M&E Connections

M&E Journal: We’re All In This Together

By Guy Finley, President of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance –

Now, more than ever, the voice of Owen Wilson often resonates in my ears: “Wow!” It’s incessant and unrelenting, definitely juvenile, but also kind of comforting and soothing. It’s a simple word that really means everything, like f#@k … but always with a smile behind it, because it’s in his voice and mainly his drawl of a delivery … “Woooow!”

Everyone is seeing their work/life balance being completely obliterated by our “new normal” (ugh). Have you said or heard “Just get it done” recently? Or “Everything’s on the table so figure it out?” Or maybe, “All bets are off?” Perhaps it’s the non-stop online meetings? It’s become hard to press pause on our work lives, when there’s no familiar 9-to-5, and the office is on the dining room table.

There is a positive aspect to this remote, work-from-home situation as we get a glimpse, without being too intrusive, into everyone’s personal space and life beyond “the office.” I usually see people at one of our events, or a gala, looking their best and ready to network. Just a few short months ago we would never have considered (and even my own office is contemplating) a future where we aren’t gathered in the same room, building, set or lot each workday while we do our jobs. Or a short-term cessation of gathering with our colleagues, friends and partners, at conferences and events around the world. We’ve experienced SEISMIC changes that definitely pierce the sacred veil of the work/ life balance! “Woooooow!” See, it’s comforting, isn’t it?

But this is “it.” This is our time. This is our moment. This is where our communities truly shine.

This is when the ongoing investments we’ve made in our relationships, in ourselves, and in our industry over the past decade, are meant to pay off. As the world suffers, languishes and sorts through the complex details of “recovery” (one that we have not seen in the modern age), it is the media and entertainment industry that will continue to fuel hope, to fuel dreams, and to fuel our local, national and global economy.

We are entrusted by BILLIONS to be a shining light and we founded our MESA communities by innovating and transforming (much like software development) while building the engine within the machine that powers that light.

I’m writing this having just produced our first “virtual” summit for our Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) community. The software recommended a 90-day adoption path. We did it in three weeks. It wasn’t just a webinar, but a beginning of the transformation of our events into our new normal. The security community came together and 200-plus people spent more than three hours online watching, chatting, learning, connecting.

My goal was to mirror our physical experience (honed over 10 years of community input and support) in the way we gather and how we connect at an event. It had to “FEEL” like MESA, but through this flat, now-overused, medium. It worked, but it was a beginning. An evolution that will mirror the macrocosm of live events and the new experiences we will be forced to create to keep our people (and our cultures) connected during the pandemic.

What might have been

The 2020 NAB Show was going to be huge for MESA. We were set to unveil a new look for our brand; a new vision for our products; a transparent process workflow where users controlled their frictionless data journey across these products; and a new path for our community to collaborate on a global scale at an unprecedented level. Wow! It was the beginning of a three- to five-year roadmap of efficiency and scale within our industry with so many strands on a loom, that the breadth, depth and the ambition of collaboration was almost incomprehensible.

The transformation relied on the last decade of solid data and improvement of the technology backbone of Hollywood, which has evolved at a steady pace, relying on the same science-based principals that allowed this pragmatic approach to building (now very similar to software building) through to the next generation of format or experience. It was pretty much a “sure thing” in my mind, like Moore’s Law or Occam’s Razor, and I (drinking the delicious MESA Kool- Aid we’ve been brewing) was making investments in people, process and technology.

Then “it” happened

It coincided with an iconic and ominous date in human history: The Ides of March. And what followed for the next 30 days was truly transformational. Truly inspirational. The communities that MESA has fostered, watered and grown started to step up their games. Vendors and content owners started working together in ways that seemed improbable, even impossible, just a few weeks before. Employees at companies adjusted immediately to the new workflows, and within a couple weeks, it was working. The engine was running again at a fairly efficient rate.

We were early on the security side. I remember where I was when it started to become “real.” Plans for our International Content Protection Summit at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona were being finalized and we convened the CDSA Executive Committee to discuss our position on the emerging health threat. Our discussion and deliberation ultimately didn’t matter as the organizers canceled the event that day. That’s when I turned to the data and started formulating a business continuity plan for each of MESA communities.

As a small business, I was facing the exact challenges each of our member companies faced, but at my own scale. I thought of our nine full-time employees here in Boise. The 10 subcontractors around the country, who are an essential part of Team MESA, and provide the critical infrastructure to keep our community machine going and growing. I extended that challenge out to the small group of companies who have provided services for our events … and suffered the harsh realization that we wouldn’t be working together for an extended period.

Now, unprecedented accomplishment

At the end of the second month of self-isolation, the “new normal” is settling in with an uncomfortable regularity. The work/life balance is still out-of-whack, but the coping mechanisms and connectivity help. What we’ve accomplished in the last few months is unprecedented. As an industry, as a country, as humanity, we are now faced with a ubiquitous challenge that reaches through every facet of our modern culture and world. Yes, it’s complicated. Very complicated.

However, this isn’t the first global catastrophe, nor will it be the last, and complexity, passion and survival have ALWAYS inspired the greatest of ideas across the spectrum of technology.

From the first moving images, to the advent of sound and color, to home entertainment through to the streaming revolution, we’ve invested trillions as an industry toward bringing artistic vision to life, for the consumer to enjoy our art or product, regardless of the socio- economic situation of any particular individual. It is our ongoing challenge to take this product to the world efficiently, effectively, and our communities drive the global entertainment supply chain. And I feel fortunate and positive that the hard work we endure during the next few years will only make our community stronger, our workflows more integrated, our industry healthier and our people more connected. Wooooow!

That’s community. That’s MESA. MESA is you, me, us. Together is where we’ll find our hope.

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