Stitching Chammies In Pandemic-Induced Downtime

July 28, 2020
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By her own admission, Caitlin Brown doesn’t much care for downtime. When she first moved to Los Angeles from Boston in 2019, filling up idle hours wasn’t so much of an issue as Brown was busy working on a string of commercials and music videos, ultimately accumulating enough hours to get on her first union feature.

Then came COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown of the industry.

“I don’t love being bored,” said Brown, a camera assistant who joined Local 600 in January. “Even if I only have a day or two off, I’m organizing my kit or figuring out a better way to stage things and that was definitely how I kicked off quarantine.”

In the early days of the pandemic, as the days stretched into weeks and later months, Brown came up with an idea to dress up the protective eye chamois (also known as a “chammy”) that covers the camera’s viewfinder. She tore apart a bunch of t-shirts and sewed them into chamois. She also created a custom Quasar-themed chamois for a friend who had founded the company Quasar Science, LLC.

The project might have ended there, but the finished chamois posted on Brown’s Instagram account was shared extensively. Requests started pouring in from across the country, with a particularly high demand for Star Wars and super-hero themed chamois.

“I had made three of them for my own kit, and all these requests were coming in. I thought whoa!” Brown said. “But then I thought, ‘Well, I have all the time in the world.’ It’s a great way to meet new ACs and DPs in the union. It’s creative and it’s my own little niche.”

Brown leaned into her new endeavor, often sewing up to 12 hours a day while her roommate was marathoning podcasts. She got much of her material from The Expendables Recycler and figured out a shipping routine.

Brown decided to donate the money that people were offering to pay for the chamois to the 3D Agents of Shield to make the endeavor even more meaningful. By the time the Agents of Shield had reached their funding goal, Brown had made and shipped close to 200 chamois to New York, Atlanta, Texas, Florida and even as far off as Australia. And best of all, she raised $1,400 for the cause.

The chamois pipeline tapered out as demand fell away and Brown began to get other opportunities to teach or guest lecture as well as some Zoom documentary work.

“It worked out perfectly,” she said. “Of course if someone reached out to me and said, ‘I just really need a Darth Vader chamois,’ I’m not going to turn them down.”

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