Sam Petrov’s work vehicle license plate says it all: “UNI♥︎NS.” To say that the LA-based DIT has strong feelings for labor unions would be a serious understatement.
“I came from a pretty strong union household growing up,” said Petrov. His mother, aunt and uncle were postal workers and card-carrying members of The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). “The values that unions uphold and try to instill in people are very close to me in terms of solidarity and making sure that people get representation. Working in an era of severely weakened unions compared to our labor forefathers, it’s critical to inject some vitality into this realm for the next generation of workers. It’s gotten even more important to me in the last few years since I joined Local 600.”
Petrov’s mother, Monica, and Aunt Leslie standing with Greyhound strikers in 1990.
Already a regular attendee of the Local 600 Los Angeles Young Workers Group meetings, Petrov was asked whether he might be able to share his passion for trade unionism more directly. With Petrov’s deep interest in labor history during his off-time, committee co-chairs Matt Borek and Seth Craven invited Petrov to brainstorm a symbiotic approach that would both support his peers and invigorate his personal ambitions for learning. His answer? Present mini lectures about labor history at the monthly Young Workers Group meetings.
Though he does not consider himself someone who embraces the spotlight, when Petrov discovers engaging subject matter, he runs with it. After a couple of weeks of conceptualizing, he developed what is now known as Petrov’s Perspective: episodic thoughts on labor history as it relates to Local 600’s past, present and future.
Petrov breaks his ideas into miniature information segments and has been delivering them over Zoom for the past six months. A voracious reader, he has tackled topics ranging from union rights and legislation to legal precedent and the history of labor subcultures like farm workers. Drawing from his research and his knowledge of US and labor history, Petrov’s Perspective may cover the genesis of the 8-hour work day and the 40 hour work week or it may chart some of the commonalities between the Civil Rights Movement and the labor movement.
“I think it’s a magnificent opportunity to be able to share the knowledge I’m already gleaning and put it in a pithy format that allows people to grapple with our collective past in a way that resonates with them,” Petrov said. “Researching these topics has been both fun and enlightening.”
The interest in the craft of filmmaking developed early for Petrov. In middle school, he created a series of parodies of opening credits for popular TV shows. In high school, he shot a graduation ceremony, sporting events and school board meetings, always preferring to work with digital media.
“I’ve never had any experience with actual film—nor do I really want to at this point,” he said. “I love everything digital and I’ve always been erudite when it comes to technology; what has become my career was always a hybrid of my technical abilities and creative skill set.”
Before making the move to set, Petrov worked in postproduction at an ad agency. As he learned a greater diversity of skills in postproduction, he began to eye the motion picture industry as a long-term career. Nurturing his fast-developing interest in color grading, Petrov realized that, as a DIT, he could use his creative skills to escape a sedentary office or postproduction house.
“My family has always been very engaged in terms of not just labor, but in egalitarianism and making sure people get respectable treatment in the workplace,” Petrov said. “Having unwavering values like these as part of my lifestyle has been paramount to where I am and how I treat people, as well as how engaged I am and how I contribute to my Local and to the larger labor movement.”
Petrov joined Local 600 as quickly as he could, back in 2017. He comes from a long line of union members, including a grandfather who was a public school teacher who negotiated for years on his district’s teacher contracts and a father who currently works with the Teamsters. Petrov’s credits include the TV show The Unsettling, the documentary McMillions, and the films Running with the Devil and Call of the Wild, in addition to numerous commercials and music videos.