The LMGI Trailblazer Award recognizes an individual whose efforts and innovations elevate the status of location professionals. With the formation of ALSAM—the Association of Location Scouts and Managers—in 1982 and his continued stewardship, Karan managed to herd location cats in New York long before the internet and email.
Josh Karan works to promote change and make a difference. Literally. He got into the industry to make political films. Scouting provided the revenue for Public Issue Films, documentaries that “assist in the creation of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world,” one of which is introduced and narrated by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams.
Lucky for us, his passion for social change was so great that it spilled over into his location work.
His worldview was bequeathed to him by determined parents. His father, a progressive labor organizer in the ’40s and ’50s, worked to improve the corrupt Longshoreman’s Union on the Brooklyn docks; he went on to organize the exploited workers in the Bethlehem Steel Mills.
His mother taught Arlo Guthrie in nursery school and accompanied Woody Guthrie when he came into the classroom to try out new songs on the kids.
This legacy steeled him for work in the film industry where below-the-line workers are frequently denied their dignity and fair worth. Karan’s first film job confirmed this. Working as a production assistant, he made a resounding $25 per day, which entitled him to load trucks at four in the morning. He soon figured out that by promoting himself as a location scout, he could sleep until seven, triple his rate to $75, and work only 14 hours instead of 18.
Karan recalls, “At that time, scouts were a solitary bunch with Polaroid cameras. The advent of automated One Hour Photo processing, enabled us to become real photographers. We met at the labs, swapping information and griping about the unreasonable hours we had to work.”
Since he had experience building progressive organizations, he offered to preside over ALSAM, shaping its agenda and keeping meetings on point and on schedule. He was reelected for the next 20 years, eventually handing leadership over to a new generation. Under Karan’s presidency, ALSAM meetings became the focus for disseminating information. It became the industry liaison between New York municipalities and production, and subsequently gained the recognition, pay scales, and working conditions equivalent to the older, established crafts.
Years later, ALSAM bicoastal commercial scouts sought to organize to improve working conditions in Los Angeles. They joined with LA scouts who independently had the same realization. Together, they initiated the landmark relationship of LA commercial scout/managers with Teamsters Local 399. That in turn, led to the possibility of NY commercial scouts seeking a similar relationship with Teamsters Local 817. Collectively, these efforts have resulted in tremendous improvements in the pay and working conditions of commercial location professionals, as well as setting location performance standards which greatly benefited producers, as well as the location community.
Promoting change. Making a difference. The LMGI is proud to acknowledge location manager and scout Josh Karan with our 2018 Trailblazer Award!