HPA President Seth Hallen Entreats Media Professionals to Lead During Era of Transformative Change

During the HPA Tech Retreat in Palm Springs earlier this month, HPA President Seth Hallen delivered a passionate appeal to the conclave of technology leaders gathered there, entreating them to seize the moment to connect with each other and grapple with new technologies.
Byline: Seth Hallen

This year, I believe we are starting a new chapter, actually an entirely new playbook, for our industry. At the Retreat last year, before the double strike descended on us, just as this wildfire of AI started, a few of us were talking about industry transformation that was on the horizon. And while many accepted that this might be coming, none of us really understood what that would look like.

What we are experiencing now, without a doubt, is the most fundamentally challenging and changing environment most of us have ever seen. We’ve weathered strikes before. And economic downturns before. We’ve even weathered a global pandemic. But this is different. What we are experiencing now is truly, fundamental transformative change.

When we talk about the strikes last year, it’s easy to blame them for the production shutdowns. Especially when you think about the many tens of thousands of impacted individuals who were not party to the strikes -from editors to caterers-it’s easy to blame those involved in the strikes for our troubles.

Last year’s strikes brought to light something much deeper going on within our industry. They underscored rapidly changing content consumption patterns, increasingly powerful technologies, all within global economic challenges at a macro level. And, they unveiled the fragility of our livelihoods. Post-production workers, alongside our peers in production, faced significant hardships. Its sobering to call out that today, many thousands of media and entertainment professionals who last year were thriving, knee-deep in projects, as they had been for many years and sometimes decades, are today unemployed.

But, more importantly, these events once again showcased the strength of our community. Just as during the COVID shutdown, we saw our projects halted, incomes dry up, and the very fabric of daily lives unraveled. But amid this adversity, at HPA and as an industry as a whole, we re-discovered an unshakeable commitment. We mobilized, and we all did our best to offer support to those in need, proving that our community is not simply built on shared interests but on an unbreakable bond of mutual respect and compassion.

And as we navigated these tumultuous times, another wave of change was sweeping across our industry—the rapid proliferation of AI and related technologies. These tools have sparked a mix of anxiety and excitement. They hold the promise of transforming the creative, technical, and operational process, making them more efficient and opening new avenues for storytelling. Yet, they also pose questions about the future of our roles within this evolving landscape.

But I don’t want to merely reflect on these challenges, rather I want to be a part of, along with everyone in the HPA community, shining a light on the path forward. It’s got to be a path paved with education, with communication, and with collaboration. My personal journey over the past year included taking multiple courses and certifications about AI, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing. I encourage all to do the same, if you haven’t started already. Because I’ve learned that the emergence of AI in our technical, operational, and creative processes is not a harbinger of obsolescence but a call to arms for us to elevate ourselves. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we continue to educate ourselves and others about these technologies, demystifying them and understanding how they can serve as allies in our quest for perfection in our work.

Much of the fear surrounding AI stems from the unknown. By embracing a culture of continuous learning and open dialogue, we can dispel many of these fears. Let us engage in conversations that explore the ethical use of AI, ensuring that these tools enhance our work, and become useful assistants, rather than diminishing our human touch. It’s always been true that the future of our industry depends not on technology alone but on our ability to integrate these tools with the skill and passion that define our work.

I want to take this opportunity to announce that HPA is forming an AI Working Group. This initiative will strive to empower the community with the knowledge, tools, and ethical guidelines for AI integration into our industry workflows. More to come on the working group in the near future.

In addition, HPA members and supporters of SMPTE, The ETC and EBU felt it was important to come together to document the current state of AI and look forward to its future in our industry. There is more information about this at the SMPTE table and on the SMPTE website.

Looking ahead, I see a horizon brimming with possibilities. Together, we can usher in an era where post and production professionals are not mere survivors, but continue the long tradition of being the pioneers of change. We are at the forefront of an industry on the cusp of (I’ll say it again) fundamental, transformative, change. By harnessing the power of AI in sustainable and ethical ways, along with other emerging technologies, we can continue to be a part of creating content that continues to captivate, inspire, and transcend boundaries, in new ways.

Our gathering at the HPA Tech Retreat is more than a conference; it is a conclave of the brightest minds in production and post, united by a shared vision for the future. Here, amidst the exchange of ideas and the forging of new connections, lies the potential to redefine what is possible. I urge each one of you to seize this opportunity. Engage with your peers, share your insights, and collaborate on solutions that will propel our industry forward.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to all of you. Your resilience in the face of adversity, your willingness to adapt and grow, and your unwavering commitment to excellence are what make our industry truly remarkable.

Thank you for your dedication, your passion, and your presence here today. Here’s to our successful future, crafted by our hands, and our hearts.

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