Pressure brings resolve for both those in front of the camera and behind it, in the new documentary film, Generation Startup, set to release this fall.
Directed by Academy Award winner Cynthia Wade and award-winning filmmaker Cheryl Miller Houser, the film celebrates risk-taking, urban revitalization, and diversity while delivering a vital call-to-action—with entrepreneurship at a record low, the country’s economic future is at stake.
Both co-directors could relate to the subjects in their film.
I was drawn to making Generation Startup because our young entrepreneurs’ stories spoke to me personally,” Houser said. “Several years ago, with great trepidation, I left a well-paying, secure job as head of production at a TV production company to launch my own company.”
Wade too turned away from traditional work in favor of a diverse career focused first on social impact and then later in launching her production company.
“I hustled. I took every job I could…,” Wade said. “It took total focus on the end-goal to just keep going, roll with the punches and keep it moving. When finally I got on a film set, I was the hauler of tripods.”
Generation Startup takes us to the front lines of entrepreneurship in America, capturing the struggles and triumphs of six recent college graduates who put everything on the line to build startups in Detroit. Shot over 17 months, it’s an honest, in-the-trenches look at what it takes to launch a startup.
Houser will show a preview of the film on Aug. 3 at the National Association of Black Journalists’ Learning Lab, powered by ScaleUp Partners, who chose to elevate the film during the day-long event on #InclusiveAmerica.
“We are focused on a new narrative for the 21st century,” said ScaleUp Partners Co-Founder Mike Green. “These young people are a part of that new story.”
The timing of the film is critical, Houser said, with so much of the country focused on startups.
“Despite the widely held stereotype of 20-somethings as entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship among 18-34 year olds is at a 24-year low,” she said.
One of the six entrepreneurs featured in the film is Dextina Booker, who also turned away from traditional career paths after a stellar academic career at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After graduation in 2015, she moved to Detriot to join the growing startup community there. She worked for Rock Ventures for several months, helping oversee their investments in startups and nonprofits in Detroit, but quickly realized she missed building things. Booker now works at the startup Shinola as a Mechanical Engineer where she is part of the team creating a line of Shinola Audio products
“You have to play the game to change it,” Booker said. “As soon as I get to a place where I can bring other people who are different, then I’m going to do that so that we can have a more authentic and representative culture.”
Booker and her brother were raised by a single mom from Guyana who worked multiple jobs. She earned the prestigious Times Scholarship in 2011. While at MIT, Booker traveled to Turkey, Israel, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland where she studied, taught STEM subjects, worked at startups and learned about people and cultures.
Booker is driven to make quality products and create quality jobs for the underserved and traditionally overlooked. She tutors regularly at Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.
Houser said all the entrepreneurs in the film continue to inspire her.
“Generation Startup is a tribute to the Detroit of today, a city moving towards a new embodiment of innovation and prosperity,” she said.
Release Date: September 23, 2016 at IFC Center in New York, September 30, 2016 at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center in Los Angeles, and October 7, 2016 at DIA in Detroit