Feature – Millennial Tech Skills
Give Ottawa entertainment companies critical edge
By Jeff Buckstein
THE RENOWNED EXPERTISE and technological prowess of the National Capital Region’s workforce, particularly the advanced digital skills of its up-and-coming youngest generation, have been instrumental in helping two local companies make their mark in the entertainment industry.
About 55 per cent of employees working for The Mob Entertainment, a four-year-old independent movie production company, are millennials, and they “come with a base technological savvy that you probably wouldn’t have found back in the 1990s and early 2000s,” says co-founder Andrew Erin.
Millennials have brought enthusiasm and valuable new ideas. But all staffers need to exhibit a positive, open-minded attitude and energy to succeed, which is vital in a movie- making business being driven by technological change that is opening up new opportunities for smaller production companies, Erin stresses. “The world is really much more diverse now, which is changing the way we make stuff,” he says, noting that Mob Entertainment, which employs up to 80 people when in production, has taken an early adapter approach to ground-breaking technologies.
“Like users today, our prospective new employees are also much more hands on about selecting a company to work for. They’re not saying ‘I’ve got a degree in X. I’m just going to my first company.’ They’re way more interested in ‘Who are you? What do you stand for? Does it align with my beliefs?'”
For example, the company recently wrapped up filming a romantic movie in Cumberland about a wedding at an ice hotel using two special cameras called the Ursa Mini Pro by Black Magic Design. These cameras are capable of doing things that bigger, much more expensive cameras can do for only a fraction of the price, and many millennials can adapt their experience to such technology.
“The visual language of cinema and storytelling is a lot more prominent than it used to be. The whole world’s been cracked open, and someone in their living room can be creating content by using their cellphone or related equipment, and then broadcasting it onto multiple platforms,” Erin explains.
“So when it comes to hopping from there to film and [working] with these cameras, there’s a familiarity,” he adds. But having a complement of staff at different ages can also pay dividends, particularly in the hierarchical structure of a movie production company where each department has a head, who is in turn responsible for hiring his or her own staff.
“I think the baby boomers have passed down the structure. Structure is what makes a film set efficient, and I think it’s really good for millennials to get into that, because a lot of them were not raised in the same sort of structure that we were in Generation X, or the baby boomers even more,” says Erin, who is 45.
Erin, an Ottawa native who has also lived and worked in Toronto, Los Angeles and Vancouver, praises Ottawa as an excellent venue for he and his wife Fay to raise their two young daughters, as well for its professional opportunities in making movies.
“Ottawa is very unique in that it’s got a lot of really quaint looking small towns that surround the city, and the city itself has a very European feel. But the downtown core can also feel like Toronto or New York or any of the major cities,” he says.
You.i TV is another success story. The Kanata-based firm provides its customers in the media and entertainment industry, including Turner, Fox, and Warner Brothers amongst others, with a multi-screen video- app platform, designed to centralize and streamline the process of building apps for all kinds of devices, including phones, tablets, gaming consoles and smart TVs.
“The nice thing about our product is our customers are able to attract all age groups – from boomers through to millennials. With amazing immersive content where they want, how they want, and when they want it, users are now having even greater affinity for their brands,” says chief executive officer Jason Flick, who was also a co-founder of the company in 2008.
A good example of this is with FilmStruck from Turner, a You.i customer, he says. FilmStruck’s demographic targets mature consumers that are often interested in classic movies. FilmStruck is a movie streaming service with an extensive back catalog. This video app makes access easier for the consumer – for example, they don’t need to find it through their cable package. They are also able to dig deep into the content to obtain a lot of additional information and comments about actors and directors, Flick explains.
The vast majority of You.i TV’s 170 employees are located in Ottawa, with a handful scattered in field offices in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. About 45 per cent of employees are under the age of 35, with 26 per cent between the ages of 35 and 44, another 24 per cent between 45 and 64, and the remaining five per cent 65 and older, says Heather Tyrie, vice-president of employee experience.
Having a mix of all different age groups working together provides collaborative benefits, says Tyrie, who notes that “younger people coming into the workforce offer a fresh perspective, a different way of looking at things.”
“The older generations, of course, bring an historical view, and draw on experience in those discussions,” she adds.
Generational change is also having a major impact on recruitment.
“Like users today, our prospective new employees are also much more hands-on about selecting a company to work for. They’re not saying ‘I’ve got a degree in X. I’m just going to my first company.’ They’re way more interested in ‘Who are you? What do you stand for? Does it align with my beliefs?’” notes Flick.
Moreover, people of all ages today do a lot of research before joining a company. They check out sites like Glassdoor and read unfiltered company reviews from current and ex-employees, and people who have been for interviews, says Tyrie.
“We welcome all the feedback – both positive and negative – as it allows us to view our company through the eyes of others, and make adjustments if we need to. We believe that it is really important for people who are thinking about joining You.i TV to find out as much as they can, so that they can make an accurate assessment of whether the culture is the right fit for them,” she elaborates.
Sharing houses with a few others in urban areas that are close to transit to save money.
Enjoying life experiences rather than physical things.
Careers that are fulfilling and challenging – rather than doing something because they feel the need to.
Staying with their families for longer periods of time, and starting their families much later than previous generations.
Environmentally conscious and more likely to combat stress with healthy alternatives.