Q3 2017

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13 Q3 2017 / CINEMONTAGE GET TING ORGANIZED by Rob Callahan I n a nondescript Burbank falafel joint on a sweltering Sunday afternoon in July of last year, co-workers crowded around an impromptu conference table made up of several four-tops pushed together. A tacky film adhered to the furniture, as is typical of greasy spoons. Sweaty forearms clung stickily to gummy tabletops. Folks hadn't shown up for the ambiance, or the tabbouleh. They'd come for one another, and to do something they couldn't inside their workplace. After months of hushed, one-on-one conversations and small, covert huddles, they'd gathered to speak openly and frankly amongst themselves about their frustrations with their employer. These employees worked at the nexus of two trends that define the 21st-century economy: information technology and globalization. Their jobs were to create the digital cinema packages (DCP) distributed worldwide for the exhibition of theatrical features. Their employer, Deluxe Technicolor Digital Cinema (DTDC), is overwhelmingly the dominant player in this arena, handling the bulk of releases from major studios and independent distributors. The group skewed young — 20s or early 30s. Their work wasn't celebrated; their names didn't appear in the end-crawls of the movies on which they'd worked. The labors of these young workers, though, put entertainment on screens around the world. Without their efforts, innumerable kernels of popcorn would remain unpopped. The function such workers now perform used to be performed by technicians who made physical reels of actual film, rather than virtual packages of files. DTDC fills the space once occupied by Hollywood's two storied film laboratories, Technicolor and Deluxe. Those film labs had provided solidly middle-class union jobs for generations of technicians. Hundreds of our Guild brothers and sisters (the lab technicians local merged with Local 700 in 2010) lost their jobs when the industry's transition to digital theatrical projection led to the downsizing and eventual closures of the film labs. A common article of faith amongst economists is the belief that, although the industrial disruption effected by technological innovation may eliminate jobs in the short term, it ultimately creates new and often superior opportunities for employment. Our economy no longer has much demand for telephone operators, but it now affords plenty of opportunities for mobile app developers. Shiny new jobs, say proponents of technology's disruptive effects, spring up to replace dusty positions rendered obsolete. I can't vouch for how things work on the macro- economic scale, or whether faith in the ultimate beneficence of technological disruption is warranted. I can say that new jobs for digital cinema technicians were indeed created to replace the film labs' lost jobs, but these new jobs were both much fewer and much less well- compensated than the jobs they supplanted. The digital cinema technicians gathered in Burbank last summer came from a group of about 70 such folks Contract High Deluxe Digital Cinema Technicians Win Raises, Respect DTDC employees wore 'Contract Now' T-shirts to work in a show of solidarity, and posed in the shirts for photos to post on social media.

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