Out of Work from COVID-19, Hollywood Cameraman Uses Hiatus to Feed Over 400 Seniors

Scott Browner went from shooting "The Goldbergs" to being a lifeline to self-isolating seniors.
June 16, 2020
Scott Browner and crew.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the motion picture and television industry, camera operator Scott Browner found himself — like hundreds of thousands of people in Hollywood — out of work.

The Hollywood blackout interrupted the seventh season of the hit ABC comedy “The Goldbergs,” on which Browner had worked for the past five seasons. But even with a highly contagious virus sweeping the state and the nation, Browner wasn’t content to stay home — not when he could find ways to be of use.

“I’ve always prepared myself for slow periods, and I’m in better shape than some,” Browner told the Journal. “Sometimes I have volunteered during my hiatuses. It’s very rewarding to feel like you’re being useful.”

Browner registered with IATSE CARES, the assistance initiative of his union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Keeping things local, Browner has worked with the Thousand Oaks-based affordable-housing nonprofit Many Mansions.

When the call went out for volunteers from the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging (VCAAA), Browner stepped up. Since March, Browner, a Thousand Oaks resident, has been driving out to the VCAAA’s food pantry in Ventura, loading up his car with groceries, and turning back around to deliver the food to housebound area seniors. He also puts in regular shifts at the pantry, packing up boxes, assembly-line style for delivery to the more than 400 people whom the VCAA serves.

“Sometimes I have volunteered during my hiatuses. It’s very rewarding to feel like you’re being useful.” — Scott Browner

In addition to driving, and the physical demands of hauling and toting, the work involves coordinating with the seniors and making sure they are at home, awake and available to receive the food when it arrives. Many of the agency’s regular volunteers are themselves seniors, and several were not available in the early days of the COVID-9 outbreak for fear of putting their own health at risk.

The new crew of about 60 volunteers who have signed on since March has been invaluable, said Audrey Darrett, manager of the VCAAA’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program and overseer of the COVID-19 meal services delivery.

“He has been an amazing team player and really stepped up to help us out,” Darrett said of Browner. “I know his relationship with the agency has been strengthened. I don’t think he knew we existed before.”

A native of New York, Browner has worked on multiple TV and film projects since the late 1980s, including “Jurassic Park III” and “My Cousin Vinny.” He had steady work for multiple seasons on the show “Without a Trace.” In 2004, while he was still working on the show, his wife died of cancer, leaving Browner the sole parent of son Seth (age 9 at the time) and daughter Michaela (age 6 1/2.)

Scott Browner

Although both his parents were Jewish, Browner describes his upbringing as not being strongly religious beyond celebrating various holidays. But the traditions have come back with the next generation. “My wife … her mother was very traditionally Jewish and she was sort of my son’s Jewish mentor,” Scott said. “He has definitely reconnected with his Jewish heritage, and I’ve been going with him to some of the temples for various high holidays.”

Seth Browner now works at the Hillel house at UC Davis and his sister works at the New York nonprofit Global Citizen. Both have been able to work remotely and recently came back to Thousand Oaks for an extended visit, where their empty-nester father was happy to receive them.

As Hollywood starts to map out its reopening, Browner said the tentative plan is for “The Goldbergs” to resume production around Aug. 4. He expects to continue his work with the VCAAA until then.

“There is still a need. They’re still short of people,” Browner said. “I would encourage people to look into it.”

For more information and to volunteer, visit the website.

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