Local 600’s two newest Western Region Business Reps know the craft as well as the contracts. Both Ryan Sullivan and Darby Newman enjoyed lengthy and successful careers behind the camera before changing direction and embracing the opportunity to serve the Local 600 membership.
They share other similarities. Both are West Coast transplants and married fathers of young children. Both recognize the importance of guild members being able to achieve a work-life balance, especially as freelance artists navigating the demanding and unpredictable world of film and television.
“It’s all about helping people,” said Sullivan. “Every single person has a different scenario. Some of the time, my job is not just answering a contract question. Some of the time, it’s just talking to a member about what they’re going through. ‘Hey, I’m a new Business Rep. Let’s see if there’s anything I can do to help make your life better.’”
If you have not already met them, please welcome Darby Newman and Ryan Sullivan.
Darby Newman’s drive to work in production began when he was a teen. He started working with cameras at 15 and, at 17, produced a TV show about the stock market for a public access station in his hometown of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. He went to school on a scholarship at Monmouth University but transferred to Towson University in Maryland when he learned that Towson had just received a grant to get all-new camera equipment.
After graduation, Newman headed west to California. Here he began to network and was advised to get some experience in a rental house. He worked at Panavision for more than a year, eventually leaving when the professional gigs started coming in.
“I was a quick study with all the equipment,” Newman said, “so after prepping a few jobs for them, assistants would ask if I wanted to come work with them. That’s how I was fortunate enough to start working on-set consistently. Then the union started calling me, asking me to join.”
Darby Newman on the set of American Crime Story with crew members from the show.
With the extensive commercial and music video experience he’d already gained, Newman decided to start focusing on TV and feature films. After stints on In Treatment, Carpoolers, and several movies, he began the series Community and transitioned to full time 1st Assistant after the first year. From that point on, the assignments were steady and Newman was able to stay in town to be close to his wife and daughter.
But after nearly two decades of consistent work behind the camera, Newman decided he needed a change. He considered going back to school and transitioning to law, civil engineering or sustainability. Instead, he ended up making a different contribution to the industry.
“I wanted to broaden my horizons, meet more people and actually give something back,” said Newman. “I was always trying to help other people get work, so I wanted to do something less self-serving and more engaging. I wanted to get more in touch with what everybody else was going through.”
He got that opportunity through the union. Reaching out to Western Region Assistant Director Xiomara Comrie, Newman expressed interest in joining Local 600 if there was a fit.
“I felt like I could still have my passion for the art and still be around that but also be helping people, which is what I wanted to do,” Newman said. “I meet people who are very unhappy on specific shows. They’re stuck, and that makes me have to work harder to try to help their experience a little better. Those are the things that have been motivating me.”
Since joining the staff of Local 600 in June, Newman has been tackling his new job’s learning curve, which he characterized as “steep.” He has been to several set visits and is accustomed to the protocols that require regular COVID tests. Describing himself as “very much an in-person person,” he is adapting to the needs of having to do large parts of his job via phone or Zoom for the time being.
“Between COVID and the contract negotiations, it’s been pretty intense, to say the least,” he said. “But in a good way. I’m the type of person who flourishes in the fire, so to speak. I want to navigate effectively through this. It will just make me better at my job.”
By the time the new contract for The Bachelor went into effect in 2018, Ryan Sullivan had already moved on. This is somewhat ironic, considering the fact that during his years as a production assistant and camera assistant for the multi-million dollar franchise, Sullivan had repeatedly raised one issue with Locals 600 and 695: The show’s crew members were drastically underpaid.
“It was one of the most popular and powerful shows in the industry,” Sullivan said. “It took a few years talking to the crew and getting the entire crew on board, getting them to stand together. The contract we ended up getting wasn’t perfect, but it helped a lot of the crew in a lot of departments. It took a while, but it was worth it. If we hadn’t moved forward on this, everyone would still be getting paid what they earned 10 years ago.”
The show gave Sullivan the opportunity to indulge his wanderlust. Fascinated with the series Planet Earth, the Connecticut-born Sullivan made it his mission to travel to distant lands and shoot National Geographic-type footage. On The Bachelor, he visited more than 35 countries, often gaining exclusive access to rarely seen areas.
But by 2015, he had had enough. Married and with young children, Sullivan returned from a job in Mexico only to find that his infant daughter “looked at me like she had never even known me.”
“I said, ‘No, I’m not traveling anymore. I need to be home,’” he said.
Ryan Sullivan out in nature with his two children.
Sullivan transitioned to feature and scripted TV work, landing jobs on series like Richie Rich and 100 Things to Do Before High School. In 2019, former Western Region Rep Maria Timpani checked in, informing him that Local 600 had an opening for a business rep and asking if he might be interested in applying for the position.
Already a member of the Local’s Unscripted Working Group and On Set Stewards Working Group, Sullivan was interested, so he threw his hat in the ring. He got the job and was scheduled to start in March 2020, but the pandemic hit and the industry-wide shutdown put the kibosh on his hiring. Instead, he returned for another season of Superstore, one of the first shows to return to production.
By the time Superstore was wrapping in March of 2021, Local 600 was back in hiring mode, and Sullivan joined the staff with a renewed sense of purpose.
“I’ve done everything I want to do and I really enjoy helping out my friends and my fellow members,” he said. “Why not have a job that gives me that satisfaction of helping out my friends? It’s a nice perk.”