As has been the case with so many people in the industry, the industry-wide COVID-19 pandemic played a major role in determining Tom Bracone’s career trajectory.
Following more than 40 years working on commercials and episodic television, Bracone left the set of Law & Order: SVU working as a day player in March of 2020 when the industry shut down. What started as a pause turned into a redirect for Bracone who in February was hired as a Business Rep for the Eastern Region.
“Everything went dark and then, when I was trying to regroup and get back into it, things had changed and they were looking for younger people,” said Bracone. “Next thing I knew, it was time to rethink where I was going with work, and this opportunity presented itself. John Ammon and Chaim Kantor gave me the nod of approval and their vote of confidence that I would be a good fit for this role.”
A career spent in camera certainly has its benefits in terms of knowing the terrain. Frequently when he is interacting with people in the industry while making his rounds as a rep, Bracone recognizes the names of crewmembers as second-generation industry workers, the sons and daughters of his contemporaries.
Tom Bracone with his sons, (L-R) Corey and Ian.
“So far, it’s working out great,” says the New York native. “I love fielding phone calls; I love going over contract issues with people and a lot of the people I’m talking with are people that I have known forever.”
Bracone began his career as a print photographer, doing magazine inserts and ads. Eventually an opportunity presented itself to shoot film ads for Burger King. Bracone learned the ropes and later moved to the commercial house Sunlight Pictures where he worked as a stage manager with the well-known commercial film director, Melvin Sokolsky. One of his assignments was working on a commercial campaign for Pepsi in the early 1980s with Tony and Ridley Scott.
After a few years, Bracone was open to a new challenge and a friend had an opening for a camera assistant when his usual person was unavailable. Bracone got the gig which led to his joining the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) Local 15. His union career continued as a member of IATSE Local 644 (following the merger with NABET) and ultimately with Local 600.
“My first union job was a 26-day shoot for McDonald’s in the City of Industry,” recalled Bracone. “I packed my bags, flew out to L.A., left my studio manager job and basically have been freelance ever since. Looking back, it was nothing short of a miracle that I managed to make it work for the past 40 years with very little downtime.”
The ensuing years found Bracone working regularly with a slate of commercial clients. In 2010, one of the clients was shooting a pilot for the show that eventually became Blue Bloods and he offered Bracone a job on the project. The show was Bracone’s introduction to episodic TV, and he would go on to work as a focus puller and camera assistant on such projects as Girls, Law & Order: SVU, and ultimately working as a second unit Director of Photography for the last five seasons of Elementary. Some of the feature films he worked on include the original Highlander, Meet the Parents and American Psycho.
Overall, it’s been an exciting journey for Bracone, one that has led him from shooting photos of athletes to earn gas money in high school to traveling the world shooting high-end commercials to episodic TV and film and ultimately to the administration at Local 600. As Bracone begins his next act, his sons, Ian and Corey Bracone are charting their own professional paths as an assistant and operator respectively. Both are Local 600 members.
“My older son just got his 15-year pin,” Bracone reports. “It blows my mind that he has been doing it this long.”