Taking Responsibility For Your Studio's Culture

Someone commented on my post introducing the Artist Directory:

"The problem is Toronto studios. They need to do a better job of developing their junior artists into intermediates, and intermediates into seniors. They also need to do a better job of attracting and retaining experienced artists."

The first thing that struck me about the response was the use of "They".  I would suggest that any artist that's hired at a studio is part of that studio's culture.  Imagine if this person thought of it like this:

"We have problems in our studios in Toronto.  We need to do a better job of developing our junior artists into intermediates, and intermediates into seniors. We also need to do a better job of attracting and retaining experienced artists."

Photo by Chris HE on Flickr.com

Photo by Chris HE on Flickr.com

See how that reframes things?  I wonder if the commenter ever reached out to a freshly hired junior artist and let them know that they are there to help them out and answer any questions.  Have they seen a junior approaching a shot in a dumb-ass way and offered any suggestions?  Have they ever took a junior artist aside and told them that they did a great job on that shot?  Have they asked their boss if they can be a junior artist's mentor?

Or better yet, don't ask your boss, just start mentoring the junior artist.  Sometimes I think we ask permission as a way of brushing off responsibility to someone else.  Just take the responsibility.

I do think that we can do a much better job of helping artists transition from stage to stage of their career.  One studio I worked at made sure that juniors would sit right beside a senior artist so that they would have someone they could ask if they ran into problems.  Something as simple as that can make a big difference.

A company's culture is formed by the people who live and work in it.  You are part of that culture, like it or not.  I'm a big believer that if you want change to come, you have to do something about it.  You can't wait for someone to change things for you.  You have to be a part of it, to help make it happen.

If we started acting like this, then maybe it would be smoother  to transition from junior to intermediate to senior.  Work can be much easier if we help and support each other.

While I was typing this up, I was thinking, just what makes someone a 'senior artist' anyway.  I've always thought a senior is not just the amount of experience, or how many years they've been doing something (although that's definitely  part of it).  A senior artist:

  • Can do the most demanding shots in the most efficient way possible.
  • Has a proven track record of delivering when the pressure is on.
  • Makes you feel better that this person is on your project.  Like, "oh man, I thought we were screwed until Person X came on to work on this shot"
  • Freely shares what they know so that everyone around them benefits.  Even if it means giving up their best techniques.  They don't see their co-workers as competition, they see them as part of the same team.
  • Has the respect of their fellow artists and production managers.

The last line the commenter wrote was about how studios need to do a better job of attracting and retaining experienced artists.  I don't think this problem is unique to Toronto.  Follow a few recruiters on LinkedIn and you'll see them constantly saying they need people for their shows.

I do think that having large multi-national studios popping up in Montreal and Vancouver must have affected the job market in a huge way here.  I think most of us know of people who have left for Vancouver and Montreal.  Is it because they're fleeing Toronto or that they leaving to work on the promise of bigger projects?  

As always, let me know if I'm full of shit in the comment box below.