A funny thing happened on the way to the 2013 NAB exhibition floor. As a first-time NAB attendee, I was expecting to be blown away by the outrageous displays of cameras, sound equipment, editing software, and wall-to-wall 4K displays. Instead, I was blown away by something much less ostentatious yet somehow more profound and pervasive. Was it the rare sight of interaction and cooperation between the production and post communities? Was it the realization of the size and scope of the industry I am part of? Was it the unbelievably poor selection of food and drink? It was none of these.
It started on Sunday, during the Post-Production World training sessions, which were wonderful and informative. As I went from room to room, session to session, I could feel something was off and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. This feeling lasted for most of the day until I attended a keynote presentation called "From Concept to Delivery: The Fusion of New Media and Storytelling." As I waited for the speakers to take the stage, I noticed the large monitors both left and right displaying all the speakers and educators for NAB's 2013 Post Production World. While this wasn't the exact picture it looked something like this:
Does anything seem strange about this picture? It took me a couple head-turns to figure out also, so take your time. If you guessed, "no women," then you win the prize. Now, the picture that was displaying at the keynote did have some women in it and from what I could make out, maybe 5 or 6 of about 50-60 people. This struck me in 2 ways.
First, I work as an editor for a small/medium post house in New York City. We work on everything from commercials to films and handle editorial through finishing. At jumP, I work with lots of women on a daily business spanning all occupations; executive producers, editors, assistant editors, Flame artists, After effect artists, designers, partners, etc...So due to my personal work experience it was quite shocking to see A) so few female trainers/speakers and B) So few female attendees (in relation to how many men I saw). It was very unexpected and it didn't match the reality that I am used to. Perhaps my work experience is unique, but I would venture a guess there are many more women in the industry than are represented at NAB.
Secondly, and more importantly, is how this impacts the business we are in. Now during the keynote, the discussion revolved around workflows, 4K content, Vimeo and Youtube delivery, NLE choice, and all the things you would expect professionals to be discussing at this year's NAB. What wasn't really discussed was the nature and quality of the content and, in particular, how it relates to potential audiences. We all tell stories in this business. How well can we do if the stories we are putting out there aren't actively engaging 50% of our audiences? The lack of women in leadership roles (despite women being very prevalent in the industry) that I saw reflected at NAB does no favors to anyone in our industry.
There is a huge demand for more content and huge downward pressure to reduce costs in our industry. There are numerous ways to view content, from movie theaters to mobile phones, and every opportunity to reach new audiences should be embraced. We will not reach those audiences unless as an industry we have a diverse set of people leading the way. In many ways, this reminds me of our politics here in the US, where a younger generation is usually way ahead its leaders. I believe that younger audiences will not care what they watch their stories on, what resolution they are shown at, whether it is 24 or 48 frames per second or what NLE they were cut on.
They will care if the stories relate to them and move them. Until we understand that, I see continued disruption to the all of our business models.
Troy Mercury is an editor at NYC's Jump (http://nycjump.com).