‘More than just a paycheck’: The people behind Emerson’s Equipment Distribution Center

Students+checking+out+equipment+at+Emersons+EDC.+

Photo: Madison Murillo

Students checking out equipment at Emerson’s EDC.

By Adri Pray, Assistant Express News Editor

Though the Equipment Distribution Center is often a source of frustration for film students at Emerson, for its student workers it is something more—a place for social gathering, and for tuition relief.

The center only works with four full-time members of staff, with the other nearly 50 employees consisting solely of student employees.

Junior visual and media arts major Tess Meersman works as a fulfillment and inventory supervisor at the EDC. She said that the center has proven to be a great resource for her during the past four semesters.

“I did not know a lot about equipment coming [to Emerson]…and I needed a job because I have to pay tuition,” Meersman said. “I saw the EDC and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ Not only can I have money to pay rent and tuition, but I can get better at what I’m trying to do and I can learn more about our equipment—which will definitely help me more in the long run.’”

Along with gaining field experience, Meersman said she’s found community within her field—coworkers, students, professors and management alike from her involvement with the center.

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“I’m always learning something new and I really love the people I work with,” she said.  

No stranger to networking within the EDC’s curated clientele, many of the sets Meersman’s worked on have belonged to “friends at work.” Her current roommates and many of her friends all come from the EDC, too.

“We do our work, but we also have a lot of fun talking to each other,” she said. “I’ve signed up for classes because some of my coworkers are in them.”

Katie Dhosi, a junior writing, literature and publishing major, joined the EDC team during her first year at Emerson as a VMA major. Though she has since changed her major, she said her job at the EDC allows her to continue to pursue her passion for filmmaking and broaden her social circle. 

“The biggest thing EDC has done for me is allow me to expand the people I meet,” Dhosi said. “I’ve been able to read people’s scripts for them, help with anything editing…the social aspect has been really good to get out of the cliquiness of your major and be able to communicate with other people.”

Senior VMA major Marc Fitch said he couldn’t imagine his Emerson experience without the lessons of the EDC. 

“I have a roommate who works at Tatte and makes a ton of money in tips, and they’re like, ‘Why don’t you work at Tatte and make tip money?’” he said. “The truth of the matter is the experience of work at EDC is super beneficial, and more than just the paycheck. I’ve learned so much.”

The guidance of the EDC management team and his coworkers propelled Fitch easily through navigating new equipment, educating him outside of the classroom.

“I did not know anything when I first got to the EDC,” he said. “I remember when I was a new person, there was some crazy smart employees who taught me a lot.”

Despite the strong incentives for working at the EDC, sophomore VMA major Tony Chen acknowledged that the equipment renting process can be difficult for students who don’t get the classes they expect—and thus are limited in the equipment that they can check out.

Other students cite the paperwork that goes with obtaining equipment as a process plagued by disorganization and confusion. 

Citing ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, complicated instructions, and constant anxiety that his paperwork would be rejected, first-year VMA major Hayden Bandes said that going through the EDC made filmmaking “a lot harder than ever.”

Fellow first-year VMA student Nikki Emma reported similar difficulties with paperwork.

“They don’t want people to use the equipment you’re not supposed to use,” she said. “But I feel there should be a simpler process for films that are really short for classes that aren’t anything dangerous.”

However, Bandes clarified that it was the process itself that was the issue, not the EDC itself.

“The EDC’s sole purpose is to maintain the gear and make sure that we can get it—anything that you might have heard about it being really difficult, that’s not their fault,” he said.

EDC Manager Jake Nadeau said students and faculty influence which equipment is replaced each summer, based on the budgetary needs of each department. The EDC works with the heads of the VMA Department, as well as the School of Communication, in order to decide what fits best within the confines of the curriculum.

“We respond to both faculty and student requests for new equipment,” Nadeau said. “We synthesize that into what is within that department’s budget and what would best serve both the curricular needs of the faculty and the curriculum to the students.”

As a center that “functions in the background,” the EDC is expanding into the School of Communication and performing arts programs as well, Operations Manager Damon Blankenship said, and a lot of that wouldn’t be possible without the support from student employees.

“It seemed this place could be a sanctuary for them and they seem to like coming here and working with each other and feeling safe,” he said.