from the desk of the coo – feb 1st, 2024


caste is the worn grooves of societal norms and expectations that keep us from expressing ourselves, and living our lives to the full expression of who we are.
ava duvernay’s ORIGIN



“caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred, it is not necessarily personal. it is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.” – isabel wilkerson, caste: the origins of our discontents (upon which the film ORIGIN is based).

folks, i appreciate who, what, and where we are in this moment. the work we’re doing to honor the last 25 years of dft, and the work we do today to get shows back to work, while protecting and planning for the next 25 years. i’m proud of us. very proud of us.

that said, part of why this newsletter was about to be late and why there were so few newsletters last year was because i was so frustrated with how some of us have handled a number of the challenges that we faced – and some challenges that those folks caused out of no better reason than ego or insecurity.

human is not an easy thing to be. apparently and especially at work. but if ramy or i start leading from a place of anything other than being human first, things start to fall apart – and we become far too similar to the majority of our peers. our peers who have held mass layoffs via email like they were sending a marketing email. our peers who are struggling to keep up with work that is coming back because of how short staffed they are, but can’t afford to hire. our peers who are struggling with communication because the foundations they created have eroded and there is no bedrock upon which to rebuild.

ramy and i saw this coming a year+ ago. he and i made the conscious choice to deal with the hard work up front of planning for strikes, retooling budgets, cutting luxuries, communicating what we saw on the horizon as well as we could ahead of time, all while creating a plan to pivot as much of the business (and as many of you) into new revenues streams and skills as possible. in the thick of delivering the worlds largest show, no one wanted to hear about how very barren the landscape was about to get.

and maybe we did you no favors by making these changes to protect for the whole. because there are a lot of folks who do seem to have blinders on to the realities that we yet face. the industry is nowhere near “back to normal,” nor do we have a sense of when we will understand what normal will now look like. 

as we begin feedback sessions and surveys, it’s a real eye opener to see the asks for potential raises,  when the luxuries like lunches and massages will return, and if we can say now what the next 6 months will look like. it’s genuinely jaw dropping to have someone complain about us making a (currently very rare) ask to work over time, or questioning our values as a company because someone in leadership sent a late night email clarifying a need for the next day. 

an email by it’s very nature means it is not urgent and does not require an immediate response. and for a largely remote company with people all over the country, many with kids or parents they care for in the middle of the night, i’m surprised by that judgement. and while i can understand both frustrations – those who feel that people don’t respond to emails, and those who feel they get too many emails – we need to prioritize stronger communication structures, not settle into the worn grooves of avoidance.

pick up a phone. participate in being human and a part of the solution. you are as responsible for communication as anyone at dft. we have virtual coffees every week so that we can forge more human bonds, see each other as people, not just colleagues. we have friday meetings to both communicate what is happening inside dft, and simply to have a laugh as a community over some weird ai art or movie trivia. we have a book club and a creators club, gaming channels and so much more… your ability to connect and value the people you work alongside has never been more accessible, and remains critically important. do no reduce people to an email.


bad habits don’t break unless they’re broken.


the litany of examples that have kept me from writing about the frustrations sooner come from a place, i believe, of someone losing what makes us dft, losing what brought them here.

by-and-large, the three major characteristics of those who are successful at dft, for whom this place can be a rich playing field of growth and opportunity, are:


talent helps. kindness is necessary. but those things tend to follow if curiosity, accountability and gratitude are prioritized.

stepping into february, a leap year that still only gives us 29 days of black history month, i found myself thinking about how to best unpack some of what i had intended to say… because the above has been something i’ve been trying to unpack for a few months now. ava duvernay’s ORIGIN was a big help, if you couldn’t already tell.

something i wish more people understood, especially when on a team or aiming toward a common goal is that no one is served by good vs. bad or right vs. wrong. and nothing is solved with avoidance.


you cannot live your life based on what others deem intimidating.


when we reduce people or ideas to those overly simplistic terms, we lose curiosity, accountability. and gratitude, as well as the participation, nay responsibility, in being human – and in being in community together. caste, or the practice of dividing people into classes or tiers, has deep seated holds on a lot of our own conscious and unconscious biases. and unless we’re aware and active in the dismantling of those biases, we continue to participate in them. it can look a lot like watching the only woman on an all male team be saddled with the workload of communicating progress and keeping individual team members accountable to their work. it can manifest in characterizing a person of color as “intimidating” or “aggressive” when they are reacting to that bias and a moment of caste happening to them.

it happens when people who believe they aren’t a part of the whole – that their actions, ideas, words and contributions do not shape the community of which they participate, or worse, when they believe they’re above the whole – they lose curiosity, accountability, and gratitude.

what may be imperceptible to some is a blinding and painful brightness to others; and so i’m digging in during what is historically meant to be a month of remembering how much work we yet have to do to be free from prejudices, honoring contributions that for so long went unrecognized, and ensuring that we not only never allow such ugliness to be upon us again, but also that we push back whenever and wherever we see it rearing it’s head.


in a world without caste, being male or female, light or dark, immigrant or native born, would have no bearing on what anyone was perceived as being capable of. in a world without caste, we would all be invested in the well-being of others in our species if only for our own survival, and recognize that we are in need of one another more than we have been led to believe.
isabel wilkerson, caste: the origins of our discontents
(upon which the film ORIGIN is based).

with gratitude,

nancy jundi
coo & cfo