Producing a compelling
documentary for a digital
identity pioneer

Over nearly a decade, Okta’s annual conference, Oktane, had grown into a major event—a chance for customers to learn about the digital identity pioneer’s innovations and get inspired by an impressive slate of guest speakers, from writer Malcolm Gladwell to internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee to former President Barack Obama.

But in 2021, the company’s ninth annual conference presented a challenge. Oktane21 was slated for early April, more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. The event would be virtual, as it had been the previous year. But after so many months of remote work, Okta knew that people were experiencing virtual event fatigue. How could Okta make its event appealing and different—guaranteeing people would want to tune in?

Okta’s VP of corporate communications and content, Jenna Kozel, had an idea: instead of a standard keynote speech, what if the event opened with a compelling documentary? 

Okta turned to Godfrey Dadich Partners to bring the film to life, based in part on our experience creating the documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design for Netflix. Scott Dadich, founder and CEO of Godfrey Dadich, along with GDP Executive Producer Paula Chowles, acted as executive producers for the film, while documentary filmmaker Julia Reagan (AbstractTaste the NationMARS: Inside SpaceX) was tapped to direct.

GDP had already worked with Okta on other projects and knew it had an important story to tell about its work in 2020. Okta helps customers secure their digital interactions with employees and customers. The identity leader was pivotal in helping companies adapt overnight when COVID arrived, ensuring their employees could work from home seamlessly and safely, and also making sure customers could securely access online shops and services.

Our team of longtime journalists worked with Okta to identify people with compelling narratives to share, from Okta’s customers to its leaders and employees. The film’s emotional core came from the stories of Okta employees who overcame challenges in 2020 and 2021. One lost a loved one to COVID, another fled as California wildfires raced toward his family’s home, and yet another found himself confronting overwhelming emotions about racial injustice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. As Kozel explained, the idea was to “film the year as we lived it. Share the ups and downs, the hard stuff, and the hope.”

To film during a pandemic, GDP took every possible health precaution. Everyone involved—both crew members and interview subjects—tested negative for COVID via PCR tests conducted shortly before shooting. They also took rapid COVID tests upon arriving on set. Crew members wore masks, locations were thoroughly cleaned, and everyone maintained proper social distancing. 

We wove together a wide range of elements—customer journeys, employee stories, animations, and interviews with Okta’s executives—into a cohesive 40-minute narrative that offered a surprisingly personal and moving look at the challenges of running a business in 2020. The film opened an event that included keynotes by comedian Trevor Noah, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and gymnastics great Simone Biles.

Tech Republic covered Okta’s creative, unexpected approach to its virtual event; Ryan Carlson, Okta’s then-CMO, told the publication that Okta “couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome.” In a long Twitter thread, Okta CEO Todd McKinnon confessed to shedding a tear as he watched a preview cut of the film. 

“I'm so proud of the @okta team and grateful to @godfreydadich for telling our story,” McKinnon tweeted. 

The film showed how strong storytelling can help solve challenges that businesses face—in this case, finding an engrossing, original way to engage people at a virtual conference. And it demonstrated how the entire Godfrey Dadich team—including documentary producers, journalists, editors, designers, and animators—can work together to help organizations tell stories that matter.

Watch the full documentary that aired at Oktane21