Reality Check – The Personnel Behind the Box

12:05pm in Studio B

In this session we will not be talking about system design, the “hottest” technology, “state of the art”, xR, aR,mR….. whatever R.

On the business side we will discuss purchasing, return in investment, efficiency, technical support and vendor relationships.

More importantly, we will be talking about mental health, camaraderie, happiness, personal support, integrity and balance.

This is a blunt revelation of behind the scenes of what makes our department. We care about the shows we have done, but more importantly, we care about living and changing the way we live.


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Laura Frank  00:11

I am very pleased to introduce our next session with Ryan, Jake and Brittany from fuse. They’re gonna give us a little insight into their work process and how they work as a team together and a little insight into behind the box personnel. Take it away, guys. Thank you

Ryan Middlemiss  00:32

all right, here we go. Yep, my name is Ryan Middlemiss. I am the director of media servers for fuse technical group. And for some reason, I said yes. And we’re going to do have a conversation about reality check. So 10 of my profiles, like, you know, everyone’s talking about AR XR, Mr. Whatever AR and it’s really like, Wait, like you’re forgetting something, you’re forgetting the foundation and the people that actually make the Technology work. Right. So I wanted to kind of bring that bringing that home here to be like, yeah, there is a whole nother part of this, like, you know, the guys are in front of the box a lot. But you forget, oftentimes people forget about the people and the companies that are behind the box that are building the systems that are maintaining these systems that are making reality, right. So why we are always in you know, virtual reality or mixed reality, there is still reality behind it. And that’s kind of what we’re going to talk about here. So about three years. We are in the touring industry, we do installs corporate theater and virtual production. We’re currently operating out six warehouses now. And we have about 200 plus employees, which is fairly impressive. Post pandemic. One of the things that I love about fuse and the company I work for is we enable people if there’s not really any micromanagement, we hire good people and we let them flourish. Essentially, there’s no red tape, or we try to get rid of as much red tape as possible. Another good thing that’s impressive about fuses cross department support. So yes, we are the media server department. But we will do lighting pre visit as well. And we will help with that. Because we you know, it’s it’s you got to know quality computer, you didn’t know networking, you need to know communication, you know, power and all that stuff. I just wanted to finish that off with one of my favorite quotes, jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. A lot of people will look at the first one, and that’s where they stop that quote, right. But keep in mind, there are tons of multifaceted people out there that are better than master one. Let’s have some fun. start this off with a little bit of humor. I got so many questions about this photo. I forgot. You guys know me. I don’t do headshots. So this is technically my wedding photo with my beautiful wife back there, Morgan. So I put that on there. And I got so many questions about it. One of my favorite ones was Andy Babban. That looks like a clone had headshot. Angered by Armani. I was like all right, Bob, and I’ll give you I’ll give you credit on that one. So just had to put that out there. All right, so this is our team. So we’re going to start off we got Briana Torres, we’re gonna start with the people that are the media server department is based out of LA but we have people all over the country. So Briana Torres, she’s based out of New York. She does great system designs, awesome paperwork, like really install oriented tally more on virtual productions and integrations as well. Everyone knows Kohler of colors, shoestring and a piece of gum, he’s gonna give you a PTP clock on the house. So then we have Mr. Dan block, he is based out of Santa Cruz, but he comes in when needed to be a pressure relief valve to help build some of the more complicated systems. Matt service is moving to just move to Nashville, and he’s going to be supporting the East Coast out of Nashville, the servers, server department. And then this is more of the LA based personnel Josiah battles. He He’s tired. I think it’s the newest employee, young up and coming guy, great tech and great programmer. And of course, Jake Brady, he is does operations and logistics for us. And so we use a program called rental works to manage all of our gear and it is a full time job for someone to sit there and make sure that systems are delivered on time. Where are all of our servers are at and all the logistics behind that. Then of course you got Britney, Britney was the first hire to the department. She has grown so much from what we’re knowledge coming in to what she knows now. Think she actually kind of surpassed me on the server stuff at this point. That if Course got Jake here, j COVID. Sin needs just awesome. And help us manage the department. And then, of course, myself with a duck. So I’m going to, I want to pause here and take a moment and just, you know, look at all these people on the screen. That is 10 people within a media server department. That is unprecedented. And this is what it takes for a company to properly run a media server department with over 175 media servers. So because of these people, we are able to support these jobs, were able to ship out an average of four systems a week. And another good example, it was the month of May, over 75 boxes, one out in the month of May, of all different server types. So a lot of other companies, you’ll see they’ll have one, two, maybe three, that’s 10. So this is this is appropriately staffed for what we do, and because of this, we’re able to actually enjoy life. So no one is you know, overburdened, overworked, you know, we try to stay away from weekends, we try to keep it nine to five. But no one no one feels like they have to burn the midnight oil. We will if necessary, but this is appropriate staffing for what we do. All right, let’s start this with a quick WTF moment here. Quick vent, because that’s always fun. Why do industry articles suck so bad? So many times we just have these articles that like, oh, you know, we had a problem. We all got together. We fixed it. It was amazing. That does no one any good.

Jake Hogenson  06:48

Cool story, bro.

Ryan Middlemiss  06:50

Yeah, like, you really want it like really reached be talking about the details what went wrong, like get to the granular part of it to get to the technical part of it. Like it wasn’t working, stuff was failing. And this is how we figured it out. Not this Kumbaya, everything was great. This is a personal one on a personal project that I’m working on. SMPTE 2110 is absolutely annoying and not cost effective. That we can go in a lot of detail about that. But

Jake Hogenson  07:21

we don’t have enough time for that. We have 33 minutes, that’s not even close.

Ryan Middlemiss  07:27

This is one of my favorite things. Stop making simple things complicated justify yourself. real skill is making complicated situations simple. There’s a lot of times we will have personnel that will come in programmer, Production Manager designer, and they just want to make things overly complicated for no return on investment of art. So the real skill is common and making complicated systems simple. And that is how you can tell the difference between you know, professional and unprofessional,

Jake Hogenson  07:58

our systems and everybody else’s to

Ryan Middlemiss  08:03

stop posting about coffee. No one cares.

Jake Hogenson  08:06

Literally, no one cares. Yeah,

Brittany Mena  08:08

I care a little bit.

Jake Hogenson  08:10

It’s just coffee. It’s just Yeah, I mean, really.

Ryan Middlemiss  08:15

So throw that one in for fun. What’s this one? Oh, yeah, just any questions about, you know, these quick ventilations, if ever if anyone wants to add to it, feel free to. So one of the things that we’ve noticed in the industry is people just aren’t blunt. Like it, you can beat around the bush and all that stuff. But it really gets in the way of productivity. If you’re feeling something, or you need something just be blunt, don’t sit, you know, send an email that’s 10 paragraphs long. And that can be a phone call or two paragraph sentence, be blunt. And this is how we operate within fuse. So go into their business practices and ethics. So it’s kind of a unconventional thing that we do at Fuse within the media server department and you know, within the company as well. We look at personality and ethics first, when I hire somebody or looking at it, I don’t even look at a resume. Honestly, I want to meet you, I want to know about you Technology I can teach. Right. It’s it’s I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s something that you can learn with supportive people in a supportive department. It is important to be to know that you’re going to be able to blend in with the company because it essentially will become an extended family. So we we focus a lot on mental health in our department. That is what comes first. It’s not the job. It is your personal and mental health. So if you need a day off, send a text. Say I’m not feeling it today. And it is what it is that is that but we’re able to do that because all the personnel that we Have we encourage further education and growth? If you want to go to a class, it’s paid for go. It’s, it’s, you know, no questions asked. We have, you know, creative technical space for clients, friends and family, and we’re very family based department. And that sounds weird, but like, we are fairly unprofessional with each other. So it’s like, it’s the beam blonde, being honest, take care of yourself first. And, you know, be on professional about it, just a lot of people will just be like, oh, I need to send in a PTO request for one day. That’s not how we operate. Just say, taking a day off. And that’s it.

Jake Hogenson  10:48

And to further the point, like, especially in encouraging further growth and education, like we constantly are inviting freelancers, people, from vendors, from other companies, anybody that wants to come in and hang out for a day and, and learn something new and, and teach us something new, you know, we’re in an environment where we learn to, and that’s one of the, the best things that we’ve been able to create as a department is, is that it’s, like Ryan said, it’s very family driven, you know, we treat each other like family, we treat our friends like family. And we try to make sure that everybody is supported, whether it’s what’s going on at work, or whether it’s what’s going on at home, you know, because I think one of the things that we all learned from basically are forced stoppage with the pandemic, especially myself, who was rooted in live events on tour 200 plus days a year, like, I mean, grinding, grinding, grinding, having to slow that down and really think about other ways of using, you know, my talents and my, my thought process, and becoming more of a housecat, for lack of a better term. But I think that’s a big part of something that we have bonded over as a group. You know, Ryan and myself are our dads, you know, we’ve got little kids at home. And we’ve, we’ve spent all those nights away from our family and, and you know, being across the world and the time difference, and you’re trying to manage your, your inner headspace with what’s going on at home, and you’re trying to think about, well, I have to wake up in the morning, and I have to do this, and then I have to travel here, and then I lose all these hours. And it’s just like, taking that stress out of my life personally, recently, has actually helped me grow as a person. And it’s also opened up my creative and technical space within my own head of like, how do I how do I do something different in this environment? And, you know, I think that’s something that that we have been able to really hone in, not just not just in the media department or media server department at Fuse, but the company in general, like, we’ve got probably the best, most talented team of people that I’ve ever worked with on a daily basis. And I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.

Brittany Mena  13:17

Yeah. And I think I bring like a Gen Z perspective to this where I don’t have kids and I don’t have

Jake Hogenson  13:23

because you’re on the tick tock

Brittany Mena  13:24

Yes. But you know, like being young, you you’re interested in so many things, you know, I can’t 100% say like, I want to do media servers for the rest of my life. I’ve gone to Ryan and say, hey, I’m interested in lighting, and he’ll literally give me all these classes and courses on how to learn lighting, you know, not that doesn’t necessarily interact with media servers, but I was more interested in literally the lighting aspect of it. And he was very open about me learning it. And then also, you know, they’ve toured for years, I’ve I’m just now starting to do a few tours of myself, but and when I was interested in it, he was like, Yeah, go on the sewer, you know, and to not be afraid to ask, like, can I please go on the sewer without being like, I’m gonna be gone for a few months. I know this is gonna really hinder your department, but can I please do this? And I don’t think I’ve ever gotten any pushback about stuff like that which is rare. I recognize how rare that is because not everyone can do that. And go to their boss and say Hey, can I do this for my personal benefit and not for yours at all. So it’s really great to feel

Jake Hogenson  14:21

It’s called vacation Brittany

Brittany Mena  14:23

it feels really great to be able to go to someone and you know know that I can look out for myself if I really need to and not be afraid of it.

Ryan Middlemiss  14:31

I mean, at this point you just tell me what you’re doing.

Brittany Mena  14:35

I’m gonna go to universal today

Ryan Middlemiss  14:42

this is this is an interesting concept here know your worth, never sell yourself or your company is short. So there’s a lot of you know, job that goes out right it goes out to bid say so three companies are bidding on the company are bidding on the Project. And I don’t understand completely why it’s always a race to the bottom. Why? Why do companies do that? You’re selling your gear short, you’re selling your personnel short, you’re basically saying, I’m cheap. So it’s okay to say no. A lot of companies will, you know, we’d go through bidding and stuff, and you’re just like, there is no way they’re making any profit off of this. And that is not good for their company. Definitely. And it’s not good for the industry. So you got to think about, like, what that represent, when you’re a company doing that, what does that represent? It mean, to me, it’s, you don’t respect your people, or your gear, or your services? So kind of thinking about that. So think about this little bit, as many of you will become producers and, you know, will eventually deal with budgets and dealing with the client? One, have you ever asked for more money for your vendor, or more money for your labor? Instead of asking your labor and your vendor to cut money? It’s an interesting concept, because a lot of people will be like, oh, you know, you’re getting paid $3 million for this. Yeah, but my risk is 30. So it’s just it’s, you got to look at vendors because, you know, I worked for a vendor, but it’s, you’ll see that drive to the bottom so frequently in in this industry. So if I was a producer, and I saw someone come in 50%, less than two other people, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t talk to that company, because there was something obviously wrong there. So yeah, so basically, yes, no, you’re worth stick to your day rates. And when people ask you to shave a $200 off your day rate, or $100 off, say, no, no, you’re worth, because that will get you respect. And be kind about it. But just be like, No, I really need this, especially post pandemic, even like even even budgets that I do, sometimes I have to take money from the gear to pay the people. Right, which I will do that that’s fine.

Jake Hogenson  17:13

Well, that’s where it should go. Yeah, I mean, that’s the, that’s the whole point of what we’re talking about here. Is gear, right

Ryan Middlemiss  17:20

gear is gear, I mean, we talked about this all the time, it’s just like, you can go to any company comedy and get a disguise server, box, or whatever it’s like, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same hardware, but it’s the people in the personnel behind the box that you want to invest in. So yeah, I just want you guys to kind of think about that, as he as you go on within this industry, to actually, you know, care for your vendor, they will take care of you. But that shouldn’t be like every time we have a conversation, you want a 50 60% discount. Because we we as a vendor, do have a lot of risk on the table, we have a lot invested in this product, and we need to make money so we can pay our people appropriately. So they can have, you know, comfort, mental health, you know, reliability, sustainability. So don’t sell yourself short for your company. It’s something that I firmly, firmly believe in. And when we walk away,

Jake Hogenson  18:20

I said, Well, I just think I think like, you know, going back to when we had our department up there, you know, the 10 people that really drive the engine, that’s, that’s what you’re getting. So when you look at the price, don’t think about don’t look at the line item, don’t look at the server, don’t look at the what you’re actually getting the gear Look at, look at the support you’re gonna have, when something happens, you know, especially when you’re on a long run tour, right? Where gear is bouncing all over the place in and out of trucks in and out of airplanes. I mean, it’s not just being installed into a temperature controlled environment and having the same person looking after it every day. That is one thing. But we’re talking about building, you know, massive systems that are capable of doing multiple shows, whether it’s, you know, a headlining act in an arena, that also has to go to a festival, you have to think so many steps ahead, to make sure that what you’re building and what you’re sending out is is is prepped properly is is going to last the whole tour. I mean, there’s so many variables that go into that. And I think that too many people get caught up on the line item and they get caught up on the cost of that and they get caught up on this and that and the other thing, it’s like, well, hold on, okay, you’re gonna take millions of dollars worth of gear, and you’re gonna throw it around all over the world for the next six months. You know, let’s have a proper support team behind you know, and that goes from us to you know, No, our our vendors, the people that we buy our equipment from and have to RMA through and have to have to constantly maintain things. And we take a lot of pride and a lot of time, and making sure that from, from where it happens on site to where it comes back to the shop, and then gets repaired and then goes back out, that gets tested thoroughly. And all of that still comes back to the people, it comes back to the people that are involved in that whole process. Because we can always just go buy something new, you know, and that’s something we live in, in a society now is we can just go buy something new, well, how about we just fix what we already have. It’s not that hard. But it takes the people to be able to execute that process. And without those people, you know, you’re literally just throwing stuff in the bin. And that’s a waste. And that’s, that’s something I’m pretty passionate about. So I think we do that really, really well. From start to finish.

Ryan Middlemiss  21:01

Yeah, our support structure is built to be efficient, and successful, essentially. And we do spend a lot of time with relationships with vendors, suppliers. And to be able to pick up the phone, give them a call, don’t send an email or Slack message, you can move on. Yeah, so like, we’ve talked a lot about return on events or personnel, right? So a lot of people are like, oh, you know, you track your return on investment on product. And it’s like, yeah, that’s fine. But our return on investment is on personnel. And people as you guys can tell, like, that is what our passion is, like I, for example, I take the training, from Ventura to Glendale, and then, you know, someone’s going to pick me up. And I asked them, how’s it going,

Jake Hogenson  21:53

if you’re lucky, somebody is going to be lucky, someone picks me up, or I walk.

Ryan Middlemiss  21:57

But you know, someone you know, someone comes by, they’ll pick me up? And you know, how’s it going? And it’s meant, like, I mean, it like everything, okay? Do you need any help return on investment? How can I help you be, you know, better person, like, if I invest in the people, the gear is going to happen, you know, you’re going to receive your, it’s going to be parallel, you’re going to receive your return investment on the gear, because people are going to have that, you know, they’re gonna have that compassion for the client, just be like, Hey, check it out and see, how’s everything going? And the clients gonna just keep on coming back? We have a lot of returning clients that way. And a lot of emails with people who’ve been like, hey, just want to say thank you, because the support was awesome. But it’s, it’s the return on investment, return when you invest in your people first, and the gear will follow naturally, I don’t really worry about ROI on gear anymore. Because I know, I tracked it for a year, two years, and it was just like, Okay, well, let’s make money. Let’s focus on the people. Because it’s better that way. Jake, you want to talk about build efficiency and how we kind of

Jake Hogenson  23:07

Yeah, so I was way too close. So the efficiency and design and logistics is something kind of going back to my earlier point that like, coming off of doing as much touring and traveling and having different sized kits that I would travel the world with, whether it was you know, a large rack system or a small like flight pack system, or whatever, and whichever server or cameras or you know, I’ve done a little bit of everything. But I think one of the biggest things that we try to do is we try to design and build systems that stay together, whether it’s disguised boxes, or hypnotises, or pyxera, or M box or whatever we have on the shelf for whatever the client needs, we try to keep basically like the meat and potatoes of the system the same. So that whether we have to swap out, like, you know, a different disguise box with three outputs, or four outputs, or two outputs or whatever, like we have all of the necessary components in the system that can convert signal that can test signal that can monitor signal sync, all of that kind of stuff. And as we as we get into the more network based stuff, we are doing the same thing with our networking and anything that is 2110 or not. And we are trying to also make sure that we are using the same backbone for all of those systems going forward so that you know, you’re always gonna get the same thing from the fuse server department, right? You’re always gonna get a rack that’s completely TechEd out has been flushed out all the IO is working. All the networking is working. There’s a spreadsheet that’s involved with it. We sent picture ers. And then, you know, once we, once we release it into the wild, and somebody gets it, then yeah, we’re always there for support, but we are trying to minimize the back and forth. Phone calls, panic moments that people have had, because I have been, you know, that person that’s in South America and I just can’t get a machine to boot. You know, things happen. And we all understand that it’s just again, at the end of the day, it’s gear is gear, computers, die UPS blow up things happen, but like, Can I set somebody can we set somebody up for success when they when, when the gear and they leave the shop, that’s what we’re trying to do. And, again, back to our team, that is, that is a big reason why we have 10 Very, very talented people that make sure that this happens. And I cannot stress enough that like our our, you know, support, and failure ratio is super low. And, you know, I’m really happy that we have the team in place that we do. And it goes for the clients and the and the freelancers and the people that we try to hire as well as it’s like, you know, I hate to say it, but just don’t be a dick, right? Like, and you’ll probably get hired, or we’ll probably give you a call or something or you’ll get something from us. And we expect that back. And we don’t expect to have that attitude towards anybody else. So I think that all kind of like encompasses the same thing is it’s like, it’s, it’s the mental health, it’s the, you know, scheduling, and it’s the gear, and all of that goes in that order. And I think that’s, that’s why we’re as efficient as we are.

Ryan Middlemiss  26:49

Yeah, we did spend a lot of time coming up with system designs that can be utilized on multiple jobs. So if someone wants to like a cut and dry system of just this, this, this, they’re probably gonna get 90% more than what they asked for. And that really comes down to it just being efficient on the department’s end to turn and burn the systems, we can get a system back, clean it up, send it out in four hours, you know, just run it through QC, send it out in four hours. So that turnaround time is severely minimalized in or minimum because, and that’s great, that’s great for money because like you got a tour come back and a tour going out the next day. It’s your you don’t have any real downtime. So we do we do a lot of put a lot of effort and thought into these system designs that should be like, it’s going to handle 90% of the shows out there. And if for the other 10% that it doesn’t handle, you just add another one to it. And

Jake Hogenson  27:47

you’re right. I mean, there’s there’s still bespoke system design, and there’s still all that kind of stuff and specialized things, but like, we try to make it so that you know, if you’re coming in and you’re getting a disguise system from us, it’s the same thing every time from when it leaves the box, how it goes through processing, and then when it goes on the screen. And that is super important, especially in the touring environment. Installs it’s you know, obviously a different beast but but like in the in the fast paced world of touring, and even theater and some corporate stuff. It’s nice to have these systems that we can just roll from one job to another and again, it just goes back to the people that make that happen.

Ryan Middlemiss  28:33

And the last thing, it’s okay to say no. You know, we have a lot of sales guys for us, right? And everyone thinks like, it’s fairly common that sales guys think that they they have the only jobs within the company. So when they come up and ask for something that’s just completely ridiculous, it is okay to say no and give that but you have to give them an alternative solution. It’s like it. Like it’s their lack of planning or anybody’s lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency for you. So it’s okay to say no, but provide a alternate solution to them. Alright, so we talked about vendor relationships briefly, but we want to dive deep into this. I hate slack, I hate email, like click up Monday, whatever anybody uses is annoying to me. I am definitely a phone person. And I do truly believe that that as is crucial to success. So like if I’m having a problem with a server, piece of gear or whatever I just call the company and people forget about that and it’s like oh, let’s go through their support contact us. It you know, submitted issued ticket a ticket and you’re gonna get no response. Whether like two hours, one day, who knows right? Avoid, pick up the phone. And it’s not that people aren’t willing to answer the phone, it’s just people aren’t picking up the phone and calling people it’s okay to have off the grid conversations to get something done quickly. It’s, yeah, I mean, I’m sure a lot of my suppliers are, you know, get a little annoyed by free at some times, because I just pick up the phone and call and be like, hey, I need this solved right away. But you know, the best thing about it, it gets solved faster than any email, Slack message or anything like that. So it’s, it’s okay to pick up the phone and call like, we have lost that communication. With digital communication. It’s like, you have to be able to talk to people. And just, it’s because it’s, you know, it’s it’s definitely a lot faster, they can hear the tone of your voice, they can tell if you’re mad or not mad. And it’s, you know, it’s definitely the best form of communication. I personally think. Brittany,

Brittany Mena  31:05

yeah, I think I am very big on picking up the phone, too. I mean, I can’t speak for the rest of my generation on that end. But I will say, especially in this industry, a lot of people are very slow on their emails, which is very frustrating. So I completely agree, because it’s, especially when everything’s just really fast everything. So we need an answer right now. I don’t need to wait, you know, the next business day, which I know that’s maybe standard practice, but I’ve just answered it right now. And then I can figure it out, then the three days of the weekend we have. So I really prefer to not use emails, because again, a lot of people were very slow in this industry on emails. Yeah,

Jake Hogenson  31:44

you talking about anybody specifically? No, honestly, just a general, I

Brittany Mena  31:48

will say when I first started in this industry, before I got hired by Ryan, I was emailing so many, you know, vendors or studios or whatever, I don’t think I got one email back. And I know, I maybe I got a few, but it took like weeks. And by that point I was already working. So I was like, No, I can’t do this for you. So and I know there’s a lot of other young people quick question who’s 25 and younger in here, too. So there’s a lot of young people out there who really want to be in this industry. And there’s just not enough people given either giving them a chance or just kind of blowing them off. And kind of focus on what they’re, you know, they’re doing at the moment. But eventually, time passes. Unfortunately, for a lot of people time passes. So we really need to need to think about the next generation coming up in here. And focus on getting them trained up and you know, to replace you because we’re all gonna be replaced one day. So let’s just really train up whoever is coming next.

Ryan Middlemiss  32:42

One thing I can say is, like, the way that I operate is I do phone calls, first, text messages, second, email third. And I don’t really look at Slack anymore. So like, Wouldn’t to get a hold of me, if I’m not picking up your phone call. I’m definitely not answering your email. Like it’s just call me keep calling me it’s not annoying, just call me it’s just if I don’t pick up or call you back, because other people are calling me which is totally fine. But Be persistent. For those that are coming up, like, get the contact info, like work through your, you know, friends network, and like personal networking, like don’t send the link in message, I don’t even know the last time I logged into that. I don’t even know Facebook is still alive. Like you should literally just work within this community and those connections you have, and get the person’s number and call them leave them a message, call them again, maybe call like two times a day and not look for. But it is very important for like, for me that’s that’s how you’re gonna get my attention. And that’s how Britain got my attention. You know, she randomly showed up and then we started talking, then she called and she sent an email with a resume, I didn’t even look at that email and I hired so but I hired her based off the communication and the phone call and just sitting there talking, you know, we went off to lunch or whatever. But so worth work that system to try to use you know, the social media stuff. Again, it there’s a reason for it there that digital community communication. But really, at the end of the day, try something old, I guess you could say. And just work the work the floor, essentially talk to friends to get the connection of where you want to go.

Jake Hogenson  34:27

I get more out of somebody calling me and writing it down with a pen and paper than I do out of email slack or text messages. Like Like if you it back to the efficiency. I feel like those mediums are not efficient anymore. And I feel like they’re just a data dump like people just put things in there. And it’s an excuse for them to be able to deny it later. Oh no. What did you see that I put it in the Slack channel? Well, there were 97 replies and I was at my daughter’s dance class. So no You know, seriously, if you’d called me, I might have you might have had a shot. But yeah, like, I just don’t I don’t subscribe to that idea that that’s a more efficient way of doing anything. I think it’s, I think it’s totally fine. If you’re if you’re really trying to like compartmentalize information and do spreadsheets and you have, you know, something simultaneous that’s going on with people in the same environment, building a system, I can see it’s but like, on a just normal, like, back and forth basis about especially client to vendor relationships, like what do you need for your show? What can I do for you, that doesn’t work. It’s just not efficient. It’s not good. It’s not personable, and Well, that too,

Ryan Middlemiss  35:44

if you want personal support, you know, if you want vendor support, and, you know, you have to have that relationship. And I’d like there’s people I’ve talked to on Slack that I’ve never met in my life, and I’m just like, This is not interesting to me. And so they’re not going to get the intention of somebody that gives me a call, we talk for 20 minutes talk through the system, hey, what do you need, and you know, find out a little bit about them

Jake Hogenson  36:09

shows or shows passionate about a project, like because then that makes us that makes us passionate, right? Like, we’re and we’re a passionate group of people in our department. Everybody comes from, from different parts of this industry with different passions and different views on things. And we collectively come together and make it better. But like, unless you unless you really talk to somebody about a project, you really don’t know, like how invested they are in emotionally, technologically, whatever it is, like, that’s important. To me personally, like, when I hear somebody’s excitement about something, and I can get on board with what we’re trying to accomplish, man, like, let’s, let’s go, let’s do it. But you know, this kind of impersonal, just like, Here’s my email, or here’s my, here’s my demands come back to me with a price. It’s just like, okay, cool. Well, I could probably just say no to that.

Ryan Middlemiss  37:05

I mean, we will do it, you know, like, eventually, but it’s not going to take priority. Like that’s the personal relationships that take priority. And that’s where we’re gonna put put our time. I don’t remember. Yeah, I finished this at 3am. This morning. So yeah, just building a successful team. Let me know. And I’ll need to talk too much about this. It’s, I mean, what we’ve just talked about, essentially,

Jake Hogenson  37:40

I don’t remember what else is.

Ryan Middlemiss  37:42

We talked about mental health? Yeah, I guess we were at that point, we’re at that point to see if anybody has any questions for our weird group of people up here.

Brittany Mena  37:56

I will like to say, because I know about, like, 20 people off the top of my head who wants to join this industry? If I hear someone say there’s a labor shortage one more time, and not actively looking for people who are interested in this and not, you know, they don’t want to teach them or they just want someone who already knows what’s going on. I think you are at it highly. Like you’re at, you’re just disadvantaged. There’s people that want to learn, and there’s the facilities here, and you know, other vendors and studios that have that, you know, that learning space. And if you’re not providing that for anyone, then yes, there will still be a labor shortage.

Jake Hogenson  38:36

anybody? Anybody? Come on? Caller? I know you want to ask a question. Yeah.

Laura Frank  38:45

So I have a question. There is a fearlessness in the clarity with which you make these declarations. I would like to understand when you bend your rules, what are the parameters that that’s necessary for success supporting each other relationships, any of that?

Ryan Middlemiss  39:08

That’s good. When do we bend our rules? i Everything system wise, we still do bespoke systems, right? And if we need to bend things, yes, we will. But I don’t think we will ever bend our values as a department. It’s there. I mean, there’s been situations, programmers have been disrespectful to texts and screams producers have been disrespectful to the department. And I will call that I will call you out. It’s that simple. Like it’s

Jake Hogenson  39:50

there’s a list. We definitely keep a list. So it’s that way

Ryan Middlemiss  39:55

we we are willing to Ben carry You know, but we were on certain points, like, you know, our workflow if you if it’s very specific and I would kind of question you, it just ask you to justify it. You know, it’s okay to question things. And if someone gets mad at you for questioning things, that’s they’re not willing to teach you. So it’s, I will Yeah, we’ll ask the question and be like, Why are you doing it this way, when we have a lot of experience, and hopefully, it’s an educational point for all of us, I think we’re all willing to be taught. So we asked a question. It’s not out of disrespect. It’s just because we want to know, as well, but I think one thing I could say we, as a department and company are far more firm on is, I don’t think we’ll ever break or bend or the values that we have, and that we will always stick up for our personnel. Yeah,

Jake Hogenson  40:51

I mean, we stick up for each other. And, and that’s like, the most important thing. So yeah, to Ryan’s point, I think bending, bending, any kind of like, rules, so to speak, is really going to be more on the on the gear side of things than it is on the personnel side of things. Because I personally won’t want bending any rules for people that don’t, don’t deserve the opportunity. Like Brittany said, I would, I would much rather, you know, hold class with a bunch of really, really intelligent people teaching a bunch of really eager people that want to learn, then hand somebody a check for a bunch of nonsense that they put us through because they’re disrespectful. I’d rather see I’d rather see the growth and the education of the next wave of people before I give somebody, you know, money. That’s,

Brittany Mena  41:48

yeah, and it’s very, I think, in this knowledge, you know, the information we have these days in our hands, I think we’re all kind of realizing like, hey, you know, we actually do all care about our mental health, you know, personally, and I, and yes, we also do care about our neighbors and our friends. But, you know, I hear, especially in this industry, and the, you know, the I’ve come from a military background. So, in that industry, especially, I hear a lot of people say, you will not when I came up, I was I did whatever to you know, I cried in the corner, and I did whatever it had to be done. And it’s like, Dude, you’re yelling on me on like, at 9am, you’re not okay. You know, so I, I find it funny when people say they’ve gone through so many things, and they’re fine. And it’s, you know, and they’re, you know, blowing their heads off screaming at people. And it’s like, obviously, you’re not fine. So I think we’re at this point where we’re really realizing that we really need to take care of ourselves. And I think that’s really something we can’t cross that line with. Like, there’s no really bending rules for that at this point anymore.

Laura Frank  42:47

Thank you for that I do have a follow up ad because it’s something Ryan, you and I discussed on the phone. And thank you for answering my email, by the way. Hey. It was replied to with a text message that went to a phone call. But but something you mentioned that I want to highlight, because he did point out that you have all the room in the world for your team to message you and say, I’m not feeling it today. But you can support that, because your team is well rounded, and all of the all of your responsibilities. And I’m wondering if you could speak to that a little bit how you support each other.

Ryan Middlemiss  43:29

So long story short, we have each other’s back at the end of the day, and we do have the quantity of people to be able to do that. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are some times where there’s just two of us in the shop. And like, I mean, I’ve done it, I’ve called Jake and be like, Hey, not feeling it today. Is that okay? Absolutely. You know, and he’s a little put a little pressure, more pressure on him for the day, depending on what’s going on. Or, you know, then if he needs a day, it’s the same thing. But it’s when I joined for years and started thinking about, I joined a few years, and now it’s just, we’re the only Media Server person during COVID. So I was thinking about like, hey, you know, eventually I’m gonna have to get more people. And I was, you know, focusing a lot on that and was just like, how can I make a department that is not like any other department? And just like, what is what is important to me? What do I value and what is this industry missing? And I think Jay can go in more detail about this as well.

Jake Hogenson  44:31

Yeah, I mean, like, because when he when he got hired there at Fuse, and then he brought me into the fold to start doing more jobs for him because he didn’t want to do them anymore. Let’s be honest. So so, like, the whole time we’re doing that, and I’m coming into the shop and you know, I was local to the shop at that point. And he again, it was just him and then Brittany got hired. So then it was just the two of them. And then Brittany was Going out and like programming shows on on disguise and stuff. And so then it would just be back to Ryan and then, you know, he’d call me and go, are you off tour? What are you doing? Can you come into the shop, I need to build a system, whatever. And basically, like the slow process was him just trying to, you know, convince me, like, Hey, man, you know, do you really want to keep touring like this, I mean, because again, my daughter was, was growing up. And I was forced to stop touring as much as I had been during the pandemic, and started doing a lot more work. I worked at the OG XR and at showbiz studios, just like Ryan, like, I mean, I was forced into being, again, more home based, but it was, it was something I wanted to do, because I want I wanted to watch my kid grow up. And I watched so many other parents, friends of mine out on the road, you know, being FaceTime parents all over the world, you know, we’d we’d be in Belgium, we’d be in Japan, we’d be in all these places, and the time difference, and it would be like, oh, so and so’s go into bed, I got it, and I, I did it myself. And I gotta be honest with you, I didn’t, I didn’t really enjoy it. I didn’t, I didn’t really interact enough with my kid. And that was a big reason for me. And Ryan pulled at my heartstrings about it, where it was like, hey, you know, if you if you come off the road, and we can, we can build this department together. And we can, we can build what we have. And we can, we can have these values. And we can have these opinions. And we can be strong willed. And we can do what we want to do then like is that more interesting than being on the road for 200 days a year. And, you know, after a long internal conversation with myself, it was, you know, and I still I still get to do cool, cool stuff, we still go out and gig, you know, but now I have the opportunity to choose, when I want to go out and gig, I have the opportunity to be like, hey, this, this sounds fun, let’s go do that. And we don’t say no to each other. You know, Britney wants to go out. And you know, she just did her first European tour this year and had a blast, you know, and we were like, absolutely go have fun. You know, because everybody should experience that. And if you’re getting paid to experience that, then go, you know, like, that’s the support we want to give everybody that we work with everybody in our department is that you have unquestioned free will that will never be a question. So in terms again, back to the original question about bending things, like, I’ll never bend that, I’ll always let that ride personally.

Brittany Mena  47:39

Yeah, and I feel pretty much the same. You know, like, I hear them telling me, Hey, I gotta go to my daughter’s recital or my you know, whatever the case is, and I’m like, okay, like, I’ve never, I’ve never, I don’t think I’ve ever had any animosity towards them taking a day off, just because I know, they never had any animosity towards me. And the same with Josiah who’s probably the youngest one on our team, he 100% understands, like, hey, there’s, you know, there’s life outside of this. So let’s enjoy it. So it’s, it’s very, like, it’s unbelievable, like the stress it takes off your shoulders when you can finally think that type of way. Because, again, coming from military background where everything is under scrutiny, it’s it’s so stressful to even say like, Hey, can I have just this one Tuesday off, you know, the one day off? I’ve been asking for for like, a year now. And so just be able to say, hey, I really, you know, want to go on universal on a non, like, busy day, can I kind of go and he’s like, Yeah, sure. And then same thing with them. I hear them talking about their kids. And I’m like, please do that. Like, get out of here. Actually, I don’t even want to see you right now.

Ryan Middlemiss  48:39

Yes, kicked us out a couple.

Brittany Mena  48:43

So yeah, like, I just want to reiterate that, like the stress that takes off, it’s like, is it I can’t understand it, honestly. So yeah.

Ryan Middlemiss  48:53

You know, we’re at this job, it’s, at the end of the day, when you enable people like what we’ve done in this department, like you’re gonna get more productivity out of them within four hours than you would a normal hire that you went through the resume for like a corporate type situation. Then then you know, what would take someone eight hours you can get out of out of our team and for half the time because they have the support of the whole department and the company?


Yep, yeah, we have one from the chat online. Just this one’s from Michael, what methodology did you use to source the people that you’ve hired?

Ryan Middlemiss  49:37

Phone I mean, I’ll just post my number on the website and call me that’s really it, you know, phone call, meet up, talk.

Jake Hogenson  49:57

You want me to put it up on the

Ryan Middlemiss  49:59

You can. 805-794-1426, there you go.

Jake Hogenson  50:05

Social Security number next.

Ryan Middlemiss  50:09

You get my bank account number. There’s something you know that too.

Brittany Mena  50:14

Just curious literally the way I got hired is I met Ryan and he asked me do you need a job? And I said yes. And that’s the extent of

Ryan Middlemiss  50:22

because I get literally no hamper, there’s a little bit more like, I don’t care about your technical background. I don’t I can teach you that Jay can teach you that Britney can teach you that Britney taught Josiah. I didn’t teach him anything. Like the team has taught each other. I don’t teach anybody anything. I just put the team together. So it’s like, I’m going to sit down, we’re going to have a conversation, I’m going to judge you based off of your personality, and I can and your mental health and your like if you need help, or you’re like, that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t care about if you went to college, honestly, I don’t. I don’t care about the technical background at all. Because that can be taught I can’t teach you. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know how you did to change who you are. Nor do I want you to change who you are. I can teach you the tech stuff. I just want to be like here, you’re gonna be part of the team. Like, who are you going to pick for flight football type thing, like that’s what it is. And I also like I can teach you the skills, but I can’t I can’t change your personality. I’m not that good.

Laura Frank  51:30

Thank you very much. All right. Let me officially say thank you. I am so happy that you could be here with us today and expose this part of our industry which is vital to all of us doing our work so well. So thank you for being here. We’re on a lunch break and we get started back up at two o’clock. Thank you everyone.


people, department, gear, server, system, ryan, support, industry, question, hired, company, email, call, vendor, day, mental health, fuse, build, teach, give


Jake Hogenson, Laura Frank, Ryan Middlemiss, Brittany Mena