from the desk of the coo – Jan 2021
They should have sent a poet.– CONTACT (1997)
There is plenty you’ll read, and have likely read already, that will try to make sense or draw meaning from the collective experience of 2020. While we’re certainly not adverse to those things or thinking big, in this moment, I feel small is where we’ve been best served.
Us, this small group of determined, impassioned and insanely generous people, we as a bubble community looking after one another and those we’ve been so privileged to serve, has been a humbling enough cosmos to behold in and of itself.
Looking around, listening, jumping from Zoom to GoToMeeting, call bridge to waving at one another from a distance – familiar faces are not simply a comfort, but a source of strength, solidarity, and meaningful interdependence. We’ve done battle for that feeling of unity. We’ve shared our own versions of the trenches together, but it was done together. Our sky was only so bright because the night was so dark, and every star had its moment.
Not a one of us is ending this rotation around the sun the same as we began.
There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different… there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.– THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014) / Stephen Hawking
Dave, Everett – the two of you have maintained, pushed forward, and pioneered more in this time than Netflix may ever fully recognize, but from here and this side of things, we see you. The ever-changing beast mode of gargantuan data transfers, supporting an onslaught of at-home, creatively challenged tech folks, AND technically challenged creatives is a feat on its own, but to have done it all with the wit, willingness, and wisdom with which you’ve shown throughout… well, DFT is better because of you and your example.
Ty, Justin A., Justin W., Alessandro – the four of you are literally sitting all over the country and globe. That said, the profound impact you’ve made on the ground here at DFT is felt and seen every single day. From securing us in moments of chaotic uncertainty and building out those protections to shield our clients and peers, through to helping us share those very stories, clarifying that complicated message, and raising a bar that we stretched every day to reach – you’ve been and helped us all to be more than we could have imagined twelve months ago. The elegant complexities of our security infrastructure, through to the beauty and simplicity of communicating it (and more) in our new brand – all from far and wide – is so very much the best of us and who we are as a team.
Sophia, Renita – The two of you see, do, facilitate, and care for more of DFT and its people than most anyone. The prosperity, well-being, and futures of this team, alongside our continued growth and stability is quite literally in your hands and bombarding your inboxes every single day. Your oversight in times of great strain, your critical thinking in the face of ongoing uncertainty, and your extra mile efforts at every turn have held us all together in a way that made our tomorrow feel more promised than I think most others in our shoes had the luxury of knowing.
Travis, Amy – Unless you’ve sat in that chair and run this office or spent a week trying to make heads or tails of mine and Ramy’s calendars, I don’t think most folks at DFT have any real scope or sense of just how much this team does to keep the whole healthy. For what most may think is an empty building, the deliveries have not stopped because the gear is more important than ever. The phone hasn’t stopped because communication needs to be clearer and faster than before. The birthdays and holidays matter more today because being reminded that you’re seen and appreciated is deeply important when suffering such distance. Being the face and voice to our clients, potential clients, partners, and one another is of greater need and of greater difficulty than years before – to carry this, pivoting on a dime moment by moment, and giving of themselves every day, doing the work that serves (and feeds) us all – they’ve made us so proud.
Andrea, Dylan F. – Small, but mighty, would be too great a cop out for the duo that is Cinecode. Countless hours of empowering scripted television to keep going in the face of shutdowns is one thing, but to pioneer efforts that both gave critical safety options for distancing and direction under an industry full of skepticism about how any of it could be done, made for a hell of a year on its own. But that wasn’t enough – countless hours went into educating the masses on technology that would allow television budgets and schedules to keep going. Partnership to scan sets and bring them into the game engine to be used with real time animation and answering questions most can only address in the chaos of the set were now revealing that this was more than a pandemic need, but the future of content creation… This team didn’t just open doors – they changed skylines and invited people to walk through the doors of the skyscrapers they built.
Avital, Erin – The weight each of you carries on your shoulders is, to grossly understate this, intimidating. The breadth and scope of all you manage, see to the finish line while plotting and prepping for the next gargantuan race is all the more deafening when we step back and recognize how often those giant feats happen behind the curtain. You protect and provide more than most might know because the gratitude can seem siloed when serving so many complex teams, but it’s because of your genius, matched only by your humility, that so much of this year’s triumphs land at your feet.
Dylan, Dylan C. – our VFX team has the broadest shoulders in DFT. They touch the most shows, their work is often the most recognizable (or not, depending on the goal), they have hero moments under grueling deadlines, conservative budgets and often lacking on set understandings of what can or should be done by VFX as opposed to production. Their craft is an inspiring blend of both the creative and the highly technical, which only amplified this year and will accelerate in the next. You guys have crafted an insane amount of magic, including our new animated logo! From the most…unsavory of shots for “Dave” to the most ambitious of season openers on NCIS LA, team VFX has continued, even from afar, to be DFT’s formidable standard bearer.
Gregory, Tim, Greg, Keyvan – Innovation was king across every department and show this year. This building, our shows, the whole of this team made so, so, so very much of it possible. They asked the hard questions, they dug in on the answers, built, grounded, tore down, cobbled together, task managed, battle tested and ran hard at solutions when nothing was guaranteed, but never once flinched at “mission critical.” They got it done and they pushed us forward in every respect. No goal too lofty, no idea too farfetched, no duty too mundane to be anything less than the moments of necessity we rely on most.
Thomas, Jacob, Lakan, Joe – It’s difficult to have any one of these folks in one place or say that they’re an asset in one singular respect. Each of them has given more to our clients and this team as whole than can be summarized in any one truancy of this year. Be it shows on the air, pivoting between DFT narratives and notes from studio folk, to dubbing, to rearchitecting entire workflows and deploying systems, to crafting content that makes the future something attainable and educational, in the now and accessible. What exists and who has adopted it is because of this team of “first through the wall” pioneers. You lead in ways that the rest of us were eager to follow and at every turn we came out stronger and full of gratitude for all you left on the field (and on the screen).
Streeter, Paul, Kirkman, Markley – Night Ops, dailies, GeoPost, overnight, call them what you will (and seriously, call them, it’s fun to hear their surprise when a call comes into DFT at 2am), but call on them we did – A LOT – this year. Processing, protecting, delivering, and managing media became more and more of an art form and technological marvel than it has in years prior. They helped battle test and even build the new systems we’ve received, they were responsible for turning over an insane volume of footage in record speeds, had hero saves left and right when unexpected machine failures could have left us dead in the water and kept us moving forward while other houses were slowing down if open at all. You’ve played backbone and constant to a body constantly moving and in flux with steadfast care and calm.
At some point everything is going to go south on you… You can either accept that or you can get to work.– THE MARTIAN (2015)
There’s very little we can predict about the year ahead from this exact moment. With another indefinite stay-at-home in place for LA, matched with an urging from city hall to slow productions in the wake of on-set outbreaks, we remain grateful for *our* problems.
The groupings above are but a thread of the larger blanket all our interwoven micro teams create. This year we had more breakout teams, intentional meetings to move projects forward, and one-on-ones that got bottle necks and waiting on email responses out of the way – but through it all there were more and more interdependent dynamics that formed to “getter done” faster, better, but together.
The tired is real. Many of us have lost loved ones, suffered devastating health news, hit substantial turbulence in our personal lives and felt the weight of being apart from so many people and experiences we love. I won’t sugar coat any of that, but I will not let it define any of us either.
- Celebrated 21 years: an unheard-of achievement for an independently owned post house.
- Busted through previously closed or barely ajar doors at some of the highest levels with Amazon, AppleTV, Universal, Netflix, Warner Bros and so many new relationships across departments and services that our heads spin trying to recount them.
- Invested heavily in new systems, storage, R&D and each other. This year cost us, a lot, but what we’ll sew for having planted those seeds in the soil of so much ash will grow deeper roots, taller stalks, and greener leaves for having done so.
- Grown. In a time of widespread downturn, we actually HAD to grow to survive. And in so doing we’ve been able to thrive. Not just in people, but in our individual capacities to think differently, use what we must build what we can imagine and learn what we’d yet to discover or uncover.
- Seen record numbers on so many of our shows – Dave is now FX’s most watched show. NCIS: Los Angeles was CBS’ first show back to production after the highs from season 11. Ted Lasso was expected to be a sleeper for AppleTV and ended up being one of its tentpoles.
- Stayed safe. Encouraged. Brave. Positive. Flexible. Curious. Those are far from easy accomplishments in this climate.
- Built and scaled new revenue streams in security, on set safety, and grown our foot print in remote stations, cloud workflows and pre-visualization.
- Gotten faster in every possible meaningful way. From Excelero to rewires, routers, switches, and services oh my! As a team we’ve shed so much frustration with inefficiencies that pulled focus or time. We’ll always have more work in this area, but man, the light years we’ve traversed.
- The building itself is stronger than ever! We’ve added racks and more electricity to support them in the IT room, cleaned up so many “storage” spaces and archaic wiring. We’ve added more access points for Wi-Fi, replaced flooring, fixed leaky portions of the roof, and we have a theater again!!!
- Best of all, we’ve built and maintained an actual community, at least I hope that’s you’re feeling, too. From the weekly calls to these monthly recaps, extra care in communicating within micro teams and celebrating one another from afar or the rare moments we’ve been able to see a few folks in office, it’s been an incredibly heartening and reassuring touchstone to do *all this* together.
Not much changes on Monday. Jacob will hang his new 2021 calendar. Those of us coming back to the building will see that the carpets have been deep cleaned (yes, even Dylan’s). Most shows will still be a little quiet until next Monday (God willing). We’ll send out a less mushy newsletter since this was packed full of the feels. The lights will go on, emails will go out.
We’ll be a team and we’ll keep doing and giving the best of what and who we are as a collective of deeply gifted and grateful folks. This work, while taxing and challenging, is a privilege, only topped by how fortunate we are to be doing this with one another.
So as the east coast welcomes 2021 and the rest of us wait for the clock to hit midnight (or head to bed, or care for loved ones, make resolutions, or eat pizza and watch movies, or Zoom with friends and family – whatever it is I hope you’re healthy and safe), we just wanted you to know that this year, for Ramy and I, was a deeply meaningful one for the many reasons above.
Thank you. For the work that has made us all better, stronger, hopeful… On and off the screen. In these halls and from your homes, you’ve been our reason – and you will continue to be.
Happy & Healthy New Year, DFT!
I think we’re going to the Moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul. We’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.— Neil Armstrong
Let me say, as I sit here before you today having walked on the Moon, that I am myself still awed by that miracle. That awe, in me and in each of us… must be the engine of future achievement, not a slow dimming light from a time once bright.– Buzz Aldrin
nancy jundi, coo