“Workflow…In Human Terms”

We’ve talked many times about workflow over the past few years, and always with an emphasis on the technical side. What this column has never addressed is the human part of workflow. As a trade union, we have a vested outcome in improving and sustaining the lives of working families, at home and on the job. The primary question that each administration of this Guild confronts is: How do our members thrive in this industry, while still maintaining a healthy and productive work/life balance? How do we take progressive, proactive measures to ensure human workflow is every bit as successful as the more-talked-about technological workflows?

One important focus is helping Local 600 members with life issues that aren’t work related. Our social services department, led by Representative Romne McBride, is available to all of our members across the country. Another goal is recognizing – in our operational and governmental decisions – how much this industry has changed, historically speaking. I’m certain that if someone from Hollywood’s past were to walk onto a set today, all they’d probably recognize is that there is still a camera at the hub of all activity.

Local 600’s new administration understands that the best way to act upon trends in our industry in a timely way is through small working groups. These nimble discussion and planning cadres will meet between our National Executive Board (NEB) meetings, which happen three times a year. They are better prepared to discuss the “human workflow” at Local 600 than the much broader issues tackled at NEB.

Some of these groups include those working on:

 

Probing the ubiquitous problem of excessive and inherently unsafe hours, which literally dates back to the 1940’s, when crewmembers sometimes had to sleep in their cars to make the next morning’s call. Now, of course, a production is required to provide housing after a certain amount of hours, but there are so many more paths to explore in solving this vexing and long-standing problem.

Examining the 40-day rule, whereby someone who has worked just 40 days in a lifetime is required to change classifications without any real readiness test. Once upon a time (when crews stayed together for many projects), directors of photography had the ability to train their team to move amongst different classifications. But that’s not the case today.

Creating a formal mentoring program within our ranks, so younger Guild members can develop their careers by the sides of more-experienced Union professionals.

Forming a retirees’ club to tap into this fabulous resource. Exploring a formalized mechanism for our retirees to give back (and perhaps cross-pollinate with a mentoring program) is long overdue.

Invigorating various craft-specific groups, i.e., unit stills, DIT’s, publicists and others to create a forum to exchange information on the issues of most concern to working members.

These groups are made up of busy people who are willing to serve as national board members and/or active working group members because of their deep and passionate concern for making their Guild a more caring organization. They should be applauded for their efforts and given every possible platform to succeed.

Communication is another way to improve the “human workflow” of our members. New technologies will go a long way toward keeping all of Local 600 better connected and informed, and that’s not something we should take for granted. We are instituting various tools to improve our two-way communication, including adding an interactive reporting element to our safety app, text-messaging crews to set up visits and catch problems early, and evolving our website to improve the user experience and increase functionality. We’re moving away from paper and toward streamlined dues billings and payments. Our weekly e-newsletter will increase its use of video and member voices.

I want to stress that the human aspect of workflow reminds us all that Local 600, at its core, is about hearts and minds. Technical skill is important, but a union is made up of human beings, and all the work we do has to be informed by what matters to them. In order to focus on human issues we have to hear from you about what they are, engage you in the conversation about possible solutions and then develop plans that you are willing to support and participate in. It’s messier than the more traditional, linear workflow but, at the end of the day, it will be very rewarding.

Our Union is more than 8,000 strong. Our current officers, staff and membership continue to embrace progressive initiatives. So long as we remember that human beings are the engines that generate all workflow, the organization will move in the right direction.

 

Steven Poster, ASC
National President
International Cinematographers Guild
IATSE Local 600