Camera Ambassador expands with a pair of grip trucks

A crew prepares for a shoot

A crew prepares for a shoot

A 5-ton GMC and
a 3-ton Ford are
the most recent additions
to the Chicago-based,
multifunctional
vendor and
production partner

Camera Ambassador added a pair of grip trucks to its rental inventory this summer.

Both of the vehicles in the new fleet — a 5-ton GMC and a 3-ton Ford — were customized by founders Erica Duffy and Brandon Werlin before officially becoming part of the company line. Together, they complete CA’s mission “to get everything under one roof,” says Duffy.

“Every client that has rented the truck has also gotten the rest of their equipment from us: camera, gear, crew, truck,” she continues. “The crew will come into the studio and prep the camera package while the gaffers and grips prepare the truck and the producers and director have a production meeting. When they leave the building, they’re all together and they have gotten everything they’ve needed.”

To sweeten the deal, Camera Ambassador is discounting 50% of the truck rental cost for clients who rent an accompanying cinema bundle camera package.

The GMC came from LA, where the title listed Walt Disney Studios as the most recent owner. On the outside, it’s equipped with jockey boxes and a hydraulic lift gate. Inside, it comes with durable Backstage carts on wheels loaded with gear. Up front, there’s automatic transmission and hydraulic seats in a six-passenger cab.

“We a-la-carte built the entire thing and bought all the carts, lights, flag, rigging and everything else that goes with it,” says Duffy. “Everything is housed in the truck in Backstage carts to allow loading or unloading to be completely done in under fifteen minutes. Time is money on-set and this is a huge time saver.”

The 3-ton was designed with indie filmmakers in mind and, according to Duffy, “drives like a U-Haul.”

“It’s a little smaller and more manageable for a crew that’s a little more rogue,” she adds.

Since founding Camera Ambassador in 2014, Duffy and Werlin have grown from an equipment rental business into a multifunctional vendor and frequent partner to productions around the country.

Inside Camera Ambassador
Inside Camera Ambassador

Located in a 6,000 square-foot former motorcycle shop near Cinespace Studios, the company hosts industry events, leases studio space, recommends and assembles crews, and offers training and workshops; all this in addition to renting gear and the means for transporting it.

The company’s “Iron Sharpens Iron” series occurs twice a month. During Feedback Sessions every last Wednesday, filmmakers present projects and receive feedback from peers in attendance, and they often return for more as things progress. At Workshops every second Saturdays, experts speak about topics like developing a script, acting for the camera, and operating a gimbal.

September’s calendar makes way for the CineTech VIP Welcome Party on Friday the 7th. A warm-up to one of the Midwest’s most popular annual gear-centric blowouts, the event gives industry experts a chance to party before spending the next day hosting seminars, providing demos, and answering questions at nearby Cinespace Studios. The occasion will generate a lot of networking opportunities, which is another Camera Ambassador specialty.

“Everyone who knows about us found out about us through some sort of personal connection,” says Duffy. “ We are very active in engaging and participating with our community on every level.”

Before launching the business, Duffy worked as an orthopedic nurse in Vermont and Brandon ran a company that bought and sold musical instruments in California. They met in San Francisco, moved to Chicago, and turned their collective knack for helping people and dealing technology into a business.

The Camera Ambassador team
The Camera Ambassador team

Initially, the company dealt in camera sales, but the founders switched the focus to rentals “for that community aspect,” Duffy explains.

“Selling, we’d ship to Australia or Texas and never hear from the buyer again,” she says. “We wanted to be involved and, as we got deeper and deeper into it, we realized that we wanted to make our own content.”

As they grew more involved, Duffy realized that she was “a producer at heart.”

“I went into the medical field because people are my passion,” she recalls. “Producers combine that people skills with communication, and collaboration.”

After working on a number of commercials and music videos, she signed on last year as producer for Chicago-based writer and director Logan Stone’s feature, Noise and Color.

Exciting, no doubt, but it’s still not the biggest thing to emerge from Camera Ambassador over the past twelve months: Duffy and Werlin were married this summer in Thailand. They closed up shop for two weeks and took the entire team along to celebrate.

As their slogan says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

 
NOISE AND COLOR TRAILER

To learn more about Camera Ambassador, click here.
 

Send your film news updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, dan@reelchicago.com.

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