Nearly two years ago the Board of Governors mailed letters to over 1,000 Directors of Photography imploring them to ensure that camera operators would be hired on their productions. Incidences where DPs choose to operate has grown exponentially in the past five years on IATSE shows according to Local 600’s own statistics. If all cinematographers did their utmost to request an operator on each camera they would help protect our legacy.
Dear Director of Photography,
The Board of Governors of the Society of Camera Operators is acutely aware of the growing trend of not hiring camera operators on many productions, both large and low budget. This practice is affecting the livelihoods of many Camera Operators across the United States and beyond.
As Camera Operators we have invested years in our industry. None of us made that decision lightly and none of us have spent a minute regretting our choice to place ourselves behind the eyepiece in order to add to the collective voices required to bring projects to successful completion.
We understand the role of the Director of Photography and would never want to compromise the artistic integrity you offer a production. However we, the Board of Governors of the Society Of Camera Operators would like you to reconsider your choice to operate the camera if asked to do so.
The Camera Operator is your collaborator, here to help you realize your vision. We are an extra pair of eyes to see things you might not see. We are your partner in putting out the small fires too time consuming for you to deal with. We communicate with the Camera Assistants helping them prepare for and implement very difficult shots. An “Operating DP” compromises the effectiveness of the entire camera department.
While Studios and Production Managers may put pressure on you to do both jobs, in reality having a Camera Operator is a more efficient and cost-effective way to work. The Studio mentality may be that we are only a line item on their budget—however, those extra set ups that get completed every day by having an Operator ensures a high quality production at the end of the day.
It is important that you understand — every day you also operate you are taking away a day’s work and healthcare hours from a Camera Operator.
Additionally every time a Director of Photography operates the camera it makes it harder for those who want to use an Operator on future projects.
Please help us protect the art and craft of the Camera Operator.
SOC Board of Governors