We're ecstatic to announce our fearless leader, Erica Duffy, is now the sole owner of Camera Ambassador (CA)! This makes CA one of the very few woman-owned & operated rental houses in the country and the only one in the midwest. To celebrate the achievement and mark the new era, we sat down and asked Erica a few questions about what's to come. Enjoy!
CA: What does being the sole owner and now the only and fully woman-owned rental house in the midwest mean to you?
ED: Wow, that's a loaded question for me! First and foremost, it means that necessary and needed change within the film industry is happening. It has always been a goal of mine to forge a path for women in film. I think it's important to have women with decision-making power in leadership positions - not just in the film industry, but in the workforce as a whole. I am really proud of the work I've accomplished over the past 8 years since I got into the biz. There are only 3 rental houses nationwide that are owned and operated by women, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be one of them. Being the sole owner feels really amazing, but also scary and exhilarating. It's a lot of responsibility. Equipment is expensive and always changing. There's a lot to constantly stay on top of. I'm up to the task though and I truly can't imagine anything else I would rather be doing!
CA: What kept you grounded throughout the process? Especially going through the acquisition process during 2020-2021!
ED: This process and the entire year were really a test of self-trust. The last year has been really challenging for so many, and my heart really feels the weight of those around me. It was a constant roller coaster, but I can say looking back that I am so much stronger, know my values and worth, and sleep a little better at night. I wasn't always grounded through the process, but that's just how life works. You do what you can to get through and hopefully grow through the process.
I will say though, that I am supported and surrounded by some amazing people. There are countless moments that I can recall that without them I would have just crumbled. Having people around you that you can just fully let your guard down with is so important. Find your people, cherish them, hold them close, love them with all you've got because at the end of the day that's what matters.
The last thing I think worth mentioning is that I kept a close watch on who I am outside of Camera Ambassador. It's really easy to get lost in your work, especially in film as it's such a passion for a lot of us. I bought a house and did a complete gutted remodel that I was not only the designer on but the architect too. I got a new puppy, Cashew, who is continually showing me how to find joy in the simple things. I spent a lot of nights just playing games and coming up with creative ways to celebrate various occasions. I fell madly in love. I cooked lots of yummy meals. I rented a house on the beach in Mexico for 2 months. I learned new aerial silk routines. I laughed ... a lot! All of this was really important for me to stay grounded.
CA: In the near future, what are you most excited for in this next stage of CA & Chicago film?
ED: There's a lot I am looking forward to. But if I had to choose just one thing I am most excited about, it would be having a really well-oiled rentals team & tech team. It's taken us a long time to figure out processes, get organized, learn how we do or don't want to handle things, tune our vision, and find our groove. I can say with 100% confidence that we have never been stronger and that feels really, really good! Our rentals & tech team leads, Ellen & Eric are my ride or die and I couldn’t trust their skills and commitment to our clients more. If you’ve had the opportunity to work with either of them, then you already know!
CA: Where do you see CA going in next 5 years?
ED: Chicago film is about to go off! I've watched a slow and steady growth for the past 8 years, and I can tell it's about to get real crazy. Camera Ambassador is so fortunate to be able to be at the center of the scene here. Some of the plans I have brewing here at Camera Ambassador are, of course, more gear! Over the past year, it's been a huge focus to really elevate our equipment and our tech department. We have discontinued a lot of older gear and equipment that does not meet our new standards. We are also in the process of opening a not-for-profit wing under Camera Ambassador. That is really exciting for me because our community initiatives are a huge part of our mission. Our goal with our new wing is to really be able to elevate and serve our community to the greatest of our ability. We want to offer more gear sponsorship, expand on our Community Builders Grant, host more educational opportunities, facilitate mentorship, and provide jobs for this work.
CA: Ok, tell us your favorite Cashew story.
ED: Cashew is my 13-pound mini-golden doodle. I have literally thousands of favorite stories with her. She's such a good girl and is my little sidekick. Her name suits her well, as she really is a little nut. One of my memories with her is when I discovered that she can operate a zipper. When she was a young puppy she would sleep inside a little soft crate that zippered closed. I kept waking up to find her in my bed or hear her walking around in the middle of the night and I could not figure out how she was escaping. One night I put her to bed and then quietly listened to try and investigate my little Houdini. After about 10 minutes I heard little scratches, and then "zzzzzzzzz" and she had figured out how to perfectly put her paw on the inside of the zipper and pull down to unzipper it. She's a very smart dog and the way she uses her paws like they're hands always cracks me up.
CA: Any closing remarks?
ED: I just want to thank each and every single person who has helped me to get to where I am. I have been incredibly fortunate over the years to be surrounded by people that believed in me. Cheers to the past 8 years, and cheers to the next 8! I can’t wait to continue riding this wild ride alongside all of you! Work hard, play harder!