Meet the New Faces of Publicity on the NEB

October 12, 2022
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Even though they aren’t new to the union, several of the publicists who were elected to the Local 600 National Executive Board (NEB) in 2022 may be new to the membership. Although publicists traditionally avoid the spotlight and work to bring attention to the individual project they are working on, Local 600’s publicists have stories of their own to tell.

600LIVE! caught up with several of the publicists newly elected (or re-elected) to the NEB.

Gabriella Gutentag – Western Region
Local 600 member since 1987 (she was previously a member of IATSE Local 818 before the merger.) After previously serving as an alternate, she was elected to the board in 2022.

What was the first union project you worked on?
I was working at De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) before moving to Paramount Pictures. At the time, Paramount distributed many DEG titles, so I worked on release campaigns for Manhunter, Blue Velvet, and Crimes of the Heart as well as the Academy campaign for the original Top Gun along with the soon-to-be-released movies, Beverly Hills Cop II, The Untouchables, Fatal Attraction, The Accused and Major League to name a few.

Is there a story you would like to share about your introduction to union life or the world of organized labor either in the entertainment industry or in another trade?
I had no idea what the union could do for me, especially introducing me to other publicists who worked for different studios, networks and agencies on a very personal level. It was a terrific networking tool. My fervent hope is that we can get back to that more intimate style of relationship.

What made you decide to deepen your involvement with the union by seeking election to the NEB?
I wanted to educate all publicists. So many of us do not know how the union helps us and navigates our issues including salary, healthcare and work environment issues. I’d also like our camera brethren to support us, and that kind of loyalty comes with getting to know people on a personal level.

What do you see as some of the most substantial challenges faced by Local 600 publicists today?
Our jobs have expanded exponentially with the onset of social media, a beast that is never satiated. Learning the ups and downs of social media, not to mention helping other entertainment professionals (both in front of and behind the camera) to navigate these different platforms is definitely an ongoing challenge.

What else would you like the Local 600 membership to know about you?
Please feel free to call me at any time to ask any questions you may have. You can ask me about the union, your job trajectory, my job history, career advice and what not to do (so you won’t make the same mistakes I did). Bring me ideas for improvement in union outreach or in terms of our role as publicists in the camera union, pretty much anything. Don’t be shy.

Claire Raskind – Western Region
Local 600 Member since 1994. NEB member since 2022.

What was the first union project you worked on?
The very first movie I did as a unit publicist was Tom and Huck on location in Huntsville, Alabama. It was a non-union, negative pick up for Disney, but at the very beginning of production, it was organized by the guild and turned union. So, I joined.

What made you decide to deepen your involvement with the union by seeking election to the NEB?
We have been reliant on many of the same people in the NEB for so long to do all the heavy lifting. It was time to take action and get involved, and I hope other members do the same. The on-set climate has changed dramatically since the pandemic and the negotiations last year, and if we don’t get involved, we have no right to comment or complain about the way things are. Change is inevitable, and we need to change and evolve as our business does.

What do you see as some of the most substantial challenges faced by Local 600 publicists today?
Many of our 600 members have no idea what tasks a publicist does, especially an on-set unit publicist. We need to educate and mentor others in the guild about our craft, and work together as a cohesive unit to accomplish our goals, as all types of publicists are an integral part of a project’s success. Being on set is not just a career; it’s a lifestyle, and we have to be mindful of that at all times as we negotiate the wants and needs for the members.

What else would you like the Local 600 membership to know about you?
I enjoy breakfast burritos from catering on set as the sun comes up. Honestly there is nothing like it.

 

Ernie Malik – Central Region
Local 600 member since 1983. NEB member since 2010.This is his fifth term.

What was the first union project you worked on?
I was initially a studio staffer (beginning in 1983) under guild representation before segueing into freelance unit work. My first union-sanctioned project was Home Alone in 1990.

Is there a story you would like to share about your introduction to union life or the world of organized labor either in the entertainment industry or in another trade?
That same year, 1990, before I understood how the guild reps its members, I took a non-union job in Mobile, AL called Stone Cold (the original title was The Brotherhood). At the end of day one, a 17-hour day, the hairstylist contacted the union and asked them to send in voting cards to gauge whether the other crew members (who were all union from various parts of the U.S.) wanted to strike the show. The production did not pay normal overtime rates after the initial 12 hours, thus the call to strike. A few weeks later, the strike vote was taken and 70% of the crew voted to strike.

The IATSE then sent in a representative to walk us through what was about to happen, with several crew members getting cold feet and reversing their votes. About 6-7 weeks into the show, we struck the production (much to the fear of the producers) and were immediately replaced by a non-union crew. As the project’s publicist, I worked with the union rep to gather media coverage that favored our decision in a right-to-work state (we had moved on to Mississippi at this stage of the shoot), which resulted in several local unions (carpenters, iron workers, etc.) supporting us.

What made you decide to deepen your involvement with the union by seeking election to the NEB?
I was nominated by a colleague in 2010 to run for a board seat. I accepted the nomination out of obligation, given that someone put enough faith in me to serve on the board. I’m now in my fifth term and it has been a rewarding learning experience.

What else would you like the Local 600 membership to know about you?
I have been an industry professional for over 48 years (meaning I’m old, if not prehistoric). That does not include my very first job in the movie world — working as an usher at a small independent cinema in New Jersey starting in 1969, something I continued on-and-off during my college years in the early 1970s. I attended NYU’s graduate school film program, where I studied history/criticism, not film production (like fellow NYU grads Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, M. Night Shyamalan and Chris Columbus). Growing up, I first went to the movies in 1958 and saw two features that mesmerized me and guided me to my chosen vocation — Tom Thumb and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and as a 6-year old back then, I could never believe that one could work in this business. Now, here I am, at the age of 70, still at it. Folks can read more about me and my career in an essay I wrote for the guild’s Publicity Directory in 2020.

James Ferrera – Western Region Alternate
Local 600 member since 2005. This is the start of his second term on the NEB.

What was the first union project you worked on?
James Wan’s Death Sentence

Is there a story you would like to share about your introduction to union life or the world of organized labor either in the entertainment industry or in another trade?
In 2004, I attempted to organize the publicity department at Lionsgate Films. ICG President Steven Poster, ASC, and publicity rep Tammy Gallinger came to the studio to help the department understand the benefits of organizing. I always believed that employees are stronger when they stand together, and unions empower workers to do just that. I believe organized labor is the backbone of fair and just treatment and compensation for workers everywhere. Although the attempt to bring the Lionsgate publicity team into the 600 fold was unsuccessful by a slim margin, I am proud of my attempt to bring about a better working environment for my colleagues.

What made you decide to deepen your involvement with the union by seeking election to the NEB?
I have always been compelled to help empower others in any way I am able. I want to be of service to our members in a way that everyone feels they have a voice and can be personally invested in the Guild.

What do you see as some of the most substantial challenges faced by Local 600 publicists today?
Local 600 publicists are a diverse group of studio, agency, and production publicists with different sets of challenges unique to their roles. The challenges publicists face in the workplace are similar to those faced by our camera sisters and brothers – fair compensation, affordable healthcare, work/life balance. We can achieve a more equitable work environment when we stand together and support each other. I would love to hear from our members and my colleagues directly about the challenges they face and what the Guild and NEB can do to help and support our Guild publicists.

What else would you like the Local 600 membership to know about you?
I love working as a unit publicist and am proud to be a Local 600 publicist. In my life outside the Guild, I study cartomancy, I tend a vast succulent garden and I crochet. I have a side gig making crocheted market bags to raise money for animal rescue. Named after a cat I adopted on the set of The Nun in Transylvania, Romania, I call them “Pookie Bags.” They can be found at my charity store on Ebay, “Pookie Helps.”

Shelly Williams – Central Region Alternate
A Local 600 member since 2018, she was elected to the NEB as an alternate in 2022.

What was the first union project you worked on?
My very first project as unit publicist was on an independent feature called Charming the Hearts of Men. I learned a whole lot in a very short time.

Is there a story you would like to share about your introduction to union life or the world of organized labor either in the entertainment industry or in another trade?
My stepfather was an electrician and a member of the IBEW, so I was aware of unions my whole life, but I never appreciated the power and importance of being part of a union organization like IATSE until I became a member of Local 600. For film and television workers, having a union to set standards and bargain on our behalf is invaluable.

What made you decide to deepen your involvement with the union by seeking election to the NEB?
Primarily I want to learn more about how the union operates and to be able to give back to the union and its members.

What do you see as some of the most substantial challenges faced by Local 600 publicists today?
First, maintaining our representation in the NEB committees as well as encouraging publicists to be involved in the union and ensuring that union meetings are relatable for publicists. Second, social media content is here to stay, and it has changed the landscape of publicity. I’d like to see certification/classification for social media shooters. Third, the union’s Mentorship Program is great (I benefited enormously from having Sheryl Main as my mentor), but I’d like to see an increase in training and assistance to help new publicists break into the industry.

What else would you like the Local 600 membership to know about you?
I have the greatest job in the world. I love being a unit publicist and it shows in my work, my relationships, and my attitude. I feel everyone on a film set should have that same outlook, and I hope each crew member believes they have the best position.

 

Peter Silbermann – Eastern Region Alternate
In a career spanning six decades, Peter J. Silbermann has worked on such films as Dallas Buyers Club, John Wick, Twilight and The Eyes of Tammy Faye. He was a producer of the 2019 film Remembering Amnesia.

 To contact any of the publicists on the NEB, please refer to the Member Directory on My600.

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