For someone who knows that hundreds of thousands of viewers want to see his next video, Hank Green takes a surprisingly laid-back approach to the media production world.
“You can run a business without pushing people so hard,” Green said at his Missoula production facility, which houses several facets of the HankGreen.com empire. “You can do it without trying to instill a culture of die-hard, 80-hour work weeks. If you want to run a business outside these big centers, you have to accept people are looking for more than money or changing the world through software. They’re looking for quality of life. There has to be a time when you stop working.”
Green said firms in media hubs like San Francisco and New York often insist on employees working late nights or long weekends. While it brings in more productivity per person, it also reduces the number of jobs available in the community.
“They end up making a lot of money, but there’s a high cost of living” Green said. “In Missoula, you can find great people, but you’re not going to find great people who work when it’s gorgeous out or never take a snow day. Sometimes people want to go skiing, or be done with work so they can be with their friends and family.”
Green earned a master’s degree in environmental studies at the University of Montana. A 2006 funding grant from YouTube allowed Green and his brother John Green to start a production company in Missoula with seven other employees. Now, the web of channels, platforms, conventions and other activities connected to HankGreen.com supports more than 50 workers.
Rife with their own vocabulary like nerdfighteria, DFTBA (Don’t Forget To Be Awesome), and VidCon, the Vlogbrothers Hank and John entertain and educate a YouTube community of more than 100,000 subscribers. The annual three-day VidCon he leads brings upward of 20,000 video producers and fans together in southern California.
While it may be easier to head-hunt for talent in major metro areas, he finds it equally productive to nurture new talent locally, he said.
“There comes a point where you bring people here or they work remotely on something,” he said. “But it’s surprising. Sometimes what you’re really looking for is not a skill set. You want a really efficient, thoughtful, friendly communicator. That’s not something … where someone who’s gone through a certain program would have a higher chance of developing it. We’re looking for effective humans, not some particular kind of communication.
“I’m on the lookout. Whenever I meet anyone, especially in the service industry, I’ll be having a conversation in line at the grocery store or the flower shop: Do you like this job? Would you like to apply for this thing coming up?”
With the YouTube world constantly on the hunt for the next new thing, Green said having co-workers who aren’t already immersed in the media world can be an advantage. Instead he seeks people with a willingness to go after the job with intensity, building new online ideas from scratch.
“A lot of people come here with a background in film, which is literally something we have to un-teach” Green said of the SciShow production staff. “You have to be faster and dirtier in this world of online video. It’s got to be cheaper. That’s the main thing.”