A new documentary highlighting the daily lives of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration distributors will premiere during the 2018 HARDI Annual Conference in Austin, Texas.

The film, focusing on the lives of young wholesale distributors, aims to recruit a newer generation of workers to fill a “massive” industry employment deficit, explains HARDI president Troy Meachum.

“The gap is weighing on distributors and it is becoming extremely difficult to find good employees. The need for recruiting younger individuals into our members' businesses has never been greater than it is now,” says Meachum. "Our mission with this film is to bring awareness of the numerous opportunities available within wholesale distribution, especially to young people."

Here, HARDI director of marketing and sales Chris DeBoer — who also serves as director of the documentary — talks HVACR industry recruitment through storytelling.  

Going into the making of this documentary, what story did you want to tell?

The main objective of the film is to increase awareness about the HVACR wholesale industry and to help battle the stigma that can be associated with the industry. We wanted to showcase the younger generation of workers in the industry, and cover how they got into the industry; what obstacles they might have might have been faced with on the journey, how their lives have turned out this far and what their potential path looks like moving forward. These young individuals come from different backgrounds and have unique stories, but they all ended up in the same industry that they love.

How did the development of the documentary change the project’s initial expectations?

The initial expectations changed a good deal from the inception of the project to now. We needed to figure out the specific audience of the film and narrow down the focus of what would be of interest to them.

Initially we had so many things that we wanted to cram into the film, and we realized the message needed to be more focused. When we boiled everything down, we ended up with awareness. Once we get the awareness of the industry out there and showcase the many job opportunities, potential for career growth, our members’ company cultures and other aspects of the industry — then we can truly focus on turning that awareness into actionable steps to get these people into our members’ businesses.

How did you seek out people in the HVACR industry to be featured? Who are the people we meet in the documentary?

After a daylong meeting with Bryce and Jesse Suriano of Muddy Trails, we ended up with a good starting point on how we could start selecting the characters. We wanted the characters to be spread across the country and preferably near larger cities. We felt this would help prove that these jobs are available everywhere and can be found near attractive, thriving cities.

Once we selected the locations that made the most sense, we created a character application asking the typical name, job title, company, years in industry, etc. But the real key was the additional questions that we asked. We wanted to know if these folks had checked the boxes of situations we felt could be relateable to the audience of the film.

Who specifically is the audience of this film?

The key demographic for this film would be 16 to 26-year-olds. This demographic of people is interested in constantly learning. The number of documentaries and educational programming for niche topics like this is growing, and I think that if you combine entertainment and education together, you have an effective mix that I hope will be that beginning to start tackling the hiring troubles our members are faced with.

What was the best part about putting this film together? Why?

I think the best part of putting this together is to finally, fingers crossed, be working towards an initiative that will tackle this employment deficit problem. I have grown very close to several members over the years and continue to develop connections with industry leaders that are really struggling. For us to help with this, I think it would be major.