New Cinematographers Guild Executive Director Faces Tough Issues

In December, when Rebecca Rhine became the first female executive director of the Intl. Cinematographers Guild — a union of camera professionals notorious for a membership heavily dominated by males — she knew she was taking the job partly to be able to address the issue of diversity.

A few weeks later the need for equitable representation only became clearer, sparked by an Oscar nomination slate that excluded people of color from the major categories. The ensuing debate
over the best ways to include under-represented minorities, including women, throughout the industry has put Rhine at the forefront of those leading the charge for change.

The exec director says the ICG (also known as IATSE Local 600) is focusing on training and access, inviting women to consider an area of the business they might not have thought about as a
career option. “Some of it is letting everyone know that we have women and people of color who can do this work,” she tells Variety. “If your employers say they want diversity, there’s a path to that. There are options.”

Rhine says the guild is a powerful resource for those making hiring decisions. “Our challenge is to provide access to the most qualified, most diverse, most experienced workforce to the people who do hire,” she explains, “and to say to them, ‘Think differently.’ ”

Rhine, now six months into her tenure, succeeded Bruce Doering, who retired after holding the post for 30 years. She’s working with ICG president Steven Poster on negotiating and administering labor contracts with producers.

Rhine brings more than 20 years of experience to the job. She was most recently executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Executives Assn., and logged 13 years in two stints with SAG-AFTRA.

She’ll need to tap that know-how to help lead a guild whose wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary membership of more than 7,800 has almost doubled in the past decade.

In 2002, ICG absorbed the Publicists Guild, and now also reps still photographers. The publicists comprise a far greater proportion of women than do camera crews. Rhine has met with publicists to address concerns some have voiced that they have become an afterthought in the burgeoning organization.

Another issue on her plate: job safety. Following the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones in 2014 at a Georgia location shoot, ICG created an app that allows members to anonymously report safety violations. Rhine aims to identify habitual offenders. “In order to solve [problems], you have to find real cases and address them,” she says. “We’re not going to
tolerate our members being put in unsafe situations.”

Also among Rhine’s goals: to continue the guild’s evolution as a national union. (It was created 20 years ago from a merger of three regional shops in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.)

Louisiana and Georgia are among the states that have seen huge production upticks over the past decade, but Rhine believes that with the implementation last year of California’s new tax incentive, runaway gigs will return to the state.

“You have to be where the work is,” she says. “It isn’t always within our control, but if we’re nimble and proactive, we can serve our members wherever they may be.”

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