John LeGrande - VIDEO TECHNICIAN
Where are you currently employed?
American Film Institute (AFI) as Media Services Coordinator.
We’re always working on a number of projects every day, and the one I’m working on at any given moment is usually my favorite.
Describe Your Job.
My job is to supervise the media services staff, which means making all the assignments and making sure the presenters don’t have to worry about anything. What we do here is all about post but, ironically, there’s no editing. It’s all about creating the optimal presentation. On a daily basis, I make sure all the film and video projectors –– from 16mm film to 4K digital –– are maintained and ready to go.
How did you become interested in this line of work?
I came to Los Angeles 35 years ago to become an actor, and began working at AFI part-time. Soon, I began to notice what the guys in projection were doing, and it seemed like the most interesting job there, and I was moved into that department. And I liked making movies better than I liked acting.
What was your first union job?
We were a non-union shop when I came, so we organized our unit with the projectionists’ local. We were later absorbed by sound local 695, then 700. When the projectionists went back to 695, we asked to stay with 700, because we felt they better represented what we do.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
We have a finger in so many projects, it’s hard to think of any one or two.
What was your biggest challenge in your job and how did you overcome it?
At AFI, my job is to find the best path to get to a desired result, determine what we need and how we need to go. On one occasion, a filmmaker wanted to shoot a project in Super-16mm so he could do a film transfer and post on video––but he wanted to look at Super 16mm dailies.
The problem was that Super-16 is not a projected format; it’s a shooting format only and there is no such thing as a Super-16 projector. I began an extensive search procedure, and found a person in Canada who was able to make the necessary modifications to an existing projector.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
One of the great things about this job is not only doing different things every day, but the people I run across in my daily life are remarkable. Not only is AFI a conservatory-type school, but it is also a production company where we create a lot of TV specials, such as the AFI Life Achievement Award or AFI’s 100 Movies, in addition to all the student films. So I get to meet and work with not only great filmmakers who come to lecture and screen, but also the teaching staff, which includes filmmakers-in-residence such as editor Donn Cambern A.C.E., screenwriter Gill Dennis and cinematographer Stephen Lighthill, ASC.
Not only that, we at AFI have a unique tie to the industry that gets us access to a lot of new equipment before it gets to the marketplace. For example, we were among the first to get to do shakedown runs with the RED camera. These relationships enable us to stay on the front lines technologically.
Job-wise, what do you hope to be doing five years and ten years from now?
Continue to figure out how to give filmmakers new ways to present their creative visions.
The Elephant Man (David Lynch is amazing); Apocalypse Now (almost a perfect movie); The Godfather.
Favorite TV Program(s)?
Currently? Lost. Previously? Rome and Six Feet Under.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Hang out with people at AFI or at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I just like knowing they have my back.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members?
It’s an honor to be in your company! Whether we like it or not, the economy is affecting everyone’s jobs, so we have to find new ways to work smarter with fewer people. That’s a huge challenge.
- Compiled by Michael Kunkes