Strong. Focused. Determined. Hardworking.
When we think of our Teamster Local 399 Sisters, there are a few words that immediately come to mind. Embarking on a career in the Entertainment Industry can be one that demands a lot from not only a Member as an individual, but also the friends and families that support them. It is a tough Industry with long hours and many demands in the various Crafts we represent.
Since its origin, Local 399 has been fighting to elevate the standard of living and gains for all of our Members. Expanding on the hard work of our Retirees and our past Local Leaders. Unions as a whole have played, and continue to play, a huge role in closing the gender pay gap and leveling the playing field for all workers to be paid a fair wage for a long day’s work. That being said, we are constantly reminded that we still have a long way to go to create equal opportunities for all workers in all workplaces.
We chose to feature “Women In Transportation” in this Member Spotlight because the numbers are a bit staggering when it comes to our Local 399 Sisters compared to Brothers in this line of work. That does not in any way weaken our strong Teamster Sisters that have made exceptional careers in the Entertainment Industry. We talked with 4 of our Local 399 Sisters working in Transportation to hear about their careers thus far, their pathway to embarking on the Industry, as well as learn from each of them by way of their sound advice for anyone seeking a career in this Industry. We believe our entire Membership is made stronger by highlighting accomplished individuals and so that we can learn from their experience and advice. We appreciate Kim Latina, Karen Chang-Ambrose, Yvette Peterson, and Delya Campos for taking the time to share a bit about their experiences.
Teamster Local 399 Sister: Kim Latina
Teamster 18 Years
“If you have a goal and something you want to accomplish in this Industry, it is all possible.” These are words of wisdom shared by Transportation Coordinator Kim Latina. Kim has been a Member of Teamsters Local 399 for over 18 years. Though female Transportation Coordinators in the Industry are few and far between, Kim stresses the importance of seeking out opportunities to grow in your craft to get to where you want to be in the Industry.
Kim is no stranger to the Entertainment Industry as her father was Stephen Latina who also worked in the Industry as a Transportation Coordinator. Kim’s original plan was to work in the Industry as an Editor. Though she went to college to become one, and was grateful for the opportunity to take an internship where she was able to sit in on an actual editing bay on a show, it was here that she reassessed her career path unsure of whether editing was the path she wanted to pursue.
“I’m a social person and I like to be out and about and being stuck in a dark room for many hours was not what I wanted to do when it came time to see what the job actually entailed. I was still going to college and continuing my education when it came up that 399 was into Permits, Transportation Coordinator Tom Thomas said to my dad and to the crew on “CSI” that maybe we should have Kim get her days to have something to fall back on. I got my days and I worked a bit when I was a Group 3 but not much. As the Industry started to get a bit busier and I became a Group 2, I started working more and realized that this line of work was what I really wanted to do. I enjoyed driving a van, meeting new people everyday, being outdoors, and working in different locations. That’s when I fell in love with this career.”
The process of Kim moving up to work as a Coordinator was met with a lot of support from her longtime friend, mentor and Teamsters Local 399 Brother Tom Thomas.
“When the Writer’s Strike happened, work was definitely uncertain and Tom Thomas brought me into the office after the strike had settled and said ‘I think we should put you on as a Captain.’ Our Captain at the time was doing something in San Francisco and wasn’t going to be able to make it back. I had never really thought about moving up but he told me, ‘trust me, you’re ready, you’re going to be okay’. I took his word for it. He was a huge part of my career.”
Kim continued to work with Tom on “CSI” even after her Father moved onto another production. Later down the road, as Tom prepared to retire, he worked with Kim to take over his role as Coordinator when he left. The last 2-3 years that Tom was active in the Industry, he groomed Kim and taught her the steps necessary to be a Coordinator.
“I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and having someone that could look over my shoulder for years to teach me. Many people don’t get that opportunity. When he stepped out and retired I stepped in. I was already doing the work, I just didn’t have the title yet.”
The biggest difference Kim mentioned between Captaining and Coordinating is that when Coordinating, you are solely responsible for the budget and how the money is spent. As a Captain, Kim was dealing mostly with Drivers, however with Coordinating you are working closer with the Producers and the accounting department – basically the people in the office verses the people in the field.
“I prefer Coordinating for a couple reasons. I enjoy the paperwork part of the job and budgeting and working with numbers. I enjoy the challenges of putting together the right equation to make the show work or function properly. It’s definitely where I feel I should be.”
As a Coordinator Kim is solely responsible for all transportation movement on any given show. She is helping out both sides by working with Producers as far as being budget conscious, while also taking care of her crew and her Teamster Sisters and Brothers working in her department.
“I really enjoy being able to pick my crew and who I get to work with everyday. We are there for hours and hours on end. Some days, not everyone is happy and enjoying each other’s company. That doesn’t always happen when you are months and months into a production. But I enjoy the people I work with and I enjoy getting to put the proper crew together to make that happen.”
Kim attributes a lot of her success in her career to not only her hard work but also her ability to seek out opportunities to grow, take on more responsibility, and to learn from the people that she respected as to how they did their job.
“Identifying shows that you like how they are run and are organized and try to follow those people as mentors. If Coordinating is something that interests you, it’s better to just be in someone’s back pocket if you can and learn that way. This job is very hands on; some of the pieces can be sharpened up in the classroom, but not necessarily taught. Just picking someone out that you think is good at their job and shadowing them is the best way.”
When asked about how the Union can work to further support women to make the jump to Transportation Coordinators, or really any role that they want to work in in the Entertainment Industry, Kim had some great insight.
“Pick someone out that you respect, get along with and that is good at their job and shadow what they do. Starting out it can be intimidating to some people because it is a predominantly male dominated line of work, but I think you need to move past the intimidation factor and get over any fears and believe that you can do it. It’s obviously possible but it won’t just come to you.”
Teamster Local 399 Sister: Karen Chang-Ambrose
Transportation Manager at Starz
Teamster 17 Years
For some of our Teamster Members, their career in Transportation can lead to management roles that support our Membership on adifferent level. Dispatcher Karen Ambrose made the jump from Teamsters Local 399 Dispatcher to the Transportation Department Manager at Starz. Her career path is unique and her dedication to her craft is one that developed over time. Karen joined Teamsters Local 399 in 2001 and worked in the Industry two years prior to joining Teamsters Local 399 as a Dispatcher.
“Transportation wasn’t a role I had seen myself in – the best thing about starting as a Production Assistant you usually get a really good view of how production works, and from that you can assess what area interests you. I found Transportation and stayed here because after a show or two and as my reputation grew, it was just easier to find work.”
Karen describes herself as just sort of falling into the field of Transportation. When Karen graduated college she had moved to Seattle to work in theater before starting as a P.A.
“I spent about a year in Seattle working in Theater. While I loved it and I loved Theater, I got tired of starving so I came home. I always knew I wanted to do something in the Entertainment Industry, I didn’t really know what.”
When Karen returned from Seattle and got started as a PA she sent her resume to anyone and everyone she could think of to try to find consistent work. Karen mentioned that in this business you are hired a lot of time by who you know, and at the time she didn’t know too many people in the Industry.
“Somehow my resume wound up on the desk of a Transportation Coordinator at Warner Bros., Keith Dillin. He hired me for my first Studio Show, which was a little movie Clint Eastwood was doing, called “True Crime”. That was my first job in Transportation.”
At the time that Karen was working on “True Crime,” the position of Dispatcher at a show level didn’t exist. Most of the Dispatchers at the time were in-house with Studios. She says she was essentially working as a glorified non-Union PA, or Transportation Office Manager, as they were called back then. After completing “True Crime” Karen moved on to work with other Coordinators.
“A Driver I met on one show would refer me to another Coordinator, and that Coordinator would hire me, and then on the next show I would meet another Driver who would introduce me to another Coordinator. And it just fell like dominos. I went from Keith Dillin to Dave Robling to Tommy Tancharoen, to Jonathan Rosenfeld, and it just fell in-line like that.”
Eventually Jonathan Rosenfeld helped Karen get her 30 days to become a Member of Teamsters Local 399. After her time with Jonathan, she began working with Coordinator Denny Caira and continued to work with him for 13+ years straight.
When discussing the highlights of being a Dispatcher, Karen mentioned outside of loving the work, she was also grateful that as a Dispatcher she was able to work more normal hours compared to others in the Industry. As she continued to develop a great reputation for her work, the Coordinators she worked with were very willing to work with her schedule and provide a level of flexibility with her hours.
“As long as the work was getting done, I was fortunate to have Coordinators that would work with me and my schedule. The trade-off for me was that I was always willing to put in extra time when necessary to get the job done. As I got married and started a family, I was extremely fortunate to work with a lot of Coordinators who didn’t care if I came in late or left early on occasion as long as I was available and the work was getting done.”
After a successful career as a Dispatcher, Karen’s work ethic, experience and commitment to her craft made her a perfect candidate to grow in her role in the Transportation Department.
“I never really thought of my career as a “path”. I realized several years ago that I didn’t want to coordinate and that is the peak of the Production Transportation road. Once I realized I didn’t want to do that, mostly because I didn’t want to put in those types of hours, I remember thinking that maybe my career had leveled off and I was okay with that. The trade off was the flexible hours and the time I would have with my kids.”
For Karen however, that wasn’t the only path to follow. After years of working in the Industry as a Dispatcher, the position opened at Starz of Transportation Manager in the Originals Programming Team. Karen accepted the position and is now working at the Studio as the Transportation Executive, managing Starz Transportation policy and DOT compliance over their original productions.
“Part of my job now is really to build a relationship with the Coordinator and Transportation team to make sure they have the support they need to stay compliant with the Studio and DOT policies.”
“My role as a Dispatcher prepared me for this because as a Dispatcher, you deal not only with Drivers and Coordinators, but with producers, executives and every other department. While I am now on the Studio side, I think it’s important to have someone that has a lot of production experience that knows what is actually happening on a day-to-day basis. I know what both the Studio and the Production needs.”
In discussing her current role she was quick to mention that there are definitely things she misses about Dispatching.
“I miss the Drivers. I miss the crew. There is an energy and fun on set that you just don’t get anywhere else. Though I miss the people, I can’t say I miss my phone ringing at 5:30 in the morning because someone can’t find something at basecamp.”
Karen’s move to Starz was met with a lot of support from the Coordinators and Drivers she had worked with over the years.
“They were really glad for me. I learned everything I know from them and I know part of the reason I am here today is because of their wisdom and support.”
With such an extensive career thus far in the Industry, we wanted to know what advice Karen has for New Members embarking on a career in Transportation in the Entertainment Industry.
“My advice is no matter the position you are in, whether it be Driver, Mechanic, Captain, etc – learn everything you possibly can. And don’t be afraid to be wrong. Over the course of my career I have seen people be afraid to be wrong, which in turn held them back. Learn as much as you can from everyone. Sometimes it’s also just as important to learn what not to do as what to do.”
Karen continued by stressing the importance of not letting yourself get pigeonholed in Transportation. This advice especially rings true for women working in the Industry.
“Women make up a small percentage of Transportation Membership not only in our Local but also across the country. I have had conversations about this with New York and Atlanta where there are even fewer women in Transportation in the Industry, and they all drive vans. I have known a lot of great female Trailer Drivers, Stake Bed Drivers, Semi Drivers. My advice to women in our Industry is to be forthright and speak up about what you want to do. In my experience, women who work hard and are good at communicating what they want don’t stop working.”
At the end of the day, this advice goes for everyone in the Industry according to Karen.
“Make it known what you want and then look for those mentors that will help you get there. Don’t be afraid. Part of the fun is who you work with today might not be who you work with tomorrow. It’s all about relationships. If you feel like you aren’t getting the opportunity you need or you feel like you’re in a place where you’re not growing, keep looking. Someone out there will be willing to help you. Sure it can be intimidating, but keep looking.”
In closing Karen left us with one final piece of advice and words of wisdom to share, “Take the one-day call. You never know what it can turn into. Take whatever opportunity that comes your way.
“This business can be rough but the Union and its Membership have always been really good to me. I don’t believe you can have it all, but you can get pretty darn close. And honestly with all the support I have received in a career I “fell” into, I’m grateful to be where I am.”
Teamsters Local 399 Sister: Yvette Peterson
Teamster 20 Years
3rd Generation Teamster Yvette Peterson is another one of our talented and highly regarded Local 399 Drivers. Yvette’s Grandfather worked at Universal and her Father was a Coordinator up until his passing in 2000. Yvette also has a Sister that works as a driver in the Industry. Yvette knew from a very young age that she was determined to follow in her Father’s footsteps.
“When we had career day at school I always said I want to grow up and be like my dad and work in the Entertainment Industry as a Driver. Kids in school were more interested in hearing about what actors you got to meet. They only saw the glitz and glamor of it, which was funny to me.”
Yvette has always been a Driver since entering the Industry and prefers to set up and run the Basecamp on production, specifically hair and makeup trailers for actors or actresses.
“I do all the shopping for the trailers, clean them and I am there to fix them if something goes wrong. Something I have gotten really, really good at. Also, if the actors need to be shown how to do something simple like turn on the a/c or heater, I can help them with that. Basically, making sure basecamp is running smoothly and being able to help if need be.”
Yvette described that one of the best aspects of her job is not having to work in an office and getting to meet different people all the time.
“It’s always fun and having a good crew always makes it easier.”
Yvette’s certainly made a name for herself as a Driver and was recently requested by a prominent Actress to take care of her trailer on a production in Atlanta, GA.
“It would have been dumb of me not to take the job. She is an up-and-coming star and she works a lot. I just finished a show last week with her in Los Angeles.”
“I felt pretty accomplished that I made it through Atlanta and that I was requested specifically to be there. Especially since I hadn’t seen or spoken to that actress in 4 years. All of a sudden they called me out of the blue. Having a great reputation that gets you jobs with specific people years after working with them made me feel special and affirmed that I did my job well. I work to make everyone happy.”
Yvette’s humility and dedicated work ethic is impossible to miss. Her commitment to her work and the requirements of the job is one that she takes seriously to continue to make a good name for herself in the Industry.
“Being a Driver is more than just driving equipment – it’s about building relationships with those that are interacting with your equipment. It’s a very relational business. You should always be polite.”
When asked about any advice Yvette has for any new Members, she immediately responded with the necessity to be a strong willed and a determined person to succeed in this Industry.
“I can see that as a Group 3 you get discouraged because there is not a lot of work. Don’t get discouraged. It will come. Be strong. You have to have tough skin in this business.”
As for Women embarking on a career in this Industry, Yvette mentions that though she basically grew up in this industry and didn’t face too many issues when getting her start, it is important to not get intimidated. Yvette stressed the importance to come in and focus on doing the job you are hired to do.
“Be strong. And stand your ground. I am fortunate that I have had a team that has been so supportive.”
Teamster Local 399 Sister: Delya Campos
Dispatcher at Paramount
Teamsters >1 Year
Delya Campos has been working in the field of Transportation since 2007. She got her start on the Studio side working as a DOT Compliance Coordinator from 2007 – 2017. Delya describes the start to her career as just sort of falling into it. A family friend mentioned a job opening back in 2007 and over time what started as a job became an exceptional career that Delya has grown to love.
“I learned over my 10 years working in Transportation, that no two days are alike and I think that is what intrigues me. In this line of work every single day is going to be different and it’s always going to keep you on your toes. I have always been a person that likes to continually learn something new.“
Delya described her entry into the Entertainment Industry as coming in “completely green” not knowing what Transportation did, or what it entailed. At the time she was pursuing a career in education, however in her last semester of school she decided it was not direction she wanted to go.
“I was ready to be done with school and just start working. When I initially found out about the job opportunity, what drew me to it was the Entertainment industry. When you live in Los Angeles, the Entertainment Industry surrounds you. Just being a little part of the process of making TV & movies, however small it might be, is exciting. Now however I’m seeing that being in Transportation, even though it’s behind-the-scenes, it’s a large part of being able to produce TV & Features.”
Though she might have begun her career with little knowledge to the scope of the Transportation Department, it didn’t take her long to immerse herself in every aspect she could possibly learn.
“I just kind of went with it and threw myself into the deep end. As time went on, I realized that in this Industry, it is all about relationships and camaraderie between the people that you work with.”
Delya described herself as a person that always likes to learn something new and that this field of work has allowed her to not only constantly educate herself, but has also provided the opportunity to educate those she is working with about what is going on in the Industry within the Transportation Department.
“One thing that I take pride in is whether it’s Drivers or other DOT Administrators I have trained over the years, some will come back to me and will tell me, ‘I took some of the information that you gave me and applied it to this one production I was working on and people asked me where I learned this or got my information from and I tell them I found out from you!’ For me that is really cool because I take pride in seeing someone learn and grow.”
Even though Delya has had an extensive career working in Transportation, it was just this past December that Delya started her Dispatching position as a Permit and she achieved her 30 days by the beginning of February 2018. Delya is currently working as a Dispatcher at Paramount and handles the DOT Compliance side of things, making sure they are in compliance with State and Federal Regulations, as well as making sure the Drivers they employ are well educated on what they need to do when they travel and are operating under Paramount’s DOT number.
“I had been working at another Studio for the past 10 years, primarily handling all of their DOT Compliance. That was a corporate job. I was fortunate enough that a job at Paramount for a Dispatcher opened up and Frank Tardino, the Executive Director of Paramount Transportation, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, especially knowing what a strong Union Local 399 is. When I think of Teamsters, I think of a broader sense of collaboration. One of the things I heard from people and Drivers I have worked with over the years was how supportive and excited they were for me when they found out I was able to become a Dispatcher and a Teamster. I was very grateful for that. I felt that not only from those around me but also the guys I work with now in the Paramount Office.”
It’s a small team at Paramount that runs the Dispatching Department. Delya, Anthony Ventrella, Daniel Razo and Paramount Shop Steward Micah Small work together in the office. Delya describes her team as a great balance. The guys have been able to teach her a lot about the vehicle side of things, such as different types of equipment, scheduling, rentals, and how to look up equipment and she has been able to share her extensive knowledge about DOT compliance.
“A typical day varies. For the most part it is fielding phone calls from Productions to make sure we have specific equipment. Talking with different Productions that Paramount oversees. Making sure paperwork is in order. And if we have any missing paperwork, we reach out to the DOT Administrator assigned to Production to see when we can expect that paperwork to be turned in. If there are any issues with Production or if they are falling behind, we will get in touch with that office to see if we can assist in anyway. This job is all about flexibility.”
Outside of being flexible when it comes to being a Dispatcher, Delya mentioned this job is also based in large part on collaboration and the relationships you build, not only with your co-workers but also all people that work in production – such as Drivers, Coordinators and Captains.
“One thing I pride myself on is building relationships where people can feel comfortable to ask questions or help problem solve a situation. I always tell Drivers or DOT Administrators on a show that I would much rather they feel comfortable to ask for any clarification then do something wrong or be confused. There are no silly questions.”
The move to Dispatcher at Paramount was another way to continue to grow professionally and give herself a new challenge to tackle.
“A Dispatcher was something I was really excited about not only because I could be part of a really strong Union and I would get good benefits and obviously the pay but it was also an opportunity to grow as a professional and learn the different aspects of transportation that I wouldn’t have learned or been exposed to before. That was the main driving force for me – how can I learn more and grow more.”
Delya herself is a relatively new Local 399 Member. With extensive experience in the Entertainment Industry in the field of Transportation, she is no stranger to observing that this field tends to have more men than women. However Delya says she doesn’t really think too much about that. Though she mentioned she would love to see more female Drivers and continue to see more opportunities for women to embark in this field of work, she mentioned she always gets excited whenever she gets to work with strong women in the Transportation Department. For Delya, the bottom line is it’s all about being a hard worker.
“I have always looked at the Drivers in the Entertainment Industry as hard workers. They put in extremely long hours. I think as long as you put your best foot forward, you are a hard worker and try to learn as much as you can to help production run smoothly, that is how you make it in this Industry.”
“For the most part, all the Drivers I have worked with over the years have been very respectful of me and even when I made the switch to Dispatcher at Paramount, all the Drivers were very supportive and excited. One thing that I see about this Local is that our Members are supportive of one another. Even with the guys I am working with currently, I am the only girl in the office but the guys I work with have been so supportive and so mindful to make sure I am included and comfortable and transitioning well.”
Delya’s experience, work ethic and ability to support and work well with everyone she meets has brought her to her role today at Paramount. When she speaks of her accomplishments, her humility is genuine yet her strength and confidence in the career path she has chosen to embark on is undeniable.
We are grateful to Kim, Karen, Yvette and Delya for taking the time to speak with us. Sharing stories and experiences is how we all learn and grow from one another in the Motion Picture Industry. As a Union, we are a family. Our Teamster Sisters in Transportation are some of the best in the business, and every piece of advice shared will help to empower and grow our Membership to continue to reflect the reputation of hard working, strong and determined Brothers and Sisters that are Driving the Entertainment Industry forward each and every day. As all of our Teamster Sisters mentioned, moving forward in this Industry takes strength, determination and hard work. Identifying those around you that can help bring you forward in your career is essential in this Industry. Teamsters Local 399 is continually working to offer classes that help our Membership grow in their skillset and connect with other Members to facilitate more of those opportunities to learn and grow with one another.