With Republic of Zoom, DGA Members Continue Fellowship During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Republic of Zoom

November 23, 2020

When the hands-on business of the film and television production became mostly hands-off due to physical distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic, some enterprising DGA AD and UPM members viewed the new paradigm of digital meetings as a perfect opportunity to build a stronger DGA community.

Republic of Zoom was the virtual continuation of a group of AD/UPMs that met informally to talk shop and drink coffee in pre-COVID times. When the pandemic began, 1AD John Mattingly and others realized that with today’s technology, members could connect in the virtual space. “I sent out a link and said, ‘We're going to zoom tomorrow,’ and 12 people showed up and we talked for maybe two hours,” recalled Mattingly. “The next week 20 people showed up and the next week it was 58 people.”

It quickly became clear that this virtual meeting would require structure and planning. Mattingly and his DGA compatriots, 1st ADs Xochi Blymyer, Jason Brown, Bruce Humphrey and 2nd ADs Joe Moore and Jessica Faires McGinn put their heads together to build a program that could be replicated week after week. Western AD/UPM Council Chair Linda Montanti and the steering committee subsequently made this a committee under the Council.  

DGA executives would regularly provide Guild updates to inform the group on a range of issues, including Signatories, HIPAA Law and the Field Rep program. Assistant Executive Director Steven Knauss and Associate National Executive Director Bryan Unger reported on the Guild’s Return to Work Agreement. Special guests were a regular feature of Republic of Zoom. Industry colleagues presented on the DGA-Producer Pension & Health Plans and the Training Program, and we heard from an entertainment insurance broker, a mental health therapist and a crisis management strategist from the Army, and we received medical expertise from Dr. Otto Yang, a pioneering infectious disease researcher, Dr. Michael Osterholm from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and Dr. Meagan Fitzpatrick, an infectious disease modeler, who delivered sobering and solid information from the front lines on what science knew and what it did not.

The attendees also heard from an international panel of 1st ADs representing Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Czech Republic, the UK and the US, that spoke about the Health Safety Supervisor position and how it is used around the world. One entire episode was an implicit bias workshop where hundreds of members around the country and world had real conversations about race, ethnicity and the state of our industry and Guild. A portion of each of the later episodes was devoted to members who had already returned to work and would share best practices and what they learned.

“We tried out best to cover all of the bases and address any topic that could help out members get back to work safely or simply educate them about our current situation,” recalled Mattingly.

As the word spread, the attendance burgeoned with members from 39 States and at least 17 countries. Over the 27 episodes, 1500 different DGA members joined in with nearly 800 attendees at their largest meeting. The organizing group was joined by 1st ADs Derrick Doose from Atlanta and Shawn Pipkin-West from Los Angeles and 2nd ADs Crystal Munson from Austin, TX and Dana Zolli from New York, NY to help keep things running smoothly.

“From the very beginning, Republic of Zoom was DGA members helping each other, truly supporting each other and happy to do so,” recalled Mattingly. “It was a place where members could find out the latest information from doctors and DGA Staff, but it was also a place for community and friends. We tried to cultivate both intentionally. I loved how willing so many members were to help someone they didn’t even know. They knew that sharing of information would advance the individual and that would advance the Guild and that would advance the industry. Total strangers from around the world became friends. During a pandemic when members are out of work and away from family and friends, Republic of Zoom was able to at least a little, fill the void that was left."

In an online tribute video put together by some of the grateful participants, it is evident what these Republic of Zoom sessions have meant during this unprecedented time. To view the highlight reel from this video please visit: http://tribute.republicofzoom.com

For more about Republic of Zoom contact DGA Assistant Executive Director Steven Knauss or email ADUPMWest@dga.org