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A Wicked Good Storyteller - Macaela VanderMost

By Adam Korenman

Macaela VanderMost worked hard to build a studio for like-minded artists, but faced an uphill climb to define her career

This episode has been a long time coming. We've been fans of Macaela's for quite a while. Joey spent his formative freelancer years learning alongside this whip-smart MoGraph Guru, and it's been a blast to see her career climb ever higher. Going from "a kid with a camera" to running one of Boston's biggest studios is an impressive feat. Macaela is a titanic talent, but she has also had to face some, unfortunately, all-too-common barriers to entry along the way.
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Some of you might know Macaela as the Founder and Executive Creative Director of Newfangled Studios. Based in Boston, but booking clients worldwide, they consider themselves storytellers above all. This approach has led them to take a mutli-disciplinary approach to their work, combining live action, editorial, motion design and strategic thinking to drive results for big brands.
Our mission at School of Motion is to break down the barriers to the Motion Design industry so that everyone can join and share their voices. We know that is a journey more than a destination, and we have a long way to go. Some of the topics we cover in this conversation are about the difficulties marginalized communities face, even in as welcoming a world as MoGraph can be. Remember that our industry is stronger and healthier when we open the doors wide.
This conversation goes all over, and includes some inside stories we haven't shared before. The biggest takeaway is just how small the Motion Design community really is. Your fellow interns soon become your fellow freelancers and studio heads. This is a story about interpersonal relationships as much as it's about where to get the best clam chowder in Cambridge.
So pick up the usual from Dunkin' Donuts, cram some sugar in your maw, and get ready to spill a little tea with Macaela VanderMost.

A Barrier-Breaking Storyteller - Macaela VanderMost

Show Notes

Artist

Studio

Work

Resources

Transcript

Joey Korenman: All right. Macaela VanderMost, your last name is familiar to me. I'm trying to remember where I've heard it before, but anyway, old buddy, thank you so much for doing this. I'm really excited to dig into your story.
Macaela Vandermost: Thanks. Thanks so much for having me. I've definitely been listening to the podcast. I've read your book. I'm a huge fan of what you guys are doing, so appreciate you having me on.
Joey Korenman: So, everyone listening to this, probably no one else is going to care, but you do need to know that Michaela and I know each other very well. We started our careers around the same time. This is going to be a lot of weird jokes that no one gets, but the two of us and laughter that no one appreciates but us. I wanted to start actually, so people may not actually know this because School of Motion has grown, there's a lot of people working on it now and the President of the company is actually your sister Elena VanderMost.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: Who is one of the most talented, smart people I've ever met in my life and I would say, probably 5% to 10% smarter than you. You are also one of the... but-
Macaela Vandermost: It's fair. That's fair.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, that's fair, that's fair, right?
Macaela Vandermost: It's fair.
Joey Korenman: But it's just so impressive to me, like the two of you are just insanely accomplished, but also, it's obvious why you work really hard, you make smart risks and things like that. So, I'm wondering if we could just start with maybe if you have a theory on why the VanderMost sisters have turned out this way?
Macaela Vandermost: Sure, I mean, I think part of it is just we really fall back on our good looks.
Joey Korenman: Yep, also fair.
Macaela Vandermost: We're just stunningly good looking, but aside from that-
Joey Korenman: Painfully, yeah.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, yeah. And that gets us pretty far, but I think I would attribute a lot of it to the way that we were raised, so growing up, we were like real broke, like when I say real broke like broke, broke, like had trouble putting food on the table broke. And my parents both came from, I would say, poverty style backgrounds where they had really tough upbringings and stuff like that and they were scrappy and smart, and they just decided to blaze their own trail.
Macaela Vandermost: My dad worked in factories, because that's what his dad did and that's what he knew how to do and he realized he was never going to make it to the next level working at somebody else's factory. So, he wanted to start his own, so one building block at a time, one brick, one half-broken somebody-else-disposed-of machine that he could take in and use and he worked 24 hours a day, pretty much. It started out of a garage and eventually built into a real business. And my parents just together, like slowly, but surely dug us out of desperate levels of poverty. And my sister and I, and also my older sister and my younger brother were raised watching that happen.
Macaela Vandermost: And over time, by the time I was... I can remember being like 10 or 11 and join the basketball team and I couldn't basketball sneakers. All the other kids had new basketball sneakers and I was still just wearing my dirty regular sneakers. Those little types of things where you just notice like we're not necessarily like the other families. And then by the time I was 16, the business had taken off and funny enough, my parents had some of the same clients that I had today. Hasbro was one of my parents' clients, is one of my clients now.
Joey Korenman: Wow. Full circle.
Macaela Vandermost: So, it's kind of funny and really cool, but by the time I was 16, we were like ballers. We had a suburban with a TV in it in 1997.
Joey Korenman: My God, in Rhode Island. I mean, you must have been just like kings and queens [crosstalk 00:03:54].
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, yeah. Well, at that time, it was in Massachusetts. My mom moved to Rhode Island later on, but we really... my parents clawed their way with their bare hands out of poverty and into a lifestyle that we never could have dreamed of. We bought a big house and I had a pool and it was awesome and we were on the track to live that way forever and to have the next generation really be raised up. And then completely out of the blue, my father was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Macaela Vandermost: And well, man, Joey, you got me crying three minutes into the podcast, yes.
Joey Korenman: I'm sorry. Well, listen, so I-
Macaela Vandermost: Well, just to kind of summarize-
Joey Korenman: I could throw you a lifeline if you need.
Macaela Vandermost: Well, just to summarize, I think basically, we saw, my sister and I both saw, what it's like to not have money. We saw what it was to work really hard and be entrepreneurial and have money, and then we also saw that you can't just then just count on it, because something completely unexpected could happen. And so, I think that that rollercoaster ride of a childhood that we had really prepared us for taking calculated risks, working our asses off and any money that we make, we don't take for granted no matter how successful we are. We know it could fall apart, so just keep going and don't stop.
Macaela Vandermost: And I think that kind of defines both my and Elena's workstyle and that's why she's as successful as she has been and I attribute a lot of Newfangled... my production company is called Newfangled Studios and I attribute a lot of our success to that.
Joey Korenman: Thank you for sharing that. That's an amazing story, really. And I mean, I've heard parts of it and Elaine has told me some of it, but that's incredible, honestly. And I've known you a long time and there's things that you do that I goof on you about, like we were talking before. I remember freelancing with you at an ad agency in Boston and you had brought in a book that you took out from the library that Suze Orman wrote about personal finance and you were sort of, you know?
Joey Korenman: This was way before Newfangled and you were figuring out how you're going to retire early. And I was like, "That's amazing," because I don't think that way. My brain doesn't work that way and it's making me think, too because my father, he's retired now and he was a surgeon, so we grew up probably at that baller level that you had hit and stayed there, but he had a similar experience where his father died young and left his family in a pretty precarious situation. And so, he has a lot of those same habits no matter how well he's done. He wouldn't go as far as having my mom cut his hair, but-
Macaela Vandermost: All right, so some backstories for the listeners. Last night, Joey and I were texting and my wife was cutting my hair while he was texting me because I'm not going to pay $50 for a haircut when my wife could do it for free, right? Yeah?
Joey Korenman: I mean, you could you, definitely could pay that much, but anyway, so just shave your head like me, it's cheaper. So, anyway, well, thank you for sharing that that actually does, I think kind of paint a clearer picture for me one of the reasons you've been successful and we're going to get into this in a little bit, but I watched you start your studio and I watched you try things and they don't work, try things and they don't work as well as you think and pivot and pivot and pivot to where you are today. And that's really hard to do if you're not good with money. If you're just throwing it around, so that's awesome.
Joey Korenman: So, when I met you, I'm pretty sure this is when I met you. You were running, you were an Ops Manager. You're basically like doing administrative stuff and booking freelancers and other things like that, that viewpoint creative, right?
Macaela Vandermost: That's right.
Joey Korenman: In outside of Boston?
Macaela Vandermost: Yep.
Joey Korenman: So, how did you end up there doing what you were doing because I think you were actually a video editor before that, right?
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. So, I mean, I have a fairly traditional path of like I went to... I did in high school, and then I went to college for film and all that kind of stuff and then I took an internship, which was an editing internship on a reality TV show and binning clips and working in Avid, back in the day.
Joey Korenman: Woof. Yep.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. All that fun stuff and you really learned like the sludge end of the work doing that. Like you really get good at the technical aspect of things and I think honestly, like I worked my way up and I started being... I got hired as a full-time editor and I was editing a reality TV series and in reality TV anyway, like shit really rolls downhill and as the editor, you are standing right there at the end of the hill ready to receive the pile of shit and I did not enjoy that.
Macaela Vandermost: As much as I loved being an editor, I could see so many things in the way that it was being produced that I was like, you know? You know how you know everything when you're 24? It's funny how I knew so much more when I was 24 than I do now, but anyway, I knew-
Joey Korenman: It's the children. Yeah. I actually knew everything when I was 24. And so, I thought that I could produce the show better than the producers and in retrospect, it's like, my God. What an asshole that you would think that. But anyway, I definitely thought it and I spoke up and they changed my title to producer editor. And I said, "Fine. If you want to organize, you'd better organize it better." And so I did. And then I ended up getting my own show and was producer editor on my own show and then the writing was on the wall with that TV network that it wasn't going to work out.
Macaela Vandermost: And that was right around the time that I got a cold call from Viewpoint Creative that they had a position open. And so, I decided that I would rather go be a little fish in a big pond. Viewpoint Creative was doing by far the best coolest work in Boston than be a big fish in a little pond, which was the reality TV network that I was at, that was producing consistently crappy work. So, I left my higher level position that I was, in retrospect, wildly unqualified for and move to pretty much the bottom of the totem pole at a really badass company as their Ops Manager, so that's how it got there.
Joey Korenman: Wow, that's crazy. I mean, I sort of knew part of that story, but I didn't realize what... I mean, that's not a lateral move. You took two steps backwards and I don't think most people would do that. So, what was your end goal? What were you hoping would happen by doing that?
Macaela Vandermost: I just realized that I didn't have necessarily a lot of people to learn from at the reality TV company, because pretty much everybody there, they didn't want to pay a lot, so what they would do is like bring you on as an unpaid intern and then like your big chance of getting hired was for $8 an hour as an editor. It was like really... what they were doing was like exploiting young kids who are passionate about filmmaking, but what that meant was that I had no one who actually knew what they were doing that I could learn from.
Macaela Vandermost: So, I always knew that I want to start a company, by the way that didn't happen by accident. I've wanted to start a company since I was a very young child and I knew that if I wanted to learn how to do it the right way that I needed to go work for someone who was doing it the right way. So, I couldn't be at a shoddy company and jump right from that to doing my own thing because I wouldn't have ever learned how to do it the right way.
Joey Korenman: That's awesome. So at Viewpoint, were you ever able to sort of claw your way back to Producer, Editor or past that before you ended up leaving?
Macaela Vandermost: Well, that's kind of why I left. The answer is not really. I went in there. I mentioned how highly I thought of myself at that point in my life and thought that I knew everything.
Joey Korenman: Confidence, that's all it is.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it may have been false confidence, but I certainly had it.
Joey Korenman: Fair enough.
Macaela Vandermost: Anyway, the thing about Viewpoint is that they were doing the best work in Boston and it was very traditional broadcast work and it was a very traditional company and it was a different time. It was only 15 or 16 years ago, but so much has changed since then and unfortunately, at that time, it was very common for men to be the creatives and women to be the producers. And if you look at that company, at that time, there was a room full of women that was all the producers, except there was one glass office overlooking all the women with one man in it, of course, just to make sure we were doing our thing properly.
Macaela Vandermost: And then the rest of the company was all the creative stuff that I wanted to be doing and it was all men and I'm not one to not speak up and I definitely, mentioned several hundred times that I was a pretty good editor. And so, they said, "Yeah, sure. When you're done with your day job if you want to stay late and edit, you can." So, I did and I thought that that would lead to me becoming in editor, but it didn't, but what it did lead to is me having a demo reel with national brands on it. So, I said, "Byee," once I got that.
Joey Korenman: Wait. I want to dig into that a little bit, so and this just shows how naive I was, right? I noticed that of course that like "Okay, in the way that the office was set up, like I'd walk in past the front desk and there was the female-
Macaela Vandermost: With the female receptionist.
Joey Korenman: Right, who's lovely, by the way. Wonderful.
Macaela Vandermost: Really amazing. Love her. Yep.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. And then you'd go through the producer pit and you're right. All of the producers were female. I think for a while, I think there might have been one or two.
Macaela Vandermost: There was one gay man for a very short amount of time, who got fired after like eight months, but yeah.
Joey Korenman: Right. That's right.
Macaela Vandermost: That's true. We had a gay man for a minute there.
Joey Korenman: There you go. Okay, so then you'd go through a little doorway and then it was like the creative side. It was very old school, I guess, because there was even a little bit of a hierarchy to it, like you'd go through and you had all the designers and the after effects people sort of in this open layout sort of thing and then you'd have the flame artists back in these nice rooms, couches and-
Macaela Vandermost: 20 ft. x 40 ft. room where you'd go in there and they'd be talking about like raunchy things that they do to women. That was fun. You know who I'm talking about?
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I do actually. I know exactly who you are talking about. So, okay, because I remember you even talking to me, because... and we talked before you left and went freelance and so, I knew that you were trying to edit there...
Macaela Vandermost: That's because, Joey...
Joey Korenman: ... and-
Macaela Vandermost: ... you have been coaching people for a decade before you started School of Motion. You were my cheerleader to go freelance and then when I went freelance, I remember my very first day at Digitas, I was so relieved that you were going to be there because I just knew that you would help me through it and I remember that they assigned to me. They hired me as an editor. I'm not an animator. I can make my way around After Effects, but I am-
Joey Korenman: You can fake it, yeah.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, but I'm not an animator and I don't want to claim to be, but I was a pretty good editor and they hired me on as an editor, on a day rate and then they handed me an After Effects Project and I went, "Oh, shit." And I kept pretending to go to the bathroom and running down the hallway to the other edit suite where you were, which by the way like wasn't an edit suite. It was a conference room they had you stuck in for the day.
Joey Korenman: It was, yeah.
Macaela Vandermost: And asking you questions and then like pretending like they probably thought I felt a little sick to my stomach or something with the amount that I was going to the bathroom, but I was actually asking you how to do things and then coming back and faking it. But I just want to say that you've been a mentor to me, and to a lot of people that I know since I met you, and that was way before School of Motion, so it's just inherently in your nature. And I'm not surprised at all that you've grown an empire of mentoring people at all.
Joey Korenman: Well, now, you're going to make me cry, which would be good. That would be kind of refreshing, I think. I'm usually pretty happy. So, well, thank you, first of all, I really do appreciate you saying that and I do remember your first Digitas freelance gig, by the way and I can't remember exactly what happened, but I think there was something where you had to bring something into After Effects and crop it a very specific way because they were doing everything on the web. It was like you're exporting stuff, and then they're going to put it on the flash website and then you needed to be this pixel dimension and I knew how to do it and you came in with this look on your face like someone was chasing you with an axe. "How do I do this?"
Macaela Vandermost: I thought, they said, I was going to be editing, that's not editing.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I'll tell you though real quick. This is one of my favorite stories, because what Macaela and I are talking about is the early freelancing days, well, they were early for you. I think they're probably like mid-freelancing days for me and a lot of clients in Boston at that time, especially ad agencies, they weren't as sophisticated as I think they are now on the technical side, so they would hire you to do something you had no idea how to do, just because they didn't really know what the person was called that actually did that thing and in some cases, there wasn't.
Joey Korenman: But at one point, and it's funny, Michaela, you'll probably know who this is because you ended up hiring her at some point, temporarily, but they hired a freelance editor to come in and she was working next to me and she came in and the whole agency was running Final Cut Pro and this editor, who from what I understand, a pretty good editor. She came in and I meet her and I'm like, "Oh, hey. How you doing?" And then, she's like, "Oh, my God, I thought they used Avids? I don't know Final Cut Pro at all."
Joey Korenman: And I literally, I took her project home that night and I edited it myself, I brought it back to her in the morning and I told her I'm going to do this for you, but you need to go find some tutorials or a book or something. And so, she came in the next day and had to pretend that she had edited this thing and do a client session on her second day, using Final Cut Pro. So, that's the kind of thing that would happen in Boston in the-
Macaela Vandermost: Yep, on the regular, back in the olden days.
Joey Korenman: Exactly. Oh my gosh. The nostalgia is thickier. Okay, so you left Viewpoint because they wouldn't give you the opportunity to really edit on stuff and it is interesting. I mean, I really did never consider that. It was a boys club. I mean, that I knew, but I also knew just from watching you that you had talent. So, it kind of is confusing for me to like really sit with that and think like, "Huh." Because there were other people that got promoted to editor seemingly with no effort at all, that had less experience than you.
Macaela Vandermost: But did they-
Joey Korenman: But now in hindsight, it's clear.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, they had a penis probably though.
Joey Korenman: I assume they did.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. I assume.
Joey Korenman: I never want to assume, but yeah.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, so that was just like one job skill that I didn't have, which was like growing a penis and prohibited me from a lot of things. In fairness-
Joey Korenman: Listen-
Macaela Vandermost: In fairness, the job they hired me for was the Ops Manager, who like that in fairness, they didn't hire me to be an editor and then stopped me from editing. I thought that if I got my foot in the door, I could show them how cool I was and they would give me all these opportunities and that wasn't, you know? So, in fairness, they never told me I was going to be an editor. I just thought, "Once they see how awesome I am," but that that wasn't the case and it was pretty clear that there wasn't going to be an opportunity for me there, even though it was a really badass company.
Macaela Vandermost: But I will say, I met some people who became foundational to my career, you included. You're one of those people and I met Sarah Williams, who has, become over the past 15 plus years, one of my very best friends. She was a producer there and then, I'm so lucky and it took me so long to recruit her, but she finally begrudgingly took a role at Newfangled.
Macaela Vandermost: It's awesome and now, I get to work with one of my very best friends. She's amazing in every way and the one of the creative directors that was at Viewpoint when I was there is now Creative Director of my company. So, in many ways, I benefited tremendously. I built a demo reel. I did get to see the whole business side and learn the way that they did everything. And I met some of the people who would ultimately launch my career to the next level, so I don't regret it. It wasn't the long-term path for me. It wasn't the place for me.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. And I loved freelancing there because of the work and mostly because of the people. There was pretty awesome people to hang out with there. It was and I assume still is a really great place. So, okay, so you leave Viewpoint and you immediately go freelance and then a couple of times, maybe, I have to throw you a little tip here and there, but you pretty quickly, you very quickly got the hang of it, right? And so, what was that period of your career like for you? I mean, did you like freelancing or were you just kind of like, "I'm just doing this until I can sock away enough to start my studio?"
Macaela Vandermost: I loved it. I loved every second of it. I was in my 20s. I made $40,000 a year at Viewpoint and I pretty instantly jumped up to a six-figure income when I went freelance because I was not just booked, but double booked. I would work all day at an ad agency and then I would go and teach classes at night at Boston University and then I would spend all weekend long doing online tutorials, not dissimilar to what School of Motion is now. It was just a different platform back then. And actually, my now wife, I met her at that point in my life, so she's also the Executive Producer of Newfangled and it has had a huge influence on my career.
Macaela Vandermost: So, that point in my life was just like so fun. I had so much energy because I was in my 20s. I was so excited about everything I was doing and learning, like just soaking it all up doing tutorials, all weekend long, editing all day, and teaching all night. And yeah, I was up there in the klerb and I met my new wife and like I just had an awesome time. It was a really, really fun, exciting. It felt like the sky was the limit and I really felt I was going places at that point in my life, so I look back on that time in my life with a lot of fondness.
Joey Korenman: That's amazing. I try to temper what I say when I talk about freelancing because obviously at this point, I wrote a book about freelancing and I've talked about it and I've given speeches about it, and so, I feel like I have to be careful overselling it, but that is exactly how I felt while I was freelancing, too. And I remember a lot of a lot of times like where you and I would be booked at the same place and it was just like this club of like, "My God. We get to do this?" And then like, "Hey, let's go. Let's go drink some beers at lunch, come back up, edit, make some animation." I mean, it was pretty awesome times.
Macaela Vandermost: It was, but I felt like it was also like I couldn't do it now. I will tell you that. It was doing it at a point in my life where I had unlimited amounts of energy and enthusiasm and was willing to give 100% of my life waking up at 6:00 AM, figuring out a tutorial for the thing that I was going to be assigned to do that day, working all day, going in and continuing to double book myself into the night. And then even spending my weekends on it. I gave 100% of myself to that and I think it was so fun and I was in love with it, but I think there needs to be a level of passion and dedication that isn't super common to want to give up.
Macaela Vandermost: I think it's kind of weird that you and I have that in common that we both really wanted to be working to that level and be that nerdily obsessed with what we were doing to be able to be that happy doing it. I do think that your average person is pretty happy, being done working at 6:00 and then going on with their life and not just obsessing about it every hour of every day.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, that's a good point. I try to find sometimes things that are in common with people that end up running studios or businesses or just doing... or don't or freelance, but they're just very successful and there always is this sort of compulsion or obsession component to it.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. There's an unrelenting obsession with video that I have had since I picked up my first VHS camera when I was 12 that I have not stopped thinking about it 20 hours a day since then and I think you have to be that obsessed with it or you just burn out.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So, okay, well, so then this is great, so the freelancing thing, you and I both, we burned hot and fast, right? It was like "Go, go, go, go." And I do remember being triple booked and working on like there were a couple of projects where I brought you in to help produce things or help me find voiceover talent. And then there was this giant speed network thing that you've produced and helped edit stuff of it.
Macaela Vandermost: My God. [crosstalk 00:25:22].
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Well, I'm going to need some alcohol before we talk about that that was a rough one, but anyway. And so, I feel like around the same time though, we started both having that itch like, "But we could start studios. We could scale this. We could do more." And we started talking about it. And so, I had my reasons that I wanted to start a studio, but I'm curious, what were your reasons?
Macaela Vandermost: I think I've just always, I mean, I know that I've always wanted to own a company. I was like the kid with the lemonade stand at the parade. I just have always wanted to own a company and to me, it was like you don't build it, and then they come. You sell and sell and sell and sell until you have no more product to sell and then you replenish that. So, to me, it was like I have sold every hour in my day and I have no more hours to sell to people, so maybe I can find some more talented people and sell their hours, too.
Joey Korenman: So brilliant.
Macaela Vandermost: And that is actually a really horrible way of describing it, but that is a studio. And so, yeah, I got to the point where I was turning down work consistently because there wasn't another hour in the day to take it on and it was like turning down work that was awful. I just wanted to take every opportunity that I could take and so, I had the unique problem of having too much work.
Macaela Vandermost: And so, to be able to take it on was like, "All right. I think now's the time." Now, I branch off on my own and I can take on more projects than I could physically do myself and have all these talented people I have around me, both, I'd say who I met through Viewpoint help and we can do it together, so.
Joey Korenman: That makes so much sense. And it almost answers the question I was going to ask you next, which was about the vision that you had. Because I remember talking with you, because we get along really, really well and would have been really fun to start a studio together, but we had different visions. What I wanted was the fancy office, I wanted the ad agency clients, I wanted the national work, the big budgets.
Joey Korenman: And I don't know if you didn't want that, but you were at least were a little more aware of the headaches that came with that and you didn't really care. You were like, "I'm going to put my office," I think what the original one was in...
Macaela Vandermost: Central Square?
Joey Korenman: ... Somerville or yeah. It was in Central Square, right?
Macaela Vandermost: Yep.
Joey Korenman: In Cambridge, which for people who don't know, 10, 15 years ago, if you were working with Boston ad agencies, typically they'd want to come to your office and have lunch and get Starbucks and sit with you while you're working sometimes. And so, you kind of needed to be downtown, at least that was the thought, but you didn't put your office downtown and you bought IKEA furniture and built it yourself and didn't have a really fancy reclaimed wood coffee table and a roof deck and all these things.
Joey Korenman: And I remember, at some point, I was just like, "Okay, well, you're going to do a different thing. I'm going to do a different thing." And so, my vision was driven by I think, the ambition that I had at that time, like, "I want to do the best work and I want to win a Hatch Award," and all of these meaningless things in hindsight. What was driving you though? Was it literally just like, "This is the most efficient way to do it" or did you sort of see writing on the wall that I didn't see?
Macaela Vandermost: I think, if I had unlimited money, I probably would have done something similar what you did, but I think part of it was just driven by I've just shared the way I grew up and I started making good money, but I certainly wasn't rich. I was paying off my student loans. I was helping my family. That money was stretched already, so first of all, I just didn't have the resources unless I took out a loan and I'm terrified of debt. I don't take out loans to do something that.
Macaela Vandermost: And second of all, I thought it was ridiculous to be honest, not the way that you did your company, but the way that the industry was. I thought it was ridiculous and based on old facts. Like you go here to shoot and then you go here to edit and then you go here to color and then you go here to do your mix. And then you go to this last place to dub it on to all the different delivery formats and then it all comes back to the agency. And I think that that was built on just old information like when it costs $100,000 in hardware to get an Avid, now that makes sense why it's like that.
Macaela Vandermost: But in the worlds that at that time, it was kind of a brand new world where you could have a Mac and have all the software you needed to kind of do all that stuff in one computer and one person could go on line and take tutorials for a modest amount of money and learn all that stuff. To me, it seemed absolutely ridiculous that agencies were blowing through money, both in the lifestyle of the sushi lunches and the Starbucks, and the high-powered, extremely high-paid creative directors who were sitting in an edit suite doing nothing, but hanging out all day.
Macaela Vandermost: And just, so it was like money wise, it seems really inefficient and also just like it just seems silly. Like why are you doing it that way? So, part of it was you're right. I had money. I fretted over which IKEA chair I bought, because I was terrified to spend an extra $50 to get the nicer one. So, there was that part of it, but frankly, I just didn't have enough money to start a company and wasn't willing to take on debt. But then the other part of it was like I just didn't see why you had to. As long as I had a nice computer, the skills, then I could do the work and I didn't need to charge $100,000 because I was one person with an intern when I started.
Macaela Vandermost: So, I could do it for cheap at a pretty high quality and that was kind of my original vision. I remember getting my first gig for a $3,000 video and I was thrilled because I took home $2,900 in profit and I did it in a couple days. And I was like, "Wow, this is awesome. If I could just keep doing this, I'd be making great money and doing it on my own terms." And eventually, that scaled to the point that it's at now where I have millions of dollars in revenue with 19 employees and doing world class work for Google and Bank of America.
Macaela Vandermost: So, it's a very different company than what I set out to, but my original vision and part of why it's called Newfangled is because I just didn't see why anything needed to be done the traditional way. I just thought we have smart people in these incredibly powerful boxes with software in it, let's just make shit.
Joey Korenman: I love that so much. That was a really good humble-brag kind of in the middle of that, by the way. The way you did that. I like that a lot. It's so funny, because like talking to you, from my perspective watching you do this and I'll try to sort of give the listeners like a little idea of the timeline. So, you started your company first, I believe.
Macaela Vandermost: I started it in 2011. Yeah.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. And I think you did it a little bit before me and I didn't start my company the way you did. What I did was I went out and I started talking to people who were already running post houses and editing shops that wanted to build a motion design studio. And I met Kevin and Collin, two of the best people I know and these brilliant editors, and Kevin was like a flame artist and knew all this stuff. He was using Nuke before it was cool and they wanted to start a shop and they already had a very successful editorial shop and so I partnered with them.
Joey Korenman: And they already had the office right at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street and they already had the clients. They're already working with Arnold and Hill and Mullen and all those agencies. So I thought, "I'm kind of shortcutting this a little bit and I was like, "Wow, Michaela is doing it the hard way and it's working, but man, I wonder if she's second guessing it." And now on the other side of it, I basically built School of Motion the way you built Newfangled.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, you did.
Joey Korenman: No debts, nothing. It's a fully remote. I kind of finally saw the light. So, listen, I want to talk about the early days and it was not called Newfangled and I do remember what it was called.
Macaela Vandermost: Shut up.
Joey Korenman: It was called, so Macaela's initials are MV and VanderMost, I guess, VM. And so, it was MVM post, right? Am I right?
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. Yeah.
Joey Korenman: [crosstalk 00:34:00]. There's a logo kicking around somewhere.
Macaela Vandermost: It looks an envelope. It's terrible.
Joey Korenman: But I do remember you talking about, you got your office and at first, you found it, I think hard to transition your freelance clients to now, studio clients. So, maybe you just talk a little bit about what it was like in the early days.
Macaela Vandermost: Sure, so when I started out, I only knew how to edit. That's what I knew how to do. I knew how to edit and produce and I was like a 2/10 at after effects, but I knew really talented people at after effects that could take on the gigs and still get them done, but I wasn't great, but anyway, when I first started out, I was kind of terrified to bite the hand that feeds me, right? Because there were much more established studios in town that I was freelancing for and I knew once I announced that, "Hey, I'm a studio now," they're not going to keep giving me work because the way it was back then is you literally sat with the clients all day. So, they're not going to let me sit for eight hours in an edit suite with their client knowing that I have ambitions to probably steal that client, right?
Joey Korenman: Right.
Macaela Vandermost: So, I was completely aware of that. And so, I kind of took a baby step into it and I just made it my initials, so it didn't seem like a big thing and also, it was kind of a bit of a throw to my dad. My dad when he started, it was DAV Molding. And so, I did MVM even though my initials are MAV, but my nickname for... honestly, Joe, I think you were part of it. Just people started calling me MVM, like just as a short. And so, I just called it MVM post and it was like me taking on editorial projects and then every once in a while, I'd get like a big job, like that $3,000 production that I took on where I-
Joey Korenman: Save money.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, I would I hire one of my friends for a couple of 100 bucks and borrow the cameras from Somerville Community access.
Joey Korenman: Of course, you did.
Macaela Vandermost: I didn't have any money, Joey. So, that's what I did in the early days and then overtime, I partnered with, his name is Greg Croto and he was a director that I was friends with and I partnered with him to start to bring production to it. And I knew that so long as it was called MVM Posts that I was never going to get out of just basically, when I left the freelance world, ad agencies would still hire me, but I knew that other production companies wouldn't.
Macaela Vandermost: So Digitas, which is where you and I spent a lot of time in a dark editing cave together, did continue to hire me and give me project budgets instead of day rates and things like that and I did keep a couple of the agency clients, but for the most part, if the agency clients are going to hire a studio, they wanted to go downtown and have all that stuff. So, I started just cold emailing anyone I could find and I pivoted to working for universities, because they were more willing to hire me as a studio because they didn't have a preconceived notion of who I was. But I just started cold emailing, like anybody that would listen and saying like "I can do this stuff on the cheap, at the same level as I was doing it for these world class ad agencies," and their ears kind of perked up, and I started getting gigs, and building my portfolio.
Macaela Vandermost: But I would say like maybe one or two of my freelance clients came along for the ride, but pretty much everyone else was a little scared off by the fact that I could potentially steal their clients and I'm not that kind of a person. I know that that's unethical and I wouldn't do it, but it's a business and they didn't want to put me in a room with people that knowing my ambitions, and I knew that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I totally get that and I was a little bit nervous about that, too even starting Toil, but I sort of got to shortcut that because we already had editing clients that then we could just sort of say, "Hey, by the way, now we do this." So, you did it kind of a scarier way, I think and was there a point where you realized, "Oh, it's working. This is going to be okay."
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, I got my first legit project, my first 100 grand project about a year and a half in and I'm going to tell you, it was not glamorous. It was doing training video series for Staples, but it was $100,000 plus and it was a week-long shoot and it seems pretty legit to me. And when I got that job, I just felt like, "I can do this." And I used getting that job as like the money from that job, the deposit that they gave to get me like a little bit of a bigger office and hire my first two people on staff.
Macaela Vandermost: So, I didn't really take any money, I didn't make money from that, but I reinvested all of it back into the business and hired a couple of people. And now, I had my first real big corporate client and I think that was the point even though it was a training video, and I didn't necessarily have aspirations to be a training video company, but it made me feel like, "I got this, I can do this."
Joey Korenman: That's super cool and how did you get that Staples gig?
Macaela Vandermost: Pretty much everything is always just like a person who knows a person who knows a person. There was a company called the Jacobian Group. They were a consulting firm and I knew that they hired on freelance editors, because I had some friends who were freelance there, so I always did just cold email that cut demo reels three times a year, and I would cold email and be like, "Here's my new demo reel." And I could tell if they watched it because it had like a tracking thing on it. And so, if people would watch it then I would always email them a little bit more, because they'd be, "You're interested."
Joey Korenman: Smart.
Macaela Vandermost: And eventually, they had a project and he didn't have the preconceived notion of me as like a freelancer. He'd only ever known me as someone who said, "I have a studio, so I didn't have to shed that preconceived notion as like, "She's a freelancer. Why would I pay studio rates?" Like I had with some of the agencies. So, he brought me in and I basically interviewed for it as a studio owner. He had never seen my space, had never met my staff, I think he just made some wild assumptions about where I was at in the company and he gave me the gig and I just, you know? I guess I tricked him into it, but we did a good job.
Joey Korenman: That's amazing.
Macaela Vandermost: We did a good job and we did like 10 more of them in that second year. We hit a million dollars in revenue doing training videos.
Joey Korenman: So, just for everyone listening, because in motion design world, unless you're at a big studio or something like that $100,000 budget goes really far and in motion design, the margins are, I'm assuming, higher than in production?
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: So like on $100,000 production and this is production plus post, I don't know if you had to do any creative, too, like writing scripts and things like that?
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. I did it all. The whole thing.
Joey Korenman: You did the whole thing?
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: So, can you give us some idea of like what the margins are on something like that?
Macaela Vandermost: Jeez. I don't know because I pretty much would just pay for my staff, right?
Joey Korenman: Yeah.
Macaela Vandermost: I think I kind of broke even on it, to be honest, but I didn't care because it was how I was going to scale my company and start to feel like a more legit company without having to take on debt.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, yeah, that's great. I had a rude awakening and I think, it last year when we were trying to set up a shoot for our VFX promotion class. We needed a bunch of effects elements and stuff and I think we reached out to you and we said what we needed and you were like, "You're insane. This is going to cost a fortune," and it did. It costs I think three times what I thought it would. So, for everyone listening, if you don't know, production is ridiculously expensive. I don't know how, you know how, Macaela, but I don't. It always blows me away. Why does it cost 100 grand for one day of 20 people on set? It's crazy.
Macaela Vandermost: Well, because it's not just the one day. It's all of the stuff that goes into planning that and then, it's not just the labor of the day, it's every little thing costs money, and every single person is super expensive, and then the posts takes a really long time and it just, it adds up.
Joey Korenman: It does. So okay, so now at this point, you've rebranded from MVM Post. Newfangled has taken off and your staff is growing.
Macaela Vandermost: Yep.
Joey Korenman: Now, and we're still like a few years in the past at this point. Were you still editing and-
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, yeah.
Joey Korenman: And doing creative like that? So-
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, yep, yep, yep.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Is that still the case or has that shifted now?
Macaela Vandermost: I still do creative every day, but I stopped editing, probably like eight years ago.
Joey Korenman: How do you feel about that?
Macaela Vandermost: I'm okay with it because I'm so-
Joey Korenman: Are you okay with that?
Macaela Vandermost: I'm creative. It gets me creative every day. And that's what the part that I care about.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Was that hard for you to sort of make that switch and just start, I mean, because I've struggled with this and I think every creative that starts moving up into sort of a more management role or owner role, this is just sort of standard thing you got to deal with.
Macaela Vandermost: Yes. Yeah. I mean, I think what being an editor gave me is the ability to picture a story in my head and that has been invaluable to being a creative director. So, I think I'm not in there, in the software and working on it, but I still get to be a part of it. It was hard, for sure, to transition away from it, but what was harder was to do it because if you're an editor or an after effects artist, you kind of get into a flow, right? You put your headphones on and you enter this other world and you get into this mode where you're just in this creative flow.
Macaela Vandermost: Well, when you're a studio owner and you're doing the producing and all that stuff and you've got a conference call every half an hour, you stop getting into that flow and you never have that four plus hour block of time to just be uninterrupted and work on it. You never have it and editing has started to become a thorn in my side where like, "I needed to get this thing done, but it kept getting interrupted with emails and phone calls and questions and I just couldn't get it done." So, to me it was sort of sad to move away from it, but by the time that I was at the point that I moved away from it, it was more of a relief that I could say to an editor like, "Here's my vision for it," and then they would take it to a whole another level, and then I would get to see it again and get excited. It was an HGTV reveal. You know what I mean?
Joey Korenman: Right.
Macaela Vandermost: "Here's what I'm thinking, here's what I like, here's the bones of it," And then, I'd come back in and it's like Joanna Gaines has made it awesome. So, I miss it but it also just felt a chapter of my life that kind of like on its own transition into something else.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I totally get it. So all right, so let's move into a little bit more of your backstory and you've already I think, you've said penis three times in this podcast already, so I feel like-
Macaela Vandermost: Penis.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, there we go. See? And it's an even number now. I like that. So, I want to talk about an experience that you brought up in a video that you guys released a couple of years ago and we'll link to it in the show notes. It was really cool. I remember when it came out. A really great design in animation and it was a series that Newfangled was producing, but in essence, it was sort of a series about sort of unheard voices and underrepresented voices in, I don't know if it was just the creative industry or advertising, but that first video was it was your story.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: And you told this story that I'd never heard before and I was A, first of all, super proud of you for putting it out there in such a public way, but it also kind of shocked me because I'd never heard it and I'd never heard anything like that. So, I'm wondering, the listeners probably haven't watched that video yet, but they will, but maybe you could just tell the story from that video real quick.
Macaela Vandermost: Okay, so the series name is UnTapped if you want to look it up. It's UnTapped. It's on my Vimeo and it's on my website, but at this point, it's three or four years old, so my positions on diversity have evolved a little bit, but that particular story is just about my own one unique perspective on diversity and coming at it as a gay female creative director. I would try, as often as I could, to put gay characters into when I was writing. I felt I had a responsibility as a gatekeeper to my community to make sure that my community was represented and time after time.
Macaela Vandermost: And in the one particular story that I told, I was in a boardroom where we were doing a read aloud of the scripts and I started reading the script aloud, and when I said the two names of the characters that they were a couple, the room literally burst into laughter. And I think they all thought I like said the wrong thing. I don't think that they were laughing because I intentionally put gay characters into the scripts. I think that they were laughing because they thought, "Oh, isn't that funny? You said Joe and Bob, you must have meant like Josephine and Barbara."
Joey Korenman: Barbara, yeah, exactly, yeah.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. And so, they all just erupted into laughter and I felt like the size of an ant. I felt like, and by the way, this was one of my very first big boardroom presentations to a big corporation as a creative director and I was already fretting over what to wear and it was a big deal to me that I was going to go read the script out loud in front of all these executives. And when they burst into laughter, I literally just felt like the biggest loser and I just corrected myself and acted like it was a mistake and I changed the script and I took the gay people out of the script, and I just like moved on with my life.
Macaela Vandermost: But I always felt mad at myself for it. Have you ever like have someone insult you and then you have like a hole like, you're in the car later and you're having a conversation with yourself in your head of all the things you could have said?
Joey Korenman: Totally, totally.
Macaela Vandermost: I did that for years about that one moment and I decided I was never going to do that again. And no matter how small or stupid I felt, I was going to stand up for it. That very same company now puts millions of dollars a year into advertising how gay-friendly they are because they've realized that it's not only the right thing to do, but it's a business imperative, like newsflash, gay people have a lot of money. You don't want to leave us out. And so, that was what that story was about and then kind of the moral of the story in the video was just about how it's a business imperative to make sure that you have diversity.
Macaela Vandermost: But what I want to say about that and how my kind of view on it has evolved is that I think I was coming at it like a very me-centric, this might be a theme like how I guess, I think I know everything and then a few years later, I realized how dumb I was. So, I think this is just another example of that, where I was like, "Yeah, they just need to hire more companies like mine with gay people in it and women and duh, duh, duh, duh. And it didn't even like take a step back to make sure that my own company was actually as diverse as it could be. And so, that was three or four years ago that we put that out and since then, I've been trying to figure out how to take a company that doesn't hire very often. We don't often have roles available and add more diversity within my company, just because we're a minority owned company.
Macaela Vandermost: Meaning, my wife and I run the company and we happen to be gay and we happen to be female, so we get that stamp certification, like we're minority-owned. It doesn't actually mean that we have a lot of diverse viewpoints within the company and I guess my point is like yeah, we put out that series and I felt like I beat my own chest a little bit of how much diversity matters to us, but then when I took a step back, I realized how much work there is to do on my own company. And so, I just want to put that out there that we're still working on it. We're not saying like, "Okay, check, let's move on," because we have that stamp of minority owned, we're still working on it every day to make it better.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I want to talk about that actually, the diversity thing, because it's obviously right now with everything going on, hashtag 2020. It's just, it's on the top of everybody's mind. And so when that video came out, I mentioned that it kind of shocked me and now, it makes a little bit more sense, because in my mind, I assumed you were pitching like an ad agency or something. And I was confused, because I thought, I met you, I don't know 2006 or '07 or '08 or something like that probably and we're in Boston, and we're in a creative field. And it's like I'd never encountered bias against anyone really from a creative person other than just actual assholes of which they were.
Macaela Vandermost: Well, let me stop you there and I do just want to point out that you happen to be a white male from an affluent background.
Joey Korenman: Yes. That was the point. I was getting there.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. Okay?
Joey Korenman: Yeah.
Macaela Vandermost: I don't think that when people do this stuff that they're just terrible people, rotten to the core, I think people just have these like internalized biases and if one person starts laughing and it happens to be the most powerful person in the room, then everyone else around them goes, "Okay, that's what we're doing," then we're all going to laugh. So, I think that's part of it and to me, I was never treated poorly for being gay. I don't think, not openly anyway. It's not that I was being treated poorly, it's casting and it's still an issue today. I was on a conference call yesterday, where it happened, literally.
Joey Korenman: Wow.
Macaela Vandermost: That's-
Joey Korenman: Yeah, so thank you for pointing out, the obvious fact because this is-
Macaela Vandermost: Putting you in your place.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, thank you. But it's true because that video, it really stuck with me, because I was like I feel like I have just have blinders on because and it's not because... it's like you're saying there wasn't probably very obvious anti-gay discrimination or anything like that. It's the subtle stuff that it just went over my head, like how often did I see a commercial with a gay couple in it? Back then, zero, it never happened. Right?
Macaela Vandermost: Correct, correct.
Joey Korenman: And I wonder, I mean, I would have to imagine that ad agencies have lots and lots and lots of gay creatives. And so, I'm sure that there was some pressure towards their clients to try and start doing this, but if you're in a corporate boardroom of a big bank or something like that or a corporation half their business comes from, I don't know, like states where it's not as okay then that's where the pressure comes from. So, but you did-
Macaela Vandermost: That's exactly right. So, the people who when you present, here's the script and here's what we're thinking for casting, and they push back on it, they always preface it. Whoever delivers the news always has to say, "Hey, this is great and this is exactly where we should be headed." I just want to be cognizant of making sure that everybody's going to be okay with it or not everybody is as progressive as you and I are, so let's just go ahead and you know.
Macaela Vandermost: And so now, people are cool with doing mixed race couples, people are cool with every once in a while, if you're an advertiser who's spending billions a year, like maybe you'll spend 1/20th of that on something that has a good gay character in it, but for the most part, I think there's still the feeling of like, "I'm okay with it and you're okay with it, but we're cool. There's a lot of people who aren't cool, so let's just do the safe thing."
Joey Korenman: Right. And I think that pretty much nails it. It's at some point for it to change, everyone has to be okay making people with these sort of old mindsets uncomfortable. Yeah, and if you're a legacy brand, then that takes guts. There wasn't a lot of that going around, I think there's a lot more of that now. So, have you noticed a change? I mean, especially this year, it seems like everyone's kind of woken up at the same time to some extent, but did you notice any sort of progress over the last 5, 10 years?
Macaela Vandermost: I think when gay marriage became legalized, which was literally two months before my now five-year-old daughter was born, so it wasn't that long ago. People were, "Okay," like it started to do it a little bit more, but I feel it was also a moment for our community where it was kind of cool to be gay. You know what I mean? You're like, "Yeah. This is our time. This is our moment." But then that trendiness of gayness, I think kind of wore off by the time my second daughter, who's now two, was born, it was just more normal to be gay than it was like a thing that you want to be putting in your advertisement.
Macaela Vandermost: I think right now, it's not. People, they'll do somewhat, but I think they're much more wanting to make sure that they have ethnic diversity in their spots, which is also incredibly important and I think at this point in time, probably more important in terms of where you want to lean, but I still think that there's a tremendous amount of discomfort. Whenever anybody's doing it, they're doing it with a bit of a pit in their stomach.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. It's interesting growing up, and we've talked about this a little bit, I think, when we were freelancing and stuff. I mean, I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas in the '80s and I didn't know a single out person until I moved to New England, where it was just a different culture. And so like I sort of got to see culture slowly move westward. Now, if you go to Fort Worth, Texas, it's basically like Boston was 10 years ago, in terms of people's acceptance and things that.
Joey Korenman: And I'm very aware, I find it like I'm hyper aware of these things, like I'm sure like everybody is, especially now because you want to be it right. It's like you don't want to be overdoing it and trying to go too far and be too awoke or something like that, you want it, because in the end everyone's just a person and what's really cool for me and I wonder like if you see this with your kids, too. My kids, they're growing up in this world. And so for example, we watched the Sonic, the Hedgehog movie, which it was actually better than I thought it would be, by the way. But the main character is white and his fiancé is black and it's just a normal thing.
Joey Korenman: In the movie, they don't make a big deal out of it the way they used to have to do in the '90s if there was an interracial couple, and my kids don't even notice it. And I think that's awesome, and I think that that's what I hope is happening more and more. And so is that sort of in your mind, is that kind of the idea. It's just put these characters into things and then it's normal and no one even thinks about it anymore.
Macaela Vandermost: Right. Yeah, it's called normalization. You want to normalize it and I think the more we normalize it, the less big of a deal it has to be, but right now, I think, to be honest, I think we're still at a place where either people are doing it and feeling very uncomfortable, but just trying to do the right thing or they do it in a way where it's like, "It's June, it's okay to support gay pride right now." And we can show gay couples, but it has to be with a giant rainbow flag and confetti falling from the sky as if [crosstalk 00:57:49]. Great. We can't just show them being like normal people, like changing diapers, you know what I mean? We can't show them as parents or business owners, but we can show them as like marching in a parade.
Macaela Vandermost: So, I think when we get to the point where you're just showing a gay person changing a diaper and you don't think twice about it, that's when we're there. I think right now, there's a lot of people who want to be there, but there's a lot of other people who like, "Well, don't show them as a parent." You know what I mean? Don't show them as this or that. When we get to the point where you can just show gay people just being regular, boring people like everybody else and they're not go-go dancing and wearing speedos and ass-less chaps like [crosstalk 00:58:35], when we can just show them that with no discomfort from the executive level, that's when we're there. And you're right, it's just.
Joey Korenman: I love it.
Macaela Vandermost: It's just about making it normal.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, so maybe you should spin off like a stock footage business. It's just gay people doing normal things. It's like it's not even interesting.
Macaela Vandermost: Well, actually, have you heard of Nappy.co?
Joey Korenman: No.
Macaela Vandermost: It's a website of stock imagery of black people doing normal shit because black people are-
Joey Korenman: My God, that's brilliant.
Macaela Vandermost: They're always stereotyped as like hip-hop dancers and basketball players and rappers. If you see black person in advertisement, they're usually dancing, so some people noticed that and I don't know who started it, but we make an effort to use that stock website because it's just like "Oh, you just want someone mowing their fucking lawn?"
Joey Korenman: Right. Making toast?
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, exactly. It's like that's what that website is. It's just like black people doing normal things.
Joey Korenman: I love it. Well, this is really great. I think that I feel like almost everybody has to be aiming at the same thing, which is kind of what we're talking about here. It's like you want to get to a point where you don't even notice that this person looks different than you or acts different than you and somewhat like, it just doesn't matter. And I'm hoping and I know it's going to take a long time but I'm really encouraged when I watch my kids in how they just don't even see it, it's awesome.
Joey Korenman: I want to talk about how you see diversity and you've already talked about it a little bit as an employer and as someone who has a team and occasionally has to scale up and put together shoots with big teams and things like that. So, how do you approach diversity? I mean, you can kind of attack it from any angle.
Macaela Vandermost: Sure. Well, Leah mentioned that my approach to diversity is evolving daily, because as I get older, I just realized how much I don't know about things, just how many things that just had never even occurred to me. And so, I'm so much more aware of not knowing what I don't know. And so right now, I'm in the process of bringing on a diversity consultant for Newfangled, who can help us, because I kind of see it twofold, right? There needs to be diversity in the work that you serve to your clients. Ultimately, we're making ads, right?
Macaela Vandermost: And so, the ads need to reflect the communities that they serve and that does not just mean that making sure gay people get in, which is what I used to think diversity as a self-serving effort of getting gay people on the screen. Now, I realized that diversity actually means what the word is, which is a whole spectrum of different types of viewpoints. So, that's the one thing is like from an external standpoint, we already for four years have been working with consultants.
Macaela Vandermost: So, I'll give you an example, like we did a fairly large scale national TV and out of home and all the things campaign for FEMA last year. And a large part of the population that we were targeting for these ads was the Hispanic population. Well, I don't have a Hispanic person on my staff, I'm embarrassed to say. So, in order to make sure that what we were doing was going to be culturally relevant to them, not accidentally offensive to anyone and to make sure that it was going to communicate in the right way, right down to just like the way that we're using the language, that it's just right.
Macaela Vandermost: We brought on a Hispanic consultant, a Hispanic cultural consultant, who was on the phone calls, who reviewed the creative, at points and then also was like even down to the voiceover making sure that it was the right accent and all that kind of stuff and that was kind of like a moment for us to go, "Yeah, that's how you do it." Because we're a small company. It's not probably not realistic for me to have one of every single viewpoint on my staff. We just don't have that many people, but what we can do is bring in the right viewpoints.
Macaela Vandermost: So, that was kind of an awakening for us when we did that FEMA project and since then, we've been making that a priority, too. If we take on a project that represents a community that is targeting a community, that is not represented on the creative team, we make sure that we bring in a cultural consultant, who is an expert in that culture, who that's what they do for a living, would consult on that culture, and we make sure they're a stakeholder in the creative. So, that's something that we're doing externally that I would encourage other companies to do.
Macaela Vandermost: And then internally, we need to make more of an effort to have an even more diverse staff. So, right now we have neuro diversity, we have age diversity, we're about 50% women, which I'm pleased with and then of course, my wife and I are waving around the gay flag. Yeah, like we wear the ass-less chaps to work.
Joey Korenman: The ass-less chaps, exactly.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, yeah. So, we have some level of diversity, but we certainly need to get more people of color on our staff than what we have represented on things. So, I'm now taking that same philosophy of having essentially like a coach, a diversity coach and applying that to our internal in looking at getting. And by the way, this is all a work in progress. I'm not saying like Newfangled is the gold standard of this. We are definitely a work in progress, but talking about it, we have company meeting where it's brought up and it's discussed. Making sure that I'm talking to people who I know are from different minority statuses, whether it's neuro diversity, age diversity, I mentioned, veteran status, about if they're feeling microaggressions or if they're noticing these little things in the workforce.
Macaela Vandermost: And then I've recently realized that maybe I'm not the right person to be talking to them about it, because I am their boss and maybe it's not comfortable. You know what I mean? So, I've pivoted to now having an external sort of diversity person, who is trained in these subjects and who can help us from an internal perspective, not only with our hiring processes, so that we can hire a more diverse team, whether it's freelance or on staff or as consultants or crew. But also when we're working with a more diverse staff that we're equipped to be able to handle it without saying or doing things that are uncomfortable for people who come from a different background. So that's kind of where we're at. It's like trying to bring in these third parties to help us.
Joey Korenman: That's really cool that you're doing all that, and I think it's really smart. Actually, I wonder how many agencies and production companies are hiring consultants if their target demographic is a different culture. I would assume that's obvious because once you said it, I'm like, "Of course, of course, you should do that." I wanted to ask you about the internal side too, because from my perspective, they're sort of, like again, everybody's kind of, I think after the same thing even when it comes to diversity of staff.
Joey Korenman: You want everybody to feel the external features that you have, the way your brain is made up and all of that is irrelevant to your career success, right? I mean, at least that's sort of the way I approach it and I've always thought that not having lots of examples of people that are like you and are successful, and you can look up to them, that's a disadvantage, right?
Macaela Vandermost: Yep.
Joey Korenman: And so, in motion design, it's very easy for me to find people who are similar to me, right? And I'm sure it was, I mean, you weren't really a full-blown motion designer, you're more of an editor, but I think it was probably still hard for you to find people that were... I mean, there were female editors, but I don't know-
Macaela Vandermost: Not many, not many.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, not that many and not all are gay editors, at least in Boston that I knew, but you just have this internal fire, so you kind of blew past that and it didn't slow you down one bit. But for a lot of people, I think it is sort of this mental weight, right? And so, there's two ways of attacking it: One is, and you should probably do both, I think but one is doing it sort of from the top down and I think being aware that, "Oh, all of my friends are kind of like me because I live in an area with people like me. And so if I'm hiring, I'm probably going to just unconsciously gravitate towards people who are also like me, because it's [crosstalk 01:06:53].
Macaela Vandermost: That's right, whirlpool from your personal circles.
Joey Korenman: Exactly, exactly.
Macaela Vandermost: But I just brought on my best friend Producer.
Joey Korenman: Right, which-
Macaela Vandermost: Or my wife, who's the Executive Producer of the company.
Joey Korenman: Sure. Yeah, yeah, that's a good example.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: But also and this was something that I kind of realized this year. I ended up talking to a lot of our alumni and students and getting hundreds of emails from alumni we have that are people of color and trans and sort of not white dudes. And the thing that kept coming up was like you need 16 year olds to be aware that they can be creative, because they will turn into adults working in this field.
Joey Korenman: There is I think, I really do think there is a supply problem, too. It's not just the hiring practices and all that I think there is a supply problem, and that needs to be solved from the bottom up. So what do you think about that? Do you think that, I mean, not specifically for like gay creatives, but I mean, for people of color or trans or anything like that, it's just, maybe there's not examples that they can look towards, and say, "I can go in this direction," and then in 10 years, you can hire them.
Macaela Vandermost: That's right and it's not only just examples, it's also just like if you think about equity, not everybody has access to, you're right, examples, but access to the tools that you need to or to get your first break. I got my first big break at an ad agency, because my friend, Joey, who is in a similar socioeconomic class and all that kind of stuff is me, through them my name. You threw them my name. So, that's how I got into that.
Macaela Vandermost: So, I think there's a lot of issues of equity as well of in order to get your first break, you usually need to know someone and if you don't come from a background where other people are doing that same kind of thing or you come from a background where people are just in a totally different mindset, then that's going to be really hard to just get your first gig and have somebody take you under their wing, so I think mentorship is incredibly important. Bringing on younger people and being able to mentor them into a place where they can grow and have those first opportunities, but the reality is mentorship takes time.
Macaela Vandermost: There's a lot that goes into it. There's not a lot of people at the top that had that amount of time, so I think it's really important for everyone, not just leadership, to be willing to pitch in. If you're an editor, be willing to pitch in and teach somebody else some things or if you see an intern, be willing to take an hour of your day and help. It can't always just fall on leadership to take hours of their day to do the mentoring themselves because the reality is, sometimes, those hours in the day just don't exist.
Macaela Vandermost: And it really needs to be a team effort where leadership needs to be willing to do things like pay for the training and pay for the consultants and hire people and do all of that hard work, but then there are millions of everyday people in the ad agency world or just in our creative industry, who can also help and I can't sit around waiting for the executive leaders at my behemoth corporate clients do it for me and my employees can't sit around waiting for me to do it for them. Everyone's going to do their part.
Joey Korenman: I love this and I love the way you kind of used equity there because to me equity, often, I think he gets confused with like, "Let's try and create an equal outcome for everybody," but I think really, the goal is equal opportunity and if you grow up poor, you probably don't have access to an iMac and Adobe Creative Cloud in your 10, the way my daughter knows, right? And that's a huge advantage that she has if she wants to get into this and it's a huge disadvantage for anyone who doesn't and I'm hoping soon, we'll be able to announce some of the things that actually your sister has been spearheading to try and make a dent in this and I know that she's trying to rope you in as well.
Joey Korenman: But to me that's kind of the thing that I want to try to aim at is that I will kind of want to aim at younger people because I think that, I mean, I've talked to a lot of people in the industry and everybody has this same issue of like everybody wants more diversity. It's like it's so obvious the advantages of it and that it's the right thing. And then it's not just in practice. Right now, it's hard to do, because A, our networks aren't the right networks and our hiring practices probably have holes in them, but also there's a supply problem and I think that is the long term, that's the long game right there. That's how we fix it.
Joey Korenman: Thank you for having this conversation with me. I felt like it's kind of a little bit of dancing.
Macaela Vandermost: It's a little uncomfortable.
Joey Korenman: It is, yeah, but I love it, yeah. And it makes me really happy that you and I can be comfortable talking about this stuff with each other. I think this is kind of what 2020 needs.
Macaela Vandermost: You're not going to... you're not recording this, are you?
Joey Korenman: No. [crosstalk 01:12:13] proof. Do you think this is a real podcast? So, we can get out. We can talk about less scary things now, but what I want to talk about is the way that you've been able to continuously pivot your company and obviously this year, you had to do some moving and shaking. So, why don't we start with this, in 2020, how is Newfangled different than the company you had envisioned? I have this distinct memory of you and me and our friend, Matt Abhishek eating at Sunset Cantina on Com Ave in Boston probably with a few pumpkin beers and you had a clear vision and what is different about the way it turned out?
Macaela Vandermost: Jeez. I'm trying to remember that night, so I think my vision back then was to try to take on as many projects that I could do myself and find other people who were really good at a lot of different things, where I could kind of scale it almost, like if I could just kind of clone myself. Getting the work isn't that hard if I could clone myself and get a lot of sort of multitalented people as a one- or two-person team do lower end work.
Macaela Vandermost: And like you said, you were like, "No, no, no. I want to be working on National TV campaigns." And I was thinking like, "Well, I do too, but I just don't know how to do that." Not that I couldn't do it if I got the work. I just don't know how to get the work. So, I think from where I started, which was sort of like bottom feeder, I was the bottom feeder, what I ultimately ended up doing was just hiring people, who are way better at things than I am. Like I've got editors, who are just like holy shit good. And animators and designers and writers and creative directors now on my staff. I just did it one person at a time over time.
Macaela Vandermost: "We made a little bit more money this year, let's just re-invest that into our salary and really invest in people," until I built a staff that there's no member of my staff who doesn't have a staggering amount of just both like just natural artistic talent and then also like extreme technical competence, that it just blows me away. So, I think my initial instinct was like, "I could do this all myself. I could scale it. I can learn every single program and I could find more people who know every single program."
Macaela Vandermost: And I think now, the way we go about is like more, like yeah, your opinion is valued cross discipline, but people pretty much do specialize in one discipline and are like titans of industry in that one discipline. And then with our powers combined, the key is that "I want to be the dumbest person in the room." My staff is just so freaking awesome that I never could have imagined building a staff to the level of the staff that I had now. I think back then I just thought, "Well, I'm never going to be able to afford people like that, so I'll just learn how to do everything myself." And then the more that I started to step back and just let other people blow me away, the better and better and better, Newfangled got.
Joey Korenman: That's awesome. Yeah, so I mean, it really is more about you growing as a business owner. And yeah, I mean, it's funny. You initially named the company at your initials, but then pivoted to Newfangled and I still remember the first time you emailed me the logo and it was that really cool, old timey mustache and hat. It was great.
Macaela Vandermost: You said it was bad. No, you did not say that. I got to dig up that email.
Joey Korenman: My God, really? Okay.
Macaela Vandermost: You were in a very-
Joey Korenman: This is fake news, fakes news.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, fake news. In a very polite way, you told me that you just didn't really think it worked.
Joey Korenman: What is your logo now? Is it the same one? [crosstalk 01:15:55].
Macaela Vandermost: The Newfangled is the same one. By the way, nobody on my staff likes the logo that's recently come out. I mean, I was very dramatic in receiving the news. I felt like they said that they didn't like me. I was like-
Joey Korenman: But I get it, I get it.
Macaela Vandermost: Nobody likes the logo. That's fine. Everybody, people in the industry need to know the logo, know the logo, so I'm not fucking changing it. But yeah, it has recently come to light that nobody likes it. It's true.
Joey Korenman: That's hilarious. My gosh and apparently I didn't like it either.
Macaela Vandermost: You didn't.
Joey Korenman: I do now, so yeah. Well, I guess-
Macaela Vandermost: Thanks. You've grown to love it. You've grown to love it.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Well, it's like a band name. At first, you're like, "What does that mean?" So, that's awesome. It's amazing. So, okay, so one of the things that seems to have changed, at least from the outside significantly in the last couple years is like I say two years ago or three years ago, maybe, it was pretty clear, "Okay, this Newfangled is a production company that does also really great posts and has this motion design secret weapon."
Joey Korenman: And so, you're sort of a full-stack, full-service creative shop and now, you have creative directors who are really strong writers and I mean, so you kind of do the full thing. But it seems like your clients are shifting a little bit and just the way you're positioning yourself is a little bit different. Smart video campaigns for smarter brands is what it says right now in your website. So, have you shifted, I guess, the way you think of the company's place in the market and there's a reason for that?
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I don't. I say the word production company kind of out of habit, I guess, but I don't really see us as a production company because a production company is executional, right? You come to a production company with a set of storyboards and something you need to get done and they're really great at figuring out how to do it and make it beautiful. Newfangled, you come to with a business problem or a marketing challenge and we figure out how to fix that for you through the power of video. And that's kind of the major distinction is that the stuff that we're making, our major focus, even beyond making it look cool is making sure that it's effective and drives business results.
Macaela Vandermost: And I think that's the major distinction between us and a lot of other creative studios and production companies is that they're really great at making cool-looking stuff, but whether it works or not is kind of beyond their purview. They're probably not even asking for the results at the end whereas we bring measurable results to businesses and that means that giants like Google and Bank of America come to us time and time again, because we're hyper focused on their business goals and how do we solve that through the power of super cool, creative, but not hyper focused on how can we make something cool and as a secondary, does it do something for you?
Joey Korenman: Right. So, how are you approaching that? I mean, are you using metrics? Are you looking at the number of views that got on YouTube? Are you tracking clicks? How are you measuring that?
Macaela Vandermost: So, every campaign is measured in its own unique way and based on its goal. I typically don't measure views, because views are just bought. That's just how many dollars did you pay for YouTube to give you the views that you want. I'm more measured based on business outcomes, like it could be clicks if it's a lower funnel conversion. It could be like a brand lift study. If it ran on YouTube and it's more like an awareness play, you can do studies on that.
Macaela Vandermost: But yeah, I mean, typically, it's a study. Studies come with a certain level of media buy and you just get feedback from your consumers if it changed their perception of the brands. That would be an awareness play and then something like more direct results. It could be clicks or purchases, but usually that's lower funnel stuff, like microsites and stuff for doing that and banner ads.
Macaela Vandermost: Video tends to be upper to mid funnel, so it's really about changing brand perspectives or understanding a complex topic. And that comes with usually focus groups or if there's not a media buy behind it or if there is a media buy, just within the media, whether it's Facebook, YouTube, whatever it is, Instagram, you're going to be just running those surveys with it and finding out if it actually changed perceptions.
Joey Korenman: Holy crap. Okay, so you have literally, so you're almost an ad agency. When we were freelancing at Digitas, that is what they did, that was actually that was kind of-
Macaela Vandermost: How do you think I learned it?
Joey Korenman: It was. So, okay, I think we may need to define some terms here. Okay, so if you're listening to this and you didn't understand all the funnel stuff, can you talk a little bit about what you meant by top of the funnel, mid funnel, bottom of the funnel?
Macaela Vandermost: Sure. So, when a customer or whoever your target market is consumer or client, whatever they are, is first interested in something, let's say and there's a water bottle in front of me on my desk. Let's say, "I'm interested in drinking water, but I don't really know what the product is that I need. I might start looking at things on the internet of it might be blogs might be videos about how to drink water, right?
Macaela Vandermost: And then over time, I start to realize that Yeti is a brand that offers me a solution that I wasn't aware of before. I had no idea that it was a thing that you could get a Yeti water bottle. Now I'm aware of that. That's brand awareness. That's a lot of what we do. And then from there, you move down into the consideration set. "Well, now, I think I'm going to buy a water bottle. Do I get a Nalgene? Do I get a Yeti? Do I just buy like no -rand thing at the grocery store?" Now, I'm starting to look at, I'm on Amazon look comparing them or I'm on Target's website comparing them. That's the lower funnel consideration.
Macaela Vandermost: Where maybe I actually go on YouTube and watch an unboxing video or something to see the different things and it's kind of a stupid example to talk about water bottles, but if you're buying a car, you may not realize that Parking Assist was a thing. So, you can't just jump in with these features that actually make someone go one way or another and lead with them. You have to lead with bigger picture things and then slowly, and that's why they say funnel, it's leading them down a funnel so that their purview is more and more narrow until they narrow in on buying your product.
Joey Korenman: That's great.
Macaela Vandermost: And that is what we do with video. And no motion-
Joey Korenman: This is great.
Macaela Vandermost: No motion designer. Nerd alert, no one cares. No motion designer cares about that, you should edit that up.
Joey Korenman: They should care. They should care. Okay, so I want to dig a little bit deeper and I'm very interested in this because this is actually what underpins the advertising industry especially in the internet age. This idea of a sales funnel and you're right. Most motion designers probably haven't heard that term and if they have, they only vaguely know what it means. But here's an example I would use, right? We used to work on these really weird campaigns. And some of them were for Digitas where they were just like silly. It was the Jonas Brothers driving around in the back of a GMC truck or something like that.
Macaela Vandermost: Yep. That's stuff for fun and content.
Joey Korenman: Yes, exactly. And now and at that time, I just thought, "This is fun. This is neat. Look, they're celebrities," right? But now, I understand what that was. That was basically making that demographic that likes the Jonas Brothers aware that GMC trucks are a thing. That's it? Now you know that that exists. And think that that's a lot of what TV commercials are. It's Matthew McConaughey driving around, he's not telling you the features of the car. And so, it's just like, "Now I know you exist."
Joey Korenman: And on YouTube, that's things like paying influencers to mention your brand and stuff like that. Right? And then in the middle, that's the stuff, that's probably 90% of the work that gets done. Right? It's like the feature video for the new Merrill Lynch app that launches on Bank of America or something like that or like a tour of Park Assist.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah. I've done like a couple of those.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I've done my fair share. And then the "buy it right now, buy this thing right now," so what would be an example of that? If you're using video to kind of get the customer over the finish line and apply your credit card.
Macaela Vandermost: I think it's like, but it kind of depends on the product, but it could be something that feels like time is of the essence. There's a sale right now. I mean, if you think about like we don't do local ads, but if you think about like local TV, right? It's like, "This weekend, President's Day, come buy a car." That's the like "take your wallet out right now" type of stuff that's when the creative gets a little more lame at that point, I think because it's really more about like "Right now, this cost X amount of dollars" or "Right now, we have this deal and this other competing company has this worse deal than us."
Macaela Vandermost: It definitely is less fun the lower in the funnel you get, but as a creative director, who's trying to get things pushed down the funnel, it gets exciting to me to see like "They went from this and then they clicked on that and now, they're on this other one or I know that they clicked on that, so in our strategy, we're serving them this next thing," which is lower funnel. And now, "Oh, my God, they just bought it." It's like watching a football game, like "Ah!" So, it can be exciting to watch the process happen, but it's definitely the less fun and less creative stuff the lower funnel you get, for sure.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Well, I think this is just good for everyone to be aware of because the top of the funnel, that's generally the coolest stuff, because it's Super Bowl ads and stuff. How do we just make something that people will talk about afterwards? And then middle of the funnel is where you make your money, I think. I think that's what pays the bills and the bottom of the funnel, I mean, at this point, it's probably mostly, it's probably mostly not videos. It's probably other channels like email and retargeting stuff like that.
Joey Korenman: But I think motion designers right now and my friend Hayley from Motion Hatch talks about this a lot. It's like you can have the goal of going to work at Buck or Newfangled, which I would definitely, put in the same category or you could hyper niche and find out that like, "I want to help companies with mid funnel stuff that specialize in this one industry, and there's 500 of them, and you'll just clean up," right? And so, those are both valid strategies.
Joey Korenman: Well, listen, Macaela, thank you so much for your time. I know you have to run. I just need to have you back on because-
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, it's really fun talking to you, it's really fun catching up, and thank you for going into the weeds with me on [crosstalk 01:26:35] topics and saying penis four times and ass-less chaps.
Macaela Vandermost: Yeah, no problem. Anytime you need inappropriate things, swearing, or uncomfortable topics, you just hit me up and I'll come right back.