Mentorship Program Launches 2023 Cohort

Submit your application to become a mentor or mentee by December 18, 2022

December 7, 2022
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Calling all Local 600 members seeking to make connections while also gleaning and imparting some professional wisdom! The new and revamped ICG Mentorship Program is set to launch its 2023 cohort.

The Local 600 Mentorship Committee along with the program administrators are looking to build on the success of the pilot program launched in 2022 for this next cycle. After matching 101 pairs of mentors and mentees in 2022, the program is expecting to equal or even exceed that total for the next round. “We anticipate the volume increasing,” says Mentorship Program Consultant Christina Sanchez who joined the pilot program mid-cycle in 2022. “We definitely want folks who want to participate to get their applications in ASAP so we can meet the demand.”

According to Sanchez, participant feedback indicated a desire for the mentorship program to be more customizable and adaptable to the specific circumstances of the mentors and mentees. “Probably the biggest feedback we received was that, in addition to the pairings, the participants want to meet each other to share experiences and tips with each other,” Sanchez said. “We’re excited to host some sort of educational or network event midway through the program.”

“Most of the meetings between mentors and mentees happened virtually last year,” said Sanchez. “Obviously we’re still navigating COVID, so there will be a strong preference for virtual meetings. But if people are in the same city and want to meet up for their sessions, we will encourage that.”

In anticipation of the application deadline and program launch, 600LIVE! spoke to several members who have been involved in the development of the Local 600 Mentorship program about the importance of mentoring and “paying it forward” to the next generation of artists. A special shoutout to Central Region Digital Utility Clarisse Callahan, Eastern Region Camera Operator Autumn Moran and Western Region Director of Photography Jordi Ruiz Masó, AEC who went through the 2022 mentorship cycle as mentees and lent their expertise for the next round by serving on the Mentorship Committee.


Clarisse Callahan, Digital Utility, Central Region

600LIVE!: Tell us a little bit about your experience in the mentorship program. Who was your mentor?

Clarisse: My mentor was Amanda Darouie. It was a cross-region matchup since she’s in Los Angeles and I’m in the Central Region, and it was really helpful having another connection in LA. It opened up the network for me a little bit. There was a little bit of a challenge in terms of the time zone difference, and the only downside was that we couldn’t meet in person.

600LIVE!: What were some of your goals going into the program?

Clarisse: Mainly I wanted to have someone to talk to about how the process would work toward reclassifying. I’m a DIT right now and I want to do more loading and eventually become a 2nd AC, so it was helpful to be matched with Amanda who is a 2nd AC and has been a loader.

My second goal was to have someone who I could get some feedback from about experiences on set, advice she might have about handling situations and how to organize my kit rental. So it was good to have someone to ask advice about nuanced things that you don’t always have time to ask someone on set about – tips and tricks basically.

600LIVE!: What made you want to deepen your involvement in the union first by going through the mentorship program and then joining the Mentorship Committee?

Clarisse: In the spring of this year, I helped organize a presidential debate with a few other members. That experience really made me want to help and be more involved in Local 600 just outside of being on set and working. Having just had the experience of being in the Mentorship Program, I had come away with a lot of different ideas for how to make it even better for the future. I thought that would be a really exciting way to make a difference in Local 600.


Jordi Ruiz Masó, AEC, Director of Photography, Western Region

600LIVE!: Can you talk about your experience in the Local 600 Mentorship program? Who was your mentor?

Jordi Ruiz Masó, AEC: It means a lot to me that a community of filmmakers I admire so much accepted me into the program in 2022. I was very grateful to be recognized as one of the selected ones. It’s a great way for a cinematographer to get support for his career. As an immigrant, originally from Barcelona, Spain, it is harder to get jobs and to be represented. Knowing that there are people in the industry pushing for diversity and opportunities for those with different backgrounds is very powerful to me, and I hope we can all keep making a better world together with more support for initiatives like this.

My mentor was Paul Maibaum, ASC, and my experience with him was unique and extremely positive. As filmmakers, we face so many challenges; ups and downs, budget constraints, stress, pressure, no time and also lots of fun and laughs. During this program, it was reassuring to be able to share my challenges with a well-known and successful cinematographer/mentor and to introduce a new perspective to my art. Our sessions made me realize that we all face the same demands (or similar at least) during our film careers, showing me that in this industry, we are very close to each other.

600LIVE!: What factors made you decide to deepen your involvement with the union by going from being a mentee to serving on the Local 600 Mentorship Committee?

Jordi: I wanted to be a mentee because I hoped to learn something that I could later share with other cinematographers, crew members and help people as well. The Mentorship Program has been a great journey for me. I feel like the most important thing in life is to learn, grow and improve yourself and always be the best you can be. In my projects and my life, I always want to go one step forward. Being accepted to serve on the Local 600 Mentorship Committee gives me this opportunity. It was a pleasure to be able to share my experience as one of the selected mentees in the program. Being part of the committee allows me to focus on the interests of the new cycle of participants, acting with responsibility and helping to shape the program with good care from my mentee’s point of view. Sharing is a pleasure, and it’s also fun!


Autumn Moran, Operator, Eastern Region

600LIVE!: Tell us a little bit about your experience in the program. Who was your mentor?

Autumn Moran: I personally really liked the program because it really gives you an unbiased sounding board for any questions or experience that you maybe just want to run by someone without it jeopardizing future work or reputation. Tom Weston was my mentor and we really hit it off. Just hearing about his experience coming up from AC to operator to DP, it was definitely a little bit of a different world, but there are some things like politics and structures that don’t change, and I feel like, just from talking to him, I learned a lot of stuff that I can apply in the future going forward.

600LIVE!: What were some of your goals going into the program?

Autumn: I recently re-rated from AC to operator and it’s like a whole different ball game. So just getting that perspective, especially in terms of networking and who to reach out to, what’s appropriate was valuable. I would ask Tom about situations, and he would say, ‘Yes, that’s normal’ or ‘No, that’s not normal’ depending on the situation. We never really talked too much about technical stuff because, honestly, that’s the easier part of operating, but we definitely talked about things like the best way to suggest a shot.

600LIVE!: What factors made you decide to deepen your involvement with the union by going from being a mentee to serving on the Local 600 Mentorship Committee?

Autumn: I’ve been wanting to get involved in the union for a while, but I wasn’t sure what vein that would be best in. There are various committees like the Young Workers and the Women’s Committee, and I feel like people join those committees looking for mentorship, but it doesn’t always turn out like that. I thought this was a very clear way that I could contribute toward the union. I really think that having mentors in this business is so important and although sometimes you can find them in those other committees, I liked that the sole structure of it was more formal.


Amanda Darouie, 2nd Assistant, Western Region

600LIVE!: Tell us a little bit about your experience as a mentor in the Local 600 Mentorship Program.

Amanda Darouie: When I was new to the local, my most valuable resource was the friend who was a sounding board for me. I joined the pilot Mentorship Program to pay that forward. During the course of our time together, my mentee, Clarisse Callahan, completed her first TV show from prep to finish, and also moved up from Utility to Loader. She came to the program prepared with technical goals, organizational goals, interpersonal goals and tons of questions from the set. I was glad to be a sounding board for her!


Mark LaBonge, Operator, Western Region

600LIVE!: You’ve been a past mentor and were heavily involved with the creation of the new pilot Mentorship Program in 2021. What were some of the union’s goals in restructuring the program?

Mark LaBonge: Engaging with our membership so that we could further ourselves and “pay it forward.” My objective has always been to pay it forward. There were so many others who came before me who helped me in the early 80s to the mid-90s. As I was winding down my career, this was something where I could give back.

600LIVE!: Can you talk about some of your experiences mentoring Local 600 members?
Mark: Oftentimes when I was working a lot of different motion pictures or TV shows, I would say ‘I’m going to remember this someday and I’m going to tell other members, operators that are going through the same situation how to better yourself or how not to get talked into a bad shot or other little things that come into play.’ I was always concerned about members off the set in terms of how they handled their finances, and other things that are so much a part of our lives, and making sure that they’re doing the best they can with the challenges that they face off the set. So there was a little bit of both – the practical stuff and mental stuff dealing with stuff on the set as well as off the set.

600LIVE!: Did you find your mentees receptive?

Mark: Yes. First of all, it’s always been a win/win situation. I’ve enjoyed their presence and thoughts and perspectives, and they’ve enjoyed some of the things that I’ve brought to the table with them. Even to this day with the several mentees that I have had over the years, we keep it going, just checking in and talking about some of the challenges that face working members. I still keep a pulse on all of my past mentees, and we share thoughts.

600LIVE!: You characterize the partnership as a win/win. What’s the benefit to the mentors?

Mark: It’s the joy of opening the valve of 38 years in the business and just letting out some of the things that went on in my life over that period things that I was faced and challenged with on and off the set. I think I was able to connect with my mentees, and I think they applied what I was able to tell or give them. We had fun exchanging ideas. It’s a great thing and I would want it to continue.


Tom Weston, Director of Photography, Eastern Region

600LIVE!: Can you talk about your experience as a mentor in the Local 600 Mentorship Program?

Tom Weston: I’ve done two cycles so far, including the last one. I think it’s very rewarding to both parties. I love the business and what my career has meant to me, so sharing things that I learned with someone like Autumn Moran was great. She was easy to talk to and we filled our hours up very quickly. She had situations where I could sort of offer perspective which benefited her so it was a win/win as they say. I think it was helpful to her and it felt good for me.

600LIVE!: Since you have been a mentor both in an earlier version of the program and in the pilot program, what have been some of the changes you have noticed in the way that the program is run?

Tom: It’s more structured now. There is a time frame, and we are expected to speak more frequently. Autumn and I were able to always connect with one another within the confines of what we were supposed to be doing. It was easy.

600LIVE!: Did you set goals going into the program?

Tom: I don’t think either of us has too many preconceptions of what was going to transpire or how it was going to benefit either of us. She was open-minded. We talked about career goals and about a lot of her choices, whether she wanted to concentrate on operating or shooting.

600LIVE!: Were there people who mentored you at the start of your career?

Tom: There were people who helped me along, but not in a structured mentor/mentee relationship. I think it’s something that’s really good. There’s also a lot of training that Local 600 provides which it didn’t back in the early days for me. So those are two areas that I think are very helpful to the young members.


Salvatore Totino, Director of Photography, Western Region

600LIVE!: What sparked your interest in being a mentor in the Local 600 Mentorship Program?

Salvatore Totino: I’ve been mentoring people for a long time. PAs started with me who are now DPs. They start as a PA and they go into the camera department, they move up and they learn. That’s what I like most about mentoring programs – apprenticing somebody. I think that makes for a stronger, more knowledgeable and crafted person and union.

600LIVE! Did you experience mentoring when you were new to the industry?

Salvatore: I worked for a DP who took me under his wing, and then I paid it forward, so to speak. I’ve always done that.

600LIVE!: In  your past mentoring, did you focus on career goals? On set culture?

Salvatore: It’s all of that. It’s on-set culture, it’s techniques, it’s lighting, equipment. it’s learning how to communicate between myself and the crew, whether it’s with the camera department, with an AD or even with the director or the producers. It’s all-encompassing.

600LIVE! What kinds of qualities do you look for in your mentees?

Salvatore: I want people who are hungry and want to work. They don’t have to know anything, but they have to be eager and want to learn.  I think it’s important that there are a lot more cinematographers who take people under their wings and try to help them move through the camera department. You could easily pick up a camera and start shooting and learn about lighting a little bit. But there’s so much more nuance to learn about working on a set and running a set that’s not just about photography and equipment. I think an apprenticeship program really gives someone the tools they need to be successful as a future cinematographer.

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