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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California




As the war in Iraq unfolded, members of the below-the-line community wondered whether any of the reservists over there were from the industry. The answer is yes, at least one. His name is B. Sean Fairburn, a cinematographer and camera operator.
According to George Palazzo, Chair of the Motion Picture Health and Pension Plan, as of April 3 the Plan had two notices on file from crew people notifying the Plan of their active reservist status. Both are from the Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600). However, Guild President George Spiro Dibie and other officials there said they knew of only one member on active duty: Fairburn, who holds the distinction of being the only confirmed reservist in Iraq among approximately 40,000 union crew members covered by the Plan. (There may be reservists among the 5,000 or so crew who do not belong to the Plan, and there may be reservists in the Plan who have not given notice.)
Fairburn is in Iraq doing what he does best: shooting hi-def video. His title is HD Combat Camera Team leader, and his rank is Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the U.S. Marine Corps. His mission is to lead two four-man camera teams “wherever the conflict takes us,” according to an email he sent shortly before leaving on March 3.
Hi-def has several advantages when shooting in extreme circumstances, says John Keesee, Director of High Definition Services for rental house Bexel in Burbank. He said the equipment is lighter and less vulnerable to dust than film cameras and film canisters, that each cassette can hold 50 minutes of footage, and that hi-def is cheaper, does not require developing, and rivals film in resolution and overall quality.
Fairburn’s wife Amy says the footage will be used to produce a newsreel that she describes as “a Marine awareness thing.” It will be shown before features at Regal Cinemas. Sean has shot in hi-def for years, Amy says, and recently worked with director Robert Rodriguez on Once Upon a Time in Mexico, shot entirely on hi-def. He has also worked as cinematographer on several commercials in hi-def.
Fairburn’s history with the Army goes back even farther. Originally from New Orleans, he enlisted while still in high school. His father and uncle both served in the military, Amy says. He chose reserve duty for its freedom and flexibility.
Unlike some in other jobs who may suffer hardship and career challenges as a result of reserve service, crew members are well protected. Union officials confirmed that IATSE agreements freeze dues for reservists, continue benefits and entitle returning reservists to pick up where they left off.
The real hardship is emotional. When first interviewed, Amy had not heard from her husband for several days. They have three children, ages six, four, and two, and Amy is pregnant with number four.
However, she has been hearing from everybody else. Guys from Local 600 call to check on her, and one of them came out to fix a wind-damaged fence at the family’s home in Castaic. Other wives offer to watch the kids. A group of women from the Fairburns’ church brought dinner and offered to babysit while Amy went to the doctor for her maternity checkups. In addition, several rental houses offered discounts on Sean’s camera equipment.
When they were engaged he served in the First Gulf War, Amy says. His assignment then was more dangerous—he manned the radio with a reconnaissance unit—but he was able to send letters regularly. This time he had no cell phone, no computer, no email access, and no FPO address.
“I know he can handle himself in any kind of situation he gets into,” she said. “I know he’s OK, but it would be nice to hear from him.”
A few days later she got her wish. Fairburn returned home in late April.

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