A Special Thanks To You

Steve Kaplan posts on fighting for to improve conditions in the VFX industry.

Last week I took some time to thank Michael Bay for campaigning for VFX workers and while the VES is having an awards ceremony to praise the top brass in the VFX industry, I and many others think all of you deserve praise.

You are all VFX Soldiers.

I write a lot about how bad things can be. Indeed, things are bad and the workers in our industry have a legitimate grievance. However, at the end of each day of work and at the end of every post I write on this blog I can say one thing that not many people can say these days:

I’m Making An Honest Living And Am Thankful For It

We make an honest living because we get paid to do something we love and we do it really well. That’s sort of the driving notion behind this blog and it’s initial post:

There are only two important things in living . . .
Finding out what you do well, and finding out what makes you happy.
And if God is smiling on you, they’re both the same thing.

(btw I’m not a religious person, that quote was direct from a movie)

It’s a rarity to have something special like that. So when that very idea comes under threat, I feel the need to rise and help defend it.

Making Money Can Be Dirty

However some of us choose to look the other way or ignore the problems altogether. We look at this profession like wearing a white tuxedo with obvious flaws.

Were so lucky to have this white tuxedo that we try to ignore the stains, the bad fit, and holes in it. So we compensate and try to cover up for those moments when it becomes too obvious: The unpaid OT, no health insurance, employer of record ripoffs, bad business model and on and on.

The truth is no matter how hard we try to make that honest living, there will always be moments where it’s going to get dirty. I’m reminded of this by a blogging entrepreneur’s post:

The process of making money can be torturous. I’m not good at dealing with people I don’t like. Pretending to like them. Paying their bribes. Listening to their stories. Laughing at their jokes.

I’m sure many of you know what this is like.

I remember tirelessly working in college at a restaurant when I had a bit of an epiphany:

If I’m willing to work this hard doing something I hate what if I worked this hard doing something I loved?

So my foray into the VFX industry began. The road was bumpy but it was a clean living, an honest living – or so I thought. Soon I was confronted with the issues I came to write about on this blog and like many of us I tried to ignore the issue.

However, what I realized was the very idea that gave me the reason to embark on this path was threatened. I wasn’t making an honest living anymore.

So I started this blog to air my conscience and from time to time I get this reaction:

“VFX Soldier, us VFX workers have it better than 90% of the world. If you got a problem with this industry you should just quit”

I understand that argument. Everyone is eating a shit sandwich and the expectation by some in the industry is that its our turn. I disagree. As bad as things are, we are the little guy with a lot of leverage. We just aren’t using it.

Today I think about the time I was in college when I was naive and had that epiphany. If I could give VFX workers the same advice I would have given myself back then it would be this:

Work hard doing something you do well and something you love, but most importantly, give it tough love.

What I mean by that is to not devalue yourself in the pursuit of being a VFX worker. When you see obvious flaws, do what you can to fix it and make it right.

Soldier On.

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11 Responses to A Special Thanks To You

  1. Dave Rand says:

    Thank you Steve, Jeff, and Soldier. I believe people are ready, especially those who have seen enough “battle time”. The modern world has given creativity enough importance that artists can make a living in larger numbers than ever before. The wonderful careers that we are fortunate to have are worth fighting for That very fight improves the quality of our lives and therefor the quality of our work. This will only benefit everyone, especially the studios who’s product can only be as good as the sum of its parts. Those who may have a different agenda, will soon see their influence weaken as the focus of this group is as inevitable as it’s rewards.

  2. Dave Rand says:

    If you can take a minute to drop this person a line. He’s writing a piece that will be seen by all the people that value your work. He needs artists to tell their stories of how creativity is being crushed by people that have no clue how to use the most valuable software in the industry…the minds of he artists. Stories of how the promotion of non creative environments, lifestyles, and business practices hurt the product and everyone’s experience.

    Write to: Richard.Verrier@latimes.com

    • Dave Rand says:

      Quick note… I had emailed some artists that have stories to tell. One of whom I copied the employer that had not paid him for over a year for his work on a major motion picture. Ten minutes after my mail hit his box he got this terd from the Employer.

      “I think You will be lucky this week.”

      Lucky to get paid after a year, and only after mention of the press getting the story out….wtf?? The little guy….like a kid in the school yard who’s lucky his lunch did not get stolen today.

  3. edwardh says:

    Indeed. Although I would slightly change that last part to say that in general, it is not smart for people to aim for something worse instead of something better. Especially because one can see that across all aspects of life. People justifying all kinds of bullshit because “at least it’s not THAT bad”.

    How people arrive at that conclusion is mind-boggling to me. A group of people has it bad, so ALL people should have it equally bad? Instead of working on the opposite – that all have it better?
    I blame the media that keeps hammering home the message of that not being possible. Yeah right. Like e.g. with especially bigger corporations throwing away many tons of food every day while people are starving. There is just no way one could shift that… rich countries import food from the other end of the world but there is just NO way one could produce less food in one place and more in another…
    All in the name of profit maximization. There’s another myth – “we profit, you profit”. Because income inequality has not drastically increased in the last decades…

    But one could also play devil’s advocate and say that it’s not really about others having it worse and one should be satisfied with what one has. But that people arguing that way really are scared about losing what luxury they do have (and I wouldn’t say it’s not understandable in the current economic climate and considering how competitive the VFX industry is – but it is still shortsighted and depending on one’s situation downright cowardly). Or they fool themselves into thinking they can gain something by defending a bad status quo.

    No matter how you spin it around… people making that argument are striving for a worse overall situation at best out of ignorance/shortsightedness and at worst out of greed.

  4. wth? says:

    Why in hell is that person still “working” for that employer?! A YEAR?! That person better be above the line on that film since they’ve personally invested over $100k towards it. Sorry, that makes no sense. No other employer would fault you for leaving a company mid-film if they have refused to pay you for a full year. And if this person is staying out of some sense of loyalty, then they have no basis to complain.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Sorry was not clear. He was free lance and left the job about a year ago…and was still waiting for the rest of his pay.

      • wth? says:

        oooh!! Well that’s entirely different! Thanks for clearing that up. I hope he gets “lucky” this week!!

      • Paul says:

        What company?! Useless example / argument if you don’t start naming names!

      • Dave Rand says:

        Watch for the LA Times article Paul, sadly they’ve been in the news for this already and the people that came forward all got paid in full immediately. The one that did not got nothing but a promise that if he went to the press he’d never get a dime. I use this as an example of how your treated if allowed. There is no rule in business that says you have to play fair or be nice, although most do, too many do not. I’ve posted this before:

        vic·tim noun \ˈvik-təm\ 1: describes a person attempting a business relationship by surrendering escalating leverage to the other party.

  5. Andrew Lyons says:

    This is an interesting model:

    http://www.dlf.org.au/

    The name is a joke on the infamous blf: http://www.atua.org.au/biogs/ALE0132b.htm

    The DLF organisation has been around in Australia for about 20 years. It started up as a way for artists to communicate about employers and conditions after a few people were handled poorly by prominent Australian FX houses. It grew quickly, and now > 10000 members, and has chapters in every major city in Australia. While not a union, it has served a way for people to meet and share information. The DLF has black-banned multiple employers over the years for not paying people.

  6. [...] In my last post, VFX Artist and advocate Dave Rand mentioned that Richard Verrier, an LA Times reporter who covers labor issues in the Hollywood industry, is looking to report on VFX workers who have been adversely effected by the current climate in the VFX industry. [...]

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