Though Minnesota’s most apparent economic generators were historically rooted in farming, logging, and manufacturing industries, the state also has a very strong – but less recognized – history in technology.
Following World War II, Minnesota attracted more computer engineers than any other state in the Midwest. Organizations like Cray, Medtronic, Honeywell, and IBM became national players and put Minnesota on the map as a center of innovation. But the story of our rich history of technology has more or less been left untold. That is, until now.
Enter DocuMNtary, a project intended to build awareness of technology in Minnesota by telling our story through a documentary series. The series consists of a 30-minute high-level story about technology and shorter subsequent segments that highlight specific individuals, organizations, and initiatives.
We sat down with the film’s producer, Nick Roseth, and videographer, Eric Jenson, to learn more about the project and what they hope it will achieve.
DMC: This film brings to light the extensive and diverse – but essentially unknown – landscape of technology in Minnesota. How did this effort come about?
Eric (whose day job is running a creative video agency in Minneapolis): I was speaking at a Minnesota High Tech Association event in the spring of 2015 and met Nick at that event. He had a genuine understanding and a passion for what was taking place related to technology in Minnesota. He recognized all of the amazing things that were going on that no one knew about.
Nick (who works for SWAT Solutions as the VP of Technology Delivery): I had been a part of so many discussions about the talent shortage for tech jobs in Minnesota. The “pipeline” was leaky – we are losing two potential tech workers to California for each one we gained. There is so much going on here – we are not “fly over country” where technology is concerned.
DMC: Obviously other people agreed because the project received a tremendous amount of support. (The DocuMNtary Kickstarter campaign garnered pledges from 118 backers who pledged more than $15,000 to bring the project to life.) Were you surprised by the response?
Nick: Yes, it evolved very quickly. There was a lot of community interest and help provided to us along the way. We were able to pull together a group of doers and makers who are passionate about the story because they are the story.
Eric: Nick did a lot of backbreaking work during the development of the film. He met with over 100 people and put in even more hours pulling together the tech community to inspire this story – creating a trailer as proof-of-concept, raising money, and generally getting the camera rolling.
DMC: You completed the project in time for a launch premier during Twin Cities Start Up Week in September of 2016 and had nearly 400 people in attendance. More recently, the film was introduced to a captive Rochester audience, including DMC leadership, during Global Entrepreneurship Week. How was the film received?
Nick: People were genuinely excited about it. The film generated a great deal of discussion and people appeared to leave inspired to do something. We really wanted to create awareness and a sense of pride in our tech community and get people to become more actively engaged.
Eric: I think those watching with even the slightest interest in becoming part of the tech community were inspired by the people Nick was able to include in the story. As a filmmaker, it’s easy to put together a story about technology in Minnesota, to gather data, to present the facts. But the challenge is how to tell that story in a way to inspire an emotional reaction. I think we accomplished that.
Initiatives like the DocuMNtary project help to support DMC’s goal to attract and diversify the economic landscape in Rochester. Help us share the story of technology in Minnesota, so we can achieve that goal together.