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October 09, 2014

Profile: The man behind the scenes

Teamsters Local 727 member Philip Gutowsky works on the set of “Sense 8,” a science fiction series that will debut on Netflix next year.

Profile: The man behind the scenes

A major film or television production has its stars, its directors, and the other members of the Screen Actors Guild, sure. They get credit and recognition at high profile events like the Academy Awards. But what about the union workers who make it all possible away from the camera lens?

Teamsters Local 727 member Philip Gutowsky said he and his co-workers operate behind the scenes a lot of the time, making sure the production runs smoothly. A great job often means people don't know they are there.

“We get here before everyone else at 4:30 in the morning and set the whole thing up. We have to be here first for the whole operation to work,” he said. “People don't see a lot of the work we do because we do it before they get here, or after they've left.”

Gutowsky has been a Teamster since 1990, and he's in charge of delivering the big white trailers to film and television sets throughout the city, trailers such as hair and makeup, craft services, wardrobe, restrooms, and the personal trailers of the stars.

He's also in charge of driving actors and actresses to the sets, making sure generators and propane heaters are topped off with fuel, and generally smoothing over any ripples that come up with having a dozen film trailers on a closed set in a large city. It's a large skill set that proves he's an essential union asset to any film production.

Film and television business has been booming over the last five years in Chicago, with tax credits bringing large productions such as the “Transformers” movies and the Christopher Noland-directed “Batman” franchise. In July of this year, Gutowsky worked on the new Andy and Lana Wachowski project, “Sense 8,” a science fiction series that will debut on Netflix next year.

He said he likes his job because he gets to meet new people and see new things every day, with ever-changing locations and challenges. The actors seem to like Chicago as well.

“People in the Midwest are nice. It's more laid back than Los Angeles, and you don't get the paparazzi effect as much,” he said. “I think they appreciate that.”

He's laid back as well. Gutowsky was chosen for his specific job of interacting with Hollywood stars because of his friendly demeanor and ability to get along with anyone. He started his career working security at Poplar Creek Music Theater and worked his way up from there, driving vans and earning his commercial driver’s license.

“I've been around rock stars since I was in high school. It's just another day; I'm just here doing my job,” said Gutowsky.

Another cool part of the job is the perks, of course – like seeing blockbusters being made right before his eyes, and even bringing his 12-year-old son to work for a day.

“He got to sit in one of the “Transformers” movie cars. So that was pretty cool,” said Gutowsky.

Notable movie favorites he worked on are “Baby’s Day Out,” which was one of the first films Gutowsky crewed, and “Dennis the Menace,” the 1993 live action film directed by Chicago native John Hughes.

“Hughes was a really nice, genuine guy, and of course he knew his way around Chicago,” he said.

With all that hard work comes equal rewards from the union.

“I'm always grateful to be in a union. You can count on a paycheck every week for your family. People are there to represent you, and you feel like you have a voice, like you have a family. It's great,” said Gutowsky.

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