By Debra Kaufman
Starting out as a tape op in the machine room is a common first step for a career in post production. But the path to better jobs isn’t the same now as it was twenty years ago, and that fact is part of the rationale behind the grassroots organization Blue Collar Post Collective (BCPC), which offers community and support to today’s emerging post talent. “I like everyone to keep in mind that the people coming up today have very different experiences,” says BCPC president Kylee Peña. “There is no clear ladder to climb.”
Katie Hinsen and Janis Vogel were the first co-presidents of the officially launched BCPC, a group that originally organized as an informal get-together with other below-the-line post workers. They jokingly dubbed themselves the “blue collar workers,” and, over time, the get-togethers grew increasingly popular among other young people in post production. Hinsen and Vogel formalized the group, as the Blue Collar Post Collective, and achieved status as a 501(c)3 non-profit in April 2016.
Interested in opening another BCPC chapter in Los Angeles, Hinson and Vogel zeroed in on Peña, a workflow supervisor at Bling Digital, who they got to know through social media and her articles in Creative COW. “Katie and Janis wanted to expand into Los Angeles,” recalls Peña. “But they’d only do so if I would agree to start it and run it.” She formed a committee in April 2016, and the Los Angeles group officially launched in June.
Peña, who has done research and given presentations on gender and equality, and lifestyle issues in post production, notes that no other groups focus exclusively on emerging talent in post production. “We see that careers are made for people in the first five years,” she explains. “A lot of the groups that do exist have barriers to entry: they cost money or they meet at times of the day when people are working. A lot of our members in Los Angeles work the swing shift or graveyard shift when these events happen, and they can’t go and network.” In contrast, the Blue Collar Post Collective in Los Angeles holds its events on Saturdays.
The Blue Collar Post Collective has a healthy presence online; its Facebook page has almost 5,000 members, with membership in the hundreds in Los Angeles and New York. Noting that women and people of color face additional barriers to success in post production, Peña says the Los Angeles group is a very diverse group, with near gender parity. BCPC also just had its first meeting in London, with Peña and Vogel in attendance. “We’re currently investigating what it would take to have a full-on group there,” she says. “We definitely encourage people in BCPC to have their own unofficial meet-ups. We’re all volunteers and all work full-time in post.” BCPC is growing judiciously, notes Peña, careful that each chapter shares the values of the core organization.
Being a member of the Blue Collar Post Collective offers numerous benefits, including a very active Facebook page, where members are encouraged to be “respectful, inclusive and supportive.” “One of the biggest benefits is the community you have access to,” says Peña. Monthly meet-ups are very well attended, and Los Angeles also offers a Stitch-and-Bitch meet-up for conversation and crafts. Upcoming events found on the group’s Facebook page include a New York conversation with “O.J.: Made in America” sound mixer Keith Hodne and a Los Angeles talk on “Finding Success in Unscripted TV.” Peña says the Facebook groups’ administrators also post an online discussion topic each week. “We don’t have super-strict rules, but we ask everyone to conduct themselves as if they are in person,” she says. “So our Facebook group is a very pleasant place to be, and a lot is going on.”
Another benefit is a financial aid program providing accessibility for early-stage career members to attend professional events. “This was created when a young man Katie was working with was invited to present a paper at a conference, but couldn’t afford to travel there,” says Peña. “That was a huge, career-changing thing he couldn’t do.” Since then, the BCPC has sponsored several members to several conferences and professional events. Recently, BCPC enabled a member from Indiana to attend EditFest in Los Angeles, where she also sat in with editors and colorists during her time here.
Group members act as a network and support for each other in numerous ways. One member recently relied on the network to apply and get a job as an assistant editor on a feature film, and BCPC vice president of the Los Angeles group Chris Visser, who mentors students at his former Wisconsin university, asked if Salazar could provide a PA job for one of his newly graduated mentees. “She was able to come to Los Angeles with a job, a community of people her age, and mentors,” says Peña. “At every single meet-up, I meet people who just moved here, and coming to the BCPC meet-up is the first thing they do.”
The post production communities in New York and Los Angeles have already supported the Blue Collar Post Collective in several ways, by providing tickets to events and special deals on gear. Peña encourages more of these kinds of donations, as well as money to help the group keep supplying financial aid (80 percent of the revenue goes to the scholarship program). But she stresses that the most useful action that post production companies and facilities can offer is jobs, that helps BCPC in their mission of supporting emerging talent. “Young people coming up have a lot of expertise,” says Peña. “There’s a lot to learn from them, so grant them opportunities to show that and make the industry more inclusive.”