MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: DANA PERLMAN
Being a member of IATSE 891 for Dana Perlman has always meant being part of a community of people who love to uplift others.
Dana, a recently retired member of the 891 Accounting Department, is an avid volunteer for BC Children’s Hospital. She credits her time working in film for giving her the mentoring skills and work ethic that have allowed her to make a positive difference as a volunteer.
“The value of this Union community is the fact that they care. That's the part I love. You work hard. It's not glamorous. Sometimes it's very annoying, but there is, at its core, a very unique aspect of caring that I have seen over the years.”
Every time a show would wrap Dana would get a little sad. Even if, she admits, the work was sometimes frustrating – being pushed into an adrenaline-fueled high gear contending with last-minute changes – at the end of the day it was fun. Wrapping up meant saying goodbye to a tight-knit group that had helped make motion picture magic.
“We were always more than just members of an Accounting Department or members of the film. We were a community, and I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I often was sad when I left a show because that connection was over. It's like summer camp.”
“The fun is over, the community is over, and you have to go back and have a little bit of processing so that you can take what you've learned and go on.”
Dana’s career in film started when a production filming in Vancouver needed extra support with wrap. She never expected that helping out in the Accounting department would be such a rush.
“I did not believe accounting could be that non-stop energy and deadlines. I really enjoyed the people, the adrenaline, the using your brain that way. It was definitely a roller coaster from then on.”
Dana went on to work on numerous television shows, a few films, and got to travel to the Philippines for work. Starting out as a clerk trainee, she learned how to file and help with payroll, checking if timesheets matched production reports. She eventually became an assistant, but first took time off to finish a political science degree at the University of British Columbia. Without any accounting experience, she was mentored every step of the way.
“I've always worked in teams where you're not just hiding behind the numbers, you're interacting with the departments, interacting with other members of the film crew. I think in my post-film world those connections have helped in my volunteer work.”
WE SHOULD ALL BE PROUD OF HOW PEOPLE HELP EACH OTHER
Dana took the lessons she learned from her time in film, about the power of mentorship and building strong connections, into other aspects of her life. She worked her way up to being chair of the Auxiliary to BC Children's Hospital for several years before only recently stepping down.
A hospital might not be everyone’s setting of choice to spend free time but for Dana, it was the first place she thought of when she wanted to volunteer. Dana’s father and sibling were doctors, and when she was young, she’d spend time around the hospital hanging out with patients.
“I've always had a love of people, but mostly kids. After my partner died, I took some time off and I decided I wanted to volunteer, and the only call I made was to BC Children's Hospital and I started by volunteering in the ward.”
For several years, Dana would start her week off with Monday morning visits to the hospital. She took part in a program called Child Life, where volunteers play with kids in between treatments, and another program that offered support to people in the oncology ward, getting them coffee or just sitting with them so they’re not lonely. Starting the week off this way, by prioritizing care of others, she says, helped put things in perspective.
“It kind of just gets your head on in a different way when you see what the kids and the parents are going through. It was an amazing way to get centered.”
Recently, Dana found a way to deepen the connection between her work as a volunteer and a member of BC’s unionized film community. Over the summer of 2023, Dana helped lead the expansion of a thrift store, called Still Fabulous, that helps fund programs providing emotional and material support to children and families staying in hospital. The project required a gift shop on the hospital campus to be renovated. The Union and its members are who she turned to for help.
With support from IATSE 891 President Mitch Davies, and the work of 891 members who brought their skills, labour, tools and supplies, a new Still Fabulous thrift store opened its doors January 2024, inside the main entrance to BC Women's Hospital. She thanks 891 members Paul Burton, the IATSE 891 Assistant Manager of Facilities, and others, for all their work and support to make it happen.
“They brought in supplies, they painted the walls, they put the flooring in, they made the shelves, and even got curtains to make dressing rooms… They just did it so well, so kindly and so efficiently. I don't think anybody in the Auxiliary or the people that were working and saw it are used to this kind of professionalism and how quickly it was done. I was blown away and so proud to be part of this.”
“They did it with such kindness, such humour, and they just kept giving … My chest couldn't hold my heart to have a group that has been so good to me, both emotionally and financially, do this. It was amazing.”
The BC film community has come together in numerous ways to support. Many of the items in the thrift shop have been donated by productions at the wrap of shows, some donating months worth of clothing.
“The hospital is blown away by the gifts the Union gives us, and the members, and the shows, and it’s because they care. We can't thank people enough.”
“It's a nod to the Union and the film community in a really amazing way. Between the clothes donations and how members helped convert a gift shop into a thrift store, it's incredible. As members, we should all be proud of how people help each other.”
A GREAT THING TO DO IN LIFE – HELP PEOPLE SUCCEED
Dana has been a member of the Union for 30 years, and she still gets amazed to see the way people show up for each other.
In the spirit of wanting to see her BC film community continue to flourish, she envisions a future where the industry invests even more in mentorship and mental health.
Union members get access to comprehensive health benefits, including counselling. Calltime Mental Health, meanwhile, was started by film workers to offer resources specifically for people working in motion picture production. Dana would like to see even more support.
“I'd like to see a lot more mentoring on the show and off the show both work-wise and mental health-wise,” she says.
“I think that some more work could be done and it’s important not to wait for a crisis. I know that the Union offers therapeutic help, but I'm thinking more could be done at a production level. We have shop stewards, for example, so maybe it's another version of shop steward – a mental health steward.”
People looking out for each other is the core of being a union member and as the industry grows Dana hopes more people carry on the spirit of uplifting others.
“My closest friends, bar none, are from this industry. They never did anything other than to help me succeed… They wanted to help everybody succeed and potentially take their job from them. That meant a lot and I approached life that way.”
“I believe that's a great thing to do in life – you help people to succeed.”
Still Fabulous Thrift Store opened its doors January 2024 on the BC Women’s Hospital campus thanks to the work of IATSE 891 members and support of IATSE 891 President Mitch Davies. Proceeds from the store support hospital programs. Learn more about the Thrift Store, which also has a location on Main St., here.
Read more 891 Member Spotlights here! Help shine a light on other 891 members making BC’s motion picture community a great place to work. Email spotlight suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and visit Ourwork.ca for more on the benefits of joining the Union.