How Productions.com’s Carolyn Pitt Connects Studios and Crew Members
The Transparent Collective alum on elevating local talent and communities.
By Jessen O’Brien
Atlanta, Carolyn Pitt discovered, had a strange problem.
An intellectual property and entertainment attorney, Pitt was struck by the fact that so many of her clients and friends were struggling to find work in the world’s busiest production hub. So she started to investigate.
“I found out that up to 70% of crew members are flown into production hubs where there are tons of experienced above and below the line crew members who could be working. Part of the reason is that there hasn’t been a reliable mechanism to elevate the profiles of experienced local talent,” says Pitt, who went on to found Productions.com, a marketplace that connects studios, music labels, and brands with local crews all across the U.S. and Canada.
Pitt’s solution for connecting local crews with work has taken off — and big-name corporations are taking notice. Productions.com was recently one of eight companies selected out of 1,200 to receive $250,000 and executive coaching from Morgan Stanley. “We are delighted to receive investment from Morgan Stanley and to participate in the MultiCultural Innovation Lab,” says Pitt. “Productions.com is at an exciting inflection point and is poised for explosive growth. Partnering with Morgan Stanley provides our team with unparalleled access to subject matter expertise and an extensive network of executives, investors, influencers and mentors that will accelerate that growth.”
We sat down with Pitt to learn more about Productions.com, how the marketplace is leveling the playing field, and her experience with the Transparent Collective.
How does Productions.com work?
We are a marketplace. Both crew members and stakeholders create dynamic profiles and then connect on Productions.com. Stakeholders can send offers to crew members whom they have met and interviewed through the site and also pay them directly through the site, which is not only a cost savings but also an efficiency savings.
We also have a very robust DE&I division called Include. We’re incredibly proud to help level the playing field for women, professionals of color, veterans, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition to finding a little bit of everyone, you can also be very targeted in finding folks who are underrepresented in production to make sure that the productions themselves are diversified.
For example, we had a client who was interested in hiring local women of color. They were creating election coverage and wanted talent who understood the area and some of the concerns of the voters in that demographic. With Include, our DE&I division, we were able to very quickly surface the profiles that were above the line, brought the very skillset they were looking for, and understood the voters.
What other advantages does Productions.com provide for studios?
Hiring locally makes a big difference to their bottom line. On average, studios pay more than $6,300 each month for travel and housing for each crew member on top of wages.
In addition, there are content providers who want to do something positive for the places where they shoot. Well, what better way to contribute to the community than to contribute to its workforce and economic development by hiring locally?
Also, the narrative of the story that they’re telling is more authentic if it’s being produced by people who know the area.
What else sets Productions.com apart?
First, our reach. We currently work throughout the U.S. and Canada. We’re adding crew members in all the hubs on a daily basis.
The second thing is the breadth of talent that we have as well as the guarantee that they are vetted and can work day one on the production. It’s really important to our stakeholders that they can plug and play someone and know that they have the requisite experience to do the job.
Then there’s the fact that we surface the profiles of underrepresented talent. Especially over the last 12 to 18 months, there’s been a lot of conversation around making sure that we level the playing field. We make it easier to find women, folks of color, veterans, and members of the LGTBQIA+ community.
You advocated for stimulus funding before the U.S. Senate and House subcommittee for Small Business and Entrepreneurship before the CARES Act passed. What was that experience like?
It was wonderful to speak up on behalf of the film industry as well as underrepresented founders — this was literally the day before the CARES Act got the requisite votes that it needed to pass. I had the opportunity to talk about what makes the industry as it exists now inequitable; what makes access to capital so challenging for women and founders of color; and how there’s a chance for government and private industry to partner and level out that access.
I wanted to give voice to some of the frustrations and hopes of underrepresented founders and the production industry, which has been decimated by the pandemic. I’m sure you’ve heard quoted before that .0006% of funding is granted to Black women founders from venture capital on an annual basis. If you add up women and founders of color, they access 3% of venture capital every year, which means that the other 97% of venture capital is going to white males. No one could look at those statistics and think that there’s anything equitable about them at all.
I’ll add that I was asked by the Biden-Harris campaign to speak on two of their small business roundtables. That was also a wonderful opportunity to give voice to small business owners in the battleground state of Georgia.
What drew you to the Transparent Collective?
I researched a number of different incubators and accelerators when I came across Transparent Collective. I was incredibly excited to see that they bring together very driven founders from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, working on different ideas in different industries. I felt immediately welcomed and empowered.
Being able to connect with likeminded founders was a big drawing point for me. Somehow in one week, the Transparent Collective not only exposes those founders to specialists and ideas that are going to advance their businesses, but also builds a solid community, particularly within that cohort.
I joke that to me, the Transparent Collective is almost like an Underground Railroad. A lot of intention and effort goes into identifying these founders who are building incredible companies, but who have not yet gone through some of the major accelerators. Transparent Collective gives them the insights and confidence that they need to make connections and figure out how to grow in an ecosystem that isn’t always welcoming.
What was the most valuable part of your experience with the Transparent Collective?
On demo day, I made revisions to my deck within an hour or two of standing up in front of investors in the Bay Area. There’s something about the folks that I was surrounded by and the way that we talked about storytelling that gave me the confidence to make those revisions. And it was a successful presentation even though it was miles apart from what it would have been on day one.
Why do you think the Transparent Collective’s mission of helping underrepresented founders is so important?
Recently, there’s been a lot more attention paid to the issues that Transparent Collective is solving. But they’ve been in this fight for years — recognizing excellence, rewarding it, and challenging and being accountability partners with founders.
I’m still in touch with members of my cohort, many of whom have gone on to some of the top three accelerators in the world and are building their companies, raising millions of dollars, and — even more importantly — generating revenue in millions of dollars.
And the Transparent Collective is not only thoughtful about making the programming engaging during the cohort, but also thereafter for the alums.
Case in point: Transparent Collective’s Series A bootcamp was absolutely incredible. It was tailored to provide participants with critical and candid insights from investors, founders of mature businesses and other subject matter experts that will elevate the cohort’s fundraising strategies as operators of highly scalable businesses.
What advice would you give to other underrepresented founders?
There’s never been a better time to be a founder — especially a women founder or a founder of color. There are programs and resources that help to provide capital, expertise, and sounding boards. Although there will always be a need to add more, I’d say in 2021 we probably have more such opportunities than we’ve ever had before.
So have faith in yourself. Know that the community is here to support you and take the leap. You will find your tribe and we will be out here rooting for you.