Pathways to the Camera Department

Local 600 Members Lead Camera Bootcamp With Massachusetts Production Coalition

April 25, 2023
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Photography by Local 600 Still Photographer Claire Folger

More than 120 Boston-area participants eager to get an inside view of the production industry, the camera department, and Local 600 gathered at Camera Bootcamp last month, which was organized by IATSE Local 600 and hosted by the Massachusetts Production Coalition.

The daylong workshop at Red Sky Studios included an introduction to the fundamentals of each craft, as well as hands-on breakout sessions with full gear, and a career panel Q&A. All 17 Local 600 members volunteered their time.

Local 600 Shop Steward and First AC Jill Tufts assembled a curriculum exploring “all the positions from Assistant on down, and teaching people a little of what we do individually on a bigger show,” with a steering committee of members from each category.

“I think it’s important for people to understand what we do in camera, and then to know the different pathways in,” Tufts said. “Even if they’re not joining the union or doing camera specifically, the more people in production who understand what we’re doing the better.”

One actor in attendance appreciated how Camera Bootcamp gave him insight into how each role relates to his own. “He came up and was so grateful because he could understand the importance of his job to us – how we mark, how we work with how they move in the frame, how what they’re doing relates directly to us,” Tufts said.

Participants were especially interested in the hands-on breakout sessions, which explored such core skills as pulling focus, laying marks, wrangling cable, and understanding how to download media.

Diversity of Skills and Backgrounds

Mattie Hamer, a shop steward and film loader with Local 600 who co-directed the event, noted the wide range of participant backgrounds. Some had worked in film; others had worked in production but were unfamiliar with the workings of the union, for example.

“I tried to bridge all those different levels of experience and offer as much as I could that would be helpful to everyone,” Hamer said.

Participants with more experience asked about technical issues that could affect their workflow – corrupt footage, keeping track of media on larger projects, organizational issues for loaders or DITs, and the relationship between digital and film loading.

“I was really excited to hear about the different types of work that attendees did,” Hamer said. “A lot of people were making really rad music videos; some were working mostly on documentary – all work I kind of don’t get to see.”

Bootcamp attendees also got an inside look at how things get done on a union job, notably values of cooperation and camaraderie and knowing and respecting others’ positions – which Hamer hopes will follow them to their work, whether they decide to join the union or not.

“Hopefully, it was inspiring to see that workflow, the intricacies of being a loader, how cool it can be,” Hamer said. “I think there’s this thing in the camera department sometimes that can click – you see how much thought someone has put into a specific job, and you see all the ways you’d do your systems. It’s all about systems. I was excited to see people echo that interest back.”

For Anna Nowlan, New York-based Local 600 business rep who participated in the Q&A panel on union membership, interacting with attendees – many from underserved communities who were coming out of vocational programs – resonated deeply.


Anna Nowlan, Local 600 Business Rep

“As a Latina, I enjoy these types of events, because in our community, we don’t really have the access to the industry to know people that do the work,” Nowlan said. “That’s the feedback I was getting from many attendees. They were just excited to know there is this space for them in the film industry, especially.”

Many who were unfamiliar with the union believed it was “just a matter of going to work, working long hours, without having representation,” Nowlan said.

“Once I started to talk about the union – about what we represent, how strong we are, all the changes collectively we’re making – I saw how the momentum changed,” Nowlan added. “Just by seeing me, too, they’re not used to seeing one of themselves being represented; that was the feedback I got from two attendees.”

Hamer also pointed to the impact of seeing more diverse participants and a desire to give back to the community.

“I feel really lucky to have had the career I’ve had, to have so many people in this area invest in me and teach me things, and I want to see more people like me in the industry – more queer and trans people in Local 600,” Hamer said.

The steering committee also included Local 600 members Michael Rodriguez Torrent and Matt Hedges.

“We were really lucky this year with how many members were available to help,” Tufts said. “We had a panel at the end with a long row of 600 camera people. It was incredibly fun to have so many of us together in a conversation.”

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