Small, but mighty.
That’s perhaps one of the best ways to describe the Culver City-based production company, Blur Studio.
With just 95 full-time employees, the powerhouse company has a resume that includes work on movies like Avatar, Deadpool, and Thor, as well as video games such as the Halo franchise and Destiny 2.
Their client list is also impressive, with Apple, HBO, Paramount, and Netflix amongst some of the big names that utilize Blur’s talents – which are many. Blur produces everything from live action and animation to visual effects and motion graphics.
Blur started out as a tiny company in Venice in 1995 with director, Tim Miller and visual effects supervisor, David Stinnett.
Their goal? To craft visually striking and engaging narratives. When they first launched 22 years ago, their bread and butter was focused on game cinematics. And while a good chunk of their work is still on games, they’ve experienced a slight shift over the past few years thanks to some box-office exposure.
“The first 19 years was focused on game cinematics and visual effects, but it started to shift slightly,” explains Monica Haley, head of HR and Recruiting at Blur. “Tim was asked to direct the Deadpool film and we did some video effects work on it, and since then, some light was shed on the company.”
So, how does a 95-person small business handle the limelight and pressure? With amazing leadership, says Haley.
“Blur is successful because the company was built by strong leaders who, by example, instilled the idea that everyone should work together and do whatever is needed to make great work that is worthy of bearing the Blur name,” says Haley.
And like many small businesses, Haley adds that Blur’s employees also have to be comfortable working outside of their comfort zone. Which, in their fast-paced environment, happens often.
“We all wear different hats and take on roles outside of our regular job descriptions at times to help get the job done in the best way possible,” explains Haley. “We have such an exceptional team of talented, dedicated, and inspiring leaders who truly care about the employees and the health of the company.”
What’s more, Blur’s culture is one of constant improvement and it’s shown within the way they self-reflect. After every project they work on, the team spends time doing post-mortems in which they discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“Each project team meets after every project to discuss what went well and what could have gone better,” says Haley. “Supervisors give feedback to their team members, and we walk away with a list of action items for new workflows, tools, and techniques to explore.”
Growing a business isn’t always easy, but with the right people and the right systems in place, it can be. This is something that Haley has experienced firsthand.
“We have 95 staff members which mainly consists of an exceptionally talented crew of seasoned managers, supervisors, and leads,” explains Haley. However, as an agency with projects that come in varying scope sizes, Blur has learned to be flexible and adjust their workforce as needed.
“As projects grow, we supplement that team with artists and production staff who we rely on as temporary project-based employees,” explains Haley. “We tend to bring back temporary employees who work out well for us and continue to invest in them as we would our staff team members.”
Looking ahead at their pipeline, Blur anticipates nearly doubling their full-time, freelance, and temporary workforce by almost double, to roughly 185 employees by the end of the year.
It’s a lot of work to get everyone on board – especially as a small HR team of one, plus a part-time coordinator – but Haley says she enjoys it, especially with help from Zenefits.
“I used to do everything manually, and now I can do onboarding and insurance with just one click with Zenefits,” says Haley. She adds that after working with a labor attorney to create new templates and policies for Blur’s employees, all she had to do was upload the forms directly in Zenefits.
“We have everything stored which saves time for the coordinator here who used to have to file all of our paperwork. And we used to have another part-time HR generalist here who worked 20 hours a week to help with this stuff, and now that I have Zenefits, we don’t need her anymore!”
And while Haley is grateful for the time-savings and ease that Zenefits has helped bring to her role, she adds that Blur’s culture empowered her to think more strategically.
“Blur has allowed me to think out of the box and contribute ideas to a receptive audience,” says Haley. ”The most enjoyable part of my job at Blur is the feeling that I have been able to suggest and implement new processes that improve some aspects of the way we do business.”
What’s more, now that Haley is able to save time on onboarding and benefits enrollment, she’s able to focus her efforts on more enjoyable things.
“Since I’ve been able to streamline some of the HR tasks here, I’ve been able to spend more time getting involved with the people here and helping to make Blur a fun and rewarding place for everyone to work.”