Joining the Unions
Union membership isn’t the first step in a career in motion picture production, nor do they guarantee work. Applicants are encouraged to research what it takes to succeed in the area that they are interested in, talk to people who work in the industry, and take introductory courses. What unions do provide is the opportunity to work on signatory productions, representation by a bargaining agent and benefits, amongst other things.
Membership requirements vary with each union but in general, after filling out an application, working a certain number of days in the desired position on signatory productions then qualifies you to join a union’s permittee program. Generally, applicants must also have successfully completed a Motion Picture Industry Orientation course (set-etiquette) and a Motion Picture Safety Awareness course at a minimum, which we recommend completing before working on set in any capacity. The following links will have information on how to go about becoming a member in different departments:
- Directors Guild of Canada – BC District Council. Member categories are: Director, 2nd Unit Director, Production Manager, Unit Manager, Assistant Director (1st, 2nd & 3rd), Background Coordinator, and the Locations department, which includes Production Assistants. If you are just starting out in the business, joining the DGC as a Production Assistant is one way to experience how the industry works and get exposure to all the various departments and positions required to produce a film or TV episode. Under the “Becoming a Member” tab on the DGC BC website, click on the Entry Level Permittee Logbook Holder Program to learn more about becoming a member through the locations department. You will also find on this page entry-level downloads like the Production Assistant manual and survival guides to help you out in those first days and understand what to expect of the job.
- Association of Canadian Film Craftspeople: ACFC West Local 2020. ACFC is often the union signatory for lower budget productions. Departments include: Accounting, Art, Catering, Construction, Costume, Continuity, Craft Services, Editing, Electric, Greens, Grip, Hair & Make-Up, Production Office, Props, Prop Building, Publicity, Scenic Art, Security, Set Decoration, Sound, Special Effects, Transportation, Wranglers (Animal). Each department has different skill sets, so check what is required for your area of interest,
- The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees: IATSE Local 891 – BC and Yukon. Departments include: Accounting, Art, Construction, Costume, Editing, First Aid / Craft Service, Greens, Grips, Hair, Lighting/Electrics, Make-Up, Painting, Production Office, Props, Script Supervisors / Continuity Coordinator, Set Decorating, Sound, Special Effects, Visual Effects. When IATSE is accepting applications, the website has comprehensive online forms for each department in their permittee application page that outlines appropriate skills, requirements and training/courses.
- International Cinematographers Guild: IATSE Local 669. Represents membership involved in all aspects of film and television that pertains to the camera, including Directors of Photography, Camera Operators, Camera Assistants, Unit Publicists, Unit Still Photographers, Electronic Camera people, Video Assist, Digital Engineers and Technicians, Data Management Technicians and Camera Trainees. View their membership information and find out about their Trainee Program.
- Teamsters 155. Represents Drivers, Security, Catering, Animal Handlers, Animal Wranglers, Mechanics, Marine Personnels and Miscellaneous. Application process can be found on the website.
- The Union of BC Performers branch of ACTRA. Responsible for performers, including Background Performers and Stunts.