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The ICG Training Program: Keeping Members Job-Ready

Technology changing in blindingly rapid speeds.  The lack of standards for handling data.  Equipment that, when mis-handled, can literally destroy the artistic integrity of a production.   Several years ago the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600 IATSE, took a look at the evolving landscape its members were encountering and began developing extensive nationwide, members only training programs to meet the evolving production world head on.

Union members residing in Los Angeles and New York have had the benefit of working in cities that housed union offices along with facilities where the latest gear was easily accessible.  As various states implemented competitive production tax incentives, the workforce became increasingly fractured as crew members began relocating to follow the work.  These areas, however, were not always equipped with facilities that housed the most recent equipment, and remaining ahead of the curve as technologies evolved became an unforeseen challenge.


“In general, technology is hard enough to embrace,” said Mark Weingartner, member of the National Executive Board of ICG and the Chair of the National Training Committee.  “When you get five solid state recorders that pop out, and they all have slightly different ways of doing things and different terminologies for the same functions, the number of things those who are responsible for the specific pieces of equipment have to keep in their head is just miles more than it used to be.”


Weingartner, working with National Training Committee co-chairs Lewis Rothenberg (ICG Vice President) and Rusty Burrell (ICG First Vice President) began focusing on a means of reconnecting the union members scattered throughout the country and providing them with a resource that would be a benefit to their wide variety of production needs, from commercials to blockbusters.  Working with rental houses willing to shared their equipment and training expertise with the ICG members, the MEGA Digital Seminars were developed..


The MEGA Digital Seminars are two-day sessions that feature the latest innovations in equipment and shooting techniques.  While participating ICG members are responsible for their transportation to the site, there are no fees for the training or the overnight stay.


“We will book a big room and a number of small break out rooms in a hotel near a region that doesn’t have a union office necessarily,” said Weingartner.  “This isn’t just product familiarization, there are lectures, demos, and people will have hands on training.  We split the participants into groups and have three to four hours to work on a number of camera set-ups.  Generally we have one of our members in the back of the room keeping the claims honest, protecting against unvarnished manufacture optimism.”


The National Training Committee also developed specialized programs addressing new technology.  The Red Training Program is one such example.  ICG member Cliff Hsui, SVP of Marketing and Technology at Simm Video, developed a syllabus that focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the Red camera.  Hsui has been able to take this class around the country through the aid of numerous Red vendors.


In the last few years, data handling has become a topic of concern.  As tapeless production became more widespread, the ICG recognized the importance of not only providing training, but developing standards for how data management should be conducted on set.  The Data Handling Workshop, launched a year ago, was the result of dozens of members representing different file-sized worlds, rom one camera to three camera shoots.

“We’ve had nearly a century to figure out how to handle film safely and we are pretty damn good at it,” said Weingartner.  “We’re now in a world where a lot of what a loader does is IT – its information technology.   No one really had a uniform work flow model for dealing with the file based material.  Our job is not to create standards, but by creating a really comprehensive training program, we created a defacto standard system for the safe handling of the material.”


The Data Handling Workshops where developed with Createasphere, who’s helped facilitate the complex logistics and equipment needs for the six two day workshops that are held throughout the year: two each in the Western, Eastern, and the Central Regions.  Developed with former Createasphere member Jeffrey Seckendorf, instructors Brook Willard, Megan Donnelly and Suny Behar provide not only procedures but the underlying philosophies behind procedures so members can make the best decisions in any give situation.  While the training sessions are geared towards loaders and first and second assistants, any union member is able to sign up for the class.


“We had some DPs taking the class because they felt they couldn’t do their job as well as possible.  Part of their job is to look out for the crew’s and the production’s needs,” said Weingartner.  “If someone in production has read a brochure that says ‘Don’t worry, we never loose data,’ it helps if the DP knows that this is not the safest way to work on the project.”


In addition to data handling, another recent game changer has been 3D production.  Spearheaded by ICG member David Drzewiecki with assistance from Weingartner, the ICG has partnered with Buzz Hays, Executive Stereoscopic 3D Producer at Sony Corporation and the SVP, Sony 3D Technology Center to provide an intensive three day 3D Training Seminar.


“Sony is a depository of the best and brightest in 3D production and post production,” said Weingartner.  The training session has one day of class work and two days on stage with the rigs and camera placement and exercises with scenes to cover.”


In order to meet the union crew requirements needed to man the studio for the three day session, ICG works with Hollywood CPR, a program that provides union eligibility for production experiences.  A wide variety of members from various departments have taken this training course to better understand their role in 3D production.  In its first year over 460 ICG members have attended the three day training seminar sponsored by the Sony 3D Technology Center.


ICG continues to develop specific and focused training programs.  At this time none of the programs are archived.


“We hope down the line to provide an archive through a member portal on our website,” said Weingartner.  “We are careful to only train our members.  In a right to work market, we need to give an edge to our union members.  It’s not abstract education; it’s about hands on training to make sure members can do jobs.”


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