Cinematographers far and wide have come to know the name “Local 600” – but what is IATSE Local 600? What does it mean? Why does it sound like a spy syndicate? Well, we’re going to answer those questions (at least most of them anyways) by exploring the history of Local 600. We’re also going to examine how specialty technicians can join Local 600. By the end, you’ll know all the nuts and bolts regarding Local 600.


What is IATSE Local 600?

Local 600 is the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG) of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). IATSE Local 600 was formed in 1996 to combat wage-deprivation by producers. IATSE Local 600 is often referred to interchangeably as Local 600, IATSE 600, ICG 600, and 600 camera union.


Who Is Eligible to Join IATSE Local 600?

  • Film Loaders
  • Video Controllers
  • Camera Operators
  • Still Photographers
  • Directors of Photography
  • First or Second Assistants
  • Other Technical Specialists

International Cinematographer’s Guild Background

Breaking down the history of Local 600

In the 1920s, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees set up camera-worker union Locals representing three regions: the “East office” in New York (Local 644), the not-so-accurate “Midwest office” in Chicago (Local 666), and the “West office” in Los Angeles (Local 659).

For ~70 years, the three regional Locals operated as separate arms of the same body. But in 1996, the Locals were united by IATSE President Thomas C. Short under the umbrella of the Local 600 union. 

IATSE 600 guarantees union-member camera specialists the right to work anywhere in the United States and Puerto Rico. 

In the 21st century, IATSE 600 has come to represent publicists, specialty technicians, technologists, and more, in addition to camera crew-members.

ICG 600 Membership Requirements

How to join Local 600

How does one join the Local 600 union? Well – as is the case with most unions/guilds in Hollywood – not easily. Local 600 requires some stringent requirements to be considered for membership. Check out this video on “how to join Local 600,” then we’ll formally outline the steps.

How to Join the International Cinematographer’s Guild Local 600 by James Marin

Anybody and everybody who works with cameras can apply to ICG 600. In recent years, there’s been a push to add drone pilots and new tech (VR/AR) specialists too. 

Here are the steps for joining ICG Local 600:

  1. Follow the regional guidelines; ICG Local 600 may be an “international” organization – but it’s still regionalized. Weird, I know. The good news is that each regional office recommends contacting first. So start with first-contact, either through phone or e-mail.

  2. For the West office of Local 600 (Hollywood), you must apply to the Industry Experience Roster (IER). To be placed on the Roster, you must prove 30 days of union work within a one year period immediately preceding the date of the application and 100 days of non-union work within a three year period immediately preceding the date of the application.

  3. Contact Contract Services – Contract Services handles the application paperwork.

  4. Upon approval, you must pay a one-time initiation fee. The fee is not listed on the IATSE Local 600 website. Expect to pay at least $5,000.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you: there are a lot of benefits to joining Local 600, including medical insurance, retirement, overtime pay; travel, housing, and per diem for location shoots, contract safety/health protections, and union, legal representations – but the requirements to join are rooted in an archaic system. 

Many people (rightfully) ask: how do I get union credits if I’m not in the union? Great question. To earn union credits, you have to be brought in by a producer or agency director. It may be world-weary to say – but if history has taught us anything, it’s that people in positions of power tend to abuse power. I’m not saying everybody has bad intentions, but some people have bad intentions; and the system that supports the initiation process is ripe for misconduct. 

Don’t let that fact discourage you though; just be mindful that it exists.


A Complete Guide to Film Unions

Want to see how Local 600, aka the Cinematographers Guild stacks up to other movie unions? Check out our next article where we break down everything there is to know about movie unions, from the ATA to the Director’s Guild. By the end, you’ll know all the movie unions and their histories.

Up Next: Movie Unions Explained →
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  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

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