to attend a trade show like NAB?
Every time I go to a big industry event like NAB, I feel like my brain is going to explode from everything I learn. I get to see and play with a wide range of toys, experience a broadening of my horizons, and be part of the wider industry community. What’s more, I get to meet the vendors face to face. I get to see who they are, and they get to see who I am, as someone who uses their products every day. I feel like I got more out of the experience the earlier I was in my career.
But even more importantly, PDAP brings more diversity to these events. Too often, representation of our profession at major events is limited to those who are seen as being in positions of influence, those who are considered more “valuable”. That tends to tip the demographics of attendees older, and toward management and senior level. When I look across the show floor I don’t feel like there’s a true representation of our industry there because I see far too few Assistants, PAs, Machine Room, Sound Editors and VFX Artists.
What does giving away funds accomplish for BCPC? What’s the point of making sure one more person attends NAB?
Sending a handful of people who fall below the median income for our industry to NAB in 2017 isn’t going to change the world, but it might change their worlds. And it might change the perception of users to a few vendors. It might give a voice to a few more people.
I hope that this program will grow and inspire other organizations, workplaces and even the event organizers themselves to be more inclusive and consider the value of attendance to a wider range of people. I hope that it empowers more people to even consider that they could attend a major industry event, and to submit papers or volunteer to speak on a panel. By putting it out there that the barrier of cost can be overcome by the support of the community, I hope that major industry events are perceived as something that can and should be for everyone who contributes to the work we do.