Podcast: Blue Collar Post Collective President Kylee Peña on Emerging Talent in PostProduction

Lane Cooper sits down with Blue Collar Post Collective President Kylee Peña, also of Netflix, to discuss emerging talent in postproduction.


Lane Cooper:                00:14               Hello. Welcome. Live from the NAB Show in Las Vegas. Welcome to our ongoing series of conversations with people that are making a difference with how it is that we're living our digital lives. Extremely fortunate today to connect with Kylee Pena. She is president of the Blue Collar Post Collective and she's also on the production technology team at Netflix. 

Lane Cooper:                00:33               Kylee, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. 

Kylee Peña:                  00:35               Yes. Very glad to be here. 

Lane Cooper:                00:37               Kylee, I wanted to talk to you about this whole concept of creating the community of tomorrow in this industry and that goes right to your role of president of the Blue Collar Post Collective. Tell us a little about what the Blue Collar Post Collective is all about. 

Kylee Peña:                  00:48               The Blue Collar Post Collective is a nonprofit organization. We're a 501c3. Our mission is to support emerging talent in postproduction and make the industry more accessible to everyone and more inclusive. So we do that by having a regular meetup every month in LA, New York, and now London. It's always free and open and it's at an accessible time of the day and week for the community. We also have free and frequent educational events that are open to everyone. Anyone can come and they're focused on all areas of postproduction. 

Kylee Peña:                  01:21               So we really want to highlight not just editors, not just sound people, but everyone in the postproduction community and support each other. Because there's a lot we can all learn from each other. We think that by making the industry more accessible it'll open the door up for everyone. So people that aren't necessarily represented in the industry now will have opportunities to move forward. 

Lane Cooper:                01:42               So what kind of reception have you had? What kind of interest are you getting in the Blue Collar Post Collective?

Kylee Peña:                  01:48               Amazing interest. We started in New York in 2016 officially. It was kind of an unofficial meet up of people in the blue collar realm. Jokingly they adopted that name because they were the machine room workers. They weren't like the cool editors and stuff. They became a 501c3 in 2016 in New York. I was asked to start the LA version of it then. So we launched that in the summer. Now almost two years later we're launching London because the interest is so great and people want to bring that kind of community all over the world. 

Kylee Peña:                  02:21               We're very careful to bring the Blue Collar Post Collective to other cities. We want to make sure that there are people there that can sustain it because we work with people that share our values and we want everyone to have the mission in mind first. It's about the community. It's not about individuals. So we do a lot of research to make sure that what we're bringing to the community is appropriate for them. It's not like a one size fits all, but it's very flexible. It's been great. We have over 7,000 members on Facebook now. 

Lane Cooper:                02:53               Wow. You can listen to that excitement that's coming out of the NAB Show floor. 

Kylee Peña:                  02:57               It's lit. 

Lane Cooper:                02:58               It is exciting. The industry itself is becoming much more robust and much more diversified as we start talking about new styles of communication. Tell me a little bit about the different types of talent that's coming in through your organization. Is it just traditional production work for broadcasting and film? Are you doing other types of media?

Kylee Peña:                  03:20               People from all different areas of postproduction are in our group. There are people from all over the US so some people are people that are producers doing corporate video. I started out doing truck driving videos so I find an affinity with them. There's a lot of people that work in Hollywood and scripted and just all different kinds of things in new media, online content, Snapchat, anything you can think of. 

Lane Cooper:                03:48               And I guess one of the other things that's happening is that it's not just a ... We used to have a very silo'd environment. Right? You had the television people, you had the movie people, and then you had those crazy new media people. What are you doing to integrate those environments? Is there an opportunity as you bring in this much more diverse crowd to integrate these environments?

Kylee Peña:                  04:07               Yeah the Facebook community is really great for that because we have a led discussion every week called the tip jar, where we come up with a question that kind of feeds into the community and generates a lot of discussion that is about the different crossovers and things. So we have an opportunity to, behind the scenes, kind of drive the conversation and make people meet each other and learn more about each other. Through our educational events we also try to highlight all those different areas. So sometimes we do panels on picture editing. We did one about the effects pipelines. And we're going to do one about the machine room in the future. So we try to keep bringing people in the community forward and putting them up on a stage so everyone can look at them and see we have a lot in common and we have a lot to learn. 

Lane Cooper:                04:49               And you're capturing these things so that even if it's held in LA, can be experienced elsewhere. Are you doing that kind of work?

Kylee Peña:                  04:56               Yes. As often as we can we livestream all of our educational events or we record them for later. So there are a bunch of them on our website on bluecollarpostcollective.com so people can go back and watch the whole discussion. 

Lane Cooper:                05:10               Outstanding. So tell me a little bit then about where you go next. What are the plans for growing this community? Where are you going to take this very exciting organization?

Kylee Peña:                  05:19               Well one of the most exciting parts of our organization is what we call the professional development accessibility program. At least 80% of our revenue through charitable donations from individuals and businesses go to that. We have very low overhead so we can put as much to that program as possible. What we do with that program is we find people in the community that are making at or below the median income in their city of residence. We take applications from them and select them to go to big industry events like NAB because otherwise they wouldn't be able to get here. And that can be the difference between making the next step in your career. 

Kylee Peña:                  06:04               Having access to events like this gets you access to vendors but also tons of people that you need to know in order to make the leap from maybe early career to mid-career. It shouldn't be a financial or geographic barrier. NAB was huge for me. I first came in 2012 and the connections I made from there were the seeds that brought me to where I am today. The accessibility program actually originated with somebody that had a paper in the SMPTE conference, and as a student as was unable to attend because he couldn't afford to fly there. So we were like, "We don't want that to ever happen again." We want to be able to fund people so they can go and have these opportunities to be on stage or meet people or learn things. 

Kylee Peña:                  06:47               So throughout the year we take applications and send people ... We sent three people to NAB this year and last year. So I think the big next step would be scaling that program up and sending even more people. 

Lane Cooper:                06:59               Excellent, and what about geographically? Do you expect to open up new facilities or new presence in other parts of the United States, Europe, or elsewhere? Asia perhaps?

Kylee Peña:                  07:09               I think that's certainly a possibility. There are some cities that have interests and we're looking at them. It took us awhile to do London so we'll see how it goes but I certainly think that we'll start to pop up in more places. 

Lane Cooper:                07:23               Kylee, what an amazing progress in such a short period of time to already expand internationally into London. What is your main goal for this organization as you imagine it going forward? What is your key take home point to the listeners of this podcast? What action would you like them to take?

Kylee Peña:                  07:41               There are a lot of people coming up in the industry that are merging and they need our support to take that next step. By nature of the industry, it's a little bit homogenous at the top and so it can be difficult for all different kinds of people to reach that point. Because the mentoring that happens, by nature of just how our society works, you tend to mentor people that look like you. And that's scientifically documented. So reaching a little bit outside your comfort zone to find people that have a lot of promise, that are special, and help move them upward is really important. 

Kylee Peña:                  08:18               Some of the most important people in history have been mentored by people that look like them. I mean if you look at computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, she got into math and abstract math because a female math professor took an interest in here and helped her up. She created the basis for a stable software engineering environment. Without her, the Apollo 11 mission might not have happened. It might not have been the success the way it was. So things like that can have huge ripples. When you reach down and help someone up you don't know how you're changing the industry. 

Kylee Peña:                  08:55               So the key takeaway is just to look around you and ask yourself who isn't here and how you can get them there. 

Lane Cooper:                09:01               Outstanding. Kylee, what a worthwhile mission. Best of luck on taking this very important ... One more time the URL so people know where to reach and contribute and get engaged with this organization?

Kylee Peña:                  09:12               www.bluecollarpostcollective.com

Lane Cooper:                09:12               Thank you very much Kylee for taking the time to chat. 

Kylee Peña:                  09:14               Thank you.