Category Archives: Video Assist Operator

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My name is Jonathan Kobs. I am a video assist operator in the film and television industry in Massachusetts. My great-grandfather was one of the founding members of the Local 4 — the Elevator Operators Union — and planted his roots in Massachusetts in the early 1900s. My grandfather was the stationmaster on Bennett Street in Harvard Square throughout his entire professional career. They established roots in Belmont in the middle of the 20th century. My mother’s father was an accountant for Stone & Webster, one of the largest accounting firms in Boston at the time, and started his family in Waltham in the 1940s. My mother is one of six children who were born in Waltham, and my father is one of three children born in Belmont, most of whom all still live in Massachusetts.

This is my family — they are Massachusetts. Hardworking families that have lived and worked in the state since the start of the 20th century. I graduated from Boston University in 2006, with a master’s of science in film and television production. I lived in Cambridge, Arlington, and Somerville during the early years of my career, and I worked hard at learning the ins and outs of production at places like Fenway Park and WGBH, in an attempt to grow within this profession. Because the industry has been thriving here for the last decade, and because the tax incentive made it a viable option for production companies to come to town to make movies, I was able to grow my career here.

I stayed here because of my family and the consistent opportunity to move forward within my career. I met the love of my life in Davis Square. Fast forward five years, and I am now a successful video assist operator with a beautiful wife, two wonderful children and a three-bedroom cape in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. This is home.

Without the tax incentive, I’ll be forced to uproot my family from where it’s been for over a century and move to a state that understands how important an incentive like this is to the economy in their state — an incentive that calls to production companies and allows the arts to thrive. Without this incentive, there will be no jobs. And hundreds, if not thousands, of mothers and fathers will have to either terminate their careers … or move to other states to sustain them.

The incentive has to be a part of Massachusetts, not as bi-yearly debate, but as something that is concrete and part of the state’s basic functionality. The incentive is for families — not only my family, but thousand of families; families that live, work and breath Massachusetts. These families are Massachusetts. I am Massachusetts. Don’t take this away from us.

image1My wife and I grew up in Massachusetts. We were high school sweethearts. Our families and friends live here. Our three boys go to school here, our community is here, our lives are here.

I started working in the film and TV production industry in Massachusetts as a production assistant in 1998. In 2006, as a result of the film tax incentive being passed the year before, my career really took off. As a video assist operator, I set up monitors so that the director, producers, and other crew members can watch what is being filmed. I also use digital recording equipment so that I can play back any take, from the first day of shooting to the last.

Over the years, I have purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment that I rent to film and commercial production companies on each job that I work. Recently, I have been able to train and provide equipment for other video assist operators, so that if I am working on one job they can take my extra equipment to work on another job. This has provided both additional income for me and jobs for other Massachusetts residents. These jobs would have gone to operators from other states if I had not been able to grow my business. I would not have been able grow my business without the tax incentive bringing so many film productions to Massachusetts.

In 2013, my wife and I had saved enough money to buy a home in the town where we both grew up — our own place, right down the street from the elementary school where my wife has taught for the last 15 years. Without the film tax incentive, film production companies will choose to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars they currently spend in Massachusetts in other states.

Without those jobs, I and hundreds of other crew members will find it difficult — perhaps impossible — to make a living here. If the incentive goes, many of us will go with it. If I can’t continue making a living here, Massachusetts will lose not only the tax base from my salary, but also my wife’s — not to mention one of the best elementary school teachers in the state. We will be forced to look at uprooting our family, moving away from the friends, family, and community we love here, to a state like Georgia that has made their film tax incentive a permanent part of their budget. In Georgia, the incentive is not up for debate every few years. This has allowed the industry there to grow much faster than it has here. Instead of threatening to kill a growing industry that provides thousands of jobs and brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the state, we should be looking at ways to make the film tax incentive a permanent part of the tax code.

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