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Eastman Kodak is trying to fill jobs...for film manufacturing

A public meeting will be held Oct. 23 on a proposed plan to clean up areas that Eastman Kodak polluted decades ago.
Emily Hunt
for WXXI News
Eastman Kodak headquarters building on State St. in Rochester, NY.

Eastman Kodak is hiring. And it might not be for jobs that you would expect need to be filled.

Kodak officials say they need workers who can help manufacture film, specifically 35mm film used by both professionals and amateur photo enthusiasts.

Film is obviously a legacy product in a digital world, but Nagraj Bokinkere, Vice President of Industrial Films and Chemicals at Kodak, said it has seen a resurgence in the last few years.

The film is made at Eastman Business Park in Rochester, and Bokinkere said in an interview with WXXI News that they’ve already hired about 350 people in the film manufacturing area since 2021; some of those workers are taking new positions, others are replacing retirees.

“A few short years ago in the film finishing operation, that was a 40 hours-a-week type operation, that was the capacity we had that was adequate to meet the demand,” said Bokinkere. “But now we’re at 24/7. That’s a (four times) increase in that capacity in that step, which is still not enough to catch up with the demand.”

Kodak currently has 75 openings in its film manufacturing operations, and the company is looking to fill various kinds of jobs, particularly those in the skilled trades.

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As Kodak loses some of those former employees who had been involved in making film for a long time, and are retiring, Kodak is working to train up the new hires.

“It’s a nice mix we have right now, of experienced folks and newer folks entering our manufacturing force. So we are working to get the newer folks trained to manufacture film which is a complicated process,” said Bokinkere.

Eastman Kodak has seen a resurgence in demand for 35mm film used by both professional and amateur photographers.
Eastman Kodak
Eastman Kodak has seen a resurgence in demand for 35mm film used by both professional and amateur photographers.

As far as why 35mm film has started to take off, Bokinkere said that one reason may be younger amateur photographers who like what they may perceive as a retro-type product.

“Similar to other analog technologies like vinyl, there is an interest in analog technologies. It is those new entrants that are exploring film as a technology that’s driving the 35 millimeter format,” said Bokinkere.

Kodak also still makes motion picture film, which some directors and cinematographers prefer over digital. Film is not a major revenue driver for Kodak, but it is part of their overall mix of products, including advanced materials and chemicals. Kodak has also focused on commercial printing and packaging in recent years.

And the technologies that Kodak developed over the years making film, like the coating process, is now being used by the company as they branch out into the advanced materials segment, for products like batteries and light blocking technologies for fabrics.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.