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Our Finest Hour Season 1, Episode 1: ‘The Great Upheaval’

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Over the course of just a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive disruption across most every American industry, and media and entertainment hasn’t been immune to the upheaval: shuttered productions, altered (and unprecedented) release schedules, a new remote-work reality.

Yet for all the uncertainty and worry, long-time M&E vet Eric Iverson sees a path forward through this current crisis, one using lessons from past episodes of chaos in our industry.

Here is the first chapter in Iverson’s “Our Finest Hour” series of observations around M&E and the coronavirus. And while fear, doubt and sadness are all understandable right now, he asks us to feel something else as well: hope.


 

Right at the start of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, Tom Hanks, one of the finest actors of all time, contracted the novel coronavirus. I, like many of you, love Tom’s work and will bet that his news had an impact on you. Something like, “Wow. This is real! The coronavirus just infected Mr. Rogers! Run Forrest, RUN!!!”

While I physically felt that news, that moment also took me back to another time. It was a crisis moment a little over five years ago. For those of you that know me well, you know that moment was Nov, 24, 2014, when I became a “first responder” to the cyberattack against Sony Pictures.

While many may think of the cyberattack purely in terms of a technological breach of the systems at Sony Pictures, that was only a part of the story. I’ll always remember the more meaningful impact it had on the people inside and outside of the studio. The attack cracked the feeling of safety for many in the industry as a whole, along with our families, and our colleagues. The attack generated significant uncertainty across the entertainment landscape: Will the rest of my life be impacted by the data stolen about me? Are my finances safe?

We were digitally quarantined. Almost every tool we used to get work done was unavailable. How were we to work? Where do we start? Concern. Doubt. Uncertainty. For the employees, the attack initiated an instantaneous upheaval of our lives.

Upheaval. Sound familiar?

So, here we are. Upheaval. There is no other word we can really use to describe the present. Almost everyone is impacted, other than a few Northern Rockies survivalists. Little League, canceled. Dance classes, March Madness, Lady Gaga concert, all canceled. Olympics, postponed.  Spring break trip? Nope. Gyms, movie theaters, churches, all closed. Schools and childcare facilities closed, and guess who’s now the teacher?  Working from home is the new normal for most everyone … some of us now have around-the-clock company at our desks.  Others are in complete isolation.  We can’t meet at our favorite restaurant because it’s closed and heaven forbid … at this time of all times … the BAR IS CLOSED!

Closed. Canceled. Containment. Great upheaval.

Someone didn’t just move our cheese, all of our cheese moved. And our comfortable just became very uncomfortable. Where did our normal go?

Maybe it’s time to ask what Forrest Gump asked: “What’s normal anyways?”

Adjustment. Transition. New norm No. 1.

We are ALL in transition to our first “new norm,” where we will get used to navigating our lives fairly efficiently without our conveniences. And there will be another “new norm” to follow.  However, while this new norm has been based on our reaction, our next new norm will be our response.

Things will never be the same again … because we are all about to make so much of our future even better.

Upheaval. It can be painful and unwanted. While none of us wants or wishes for the suffering, there are also gifts to be found in our collective, societal upheaval. We are forced to raise our heads and see each other. My hardships, your hardships, are shared. My small win, your small win. My kids in the Zoom, your kids in the Zoom. Our lives. We begin to notice more of what is going on around us and how it connects. Connecting us. And that our seeing and understanding leads to kindness, courage and action. Helping. Worldwide empathy rises.

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.” — Mr. Rogers

We are beginning to see each other now, more than ever. Connected.

Upheaval has happened to generations before us. More than 80 years ago, World War II created one of the greatest upheavals of the modern world. Remember what we called the generation that persevered through that upheaval? The Greatest Generation.

It was a generation of perseverance, personal responsibility, humility and honor. Through their hardship came great prosperity for those that followed. It was also a generation with the courage (and crazy enough) to land a man on the moon.

Now, it’s our turn to respond to our upheaval. What will our story be?

Read more: Our Finest Hour S1: E1: ‘The Great Upheaval’  |  Our Finest Hour S1: E2: ‘Not My Box of Chocolates!’  |  Our Finest Hour S1: E3: ‘The Hour’  |  Coming Soon: Our Finest Hour S1: E4: ‘The Colossal Opportunity’

Join the discussion: #ourfinesthour | LinkedIn

Eric Iverson is a global senior technology and business leader with more than 20 years’ experience in the media and entertainment space, including more than 17 years working with Sony Pictures Entertainment, culminating in the role of SVP and divisional CIO for Sony Pictures Television, and more than three years as CIO and CTO of Creative Artists Agency (CAA). He is president and founder of Iverson Consulting, offering advisory services around strategy, innovation, digital transformation and data in the M&E space. [email protected].