For the hard-working studio drivers of Local 399, a typical day on the job is nothing like a day at “The Office,” the TV sitcom on which they work. Instead of telling jokes by the water cooler all day like “Office” main character Michael Scott and his coworkers, this crew of studio drivers starts the day early, works very efficiently – and when needed, stays late.
“It’s always nice to visit a busy set,” said Business Agent Leo Reed, Jr. “I know how important jobs are, and this is a crew that takes charge and gets the job done very well, very quickly and most important, very smoothly.”
Teamster studio drivers play a key role in production by moving cast, crew, camera trucks, equipment, props, costumes, cast trailers and more to and from the set. They also help prepare for the shoot.
“This is a great example of what it takes to get the job done well. There’s a perfect balance of labor to meet the demands of the show. There is no wait to set up trailers and equipment, and therefore, no delay in production,” Reed said. “Otherwise, filming would take a lot longer. Even one minute of lost production time can be a huge expense. Our members make sure the process runs on time.”
There are six regular drivers for “The Office,” but often the show’s on-location shoots require a lot more. It can take from 20 to 40 drivers per shoot to ensure everything is done right. With 16 main talent actors, that’s a lot of cast trailers to start, plus all the extras, equipment and more.
“Local 399 members keep a positive attitude, and it’s great to work with them,” said Stephen Schoenhofen, Transportation Captain, who has 14 years of experience. “This is a hard-working group and it’s apparent they enjoy their jobs.”
Set-up can start as early as 4:30 am. “It’s like setting up a stage, but our stage is wherever the script takes us – from a shopping mall to a company picnic scene,” Schoenhofen said. “I’m proud of my drivers. Our Teamsters are reliable.”
While characters on “The Office” might get bored with their daily routine sitting by the photocopier with nothing to do, Transportation Coordinator Jesse Dutchover said there’s never a dull moment for him. Like all Local 399 members, he can work a 12-hour or 18-hour day. “What I like most about my job is the constant change. You come to work, start a project, finish it quickly, then change it around again for the next shoot. Whether it’s the location or the vehicles, you go with the flow.”
Because these Teamsters are professional drivers, they handle anything with wheels — even if that means safely driving a vehicle in a scene. One time, Transportation Co-Captain Don St. John got to appear as an extra in an episode.
“When the characters leave for Florida, the airport van picks them up at Dunder Mifflin. I load their luggage into the van and drive away,” he said. “One of the greatest things about this job is that you never know what’s going to come. You roll with it, and you have an exciting day.”