The Cost Of Living In Vancouver

One of the big fallacies is that VFX is going to “cheap” places like India and China. It makes sense at first: The cost of living is extremely low in emerging markets and therefore the cost of labor is cheap. However we haven’t really seen a dramatic presence there.

What I have observed is that VFX is going to places where the cost of living is very expensive: London, Vancouver, Sydney, Singapore. Of course there is New  Zealand which is relatively cheap but ironically Weta pays some of the highest rates in the biz. Of course I argue the reason for all of this is subsidies that the US studios want to take advantage of.

Many here in California are asked (okay, coerced) to make the move. A reader sent me an email going over some of the costs of living in Vancouver. It’s not cheap:

—Begin mail:

FAQS on Cost of Living in Vancouver vs Cost of Living in California. (sorry to use only California as a comparison, please feel free to do comparisons where you live).

1- Vancouver Canada has the highest cost of living in North America.
http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2012/02/vancouver-most-expensive-city-in-north-america/

Cost of living index:(higher is more expensive)
Los Angeles: 94.4
http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=United+States&city=Los+Angeles%2C+CA

Vancouver: 111.6
http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=Canada&city=Vancouver

Vancouver’s cost of living is substantially higher than New York City (score is 100) and San Fransisco. Los Angeles is dirt cheap in comparison. Once again, it is the most expensive city in North America.

2- Salary and Taxes:
Taxes on Salaries under 100k will be roughly the same as California Taxes, however you cannot make nice tax deductions like you can in the states.
Tax on Salaries over 100k will be taxed at 41% (only portion of income over 100k is taxed at this rate)
Tax on Salaries over 130k will be taxed at 44% (only portion of income over 130k is taxed at this rate)
So if you have a good year with lots of OT, it will be taxed heavily.

Breakdown of sliding tax rate:
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/fq/txrts-eng.html
Tax Calculator: See how much you pay in taxes, weekly, yearly, etc. (Make sure to check British Columbia)
http://www.paycheckcity.com/canada/coeatonca/caCalculator.aspx

3-Overtime pay: 
The Overtime pay structure is very different in Vancouver. It is not mandatory for companies to pay OT over 40 hours the same way they do in California. Some do, some don’t, some pay 1.25 OT instead of 1.5. Every company is different and it must be looked into.

4-401k and 401k match:
There is no 401k and certainly no 401k match. There is something called RSP that is a sort of retirement plan. I’m not sure how it gets taxed when you take if back to the US.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Registered_Retirement_Savings_Plan

5-You will want a Canadian bank account

Using a US based account in Canada could accrue a 1-3% foreign transaction fee per transaction on top of currency exchange rates.

6-If you had family that stayed in the US, they would be responsible for getting their own healthcare.
Vancouver healthcare won’t cover your family members in the US.

7-Auto insurance is very costly.

Insuring two cars, a 1999 and 2002 vehicle could cost you $6000 a year for collision and liability as long as you can prove you have a clean driving record. If not it can be 40% more or over 9k a year to insure two vehicles more than 10 years old.
Here is the breakdown: http://thesecretsofvancouver.com/wordpress/vancouver-car-insurance-now/all-about-vancouver

8-Gas based on the current Vancouver average of $1.41 per liter would equal $5.32 per gallon.

 http://www.vancouvergasprices.com/

9-Parking in the downtown area ranges from $5 if you’re lucky to $10 and even $20 per day. 
http://www.easypark.ca/index.aspx

10- Restaurants and Groceries are more expensive than California. 
http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=Canada&city=Vancouver

11-You could pay heating cost in your apartment for up to 8 months a year.

Vancouver In California you are lucky if you use the heater for more than 12 days a year. Some places in Vancouver have utilities included in the rent.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Vancouver
12- Sales tax is 12% in Vancouver, vs 9% in LA. 

http://www.canadaimmigrants.com/Vancouverliving.asp

 —–End of mail
Related posts:
The Most Expensive Places To Live In The VFX Industry
Vancouver’s High Costs Hurting Youth Prospects
The VFX View From Vancouver
Soldier On.
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106 Responses to The Cost Of Living In Vancouver

  1. LAvfx says:

    Should be noted that CAD is roughly 1 to 1 with USD at the moment (exact is $1 CAD = $1.0048 USD).

    • Dave Rand says:

      It is also more than likely that this relationship will return to its historical pattern. Knocking your paycheck down 20 to 40% in US dollar terms. I have yet to see a contract that compensates for this possibility. If anyone has that or has seen that I’t would be great if you could post it.

  2. Anon says:

    And in the UK…

    Tax on Salaries over 35k will be taxed at 40% (only portion of income over 35k is taxed at this rate). But we do have the NHS.

    Overtime pay is non-existent in VFX here, it’s all about the day rate. Time Off In Leiu is generally only accrued for weekend days worked.

    Petrol (gas) is around £1.42 a litre.

  3. Jable says:

    Coerced is right. They intentionally leave out these facts. All the companies are very vague about financial details in Vancouver. Most of the artists that have gone up there have no idea about any of this. It was a very rude awakening. Now, they tell me they just make due.

    I think I’d love it up there, however I can’t live paycheck to paycheck and risk not saving for my families future.

  4. Ghost3d says:

    How is a recent SCAD or Ringling grad with 100k student loans to repay going to afford to live in Vancouver? The recent grads get paid astonishingly low rates.

    They will be competing with a recent Vancovuer graduate who has no student loans and will live with their parents.

    • blah says:

      How is an American college grad supposed to afford it? A better questions is how are they supposed to get a visa to work there without the requisite experience?

    • Neil says:

      “How is a recent SCAD or Ringling grad with 100k student loans to repay going to afford to live in Vancouver? The recent grads get paid astonishingly low rates. ”

      Some friends told me that one phenomon that’s occuring now in Vancouver VFX is grads who are getting employed at these studios (who can’t afford to live in the city since its far too expensive) are renting places in the suburbs, sometimes as far as 90-120 minutes from work. So your money burden goes down, but you have to add 4 hours commute per day.

  5. kitsgirl says:

    I love Vancouver, but as an American.. now American/Canadian, I’m glad someone did a breakdown on how expensive various factors are here. I’m often whining about why we pay so much for things that are so much cheaper an hour south, and its nice to know I’m not crazy. Having said that, the quality of life here is excellent and its nice to know I’ll always have health insurance. On the other hand, I think if I were in the US I’d have more disposable income and greater capacity to save for retirement.

    • Ghost3d says:

      Congrats on Canadian Citizenship. That seems to be the only way that paying all those taxes makes sense. You will actually reap the benefits of a Socialist system.

      As for the rest of the Americans that go up there, they are paying absurd taxes and get none of the benefits. Sure they get healthcare while they are working on a Visa, but when that Visa is up, it’s time to go.

      • kitsgirl says:

        Thank you Ghost3d. Canada/Vancouver has been good to me. :)

        Just wanted to mention that even as a Permanent Resident, which is a step before citizenship( even if you never plan to become one) , do you get to enjoy the socialist benefits. So, in between contracts, you still get healthcare, unemployment insurance benefits, etc, everything a Canadian gets except the right to vote. – similar to a greencard in the US.

      • larrygritz says:

        I’m not sure what you mean by “socialist system.” Please clarify. It’s a handy slur (mostly used those who’ve never lived anywhere else), but I find it really hard to understand how the word applies to Canada. It’s very much like the US, except the infrastructure isn’t crumbling, and you can’t go bankrupt from medical bills.

        As for the benefits, I enjoy the excellent public transportation, a clean city, good roads, safe drinking water, public schools, beautiful parks, an absurd amount of public access to the waterfront around the city, consumer protection, community centers, police and fire protection, not to mention never having to pay major medical bills. Exactly which benefits do you think Canadians get that are not available to Americans living and working in Canada? Sure, if I leave, I will stop getting the benefits, just like I no longer get benefits from the taxes I paid to California, New York, Maryland, and Washington, DC. So what?

      • Ghost3d says:

        Is that a realistic assumption these days that people in this VFX industry have not traveled outside the US?

        Sorry for the socialism generalization. I’m speaking about healthcare provided to Vancouver residents for the rest of their lives. I’m also speaking about college that costs virtually nothing for a resident. Most Americans working for a short term (3 months to 3 years) in Vancouver will not be pursuing Permanent residency or Citizenship and therefore will not be eligible for these things.

        Mr Gritz, I’m also speaking about the general artist that will be moving to Vancouver, those in the 60-120k salary range. These people will absolutely love the things Vancouver has to offer, but they will be struggling with the cost of living issues. Those people in a higher pay scale, will not feel the pain quite so much.

        I had a very wealthy person tell me how much they loved Vancouver. I thought, sure I’d love Vancouver if I had your money too.

      • kitsgirl says:

        Just wanted to quickly speak to this.

        “Exactly which benefits do you think Canadians get that are not available to Americans living and working in Canada? ”

        If you are there to work on work permit, not as a permanent resident nor citizen. You don’t get Unemployment Insurance in between contracts, so EI. Which is about 1600$ a month to help you float while look for the next job.

        You don’t get BC Health until after 6 months of physical presence in BC. After that your golden.

        CPP ( Social Secuirty equivalent in the US) – You will have deductions from your pay into this system, and you will not benefit from it, nor will you get it refunded. ( So I think, pls correct me anyone if I’m wrong )

      • larrygritz says:

        @kitsgirl: Not quite. You get the BC health plan at the start of the third month after getting your SIN card. (E.g. I moved here in late December, BC covered me starting on March 1.) The company provided supplemental insurance during the interim period.

        My understanding is that you get CPP credit back in the US (and get US social security credit in Canada) because of a reciprocal agreement between the countries.

        Unemployment insurance — I don’t know the requirements for unemployment insurance here, but are you quite sure you need to be a citizen? http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/regular.shtml This doesn’t say that specifically, only that you need to have worked your last job in Canada. But in any case, without permanent residency, I’d have to leave anyway if I didn’t find another job right away, so there’s already no chance of my being unemployed in Canada (it would very quickly turn into being unemployed in the US :-). Though this page http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/information/outside_canada.shtml this page seems to imply that even US residents can get Canadian unemployment if their last job was in Canada. Do I misunderstand?

        I’m still struggling to discern which benefits an American would not qualify for, for as long as they lived here (and maybe longer), if they are here for at least a couple months.

      • kitsgirl says:

        - About BC Health. Thats interesting. I’m glad you got covered sooner. I had to wait 6 months, but this was in 2006. I also looked it up online and it said 6months physical presence. http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/msp/infoben/eligible.html#who
        I guess thats different than an initial wait period.

        – I don’t claim one needs to be a citizen to collect Ei, but I did think you had to at least be a permanent resident, vs a temporary worker.

        About EI – I stand corrected. http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/workplaceskills/foreign_workers/ei_tfw/ceie_tfw.shtml

        Good to know, as I’ve had friends who are temporary workers and were not aware of this, thus didn’t apply or receive it.

        Thanks for sharing Larrygritz. All these uber details help in the balance act of residing in US/Canada and possibly going back and forth. Thank goodness for the tax treaties too, that prevent double taxation.

      • lazers says:

        Another misconception Americans often have about our healthcare in Canada is that it’s completely free. Sure, it is subsidized to a degree, but you still have to pay a monthly bill for basic health care which is around $60 per month and more for couples and families.

        Even after paying for this, it still doesn’t cover everything, just the necessities. If you want coverage for things like dental, prescriptions, eye-care, you’ll need to purchase a third-party extended medical plan. Sometimes you can get their through a studio, but a lot of for-hire studios don’t offer this, or not until you work there for at least a year if they do, so you often have to buy it on your own for more.

        This is why Canadians laugh at Americans who think we have completely “free healthcare” or it’s totally socialist in some way.

      • Ghost3d says:

        Hey Lazers,

        We know it’s not free, it’s just affordable and it’s available to everyone. Even with the add on insurance it’s still quite a bargain.

      • lazers says:

        Ghost3d:

        Are you speaking for all Americans when you say that? You might be fully aware of how we pay for medical, but I’m pretty confident that a lot of Americans do not understand the finer points of the Canadian healthcare system.

  6. Yes but there is a flip side to all of the points. 1. Highest cost but best quality of life. So at least you get what you pay for. Can’t say the same about a number of places in California. 2. Taxes are higher but there are a ton of social benefits where you get it back like amazing community centers parks and school. 3. Overtime is arbitrary as I have been ripped of on both sides of the boarder. 4. Those higher taxes are esentially their version of the 401k since those programs cover you as you get older. 5. Since when did any bank not try and bleed you 6. But if you were working freelance on a short term project in the states your family still propably wouldn’t be coverd. That’s a perk not a requirement. 6. Car insurance is expensive, put you can get by without one because public transit is so good and excesible. 8. Again, Don’t need to drive, but when you do the distances are way less. It may be cheaper but you will spend a ton more on gas in LA since you have to be on the road so much. 9. Previous points, but if you need to park then just go near a park or sky train station for free and take the train into downtown. Just saved $18 bucks or better ride a bike and save 20. 10. Groceries are more expensive than in Cal because of the seasonal and geological differences. Cali is also probably the most bundant agricultural region in the world so it’s a tad hard to compeate. On the plus side sushi and oysters are way cheaper;) 11. But in LA you could pay for AC up to eight months a year so that relative. 12Sales tax is higher but going back to the first point you get something for that.

    If anything you missed the one thing that is insinly expensive and should be listed as number one and that’s the price of housing. Rent and property taxes in Vancouver are pretty rough.

    So for the record I was born and raised in California, lived and worked in LA for about eight years and Vancouver for about seven. Struggled with all these issues until I learned how the system works. Now I love it and am always hesitant of heading back south especially now that I have kids. Once families enter the equation the city becomes a far better deal as you start seeing the benefits of the higher taxes. I guess if your just in and out it can be frustrating but then again the system was designed to protect the locals so there you go. My wife’s Canadian and complains reversly about the same issues when we are in the bay area so I guess the grass is always greener…

    • Ghost3d says:

      Since you’re wife is Canadian it seems that you will benefit the advantages of a Socialist system.

      The vast majority of Americans coming to Vancouver will not become citizens. It’s a very lengthy and costly process. None of them will benefit from the programs you talk about. They will live in Vancouver for a few months or years until the incentive moves on, and so will they.

      Quality of living cannot be disputed, it’s not rated one of the best places to live for no reason. My concern is the cost that’s associated with that quality. For Americans that will have to return to an American system, they will need long term financial savings.

      • larrygritz says:

        An ordinary work permit entitles you to the same healthcare access as anybody else, you don’t need to be a citizen or even a permanent resident. Unlike the US, you *cannot* be denied coverage, and your employer can’t stiff you with bad (or no) health insurance coverage. It takes 3 months for the government plan to kick in, but the company bought us private insurance for that period (hint to those at other facilities: demand this). If you move away, sure, you don’t get Canadian healthcare “for life.” In the US, not only didn’t I get healthcare “for life”, but my insurance coverage would become my financial burden the second I left my job (until I’m 65, at which point I’d get the equivalent of the Canadian system via Medicare). The catch is, you have to be a resident to get healthcare, and on a work permit you’re only a resident while you’re working (unless you apply for permanent residency).

        Inexpensive university tuition here requires permanent residency (not unlike getting a break for state residents at U.C. or the like). But if you’re going to hang around long enough for your kids to go to college, permanent residency is a pretty good idea (it’s the equivalent of getting a green card in the US, but takes less time, though it can cost several thousand dollars in legal fees, I dunno, is that any worse than a US green card?).

        The US and Canada have some kind of reciprocal agreement with Social Security (US) and Social Insurance (Canada) — if you pay into one then move to the other place, you get “credit”.

        There is no 401(k), let alone matching (which I didn’t get at my previous US job before SPI, anyway), but there are other kinds of retirement savings vehicles. I don’t know what the tax implications are of doing pre-tax retirement savings in one country, then retiring in the other.

      • In case you happen to be lucky and have had a solid steady job for the last twenty years I’m willing to say that most artists in the States have had it pretty rough. Short freelance gigs with little or no benifits attached to them. Constant migration and stress over finding anything that pays. Everyone I know who has a house in this business rents it out to subsides their hope that one day animation and fx will pay the bills. Its bad enough that here we are discussing the upside and downside of moving to another country just to have employment.

        Returning to the American system from oversea is really hard. Honestly, don’t leave unless your willing to leave. The only reason I have been in Canada so long is because I havent found anything steady with benifits in the States to move back for. And as more and more jobs move this way that decision keeps becoming harder and harder to make.

      • greg says:

        1st off, Canada is not Socialist, only an american could think so. Secondly, I came to Vancouver from London, got a better wage, with actual overtime which is virtually unheard of in London, found the city to be much better bang for your buck than London in terms of accommodation and lifestyle. The tax is not that oppressive, it’s not Sweden. And taxes pay for more than just medical bills and pensions, they’re what keep the country moving, and if you are living there and using infrastructure, you should pay tax.

        Maybe it’s different coming from america, but pretending that Vancouver is prohibitively expensive is ridiculous. If i’d stayed ‘d have made a great living.

  7. larrygritz says:

    Excuse the long comment.

    I transferred to Vancouver a few months ago, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in many years. It’s by far the most livable, pleasant, attractive, safe cities I’ve ever lived in.

    Everything VFXSoldier said about cost of living is true. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Yes, gas and auto insurance are more expensive (per gallon or per car). But in California we needed two cars and drove them a lot. The same amount of driving would be expensive here, but it would also be idiotic. In Vancouver, the http://www.walkscore.com/ at my house is 97, and at my office it’s 100! Public transportation is great. We got rid of one of our cars before moving, and we rarely need to drive the one we brought with us. So our transportation costs are actually lower in Vancouver, and quality of life is improved with short (mostly walking, biking, and busing) commutes.

    Food can be expensive, especially chicken, organics, cheese, and alcohol. Like any city, you can find expensive restaurants, and you can find surprisingly good inexpensive places as well. Lots of things are about the same. Good fish is absurdly cheap. I was a farmer’s market kind of shopper anyway, so in all honesty I don’t notice much of a difference overall. Except for alcohol — that really is more expensive across the board.

    Housing is expensive, I pay way too much for my townhouse in Vancouver. But I rent out my old house in California for even more than that! So I’m not sure I can say for certain that housing is all that much higher than for a really good location in California. Could I afford a house in California that was 2 blocks from the beach and also a pleasant 15 minute commute from the office, for less money? It’s not obvious that I could.

    Taxes are higher, yes. But the public transportation is great, roads are in good repair, the violent crime rate is 1/3 or less what it is in California, you can’t go bankrupt because of medical bills (which account for fully 50% of personal bankruptcies in the US!), and the public schools are fine. My son goes to a perfectly good public school two blocks from our house, he’s very happy there and so are we. I’m embarrassed to say out loud how much I paid for tuition for the private school he went to in California, but it’s a lot more than the increase in taxes I’m paying here! I more than come out ahead.

    Socially and politically, it’s also a step up. (Your milage may vary, depending on your priorities.) People are nice. I like my son growing up in the kind of place where all the cold, wet passengers crammed into the bus still thank the driver individually as they get off. The public accommodations, especially for families, are really great. I’m not fond of the Conservative Party in charge of the government, but it’s still a lot more functional and sane than the US. Gay marriage is a settled issue. Drug policy is rapidly approaching being sensible in ways that will never happen in the US. Nobody here is talking about restricting access to contraceptives. The taxes are high, but unlike the US, they seem more fair, and you can see with your eyes what you’re getting in return. In the US I often wondered what the hell I was getting for my taxes. Here I pay more, but at least feel like I’m basically getting my money’s worth.

    I wish there were no production subsidies anywhere, I think it’s bad for the industry, and in the long run bad for the companies in Vancouver because it artificially distorts the market and sets prices below actual costs. Some day that’s going to bite us all. But bashing Vancouver doesn’t help the cause. Moving here was an opportunity, not a punishment. At this point, I’m hoping I don’t ever have to go back.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      My 2 cents:

      I think Vancouver Wellington or anywhere anyone calls home is a great place to live. I’m for vfx professionals living wherever they want to live.

      Here’s my point: it’s not our choice. Its all about the subsidies.

      I’m sure new Mexico was a great place to live and provided a 25% subsidy that would satisfy the studios hunger but that wasnt enough. Now people have to sell their homes, move their families, etc.

      The subsidies have turned working into a zero sum game. We are now chasing our jobs so studios in California can get free money.

    • Ghost3d says:

      Sorry if this is leaning towards Vancouver bashing. That is not the intention. The intention is to make artists aware of the potential cost of things so that they can better negotiate a move if they are interested in going. The studios do not provide much information.

      • larrygritz says:

        I agree, @Ghost3d — companies should be totally up front about the costs of living when making you an offer to live someplace. My company was not, although I truly believe it was because HR was ignorant about it themselves, rather than that I was somehow being tricked into it. It’s also the responsibility of employees to do some of their own research. With the internet, there’s really no excuse for not knowing the tax rates or housing prices (Craigslist, for Pete’s sake) before you accept an offer.

      • greg says:

        I should have read all these comments before posting! I agree with what Larry Gritz said and sorry if my early comment came off snarky

  8. One of the reasons life in America is cheaper than Europe or Canada is because there are far few taxes on almost everything. Americans in general hate the idea of taxes.

    I recently listened to this episode of This American Life where even Republican politicians understood that they needed to raise taxes but the public where having none of it. They ended up having to switch of street lights and then charge individuals who could afford it to light their own streets: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/459/what-kind-of-country

    If you all paid more in taxes then your government could afford to provide health care to everyone and provide you all with some state pensions.

    Europe and Canada are more expensive places to live but it’s a much more sustainable way of living.

    Also, if you paid more taxes, you could probably afford to provide tax incentives. I’m not saying that the tax incentives should be there at all but if you look at all the countries that are providing them, they have much higher tax rates.

    On a separate note, I had an accountant explain the Canadian RSP system to me yesterday. You can put money into the RSP account before your are taxed on it but it counts as part of your income when you withdraw it so you must pay tax on it then and it may push you into a higher tax bracket if you withdraw it before you retire.

    As a non Canadian, who doesn’t know how long I will be here, the accountant recommended that I setup an interest free savings account instead. That way I would have to pay income tax on my earnings before I put it into the account but I would pay tax on any interest I earn and I wouldn’t have to pay tax on any withdrawals so I could move the money to my UK pension account if I needed to. It sounded like the Canadian equivalent to what the UK call an ISA.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      But Conrad new Mexico DID provide a generous incentive, Vancouver provided a much larger one that covered up to 46% of labor costs.

      If the next place offers a larger subsidy and Canada runs out of money to fund the program it’s going to lead to new Mexico all over again.

      • AdamMartinez says:

        That is a highly dubious claim. New Mexico didnt have a vfx industry. Vancouver has a huge one. The lack of available talent shorted out expansion. The investment that facilities have in Vancouver is huge. If the subsidies were pulled from Vancouver, I think there would still be incentive to stay because of those reasons alone.

      • Ghost3d says:

        The New Mexico incentive was 25% across the board. It covered rent, computers, utilities, labor, everything. The Vancouver incentive of 46% is just on labor.

        After all this was factored in, New Mexico was only slightly more expensive than Vancouver.

      • Ghost3d says:

        Adam, New Mexico had no problem attracting talent. It’s 1.5 hours by plane from LA and the cost of living is insanely cheap. As of last account the average experience level per artist in Albuquerque was 10 or so years experience. No shortage of talent at all.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Btw I totally agree with you: the us political system is paralleled by this obsession of low taxes. I believe in healthcare for all.

  9. Ciaran says:

    Please can we stop using LA as the benchmark for everything?

    • Ghost3d says:

      Ciaran, I’d love to see a similar FAQ on cost of living where you are from. It would be great to see more of these. Put one together and send it in.

      • Ciaran says:

        Good idea – I might write that up this evening.

      • Without any hard numbers I would say that in my experience Vancouver feels pretty similar to London overall. Groceries are way more expensive here. Housing is expensive too but you get a lot more for your money than you would in London.

        Beer is expensive too. They make central London pubs seem quite reasonable.

      • AdamMartinez says:

        Granville Island Winter Ale… mmmm

      • Having said all that it seems they pay better here and at least you get some overtime pay.

        Now we are all settled in my girlfriend and I are living very comfortably in Vancouver and really enjoying exploring BC.

      • Ciaran says:

        Ok, here’s my experience of these points, from starting my career in London ten years ago and now working in San Francisco. I grew up mostly in the UK which definitely affects my perspective.

        Also, I’m a R&D/technical guy (probably not dissimilar to Larry). I’m not as affected by show deadlines, project hiring etc, but I’ve also seen colleagues in similar positions laid off at all my previous companies so it’s not like we’re ‘safe’.

        1) London scores 126, SF 104 (LA 94, Vancouver 111)

        But how does it feel?

        When I moved to London I was dirt poor for a year. It took me four weeks to find a place to live, I had debt and I basically couldn’t afford to do anything. When I left London, earning a mid-range salary, I loved it. In SF I feel the cost of living is similar – transit and eating out being the big differences as they are much more expensive in London. As a junior transit can be a major cost.

        I own my apartment in SF. That would never have happened if I relied on vfx wages alone but due to various circumstances like investing in my brother’s apartment some time ago and a very favourable UK/US exchange rate at the time I was able to put down a good down payment. But the identical apartment downstairs from me rents for $2500/month. I could afford that if I was single although it would be a lot, but it seems similar to London. As a junior (in SF or London) you’re going to be sharing, or a having a hefty commute.

        I just hired an ATD who moved from Vancouver. I don’t know what we pay them but I’m fascinated to see how they adapt to the Bay Area.

        2) Looking at my 2011 tax return (filed jointly with my wife, who makes about the same amount of money as I do) we paid 15% of our income in Federal taxes and 9% to California. I can deduct over 25% of our income from taxes.

        My last full tax year in the UK I paid 18% of my income as tax.

        The whole filing your own tax return thing seems stupid. Why should I have to pay someone or spend a bunch of time to do this when the government already knows what I was paid? In the uk I never had to do this.

        When I moved to SF my salary definitely increased – in fact I underbid myself. I think pay in CA is generally higher – not that people don’t make good money in London but the pay there varies a lot more and you need to be prepared to negotiate harder. But I moved to a large company where I think salaries tend to be more stable and uniform.

        3) Not much paid OT in London but TOIL was common. But I hardly ever worked OT in my position.

        At ILM I was hourly got paid for the occasional OT I did.

        At my current gig I’m salaried and only get OT if I work at the weekend. That said we make a conscious effort not to do any OT; also there are a lot of union folk in the building which I think makes it easier to say no.

        4) I’ve managed to consolidate it a bit but I think I had five separate retirement/pension accounts at one time. The UK does have a state pension but you’d be a fool to think you could live on it. The London facility would match up to 3% I think into a stakeholder pension (basically a 401k) but you had to be there a while before you were eligible (I forget how long).

        As a staffer at ILM they matched 6% and I actually managed to stash a fair bit away during my time there.

        My current gig has no 401k at all.

        5) Uh, why would you not open a local bank account?

        6) This also doesn’t seem to make sense – they’re in another country. It’s the american system that ties health care to work.

        7-9) I’ve never owned a car and I try very hard not to get into a situation where I need to own one, so I see these as somewhat artificial costs. Admittedly in LA it may be a necessity, but in London it’s a luxury and you should expect to pay for it. In SF I use a car sharing service and it’s awesome.

        10) Eating out in London can be very expensive, but takeout and street food isn’t too bad. Eating out in SF is a bargain and I do it all the time, whereas in London it would need to be a special occasion. Drinking out in London was affordable (if you drank beer) and very important part of the social fabric of soho – if there’s one thing I miss form London it’s that. But if you drink cocktails they were shit and expensive in London and affordable and excellent in SF.

        I feel the price of groceries is similar in both.

        11) If you live in a cold place expect to pay for heat. Utility costs in London or SF never seemed to be significant.

        12) Sales tax – this is where London really bites you: it’s 20%. That said, it’s also included in the price which I think fuels a lot of the “Europe is more expensive than the US” feeling.

        In summary – I don’t know. Everywhere is different. I think it’s good to have info out there so people can make informed choices. Also, I’ve never felt like I need to chase the work; every move I’ve made has been my choice and location is a major factor for me. But I’ve also been very willing to entertain exiting vfx for an existence I’m happy with.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Why not? It’s the only vfx market without subsidies: no artificial pricing.

  10. TysonS says:

    It would seem that Vancouver is a fabulous place to live, especially for those than can afford it. Larry Gritz with his many years of amazing contributions to this industry is most likely in a very different financial position than the majority of American transplants in Vancouver.

    It would be interesting to hear from American transplant artists at the Jr, Mid and Senior artist level what they think about the cost of living. Would you have done anything differently if you knew how pricey it is to live up there?

    • AdamMartinez says:

      As a senior level artist, after my first year here, my experience has been pretty much 1-to-1 with Larry’s. The quality public school system, solid infrastructure, and facilities that actually work, are well worth the bump in cost of living. I feel I can say that with utter confidence now that I have survived my first Canadian tax season.

      • TysonS says:

        Adam, aren’t you a CG Supervisor? I guess I was refering to the on the box artists. The majority of the company. The positions that most of us would be filling up there. The people who will be getting paid hourly, possibly screwed on OT and with $2,500 relocation bonus’s that wouldn’t cover a move from Hollywood to Burbank.

      • AdamMartinez says:

        “Adam, aren’t you a CG Supervisor? ” I was. I’ll tell you about it some time. All the other points you make, I had to negotiate, just like anyone else would.

    • larrygritz says:

      I can only compare Vancouver with basically the same lifestyle in California — both of which are not at all extravagant, I assure you — and it’s kind of a wash overall. I have a bit less walking around money, but not enough less to really hurt, and I feel like I get a lot more in return from my community.

      Cost of living is high and it’s hard to make it on entry level salaries, but that was certainly the case in California as well. I’d love to hear from more junior people who have lived both in Vancouver and either L.A. or S.F.

  11. David Rand says:

    I’ve spent about three years total working in Canada. I love the people, the towns, the scenery. Some of the most amazing parts lie North of Vancouver Bella Coola, Williams Lake, Chilcotin, Nemaih Valley. Lots of pics on my website daverand.com Those parts of my experience were amazing and unforgettable. I truly believe Vancouver is a great meca for VFX. It’s ironic actually that the whole thing is one giant effect, it’s not real, it’s an artificial market driven by market socialism. I hope all that infrastructure attracts the attention of some private Canadian dollars and they begin to add to the mix. Right now it’s at the whim of politicians and payoffs…but as tenuous as it is it’s pretty good at the moment.

    I prefer my own country, I love the USA, even with all it’s faults. My health care may be expensive but the care is there and the lines are not. Fact is most of Canada’s upper class carry private health care and that industry is growing and expanding rapidly into the middle class, you can google that on your own. My experience with their health care system was a personal nightmare for me, but I’ve heard others have had better luck.

    I can order a package and actually have it arrive. I can file a tax return with enterprising deductions and if owned money get it back promptly. I’m still waiting for a refund from Canada for my 2010 tax return.

    If you want a summary of not only pricing differences but availability of items compare amazon.com with amazon.ca It’s the same in the stores I experienced.

    The only time I did not get paid as an employee since I was picking weeds on a farm at 13 yrs old was in Canada and it happened 3x in a row. It’s the main reason I became outspoken about artist rights and leverage. Plenty of articles about what happened on my website under the press tab. Start with the Playback Magazine article.

    If you don’t like seeing your name at the bottom of the credit list wait till you see it at the bottom of the creditor’s list because in Canada you are an unsecured creditor, and no better than a vendor. Read the Playback article.

    Hey they are pluses and minuses to both countries mine just add up way better in the good old USA and right now I have zero say in what happens next at the international level anyway.

    Unions are not the solution to all our industry problems but they are international covering all of North America and there are some possibilities there that could make life better for both Canadians working in the USA and Americans working in Canada. I certainly don’t want to see the Canadian VFX industry torn down but I also don’t want to see the Hollywood sign get airlifted by freight helicopters with red maple leafs on them. We could use some representation on both sides of the border.

    It should be obvious that our employers and the studios have absolutely now problem seeking that for themselves, nothing wrong with our emulation of that. It’s just smart business.

  12. Andreas Jablonka says:

    My 2 cents:

    I lived and worked in LA for 8 years. I grew up in europe so things like good public transportation is known to me and missed in LA.

    I am in Vancouver for 3 months now. The cost is definitely higher and you feel that. My contract is short so I wont be eligible for health care. Great to know some demanded company’s pay for the interim I will try this but I can already hear the outcry’s. The wages are lower here than in the Us, combined with the higher taxes and less deductions I am making about 2000$ less a month in income. It hurts. OT start after 10 hours at this company so you loose a little bit but its fair enough and a compromise.

    I think the arguments that try to explain the high car cost away by saying you can use the bus are flawed. Can I get anywhere by bus/skytrain? yes. Do i like my car, the experience, the not waiting and ot get wet and the being able to drive at 4am? yes! its freedom of choice so an argument that tells me something more expensive is cheaper by not doing it is non sense.

    They have invested heavily into vancouver and if the incentives go away Im unsure if Van will dispear. normally Id tend to agree but the high density of shops compares to ABQ which only had spi is a bonus. You wont get stuck unemployed here if one companys closes.

    the beach is not better than LA, calling it the BEST living experience is subjective. I enjoy the culinary diversity here but hate the weather. Im ready to go back to my smoggy LA summer-all-year-round.

    its subjective. I find Vancouver livelable but its a financial burder and I should not HAVE to live here if I want to do feature vfx. I should be able to CHOSE to live in Van or LA.

  13. sergueik says:

    I grew up, went to school and started my career in Vancouver.
    I moved to LA just before the explosion of studios about 4 years ago because all the film work was in SoCal (sounds familiar I know).

    Trust me that experience was just as rough as for many artists making the move up to Vancouver now.

    I’ve never owned a car living in Vancouver (or during 3 years I lived in Montreal for that matter) so that was a big added expense for me here in LA as well as a huge time sink with commuting. On the other hand getting a license in CA as a new driver is so much easier than the nightmare it is in BC!

    A couple of years ago I had to get a few medical tests/scans done, same ones I had to do in Canada a year before (for free and with no waiting in line). Needless to say that was a real culture shock once the bills started coming in.
    Luckily I am in TAG and have the MPIH benefits!

    Just like someone coming up to Canada, you’re pretty much worthless when creditors are concerned and credit carries a lot more weight here than it does in Canada.

    The biggest difference however is how the immigration system works. If you work in Canada for a year you are eligible for Permanent Residency, which most people in our industry would qualify for. Therefore after just a year you pretty much become a complete member of society with all the benefits and respect any Canadian would get.

    Well down south things don’t work like that. If you’re unlucky enough to be stuck on a shitty visa well then you’re pretty much treated like dirt and live under the threat of being kicked out at any time.
    Going on vacation outside the country? Well you’re risking it cause if the DHS officer is having a bad day he might not let you back in.
    As for getting residency well, its like playing a 15k one chance only lottery… Meanwhile you pay top tax because you don’t qualify for any deductions and you get no benefits from it.

    Now with all this said I am lucky because I made the choice to move to LA myself. I could take my time, weight my options, pros and cons and come to a decision that I can be happy with. Therefore all the troubles of immigration are something I accept and deal with.
    This is not the case for someone who is forced to make a move because the studio is “kind enough to provide them with such great opportunity”…

    Immigration is hard and I very much agree with the sentiment that every VFX artist should be able to work where they choose. Now that’s not realistic literally, because there won’t be any VFX industry in Mobile Alabama for example, but the sentiment is valid.

    I love LA and would love to work here for many years to come. If someone loves Vancouver or London then that’s great! But no one should be forced to uproot their life to stay employed. This moving process is bloody awful in many respects so if you’re doing it unwillingly then it must feel so much worse.

    My two cents.

  14. David Rand says:

    from http://www.las-elc.org/factsheets/paydays.html :

    “Your employer is required to have enough money in the bank (or a credit arrangement) to cover your paycheck for 30 days after the date it is issued. If your employer’s check bounced, and you attempted to cash or deposit the check within 30 days of receiving it, you can collect a penalty from your employer. If your employer doesn’t pay you the owed wages immediately after the check bounces, it will owe you an extra day of wages for each and every day you remain unpaid (in addition to the amount of the paycheck itself). This penalty begins on the day you present the check to your bank for deposit and accrues until your employer pays you or for 30 days, whichever is shorter.”

    From http://smallbusiness.chron.com/can-employer-file-bankruptcy-out-payroll-10027.html :

    Not at the bottom but at the top:
    “Payroll obligations can be affected by a bankruptcy, although bankruptcy does not always lead to unpaid payroll. If an employer falls behind in making payroll, then files bankruptcy, employees become creditors and take priority in receiving remuneration from the outcome of the bankruptcy”

    Rise in Private Health Care in Canada

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/06/30/canada-sees-boom-private-health-care-business/

    http://www.cmaj.ca/content/183/8/E437.full

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/sep/27/nation/na-healthcare-canada27

  15. van_girl says:

    Just to quickly clarify. Overtime is SUPPOSED to be paid at 1.5x after 8 hours and 2x after 11 or 12 hours. It’s BC labour code. Some companies just decide not to pay it and unfortunately it’s some of the local companies that practice the 10 hour days with no overtime and they do know better. But no one will really take them to task about it.

    • andreas jablonka says:

      It’s ironic you say that: my Canada work visa has this stated clearly and DDs contract contradicts that yet without it there would be no work visa !

      • van_girl says:

        I’ve been told that labour code over-rides any “contract”. But these companies still do it. Hence why some want a VFX union. Or some say that you need to up your salary requirements to cover the ‘missing’ overtime. I’ve been lucky enough to be working in facilities that do follow the labour code and try to avoid the companies that ignore it.

  16. DTESuperman says:

    http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/facshts/hours_of_work_and_overtime.htm

    Shame on any Vancouver VFX company that doesn’t subscribe to this. And you should think twice about working for someone who doesn’t – regardless of the co.’s caliber.

    • Facts are Meaningless says:

      Someone once told me a few years ago that VFX professionals are lumped into the category of High Technology Professionals in Canada so they are covered under this http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/facshts/high_tech.htm

      Can anyone verify that? I think that is why they can get away with not following the rules.

      ~meal breaks, split shifts, minimum daily pay and hours free from work each week, as well as the overtime and statutory holiday provisions, do not apply to “high technology professionals”. ~

      It also allows for the companies to apply the Averaging Agreements policy. I do know 2 shops in Toronto that currently employ this averaging policy which I guess indicates that maybe the High Tech classification is true? The thing is, the workers had to agree to that policy and did.

      Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true! – Homer J Simpson

      • van_girl says:

        As to the High Tech Professional status. I feel that it’s pretty bogus and again some companies use it and who is going to fight it. Some companies know it doesn’t apply and don’t try to push it as your status.

        A local artist had posted the following info the VFXVancouver group last year:

        “Maybe all you all have seen this already. If you’re being told that you’re a High Tech Employee, it’s worth reading and following the links, espcailly this one:
        http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/hightech/regulat.htm – Exclusions – High Technology Professionals

        “Thank you for your email inquiry. The Employment Standards Act applies to many employees and employers in British Columbia; however there are various exclusions from the legislation depending on the occupation or profession. For a listing of those exclusions, please see the following link: http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/igm/igm-toc.htm Regulation Part 7, Variances and Exclusions.

        The Employment Standards Act defines a High technology professional as an employee who develops information technology systems, develops scientific or technological products, materials, devices or processes, or conducts scientific research and experimental developments. The definition also includes sales and marketing of information technology systems, scientific or technological products, materials, devices or processes, or scientific research or experimental developments. The information line can provide links and general answers regarding the legislation, but are unable to provide a determination specific to your question. If you and other employees feel that this definition does not apply to you, you may file a complaint with the Branch for wages. Please see the following links for reference to this information:
        http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/hightech/regulat.htm – Exclusions – High Technology Professionals
        http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/facshts/high_tech.htm – High Technology Professionals and High Technology Companies in British Columbia Fact Sheet

        If you feel you have outstanding wages from an employer you may file a complaint with the Branch for assistance with this matter. When there are wages owing the first step to resolving this is to complete the Self-help Kit. Once you have completed the information in the kit, please give to the employer and allow them 15 days to respond. If there is no reply after 15 days or you cannot reach a resolution, the next step is to file a complaint with the Branch. You may want to keep a copy of the kit you have given your employer as you may be required to send a copy with your complaint form to the Branch should you need to file a complaint. Following are links for your use in the complaint process:
        http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/self-help/ – general information page
        http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/forms/ – forms list – scroll down to Self-Help Kit & click on the link. If the kit fails to resolve the issue, click on the complaint form link to file with the branch. Remember you have only 6 months in which to file with the Branch and the Self-Help Kit is not a complaint form.

        We welcome the opportunity to discuss this or other questions in greater detail. Please contact us toll free at 1-800-663-3316 or (250) 612-4100 or alternately, respond with a telephone number where we may reach you. All calls are confidential.

        Yours truly,

        Information Line
        Employment Standards Branch
        Ministry of Labour, Citizens’ Services & Open Govenment

  17. DR RICH says:

    Vancouver is sitting on a bubble thats gonna pop. Please take my case into consideration. Its simple and I think its something alot are overlooking when trying to grasp just how expensive and why it is to live and work in Vancouver, B.C.
    Vancouver is the marijuana capital of North America. Canada has been building a very lucrative marijuan industry for the last 20 years now. We are talking a BILLION dollar industry. Now lets look at what happened when California attempted to pass their Proposition 19 which would allow for this “Industry” to move south. Canada and in particularly B.C fought it with their money….Ya see…The economic collapse that took place primarily hurt Middle class familes in Canada and the States. British Columbians enjoyed some of the best housing prices duting this downturn. In a sense the Marijuana Industry in B.C helped curtail the downfall of their entire Middle Class. Dont believe me? Do a little research and you will understand just how vast this business is in Vancouver. If you live there there is a GREAT chance you are within a few hundred yards of someones indoor crop.(Maybe much closer and entire neighborhood are grow operations!) Might be an elderly couple trying to make ends meet…Not trying…Making ends This is relevant when discussing how well the VFX Industry is gonna be there as once this HUGE multi-billion dollar industry moves based on U.S Laws….Watch as B.C.’s current economic success story begins to look more on par with the rest of Canada and America if California or anyone else successfully pulls this indusrty elsewhere. Its a part of this equation that should be addressed in my opinion.

  18. bob says:

    Here is the thing. They don’t give two shits if it is hard on you. Artists happiness is no longer relevant in the vfx business model. Hundreds of students a year are coming out of the schools and the vfx studios prefer cheap labor to senior talent. Being Senior is now more of a burden then a benefit.
    Can’t tell you how many times I have been let go or passed on because of my experience and the recruiters have even told me as much.
    Graduates will do anything to work in feature, even if it includes living like a student for a few more years. This subject is rather irrelevant. The vfx house will determine where the work is done and there is nothing you can do about it. Individual artists have no say in the matter.

      • bob says:

        You posted this once before when I posted that DDMG would do anything they could to lower labor costs in order to turn profit now that they are public.

        Well we see how that is turning out. Student labor that will pay them to work on their movies, studios in china, Abu Dhabi offering them $100m to move vfx there(words still out on this).

        Look this simply is what is happening, if you are out of touch and\or refuse to acknowledge it, well I guess that is your prerogative.

  19. David Rand says:

    Please folks don’t listen to this. Never happened to me Bob, HR is in a constant search for talent and experience, Admission at most of these schools is based on your ability to pay not your talent. Sadly, most of them will end up with huge loans and another career. Real art schools like Rhode Island School of Design would not accept 98% of them.

    Talent is still king Bob, and experienced Talent even better. Just because you know the alphabet does not make your a writer. Just because you have some crayons does not make you an artists. I see stick men all the time in dailies, they don’t last.

    • bob says:

      Yes don’t listen to this. Of course this is coming from a guy that has a vested interest in DDMG and stands to profit from their success.
      And obviously since it has never happened to you to date it doesn’t exist.
      “Let them eat cake”

  20. Every time I read your blog I have the urge to throw up. Not because of what you write or even your opinion – it’s the same saga played out over and over. Artists have ALWAYS gotten the shaft, it doesn’t matter what industry anywhere or at anytime. It’s sick. This is why SAG was formed – the actors were getting raped when it came to working and getting paid for work as well as royalties.

    I love working in this field – it’s exciting, fullfilling and challenging. I just wish that studios, corporations and others would stop trying to take advantage of the people that make their living at this craft. I think that if more artist took the position of “you (the corporation) want my skill, then pay me and stop trying to shaft me” perhaps we would all get a little further. Don’t work for free, stop taking the lower pay and tell the companies to hit the road. Yes it is hard, and no I have no idea how you’re going to pay your rent, but it is the only way to force the studios to stop playing games like this. Free market works both ways.

    However we all know what happens when something is unionized – it does bring fairness into play as far as those who are already in the business are concerned – but I think you would run into the problems that many people wanting to act run into: You can’t get work until you have a SAG card, you can’t get a SAG card until you get work. Would this happen to VFX artists – it’s hard enough to get started, I would hate to have Studios holding a VFX card over people’s heads and tell them that they have to work for free because they aren’t union? Also unlike acting – there is no face associated with the people behind the scenes. It’s not like sending VFX overseas has a demographic consequence (i.e. using a Chinese actor in place of Tom Cruise) – the VFX from there and from the U.S. will look the same because the same software is used and the same direction is given. So to the studio (aka corporation) there’s a cost benefit to sending it overseas even if there is a VFX Union who fines the studio for doing exactly that. Tell me – how many Taft-Hartleys get done everyday, every month, every year? Now imagine that type of behavior but multiply it… How would the union be able to count how many individuals should have been used. What if the studio’s lie and say only two people worked on it (but really it was 20) and end up only paying fines on the two supposed non-union workers? Also because there is no way to tell if the VFX done on a film is actually done in the United States, Germany, Russia or Malasia or even Mars for that matter – I would imagine that the studios could hide the fact that the post- production was outsourced by using a dummie corproations, or sister corps etc.

    I don’t know – the entire situation is lame. I hate it. I’ll keep soldering but hot-damn, some people do not deserve the right to a good nights sleep.

    • Paul says:

      Here’s 2 copper pipes…keep soldering now!

    • jonavark says:

      “: You can’t get work until you have a SAG card, you can’t get a SAG card until you get work. Would this happen to VFX artists – it’s hard enough to get started, I would hate to have Studios holding a VFX card over people’s heads and tell them that they have to work for free because they aren’t union”

      I am also kind of concerned about this because it seems breaking in will be tougher for beginners. But I think the issue is just getting in rather than working for free. I don’t think a studio with a union contract is going to be able to ask anyone to work for free.

      • David Rand says:

        It was smooth as could be when I joined the Local 839 upon being hired…seamless really.

      • Blackstock says:

        Joining the union is easy, at least in LA it was, you just work [x] minimum hours [ a few months] at a union job, then you pay to join and that’s it. I haven’t heard a Local 839 studio ever keeping out new hires. At least at Disney and Dreamworks it’s a non issue.

        Below the line unions aren’t like DGA/SAG. It’s not like we’re going back to the 1990’s when animators had agents getting them jobs :)

    • Pssst says:

      You’re right, it is corporate capitalists versus the artists -that aren’t as motivated by money. CEOs reporting to shareholders probably think what could be more ‘exciting, fulfilling and challenging’ than increasing profit through reducing working conditions by threatening to take jobs OS…

  21. Anonymous says:

    Here’s what’s going on at Sony Vancouver. After a couple of shows, many artists were laid off. What makes this case different? About 30%-50% were made up of non-Canadians with visas only tied to Sony. So if you are a foreign national and get let go, you can’t stay in the country and would have to go back to the home country. If you are a foreign national, you have to find another vfx company here that would take your visa, which is rare.

    To add insult to injury, the artists were told that there was “plenty of work” and that the chances of long term employment was great. This was the carrot they waved in front of everybody, knowing this is what every artist truly wanted. There was no guarantee of course, but they sold it with a quite a few takers.

    And what would make it even more insulting? They told artists to tell their colleagues in LA how great Vancouver is. So … tell my friends to come up to Vancouver so they can take my place once I’m laid off and have move back to my home country? Oh yeah, move your families up here too so they will have to move back once you are laid off in a few months. I can’t see anyone in LA with a brain who would actually move here now. The sony execs truly think we are brainless zombies.

    There wouldn’t be all this bitterness if only they simply told people that they are hired for one show. But instead they lied and sold a false dream of stability out of desperation to get quality people to Vancouver.

    • Ashes says:

      Well, considering Sony is planning to stop shot production in the USA in the next few years and move everything, but a small core team to VC there might be some long term work up there for everyone.

      Every time I talk to a major house, they always seem to be looking to hire up in their VC locations. So, I’m kind of surprised that people are having a hard time finding work up there.

      • Anonymous says:

        the point is that foreigners were sweet talked to come up here with visions of stability, only to have the rug pulled from under them and having move yet again.

      • Ashes says:

        Well, after about 6 months in the industry, everyone should know, if you don’t have it written down in a signed contract, don’t believe what they are telling you.

      • Blackstock says:

        It’s a simple enough solution for people considering the move to Vancouver. Ask for a one year contract minimum so you are eligible for permanent resident status in Canada [their version of a green card].

        If they only want to to a 3-6 month contract, then walk away, or just do what most foreign nationals do, just take it as a short term contract and move out.

        I don’t see what the problem is [I've gone on visas for a few months assuming it was a temp job].

        Personally, I have no problem working in Canada, but I’d rather work anywhere but in Vancouver. Alberta? Fine, Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic coast? Sure.

    • Anon says:

      At what point are artists expected to apply a little common sense and control their own situation? Use the interwebs to check housing availability, costs, tax rates, and other cost of living factors to make sure the pay you’re being offered allows you to get by. Don’t accept a job in a country where you wouldn’t like to live for a while. If you have kids, don’t move anywhere if you don’t have *guaranteed* work for a whole school year (or more). Don’t accept a job that doesn’t give you good health insurance from day one, that doesn’t give you vacation and sick days, or that doesn’t compensate you for overtime — even if the local regulations don’t require it. Don’t accept a job that lacks 401(k) or some other retirement matching, unless the salary is enough that you can afford to save on your own. If you don’t like working overtime (and don’t need the extra money), don’t take a job without an iron-clad agreement that it’s not mandatory for you. We don’t need to wait for a union to stop shooting ourselves in our individual feet, sheesh!

    • Paul says:

      You’re a moron to think there’s stability in any job, even more so in vfx so stop the whining. Who “simple employee” in is right mind would move with his family for a job in the vfx industry?! If you’re in LA and have a job in Vancouver just leave base camp with your back pack and come back in 6 months ffs!

      I can’t stand these corporates bitches but I think I hate useful idiots even more! When are you gonna realize that [vfx] companies are only looking for yet another batch of lemmings to move around the globe?!

  22. Thad Beier says:

    Thank you everybody for a really interesting, informative debate on the pros and cons of living in Vancouver. No name calling, no unsubstantiated statements — just good arguments from people who know what they’re talking about.

    • Paul says:

      Do I smell sarcasm…? nah don’t think so!

      I went to Vancouver few weeks and that’s enough for me, weather, architecture, skidrow, cost of champagne and a custom officer cotton swabbing my bag for drugs when I said I was staying in GasLamp 1/4…it was all ugly! Chicks are fun in bed though…and coffee!

      • John Crane says:

        This isn’t VFX Heaven, show some respect mate

      • Thad Beier says:

        No sarcasm. Every “comment” section of other blogs I read are 90% content-free, 9% vicious trolling, and 1% actual comment. This thread has been really informative. I don’t know whether I’d be interested in moving to Vancouver or not, but I feel quite a bit better informed by both the original article and all the comments here.

  23. Ashes says:

    One thing that Americans need to factor in is keeping your health insurance. It doesn’t matter if you get covered or not in Canada. When you come back to the US, many insurance companies will consider you having been uninsured. It makes it much hard to get insurance in the US if you have been uninsured for any length of time.
    So keep that in mind if you move up to VC with the intention of moving back to the US.

    • larrygritz says:

      I did some research on this before moving, and while nobody should take my legal or health advice, my understanding is that as long as there is no *gap* in coverage, you shouldn’t worry about preexisting conditions when you return to the US. That is, being in Canada and being insured there is not in itself considered a gap in coverage. You need an actual gap where you aren’t covered anywhere before you are in real trouble.

      Remember also that even if you never leave the US, you aren’t safe. Most people don’t realize that COBRA is merely the ability for you to pay the company you used to work for to keep you on their health plan for 18 months after leaving. This depends on there actually being a company to subscribe to a health plan and be able to collect your payment. If your company goes out of business, there’s no health plan to stay on, so COBRA is useless, you have a gap in coverage, and you can get screwed if you get sick or have preexisting conditions. This is one of the many ways that health care in the US is broken, though starting in 2014 you can’t be excluded for pre-existing conditions (assuming Republicans don’t repeal the new health care law). The US is pretty much the only country (among its peers of industrialized high-tech democracies) in which this kind of thing can happen, the others having realized long ago that it’s absurd to allow such cruelty.

      • Ghost3d says:

        The problem with most individual plans in the US is that it doesn’t take much to be denied coverage, even with coverage elsewhere. I tried in LA and couldn’t get it, even being a healthy person. There where red flags dating back 10 years and I was denied. I was covered under my parents plan at the time but was getting too old. For many people the only way to get healthcare is through a company or a place like VES.

        It is very likely you or your family could be uninsured for a short term when you return to the US until you can land a new job, or join VES.

        BTW, I like the new 2014 Federal law I hope it sticks. Currently New Jersey is one of the few no fault states which allows insurance for everyone, no matter what.

      • larrygritz says:

        I believe that group plans through an employer have to take you, though individual plans are much more dicey. Broken, broken, broken. If I return to the US, I’d need to be careful to secure a new job with group health benefits before my current benefits run out, so as to avoid a gap in coverage. There’s a whopper of a pre-existing condition in my household, and that’s a part of why I’m now living in a country that guarantees healthcare to all.

  24. Ghost3d says:

    Yes, group plans have to take you. I 100% agree with you on Broken, broken, broken!

    Anyone thinking of working outside the US for a while may want to very seriously consider joining the VES if you haven’t already. It’s one of the rare places where someone can get insurance no matter what. Because it’s a group plan it’s guaranteed. Their prices are better than COBRA as well.

    • larrygritz says:

      You’re not home free inside the US, either. If you aren’t confident that your job (and company) are very stable, or that if it went sour you’d be able to easily find another job offering group benefits before your current benefits expire (generally the end of the month), you should be scared. If you lose your job because your facility goes out of business, there is no COBRA to fall back on.

  25. meet friends says:

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    [...]The Cost Of Living In Vancouver « VFX Soldier[...]…

  26. Mathew says:

    This article is far from the truth!

    I’m from Vancouver and have lived in LA for the past year and a half. Living is comparable to LA.

    First let’s clarify a few things.
    Overtime: over time laws are compatible to LA. It’s your own fault if you let a studio abuse those laws and if you accept a job where they don’t pay you properly for overtime you work. Te majority of the studios will pay time and a half after 8 and double after 12

    Taxes: taxes are very high in Canada, I will agree with this, but to get descent health care in the states I have found its about 500 a month in the states. That’s 6000 a year I don’t pay in Canada.

    401K/RSP: same thing both tax deductible

    Car insurance: the amount you have claimed here seems to be double what you actually pay. Average price for one vehicle is between 1600-1800 a year. This is comparable to LA.

    Electricity: you are way off on this one. First off its different dapending on the size of your place, but when I compare the size of my place here in la and what I had in Vancouver I paid 25 dollars every two months and here in Vancouver I pay 65 a month. It’s way more expensive here. As well as I have to pay for garbage desposal. You don’t in Canada.

    Food: this is more expensive in Vancouver.

    Gas prices: Americans are lucky! It’s cheap here. Most places in the world it’s more expensive. Also in Vancouver they have extra tax on gas to pay for upkeep on roads and to help fund transit. These do things are clearly poorly funded in la. Roads are awful and publictransportation is nearly non existent. You don’t need a car in Vancouver because transit is that good.

    Sales tax: it’s higher but at least it’s the same everywhere you go in BC. In California it’s different dapending on what city your in. And if you want to get a hotel in Santa Monica, you get to pay 14% tax.

    Rent: this is more expensive in la. And I don’t get as nice of a place and as nice of a location.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      The major company’s?
      I know sony and DD are paying OT till after 10 hours. MPC is the same I think.

      Rent is definitely more expensive in Vancouver. In LA a studio or small 1BR runs from 800-1000$/month and bigger it’s 1500-2000$/month in a nice place. Vancouver has cheap places far away in surrey or new Westminster or Richmond but downtown seems to run 1800-2300$/month for a 1BR. They are deals everywhere and if you share it gets cheaper but look at the giant housing bubble in Vancouver. 350k for a small condo? 800k for a tiny townhouse…

      The rest seems accurate of what mathew said.

      • larrygritz says:

        Go to padmapper.com, type in “Vancouver, BC”, expand the map controls on the lower left (hit the “+” button), turn the slider to have a maximum rent of $2000 (or even $1500), and you’ll see that there are *lots* of apartments in great locations (in Vancouver itself, not far away in Surrey, etc.) available in the same price range you cited for Los Angeles.

  27. Travis says:

    Some of the costs listed here could be easily mitigated and seem like they might come from a misunderstanding of how Vancouver has been planned. This isn’t LA, Vancouver is one of the most densely populated areas in North America and has an excellent public transit system. There is sprawl but if you are selective as far as where you live in the sprawl (i.e. near a skytrain station) then it’s not such a big deal. There’s no question that parking downtown is horribly overpriced, some studios provide parking at cheaper rates, some don’t. If they don’t then you can easily take a skytrain. Most quality studios are within walking distance from a skytrain station. It’s actually a faster way to get to work via skytrain then it is to drive in many cases. Save an additional 3000-4500 by only driving one car.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      The question if it’s possible or cheaper is not the point. It’s about the choice/desire. I use the train and busses in van and its fine,BUT I miss not getting rained on, getting bugs in the filled bus, having to waste time waiting for it. I miss my car. Do I need it? No but then you don’t need an apartment, get a tent and sleep under the Granville island bridge and save on rent! See where I’m going with this? If you compare car cost, compare them not make an argument while somebody would opt to not have one, no matter how much sense it makes to you. You are correct in everything you say. I still miss my car ;)

      • fizz says:

        Conversely I hate having to always drive everywhere when I’m working in LA. I hate that there’s no realistic alternative to sitting in traffic on the 10 and the 101. Hate it. I miss my train…

  28. Dave Darkovski says:

    When will you lot get it into your heads Sydney is not a VFX hub and a destination for outsourcing VFX work of any significance. Australia has 4 firms that can do work 2 of which are in Sydney. Fuel and Animal . The latter is not known for doing film VFX work at all. Fuel is a mid sized firm of no consequence what so ever. The other firms in Australia are RSP in Adelaide and Iloura in Melbourne both of which again are small fry firms.
    The new Wolverine film will begin filming in August in Australia and the bulk of the VFX work will be done by US firms, with a smattering of shots given to Aus firms. Has my point been made ?

  29. hitech review…

    [...]The Cost Of Living In Vancouver « VFX Soldier[...]…

  30. karen says:

    if this has already been clarified, I am sorry. California doesn’t pay ot on hours over 40 any more. it’s not a weekly rule. it’s a daily rule. anything over 8 is 1.5 and anything over 12 is double. it used to be that anything over 40 was 1.5 and anything over 60 was 2. double time used to be something that was much easier to obtain. I think that Arnold gotrid of the weekly rullle

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