“The Biggest Tent…”

The International Cinematographers Guild is mostly known for the work our members do in narrative features and episodic series television. But we live under a much bigger tent, filled with many diverse artists and craftspeople, than most perceive. I think it’s essential to get that message out, not only to our own industry, but also to anyone who loves quality content created across the many different platforms and media available today.

For starters, Local 600 members work in literally every aspect of television and New Media: all forms of reality programming, talk shows, game shows, news and photo journalism, sports, awards shows, live events, commercials, music videos, Web series and shorts, documentaries and many others. The fact that all of these members often work under union contracts is not only a benefit to Guild members, it is also a benefit to the productions that are signatories with our international union, the IATSE.

I can’t say enough about how important these members are to this organization. The work that they do is often accomplished in some of the most difficult arenas imaginable and supplies the voracious worldwide market for TV and Internet media. My own career was heavily influenced by a CBS news cameraman based in Chicago, who came out of WWII as a Navy photographer and continued his work in newsgathering on some of the most important stories in the Midwest. I appreciated his tough, old-school mentorship as much as his outspoken, never-say-die passion for trade unionism that served as my entry into the industry. I’ll never forget how he insisted that for the first year of my membership in the IATSE, I go to every union meeting “to listen and learn.” I was considered an outsider at those meetings (by the old dogs who had been around the block), yet they quickly saw how serious I was about being a union member.

Let’s be frank: working in reality television is not easy. Nor is shooting live sports or news, or concerts, or documentaries where one’s personal safety can be put at risk. And yet to a person, every Guild member I’ve met who chooses these career paths has been appreciative of the protections trade unions, like ours, afford. Personally, I’ve always found the awards-show format endlessly fascinating. Whenever I’ve had the chance to visit those sets, I’m amazed at the sheer size of our crew base! They may work a finite period (for the life of the show), but the teams are massive, and the skill level is off the charts. Remember we are talking about mostly live broadcasts with only one chance to get it right. No do-overs for a missed mark or a glitch with the technology.

I recently read that advertising dollars for New Media has surpassed broadcast and cable advertising combined, and I’m proud that this huge growth area is a priority for this Guild and will continue to be serviced and staffed by union camera teams as the years pass and the genre matures. While it’s true that documentary producers often don’t work under full union contracts, the Guild members who have chosen the nonfiction field remain proud union supporters. One of our most lauded documentary camera operators, Buddy Squires, ASC, has had a long career as a Local 600 member. He’s brought immense pride to the union cause with his many Emmy recognitions (10 nominations, one win).

It’s also essential to note that much of the work I’ve talked about above is supported by our publicist members, especially the many awards shows staged as live network television events throughout the industry. Without the expertise of Guild publicists, none of this content would be as appreciated or consumed by the large audiences we enjoy today. It’s equally important to point out that the members who work in these many arenas beyond feature films and episodic television retain union protections and benefits because of the many years of work and contract negotiations undertaken by the IATSE.

Local 600 is a very large tent, big and broad enough to provide support and shelter for union families in virtually every aspect of visual entertainment. Let’s continue to extend the reach of that tent and proclaim its virtues to employers throughout this industry.


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

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