Lucasfilm Employee Terminated After Tending To Pregnant Wife

On the heels of the recent huge news about Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, I was recently contacted by Luis Pages. He is a senior VFX professional and VES member who has worked at many top level VFX companies around the world. He sent me his story about being recently terminated by Lucasfilm Singapore shortly after tending to his pregnant wife who suffered from a medical condition.

Last May Mr. Pages relocated from London to Lucasfilm’s Singapore division, a 2-year contract which included “Full Medical Coverage Insurance” for him and his wife.

A few weeks after arriving in Singapore Mr. Pages’ wife became pregnant. After a number of doctor visits it was revealed Mrs. Pages had EDS, a medical condition which made the pregnancy very risky for his wife and unborn child. It would require that they be closely monitored by various specialists.

However, the bad news didn’t stop there. It was also revealed that Lucasfilm’s “Full Medical Coverage Insurance” did not cover pregnancy related expenses. According to Luis, the head of human resources said he was supposed to be told this major detail during his induction week — not during negotiations or before he started work.

Luis tried to find supplemental insurance coverage but due to the fact his wife was already pregnant with a high risk condition the other insurance companies refused coverage. The head of human resources at Lucasfilm Singapore suggested that he send his wife to her hometown in Russia where she would be able to get health coverage while he stayed and finish the film they were working on. She then advised him to take a few weeks off after the project was over to visit his newborn baby.

Over the course of the next few months Luis and his wife went through major anxiety trying to deal with the situation. He contacted other colleagues at the Singapore office and learned of similar medical insurance stories that revealed even some cases ending in bankruptcy. Mr. Pages had already spent several thousand dollars and could expect to pay much more given the number of specialists needed and the special risks involved during delivery.

The alternative was also very costly personally. Sending his wife away to Russia would mean not being able to care for her and miss his child’s birth. If he quit his job early he would face huge costs. Lucasfilm Singapore would withhold 6 weeks of pay to recoup relocation allowances and pay for high government taxes that kick in for short term employment.

After much deliberation, Luis decided to take the Head of HR’s advice about a month and a half ago. He purchased roundtrip tickets and requested 2 weeks off so he could take his wife to her home in Russia which Lucasfilm approved. This is where the final surprise came.

While in Russia, Luis noticed that his monthly check from Lucasfilm never showed up in his account. He contacted Lucasfilm HR and they informed him that his employment was abruptly terminated. When asked for a reason Lucasfilm management responded that because his employment was within the 6-month probation period they could terminate his employment without reason.

On top of all this, Lucasfilm is withholding his last 6 weeks of payment. He was left with nothing and his landlord in Singapore will claim his 2 month deposit. For Luis the total amount of money he has lost so far is $41,000 USD ($50,000 SGD).

This is not the first time Lucasfilm has been in trouble regarding pregnancies. In 2010 the company lost a wrongful termination lawsuit by a pregnant woman. In a separate case Lucasfilm was found to be in collusion with Pixar Animation.

Soldier On.

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195 Responses to Lucasfilm Employee Terminated After Tending To Pregnant Wife

  1. Easy says:

    Since when did Catbert start working for Lucas?

  2. Scott Squires says:

    This part should be in bold:
    “According to Luis, the head of human resources said he was supposed to be told this major detail during his induction week — not during negotiations or before he started work.” Sounds liek a great HR department and management.

    The sad part is companies try to get the cheapest coverage they can and insurance companies look for any reason possible to deny claims.

    Sounds like Lucasfilm really skimped on coverage since insurance companies usually wish to add fees and include coverage for pregnancy. If you’re a woman buying individual insurance they typically only discuss insurance with pregnancy coverage. One insurance company was selling a 65+ year old woman coverage with pregnancy to gain the extra fees.

    For those in the US (and evidently Singapore?) this illustrates why health insurance coverage is so important and why many want to get continuous coverage (which the union provides depending on your hours worked) In this case even if they had pregnancy coverage the employer could terminate as illustrated and they’d be without insurance very quickly depending on the policy details.

    This article also illustrates just how much control a company has and how little as an individual you have.

  3. david says:

    This is not the actions of a reputable company. This is not good leadership. Is Lucasfilm as sweatshop? I am sorely disappointed in a company I have long admired.

    • fanger says:

      Well why is Lucasfilm, dreamworks…etc in asia? why is work being outsourced….not because the talent in asia is phenomenal or better! the reason is, if a studio can get 4 artists in asia for price of one artist in the west….on paper it increases productivity by 200%!!! plus the added bonus is that there are no labour laws to speak off in asia. So overtime is the norm with no compensation. I have the personal experience to be told that for workin’ on the weekend,, I get a free lunch!!!….that is the compensation. So yes…it is a sweatshop!

      • xhrit says:

        Actually, statistics prove that Asia has a much greater pool of talent. If a population is 10 times bigger then it produces 10 times as many smart people. How many super smart ‘One in a million’ type people can the USA produce, when there are only 300 mill people in the usa? My math says ~300. China on the other hand, has 1.5 bil people. Which means the top 1% of China’s population is many times larger then the top 1% of the USA.

      • anton says:

        @xhrit
        This not right to count population and if they more then they have more talents. Can you provide statistics how much people in China have internet, PC ? is there is no people in such populous country live in poverty threshold?

      • Scott Squires says:

        to xhrit –
        Yes, statistically there are more people in Asia but that doesn’t always translate in 1:1 abilities or interests. if it did them Asians would lead in all Olympic sports. There has to be an interest and training in specific areas. In some cases communication with cultural similarities come in to to play.

        I knew 3 matte painters that came from a small Ohio town so statistics don’t always tell the entire story.

      • G says:

        It’s crazy, comparing entire hemispheres and continents.

  4. I don’t want to be the bad guy here, and surely what Lucasfilm did was wrong on every moral level, but it sounds like Luis Pages decided to rely on HR and could have benefited from reading his contract a little closer. Also, if he’s a VES member, does VES health coverage not cover out of country health care?

    • Jeff Heusser says:

      VES offers no health coverage, I believe that they have tried very hard to do so but recently sent an email to members saying that there was nothing they could do. They do offer a phone number to a broker who tries to help but when I checked with him when they first started offering it it was cheaper for us to stay on COBRA, which blew my mind… and it was not guaranteed issue.

    • Dave Rand says:

      The Academy was originally formed by several producers with the guise that it was going to work out labor issues… it became more of a limp pacifier. Not saying VES is on the same exact road but their charter pretty much keeps them out of anything truly substantial when it comes to labor, for now anyway. I once made the mistake of thinking they could actually help in a very dire situation and was curious why my emails went unanswered. Then Jeff personally wrote back after a concerned member gave me his personal contact info and informed me that they were powerless in that arena.. Although statements like VES 2.0 can aid in getting membership numbers up I look forward to the day when maybe much more can be done…Group health seems like a non political suggestion. Anyone know why that is not available?

      • Scott Squires says:

        Unfortunately Group health is not an option available for the VES. I wasn’t on the committee involved but they spent a lot of time and did an extensive investigation with all the different groups. They teamed up with the Producers Guild and the Academy of Television to build up numbers but without thousands of members ready to sign up for insurance, it;s impossible to get lower rates. The freelancers insurance was suggested by some people but as I recall that’s for New York so was impossible to do in California.

        If anyone has specifics for better insurance plans for the VES please send them in. And of course the VES has a benefits and business committee among others so everyone should feel free to join a group to help.

        I’m on the board of the VES so if people have suggestions or problems with the VES let me know and I will bring them up.

      • I’m truly shocked. I thought that was the whole point of VES and bragging that you did something good enough to be invited. That’s pretty disappointing.

      • Scott Squires says:

        VES
        Just a clarification for moonlightkiss02, especially since i’ve heard it before. You’re not invited to the VES. If you have 5 or more years experience in visual effects you can submit an application along with 2 letters of recommendation from VES members.

        To Dave – Yes the VES has some limits t o what it can do and ideally there’d be a union and trade association. But until that happens the VES is the largest group of profession visual effects artists. As I’ve said before to everyone, please send in suggestions and problems. If you have a solution that the VES can help with so much the better. Feel free to join a committee to help out (VES is a volunteer non-profit)

        My suggestion for artists is not to sit around waiting for someone else to do something. If you want a union, sign a rep card. If you want to help the VES, step up. If you have a solution post it somewhere. If you simply wait for something to happen, it may never happen.

      • “2 letters of recommendation from VES members”

        Scott how is that different than an invitation? Without the endorsement of a current member you cannot be a member… it’s an exclusive club that requires invitation…

      • Scott Squires says:

        WordPress seems to have swallowed my last response.

        To Stephen Tucker:
        It’s not an invitation. Some people wait for an invitation that never comes. If a person is interesting in the VES and has 5+ years experience they have to make the effort to join.

        2 letters – It is a professional organization (not an exclusive club) and as such requires confirmation and recommendation. Most people working professionally for 5+ years are likely to know at least 2 VES members since there are close to 3000(?) worldwide. Two members write a letter of recommendation, not an invitation.The VES works with people in areas that are sparse in members. If you do not know 2 VES contact the VES main office.

        The ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) and the Academy of Motion Pictures are much more selective.

  5. Dave Rand says:

    …and Lucas is giving proceeds from the sale to charity…I’d say “charity” should start at home Mr Lucas…

  6. Steve London says:

    Is this situation somehow unique to Lucasfilm Singapore or could the same thing happen in the US? In other words, does having an office in Singpaore open the door to fewer workers rights as well as any other financial benefits to the company?

    • Scott Squires says:

      Legal requirements are usually based on where you work and were hired. (i.e. looser worker rights in Singapore doesn’t mean they can treat workers by those rules in the US.) This of course works both ways. Something illegal in the US may be within the law elsewhere. Part of reason for many companies setting up shops elsewhere (not just vfx). Less regulations, less worker rights, no overtime laws, etc.

      If someone is employed based in one place but sent to another then their contract and health insurance should cover them accordingly. I’ve worked out the country when under the union and was covered elsewhere. I know some people from iLM that went to Singapore for short durations and assume that they were covered based on their main employment. But note that insurance plans may not cover well or at all in other countries. Each plan is different.

      That’s why anyone planning to do work in another country (temporarily or permanently) needs to be clear about health care coverage. Will they be covered and for what? How long until coverage kicks in? How long will it last when employment ends? Employee costs and additional options?

  7. Scott Squires says:

    That’s correct. The VES itself does not offer health insurance but does has a broker. As Jeff mentioned the VES did spend a lot of time and effort trying every combination possible to offer better health insurance pricing. In the end it’s an impossible task for a relative small group to make much impact, especially with varying laws of states and the grip the insurance companies have on their profit centers. I found it cheaper than Cobra but everyone is a bit different.

    I suspect none of this was in his contract. It probably simply stated that they provided health care coverage. And most workers would assume great, health care coverage, especially from Lucasfilm. If you’ve looked at health insurance plans recently they’re like reading a dense legal document with many exceptions and footnotes. Like reading the software licensing agreements.

    The amount of questions and details employes now have to cover is mind blowing even when dealing with a large company. Their HR department screwed up big time. Any person that comes on the HR department should have been made clear on any differences from expectations of coverage and what they were offered. And yes, the company should have brought this up BEFORE the final signing but their company policy seems to be tell the employee later.

    At the end of the day everyone has to look after themselves since the companies certainly won’t. And this applies to employees who are with a company a long time and lulled in the the sense compassion from the company. Money is the driving force of companies and even if you have a good relationship with a manager things could change quickly if that person leaves or market pressures change.

  8. Dave Rand says:

    You’d think Lucas Film would be a bit more careful when it comes family issues like this after having recently been found guilty of this :

    http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_15411939

    • Paul says:

      Well when you go for an interview, get the job and tell your boss you’re pregnant few days later don’t tell me you’re not abusing the system! Did she learn she was pregnant hours after she got the job?! Please…what a load of bs!

      • Easy says:

        Uhhhh yes Paul, women get pregnant unexpectedly. Duh.

      • Whoa there, how is it an abuse of the system? The system forbids personal questions like whether or not you’re married or expecting a child from being asked in an interview.

      • Paul says:

        @Easy: You mean she wasn’t having sex weeks before her interview? All of a sudden she wakes up and she’s pregnant and realizing it just few days after being hired?! wow that’s unexpected indeed…

        @Stephen: Why did she even notified her employer then?! She could have kept a low – or thin – profile – and wait until she ballooned up so things were then become obvious to her boss. But no she decides she’s gonna tell her employer and corner him as soon as she got her pregnancy result and risk exactly what happened to her. No it doesn’t sound like a trap, not at all…

        Bitch took a bet and won.

      • Easy says:

        @Paul- It’s fairly common for men and women to have sex on a regular basis. Is this really hard to believe?

      • @Easy… maybe for Paul it is.

        @Paul that’s some insanely misogynistic points of view you have there.

      • Easy says:

        It’s so strange to see someone white knighting ILM in this thread.

  9. Charlie Don't Surf says:

    is Luis Pages suing Lucasfilm/ILM Singapore?
    he might have a case.

    • edwardh says:

      Depending on how lawyers handle things in the UK, he may not be able to afford the legal expenses.
      Plus of course – they did not provide a reason and he was still within the probation period. I very much doubt anybody could win a case like that, regardless of the nation.

      I suppose the only thing one can do is show Lucasfilm what one thinks of such things by maybe sending them the links to these articles instead of a proper answer, should they offer a job.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        I’m not sure that’s the case. as has been linked before, a pregant woman previously won a suit against ILM.
        just last week the cocaine whistle blower at Ascent media won 450 grand.
        and of course Pixar and Lucas have been found guilty of collusion ( on a federal case I believe ).
        maybe a labour lawyer willing to work on the case could work pro rata?

        also, I’m not sure why you mention the UK in your reply. to my knowledge Luis Pages is from Venezuela, and although he has worked in London, this happened in Singapore.

      • edwardh says:

        I just assumed that since he last lived in the UK that that would be his “main country of residence” and that he returned there by now.
        That it happened in Singapore doesn’t really matter when it comes to getting a lawyer to handle the case. Unless you were to hire a lawyer from Singapore and do everything remotely. Which… I’m not sure a lot of lawyers would be willing to do. At least my experience was that people who have to represent you in legal matters want to (possibly “have to”, depending on the country and the matter?) meet you in person at some point.

  10. Junkie VFX says:

    ILM has always been sketchy about their contracts, but mostly the incapable HR that handles it. If you’re not smart enough to run your contract through your labor lawyer, you are definitely in it for a big surprise. ILM after 2004 started to hire ONLY Fan-boy artists for pennies, and in return artist forgot their priorities and looked away from loop holes. I strongly urge fellow members of this business to look into this injustice, before it claims artists who truly believe and have faith in this profession or for that matter the art of making movies.

  11. James B says:

    Hey IATSE, you lookin’ sexy right now gurl, how you been? We probably need a few more Luis’ before people are made enough to join/form a union, eh? I’m interested, but being the one to stick my neck out doesn’t sit well with me. My father used to be a shop steward, and he was on the companies permanent shit-list because of it.

    • skaplan839 says:

      Hello James. While I can not speak on behalf of the international, I’m confident I can extend their thanks for your kind words.

      As for organizing, by law, the artists and workers of Visual Effects are as capable now as they were before of standing up for their right to organize and bargaining for the same benefits and contractual standards and protections the rest of the industry enjoys.

      But, it does take the strength of conviction that Mr. Pages showed by allowing his name to be used. I’m not against anonymity, and the IATSE isn’t either. However, in order for the industry to become unionized, the workers will have to stand and be counted as a supporter.

      All this is not to say the union could have done a great deal for Mr. Pages had ILM continued to be a union studio. He is a European artist who went to Singapore for work. One thing that can be inferred from this story, this is likely not the only case of something of this nature happening. Its also likely it happens here in the states .. where forming a union can have an impact.

      Further, the unionization of the industry will have reaching effects on behavior like this. In talking with workers on-set who work non-union, I’ve been told plenty of times that non-union productions will mirror union standards as best as possible because that’s “just what’s expected”.

      Food for thought.

      Steve K
      Organizer – The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE
      skaplan@animationguild.org

      • clayton wood says:

        Clayton Wood was terminated from lucas film for being injured on the job. recieved no help from lucas film (didnt allow him to clean out his office) or his union (local 700) and lost everything, career, money , family and friends. You can find him homeless in san anselmo, ca. flipping the bird at george lucas as he gets his morning coffee

  12. B Swift says:

    What is Lucasfilm’s (public) response to this?

  13. James Grean says:

    Does this also not beg the question, why is the probation period 6 months when these contracts are so volatile? I remember most of my contracts have 4-6 weeks probation, not 4-6 MONTHS. A probation that long, which allows companies to terminate without reason, isn’t helping our industry. I would be interested to know what other industries have a probabtion that long? My lawyer friends don’t seem to have probationary periods like that.

  14. Bob Coleman says:

    Just a point of clarification to this very sad story. VES in fact provides members access to healthcare coverage, in fact the same access as TV Academy members and Producers Guild members. They are provided through Aetna Insurance and are administrated through a broker, Westbridge Financial. As Scott Squires correctly pointed out, it is not guaranteed issue group healthcare 9unavailable to Honorary Societies and most Trade Associations. At best it can be described as discounted healthcare insurance. Had Mr. Pages been covered by this policy it is possible he and his wife would have had healthcare in Singapore covered by this policy. But I suspect while he may be a VES member, he may not have bought a policy. There are many VES members who have done so and are happy with it.

    Now to Mr. Pages. If these are the facts then he has been terribly wronged by any decent behavior measure. No excuses.

    • I also joined the VES in order to apply for its health coverage. As folks keep pointing out here…the VES plan is not guaranteed-issue coverage. Aetna rejected my VES application for individual coverage because I have a preexisting condition.

      After my rejection, the VES insurance broker helped me get guaranteed-issue group coverage by forming a general partnership agreement with my husband. As a two-person business, we could legally purchase guaranteed-issue coverage in California. It works as long as we both remain alive. If one of us dies in a car accident, the survivor loses coverage. We’re switching to the health insurance exchanges as soon as they come online in 2014.

      I strongly recommend joining the VES for its free theatrical screenings and annual holiday party. Both are well worth the $200/year in membership fees. I do not recommend joining VES for health insurance. My understanding is that anyone can use the services of the VES insurance broker (Scott Brandt of Westbridge Financial & Insurance Services), so you don’t need VES membership for access to those services.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Agreed, don’t join the VES for health insurance coverage.

        Benefits – People think of the screening but the VES Educational group (and sections) hold educational events all year long. Even if they’re not local to you most are available to watch on the website as video.

        The VES produced the VES Handbook of Visual Effects. It has posted business information for individuals on the web site and covered 1099 issues in an event. There’s a technology committee trying to standardize vfx technology, business committee, etc. There’s a lot going on that isn’t always written up and the VES doesn’t always take advantage of it’s own PR.

        There’s also discounts on many things including Hollywood papers, Apple equipment, etc. Check the site.

  15. Gorge Pukas says:

    Luis is not the only person who worked for ILM Singapore who is broke due to issues with health coverage. I know of two others and while I can’t speak for them here, I will encourage them to post.

  16. John Goodman says:

    Sounds weird, when i was looking at moving to ILM Singapore last year i was informed that i would have to pay for extra coverage for ‘maternity related’ expenses. Of course i had to ask this specifically but perhaps Luis didn’t ask about this before hand? The term ‘full coverage’ is very misleading but if he had asked for more details before hand he would have got them.

    I never took the job so I cant be 100% if they told me the truth but i was informed that i would need to pay for the extra coverage as an add-on to their package

    • Scott Squires says:

      From the description they never informed him. Should he have inquired specifically? Probably but there are a likely a staggering number of issues not covered in the policy. Unless you specifically understand the health insurance world, are expecting to have a pregnate spouse and have a reason to assume it’s not covered by standard health care you might not ask.

      All artists should add that to their long list of items they have to specifically ask about because companies don’t often come forward with these issues. The company should have put any variant from expected coverage in a clearly labeled document in the employment paperwork package. And they should provide that before you complete the deal memo. That’s a disclosure.

      • John Goodman says:

        i must admit they were very sketchy with details about insurance when i asked, which was not comforting as coming from the UK we all get free health care and i had no experience of health insurance. I did not get far enough down the line to get all the insurance documents to view which i hoped they would provide before i signed anything

  17. How do they always get away with it… its unbelievable

    • Easy says:

      I’m a bit torn between hating the Lucasfilm HR Sociopaths for putting the screws to a guy who is in a really tough situation and being somewhat annoyed that it really seems like he just didn’t read his contract. It’s a shame. Meanwhile Lucas will be donating the $4 billion for the sale of the company to charity. There’s something wrong with this picture.

      • HydroxAndHorlix says:

        donating money to charity is usually a tax write off. providing more health insurance coverage for employees is not. i agree that both sides of this story are potentially problematic. it’s another indication that despite the billions of dollars in revenue this business generates [and the several decades of experience behind it] vfx continues to operate on a wild west laissez-faire business model.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Health care coverage details would not have been in the contract but in the health insurance policy. According to the article they specifically didn’t give him that until he had signed on. How many here have read every word of their health insurance policy? Most are written like house insurance policy which allow them outs for a number of different combinations of things.

        Its now clear all vfx artists need to check their coverage for maternity coverage, pre-existing conditions, carpal tunnel, disability, vision care, etc and make sure they know what and what is not covered.

      • vfx artsit says:

        HydroxAndHorlix, VFX continues to operate on a wild west laissez-faire business-model because there is nothing to push back. employees don’t push back. you never get what you want until you demand it., Its not given to you.

        Just a short list of things that were DEMANDED by the worker, not given to them by their Job creating benevolent masters…

        1) 8 hour day
        2) 40 hour work week
        3) overtime
        4) vacation
        5) sick days
        6) collective bargaining rights

      • Easy says:

        Hydrox, everyone knows that charity donations are a tax write off. Whether there’s a tax benefit or not isn’t the point and really has nothing to do with the right or wrong of the situation.

  18. Bebo Famu says:

    This is fairly typical of their Singapore operations, as you know, the company is 40% owned by the local local government.

  19. matt hartle says:

    Does anyone know if there’s something out there like Kickstart but for contributing to someone in need? I appreciate this forum bringing this issue to light and subsequently for people venting their similar frustrations. But it’s NOT enough. Sighting the fact that these corporations can be extremely inhuman when dealing with their employee’s, I believe, at this point can basically be taken for granted.

    Now it’s time for us to come together as a community and help these people. I don’t know this guy or his situation beyond this post but it sounds like he has real need and needs help now. I gotta believe if people will give you $20.00 to build a better tennis shoe on Kickstart (obviously being sarcastic, Kickstart is awesome) then they will contribute to a fellow human in need. To be effective members of a community we can’t just talk about the problems, we must solve them.

    The long form discussions and efforts being made by groups like VES are crucial but they don’t help this guy, right now, when he needs it.

    If anyone knows of something like this out there please bring it up so we can get something setup to help this guy.

    BTW, I am quite aware that people out there might be skeptical of this guy and his situation or at least to skeptical to lay out some cash to help him. Be it ever so costly, I choose to believe in basic human decency. I’m sure that better choices could have been made because none of us is perfect.

    I hope we figure out how to help this guy.

    -m

    • Scott Squires says:

      Hi Matt,

      Looks like Give Forward http://www.giveforward.com and indiegogo http://www.indiegogo.com/features-of-indiegogo are 2 potential sites to setup and make donations.

      But I think whomever sets it will need more info about Luis Pages regarding costs and where payments go as well as a photo I suspect.

      • matt hartle says:

        Hey Scott,

        Thx for those. Looks like Luis is going to be OK, but I’m going to keep those sites bookmarked for future needs. I think we’re going to have’m.

        Best,

        -m

    • Luis Pages says:

      Hello Matt, Scott, Friends.

      I first want to say a big THANK YOU for your support, for the long list of emails of encouragement and sympathy and for your kind words. I also want to thank you for your understanding and for spreading this story, it has gone around the world as I see a lot of emails from friends from every major studio.

      Is very kind of you to think of us and to try to help us financially, is a great gesture and I wont forget it. I’d do exactly the same. At the same time I must say that is definitely not necessary, although we have been hurt badly I’m still standing and moving forward.

      I want to point out that the main reason I decided to share my story and go public is to once and for all put a face to one of the many horror stories that pollute our industry on a daily basis. I’m not pursuing financial retributions of any kind, for me getting the story across every artist is more than enough, and if it costs me my career so be it, at least I’ll do so fighting back.

      From both me and my wife, thank you so much for everything, it means a lot to us. We are glad to have this behind us so we can focus on the rest of our pregnancy. I dont think I’ll encourage my son to join our trade, but I still have a few more shots and effects left in me.

      • Seven says:

        Good luck Luis! Sorry to hear about your story as I could totally see myself in that situation having moved around the world twice. I’ve spread your unfortunate experience around. Wishing you all the best to your family and you.

      • skaplan839 says:

        Luis,

        Its great to hear from you and to hear that you’re “standing and moving forward”.

        I believe if there are thanks to be had, they belong to you. Making the decision to tell your story further exposes the ever-present pressure that is placed on vfx artists across the world. It’s a shame that you’re story is not unique, but it’s a bigger shame that more people choose to quietly accept and tolerate these situations.

        Thank you for being open and loud with your struggle.

      • Luis, Thank You for having the courage to come forward with your familly’s story. It is terrible that you have had to go through these struggles for people to wake up. If everyone had balls like you, we’d all be working in a better industry.

      • matt hartle says:

        Hey Luis,

        Relieved to hear your going to be OK. My wife talked about this last night and it hits directly home for us. We’re ready to help if/when you guys need it. Please let us know.

        -m

      • Scott Squires says:

        Hi Luis,

        Glad you’re able to move forward. I know what type of stress this must have caused. I also thank you for coming forward and talking about it. Many artists aren’t aware of things going on in the rest of the industry and world. There are rumors, someone heard something from someone else, but it’s hard to determine what’s real.

        All the best for your family and a happy, healthy birth.
        Scott

      • Scott Ross says:

        Your Courage to stand up is what is needed in this industry… Thanks for your courage… hoping all goes well w the baby and your family.

    • clayton wood says:

      The actors fund
      Televison, motion pictures fund
      Will Rogers fund

      the actors fund has help me. it was a blessing just have someone care.

  20. Anon says:

    Having lived and worked in Singapore for a software vendor, and having had a child in Singapore, I can attest to the nightmare stories, and contribute my own.

    We were transferred to Singapore, and my wife was pregnant with our 3rd child. None of her expenses were covered despite “FULL” medical coverage and assurances before moving that they would be. At the birth, we had to pre-pay the hospital before I was allowed to join my wife in the delivery room. My wife was in labor, and I was still filling out paperwork, paying monies when the delivery ward called down to tell me to come up immediately. They admin (at 3am mind you) yelled down the phone at the nurse that she had not finished the paperwork. I made it up in time for the delivery by the skin of my teeth.

    When we checked out of the hospital, we gathered up our belonging, and our new baby daughter, and were stopped at the ward door, the baby was taken off us, and we were told to go down to admin to finalize our account, and take it back to redeem that for our baby.. i kid you not.

    There were so many “gotchas” during or time in singapore, and although the low tax rates on paper look great, they are not so attractive when they decide to tax you on things like Stock Options (not vested, just issued). My Tax bill, which had to be paid before I was allowed to leave the country, was higher than my annual salary, and of course, the shares never vested, as I left the company, but was still taxed on them.

    I love the city, but these things leave a sour taste, do your homework, get everything in writing, and stick to your guns.

    Anon.

  21. Dr Evil says:

    We can go on and on about this.
    Don’t forget we are racing downhill in this CG industry. We complain about benefits and what’s not.

    We will still one day lose all these jobs to India, China or whichever African country that steps up the game. Our jobs will go for cheaper countries who will not mumble a single complain about workers right.

    Every single company is just waiting to pounce on this advantage – more bang for the bucks. Fuck the rest.

  22. Clicking Bandit says:

    I wonder if now that the Mouse owns them, will they continue their shady practices, or if they’ll start treating their employees more like, you know, humans.

  23. BarbarianHorde1 says:

    Well this is no surprise, it is a shame that some people think it is acceptable to do anything they can get away with rather than what is right.
    I know this is a sweeping statement as there are times when a company needs to make decisions that seem inappropriate but it seems to be coming clear that organisation like ILM believe they have the right to do whatever they want whenever they want, and it is this attitude as much as film subsidies will seriously hurt and endanger the visual effects industry in the US.
    With or without a union we deserve to be treated with respect and not like cattle.

  24. Scott Squires says:

    I should mention I still think it would be a great idea to have a list of vfx companies and indicate their working conditions along with health care, overtime pay, etc. It would certainly make it easier for artists to understand and compare companies and locations.

    • HydroxAndHorlix says:

      i agree- a vfx artist created ranking system would b really useful. i also beleive vfx artists need to take a certain amount of responsibility for buying into the hype surrounding studios. pixar is a studio greatly admired and touted, but it’s also pretty well known their payscales can be up to 30% lower than industry standards. why is this acceptable? partially because artists continue to want to work there, so demand remains high. i understand choosing to work somewhere is based on a complex set of issues. but artists need to push back on these practices as well. a ranking system that artists routinely consult would be a great step.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        I have encouraged people to post on Glassdoor ( http://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm ).
        It’s anonymous, free and there are already quite a few vfx companies reviews ( and salary information ). the more complete it becomes as a resource the better it is for everyone.

  25. vfx artsit says:

    I think this points to a core issue: A russian family man working in Singapore for an american company. This is not how to live your life. To be at the mercy of companies that commoditize their labor instead of investing in human capital. You know one of the rising industries in the US is HR.. because now they manage a rotating door of employees… constantly hiring/layingoff. As a freelancer, you know what its like jumping from company to company, handing your paperwork with your social security number to some twenty something year old with tattoos and piercings to file away? you know how many people in VFX HR offices are transient? I walked into one HR office where the desk was strewn with the filed out W2 forms of that weeks hire. I could have easily walked away with some SS #.

    As a whole I’ve become so distrustful of companies. VFX companies are like the canary in the cave to where much of the rest of the corporate world is headed. We have no union or any mechanisms to protect employees, mainly because the current culture and climate is one of where people see themselves as independent contractors in every aspect of their lives rather than citizens or a community. Thats the “divide and conquer” mechanism. Its pathetic that this industry hasn’t been able to organize.. its clearly from a lack of will. To keep running to the VES just shows the ignorance.

    • Eric Rosenthal says:

      I agree. We’re not migrant workers and we shouldn’t have to chase jobs around the world. If you want to travel for work fine but dream jobs don’t mean much if you’re living somewhere you don’t want to be.

      I sympathize with Luis but if more of us got tougher an put our feet down things like these wouldn’t happen.

    • ion says:

      You should read a book called “Millenium : Winner’s and losers in the New World Order” by jacques attali that describes how the future world will be one of nomadic professionals, never living in one place for more than a few years, managed by a global executive of technical, corporate, governmental bureaucrats managing industries globally, then the rest who will be taxed heavily and very rarely ever leave the regions they are born in. No doubt some of the london vfx folk will be jumping up and down talking about x-files and fox news without ever reading the book or asking who is jacques attali (a policy advisor for around 40 years now to the US government, European Union and United Nations, now currently holding senior policy roles in the Europen Commission, United Nations and World Bank). There is a guy who comes up with the policies that affect your everday life who describes how nations in the future will be like “hotels” that attract nomadic workers across every kind of industry. jacques attali is not a reptilian man – you can follow his career and policy making very easily with just a little reading.

      • John Goodman says:

        Why are you bringing your anti UK agenda to this conversation?

      • ion says:

        because it answers a specific, verifable issue related to this question and the point just raised. Have another read. What point does your comment add to discussions?

  26. Michael says:

    Like an “Angies” list for vfx studios? That would be interesting.

    • Locker says:

      There was an german “Angies list”, which developed a lot Dust and Wind around german companies. But after Month is closed, because of lack of interrest.
      “VFX Nerd” are type of character, which never step up, thats the core Problem about the industry.

  27. Charlie Don't Surf says:

    just got off chat with a friend at ILM Singapore. He confirmed all this and said it was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve encouraged him to post here or write to vfx soldier.

  28. Charlie Don't Surf says:

    oh yeah, and I guess it’s as good a time as any to mention the rumours of ILM opening in London, in March next year. This story might make people think twice before applying.

    • vfxGer says:

      Well in London at least you get have the NHS.
      This is a very sad story.
      It shows another side of outsourcing in that people in other countries are not stealing your job, you have to move to other countries to do your job which as this story shows is a lot harder then it sounds.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        Absolutely true. I am not dissing London vfx, and if anything this story makes you appreciate London NHS/Society/Labour law, as well as London vfx companies.
        Only thing I do not appreciate about London is rampant unpaid over time but that’s another story – which also deserves to be told.

  29. vfxsoldierette says:

    Just FYI…contracts in Lucasfilm Singapore run rather long (2years is kinda standard).
    But you guys think 6-months probation is bad!? Try having to repay your relocation-allowance PLUS your temp-apartment-costs (Lucasfilm gets you a temporary apartment for the first month) when you leave – quit or get layed off – before the end of your first year. Of course in that case you can usually kiss your rental-deposit goodbye, too, as well expect fees on any other contracts you might have to break (cellphone etc etc).
    That relocation-thing kinda reminds me of the “security deposit” Primefocus India made their employees pay…just slightly disguised maybe…

  30. James B says:

    These companies all make heavy recruitment pushes to get people to work in Singapore, but it certainly is off-putting for those of us coming from countries like Canada and the UK where you are fully covered. Not covering pre-existing conditions, pregnancy, all the hassle… There is much less appeal to work there, especially if you’re and older/senior artist with a family

  31. anon says:

    Bottom line – If your married, have kids or own your own place. DO NOT WORK IN ANOTHER VFX COUNTRY ABROAD!

    VFX is now only for the mobile young and single. There is NO long term future in this industry.

    Simple as.

    As a side note: I was once told a story by an ex-Weta artist how, H.R wouldn’t not hire or are extremely reluctant to hire any married artist, as they knew they couldn’t make them work the longer hours.

  32. VFX_Boom says:

    I wonder how many good artists just black listed ILM Singapore, or hell, even ILM over this?

    As the layers of the nasty little VFX onion continue to be pulled back, it’s just gonna expose more Bullshit and force more tears.

    At the same time, artists need to learn to read the contracts, talk to others about the experience in other countries, and research the tax laws to protect themselves. These VFX companies aren’t opening studios outside of their native lands to “Spread Sunshine and Happiness”. They are they to screw folks over one way or another.

    Again, artists need to mature a bit and see past the Fanboy aspect of what we do, and have the balls to say “Sure I grew up on Star Wars, and would love to work for ILM, but the ILM contract is total SHIT. No Thanks.”

    • Mr Walahee says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing – for me I don’t give a rats arse who ‘they’ think they are, if the work conditions suck and its not fun to work there… well you get it.

  33. KL says:

    I don’t think young artists really know how to read contracts. Especially written by big corporate companies where tons of legal terms are used. Besides, they are too scared to lose the opportunity of acquiring some experience to be fussy about the terms and conditions. Most young guys I know just want to do their time and move on to better pasture. It’s just the nature of the game and not only in the VFX industry.

    The whole Singapore deal really looked good on the surface as they have lower income tax. But having moved twice around the world I know you need a really good cash reserve to settle in a foreign country. Your salary doesn’t come in until after 30 days. You need to put a deposit for rental (most of the times 2x months deposit because you’re a foreigner hence no credit history) + 1 month rental. So you need a minimal of 4 months income to survive that first month. It becomes easier as you build your savings but still scary to give it all away just to get a job.

    Maybe someone should write a blog sharing tips and experience for VFX artists in major cities around the world.

    • vfxDeputy says:

      What you said!

    • Paul S says:

      Just wondering, shouldn’t the relocation fee cover these initial deposit and expenses?

      • KL says:

        From what I know their relocation fee covers a specific total amount. But should your employment be terminated within your trial period (6months) you should pay back all expenses. Should that happen then it’s a double whammy since you pay back the money that weren’t yours to begin with but you also just spent your savings putting deposits on rent. You’re out of pocket twice. My advice is to ride it out and live like a monk for 6months then take your winnings (if any) then get the hell out.

  34. aj says:

    Been trying to get back to ILM for several years. Ya, they’re the evil empire but this is absolutely disgusting. I’m done with them permanently.

  35. aninym says:

    I have once signed a work contract in Spanish. It is not so much about reading sometimes.

    • Mr Walahee says:

      well thats your own fault if you can’t read spanish!

    • Easy says:

      Do you mean you signed a contract that was in a language you didn’t understand?

    • aninym says:

      I signed a one sided translation before moving and then then actual contract there was in Spanish which i cannot understand. Naive but i signed it

      • aninym says:

        Cudos to Luis for speaking in public.
        Small industry and it takes some courage to do so.

      • Easy says:

        That’s scary. It’s worth noting that when working abroad, don’t put your eggs all in one basket. Plan to stay someplace temporary, pack light and don’t move all of your stuff over until you’ve settled any contractual obligations.

        If someone tried pulling that kind of shady nonsense with me I’d walk out and get on the first flight back home.

        Once I got held up by immigration because they suspected I was there for work and I didn’t have a visa. The company that hired me had it in the works but needed me on site several weeks sooner and said that it wouldn’t be a problem, I was told to just say I was on holiday. So I tried to lie my way through it and it failed. Eventually I apologized and fessed up when I realized I was on my own, and really I was only protecting the company and not myself. They contacted the company and they disavowed all knowledge of my employment, and they questioned me further “of course they are denying it, they’re liable for fines correct?”. I loaded up my website, and demo reel to prove what my career was and it satisfied the immigration officials. Luckily, I was allowed to return home on the next flight without a problem, but the lesson was learned.

        NEVER leave home without all of your paperwork, contracts and visas. If you get there and the company screwed it up, it’s not your fault, be honest. So now, I am more cautious, and I plan to come back early in the case of a situation like this, which would include some kind of bait and switch on the terms of the contract.

        It seems obvious that they use the relocation fees as leverage. So basically what you have is a massive fine YOU have to pay if for any reason you lose your job. It sounds awful, so why even bother?

        I don’t buy the claim that ILM is totally unaware of what is going on, that’s the reason they are there in the first place.

  36. Moplo says:

    Hey Luke, I have an idea. Let’s open a shop in North Korea. No more probs then.

  37. abusewalker says:

    I worked at ILM Singapore and forgive me for staying anonymous. Not everyone is as brave as Luis Pages.

    Here are my experiences:

    When HR gets in touch with someone they will tell him exactly what the applicants want to hear. In short they will tell him shameless lies about:

    – health care (fully covered for you and your spouse – not even close. You cannot even visit the doctor or hospital you like)

    – cost of living (They will tell you bullshit about cheap food like 3 S$ per lunch – more like 10 S$)

    – probation period (they say 3 months but in the contract it’s all of a sudden 6)

    – relocation (They hide the fact that one has to pay back the relocation and hotel in case the contract gets terminated or you want to quit before 12 months. Sure it`s in the contract, but not quite easy to understand. Unless you are suspicious you are unlikely to catch it in a normal read through)

    – rent (They will say something like 2000 S$ per month but this is just true for HDB`s not for condos. No Westerner is likely to move there)

    – Your wife needs a job? – no problem they say (but they won’t give her a working visa like they claim they do. Its merely a Long Term Visit Pass or Dependent Pass. Good luck!)

    ILM HR lies pretty much about everything. You can catch them on some things but never on everything. The health care is obviously the biggest lie and they hide that just like Luis Pages is describing. Once you arrive in Singapore they give you some additional paperwork which you have never seen before but already signed in a shorter form. I heard also about cases of private bankruptcy because of health care issues. The NDA`s they make people sign are also so tough that many are afraid to say anything out of fear. I quit as soon as I could without that penalty. Most people do, which is why they have it in the contracts I guess.

    Would I recommend anyone to join ILM in Singapore or anywhere? Obviously not. Overall ILM was maybe once a great place to work for but the Magic is long gone. Just the Industrial Light is still burning and now I bet everyone is afraid the Big Mouse finds out.

    • lol says:

      well the biggest thing is because the Singapore government is just too dumb and naive and keep thinking that Lucas Singapore is producing work that makes the government think that the company is all working out good but in fact the opposite. I wonder what happens if the government got wind of this and pulls the plug on funding.

  38. abuseRunner says:

    I also work at ILM SIngapore and I can agree 100% abusewalker. I also want to add the following issues with their monstrous HR and production teams.

    1- First of all, the main reason there are not many more replies or contributions to this thread is because some of us who had posted links to this article on our personal Facebook and Twitter pages were called to HR and threaten with legal actions if we dont remove our posts.

    Using fear to get what you want has a name and begins with a T… This people lie on this absurd NDAs, relocation allowance penalties and threats to get expats to stay in their company for at least 12 months, nowadays they are even extending the period to 15 months.

    2- Overtime is not paid in ILM Singapore, regardless of this some of us work extra hours to try to catch up with their ridiculous deadlines and toilet paper pipeline, at the end of the week we fill our timecard and we register our actual hours.

    A couple of months ago we noticed that after you “commit” your timecard production goes in and changes your hours and removes anything over 40 hours, this bogus information is what gets sent to ILM San Francisco for their records.

    So technically in the eyes of the mothership in California, ILM Singapore performs like a well oiled machine and we are all amazing at keeping up with their absurd bids and “miscalculations” At the end of the day this hurts everyone as the same or worse expectations will be had on future films based on this fake picture perfect performance.

    3- What I find to be the worst one of them all. How can you explain having artists working on full on production shots of current shows, and have us put our worked hours towards training. Overhead which is the term used, is actually subsidised by the Singapore government.

    So you not only change timecards and remove unpaid overtime hours, but also have artists bill hours and hours of hands on shot work to government paid “training”

    This people need to be stopped, I truly hope other fellow ILM folks speak up, even if is under an alias.

  39. vfxsoldierette says:

    What my fellow Singaporean ILM’ers said!

    In terms of an official response to this, i think you can forget about that :) . They’re keeping this under wraps as much as they can (i too heard about threats to people who posted this on Facebook etc). The Disney people might be interested in hearing about this, though…

    The level of lying, fixing timecards, increasing pressure on artists when it comes to doing free overtime or hardly-compensated weekend work has definitely gotten worse in recent years in ILM Singapore! With higher-up supes leaving (mostly because of worsening conditions), the pressure that we’re feeling as artists has increased, as the “good” supes were usually acting as a buffer between production and artists. In some cases these supes were replaced by incompetent wannabe’s that don’t fight back when production puts the hammer down, or they don’t protect their artists from the constant pressure, which results in more distraction due to that pressure.
    Financially it’s gotten worse as well. As our president said the other day, we’re still too expensive compared to the competition. And that can defiinitely be felt in contract negotiations for one. Also the local intern program is constantly being expanded; departments are being filled up with “cheap” local junior artists or interns that have to be trained by the few senior expats that are left. While this training & helping is generally OK and expected of course – here it feels slightly wrong. More and more it feels like we’re only here to bring the studio to a certain level before it becomes self-sufficient on local talent and the expats can be let go one by one.

    Again, i can only agree with what’s been said so far by the others. The situation – with everything that’s slowly being uncovered – is developing from worse to intolerable, it has to be put to an end and the only way is to stop supporting it i.e. to not work for a place like that. While it’s not easy finding steady work as we had here (one good thing about ILM Singapore were the long and kinda dependable contracts), i’m definitely planning to leave this place behind as soon as possible!

    • Easy says:

      This is something that has been played out time and time again for many years in other industries. The fact is, you are all training your cheap replacements, plan accordingly.

      • Marcus says:

        Granted, but boy, are expats in other industries treated well compared to this. A gig in Asia to train local workers more often than not means a damn cushy job for quite a while.

        Those VFX artists/trainers get a kick in the nuts in return for the “adventure of travel” and “cool projects” – while shouldering HR’s risk of bringing in “expensive” expats through bizarre probation agreements that can roll most relocation expenses off to the worker.

        I’m so over this downward spiral and the unlucky yet plentiful participants…

    • lol says:

      lol because for every one every 1 LOCAL intern they bring in the government is going to pay for their salary. lol cheap / free labour to LUCAS!! NICE!! lol. good job Lucas. GOOD JOB Singapore government. GOOD Job people of Singapore paying your tax monies. they all go to them pockets.

  40. onetwothree says:

    Hi there,
    I’m another anonymous Singapore Lucasfilm guy.
    I stay anonymous because I’m stuck here and I need that job and because this company tends to threaten and hit hard on employees that speak openly about the companie disfunctionnal areas.

    I got there not long ago. I went throught the bullshit recruiters served me(actual cost of living, rental prices, etc), I went throught the bad surprises (health care, giving back all relocation if living before 15 months, etc).
    One interesting detail Recruiters won’t tell you about Singapore law : if you wish to leave your apartment before end of lease, you’ll have to find some tenant to replace you. If not, you have to keep paying the rent until they find one or until your lease reaches it’s end.

    And finally I’m stuck here unable to pay back the relocation allowance + month of hotel + terminating Internet/phone lines if I want to leave. And also paying taxes before leaving the country. you no pay tax, you no leave. At least with a one way ticket.

    So two options :

    1 – I wait my 15 months and try to leave as peacefully as possible. I’ll probably have to spend one or two months in a hotel given the local laws on breaking a rental lease.
    2 – I find a better position and I vanish. I buy my ticket and just disappear.

    Lucasfilm Singapore is the biggest disappointment of my carrier. I thought I went throught cheap companies before, but I never felt as “insecure” as I am now, given the company behavior AND the country itself. HR and Recruiters are amongst the worse I’ve been given to deal with.

    I should also mention that this company likes to threaten employees that speak openly.

    One final advice : if you consider moving here, just don’t
    Or do if you have savings and if you are ready to spend them in order to leave the place.

    Cheers.

    • Paul S says:

      “One interesting detail Recruiters won’t tell you about Singapore law : if you wish to leave your apartment before end of lease, you’ll have to find some tenant to replace you. If not, you have to keep paying the rent until they find one or until your lease reaches it’s end.”
      What you’ve mentioned here sounds like what happens everywhere around the world. Your rent lease is a contract befween you and the landlord for a certain period of time. If you decide to terminate the contract, you have to pay for the rest of the lease, or get someone to replace you. This doesn’t sound like it’s specific to Singapore law to me.

      • HB says:

        hello paul, that is not true. You can terminate your contract with a fee in Canada and US, which I’m sure he’s probably more use to.

  41. FXGUY42 says:

    Isn’t this the behavior you’d expect from a company founded by a billionaire who named the company after himself, and kept 100% ownership because “he made everything himself”.

    The implication has always been: if you want to make money and have a good life either go somewhere else or start your own company (and many have).

  42. Paul says:

    Don’t bite the hand that feed you…why is it so surprising for so many of you that a company does not like his employees talking shit openly about it?! Would you appreciate your guest saying to everyone that your cooking sucks but still eat at your table? Probably not.

    I grant you that “small details” or some negative aspects can fuck up a great company but you gotta be responsible, mitigate or grab your balls and leave. Or unionized as vfxsoldier would probably say.

    • Easy says:

      People come to work in good faith, move from another country only to find they find they’ve been swindled and have a massive debt looming at the arbitrary discretion of sociopathic personality types. Oh, wow, I’m sooo sorry if that hurts their feelings.

      I have an idea, how about not being dicks to your people and in return, they won’t have a reason to talk shit about you. In fact they would actually have nice things to say, but that doesn’t make someone’s bonus bigger, so it won’t happen.

    • VFX_Boom says:

      “small details”? You mean something like health care, that could lead to Bankruptcy? Nice one “Paul”. And the idea of a great company seems a bit skewed as well.

      The VFX industry could be populated by great companies if the industry as a whole had any balls whatsoever to stand up for themselves, and their loyal employees instead of being raped by the Film Studios and having to rely on Governments around the world to keep them propped up.

    • coolio says:

      NICE one Mr Paul, unionzing in Singapore is going against the law. enough said. stop being all and mighty and go through the shit and suffering and you will understand it all.

      • Paul says:

        Open your fucking eyes on the planet before you talk about going thru shit and suffering.

      • Easy says:

        If the HR pricks didn’t talk up how great it is in Singapore no one would pack up their lives and move there.

        Anyone else get the feeling that “Paul” is one of the Lucas HR pricks in question? He’s got an excuse for everything Lucas does. Either that or some scumbag producer who advocates treating 3d people like garbage.

    • Marcus says:

      Make a real point, not just metaphors.

  43. Pookyjuice says:

    So when I work for a VFX company I am a “guest” eating dinner? How many dinner guests work overtime for you so you can afford to have a dinner party? That analogy reveals much about one’s character.

  44. LASguy says:

    I’m also from ILM Singapore, and like the people who posted before me, must also agree that what happened to Luis is pretty terrible. It’s quite a worry, for if they can do it to him, then it could quite possibly happen to myself or my friends working at the studio. However, I’d be quite interested to hear LAS’s side of the story, since there are always 2 sides to every coin.

    I’m also pretty amazed at the bitterness displayed by some of the other LAS posters. Comments that you can’t live in an HDB (you can, since I do), and that meals cost at least $10 are laughable. There’s no denying that Singapore is expensive, but unless you’re a stuck up snob that refuse to embrace what Singapore has to offer, it’s quite possible to have a decent life here.
    I do agree that HR didn’t always tell the truth when luring people over though. One of those would be just how much rent you have to pay in order to secure a place. 2 months deposit, and paying months ahead in rent takes a huge chunk of cash out of your pockets, which can be a nasty surprise upon just arriving in the country.
    However, many of the other complaints mentioned are clearly stated in the contract your signed. Saying that the clause covering the 12 (or 15) month term is hard to understand is a pretty bold lie. If you bothered reading and understanding your contract, then none of this would come as a surprise. I’m amazed how many people sign contracts without reading (or understanding) what it is that they’re signing. There are many things that I dont agree with at LAS, but artists need to take responsibility for themselves as well. If you dont agree with the contract, then dont sign it.

    • abusewalker says:

      Dear LASguy,

      Yes you should worry because they will do this to you if you get your dependent pregnant, have an accident, are unable to go to work etc. But don’t worry, I am sure you are still jung and invincible. But why do you care about the other side of the coin? If it looks like a dollar, feels like a dollar and even smells like a dollar the chances are high that even if you flip it over it is still a dollar! If you relocate someone from another country as a company you take responsibility. To dispose him like that is just morally wrong. Especially if the big boss acts like he is so generous.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2012/11/04/donating-star-wars-billions-will-make-george-lucas-one-of-the-biggest-givers-ever/

      Meals in Singapore don’t cost at least $10 but on average. And by decent I don’t mean chicken rice at some dirty smelling food court where you get a healthy portion of food poison for free. If you want to have a stuck up snob meal its more between 50-100 and + S$. Western food is between 15-30 S$ on average.

      If you don’t have a problem living in an HDB then this is your low standards. Most Western people don’t like it. That’s a fact.

      Also, If the relocation repay clause is as easy to understand as you say how come that most of the people I talked to got it wrong too? Are they all just stupid? Possible. But it could also be that ILM on purpose lead many artists to wrong beliefs.

      • booliott says:

        you know what is the most amazing thing about the salary system. there is an obvious case of racism going on. the indians and chinese get the lowest pays. the locals too. the whites get more, ALOT MORE. And I’m referring to people with the same skill set if not better than the whites. It’s a company that encourages racism.

      • Paul S says:

        “Most Western people don’t like it. That’s a fact.”
        This sounds more like a want than a need. If you want something of a higher standard, you pay more for it. This is the way it works everywhere, in any country.

        I’m not sure what a HDB is, but can you describe how low the “low standards” mean?

        Perhaps you should also have done some research of the “normal standards” in Singapore beforehand, and then let the ILM Singapore recruiters know that you are expecting a much higher standards than that, so that they can give you a better estimate of how much your higher standards will cost you before you decide if you really want to go there.

      • abusewalker says:

        Dear Paul,
        If you don’t know what you are talking about then just remain silent. I had done my research but as I said earlier. You can catch them on some things but never on everything. On the phone they are very smart finding explanations. Mostly you are also of guard because you don’t really expect these gigantic lies from a company like ILM.

    • Anonymizer says:

      A few years ago when LAS was trying to recruit me, the recruiter did tried to tell me all the perks and benefit of living and working in Singapore. Afterward, I was told that the maximum LAS was willing to pay expats were around 40k USD. At that point, I think I vomited and laughed at the same time, very quietly.

      • anon says:

        I got an offer above that, but still way lower than my US salary. The recruiter kept telling me that since Singapore has a low tax rate, it will all balance out, and I might come out ahead. So I got out my tax return and a calculator, and as you might guess the results were not even close. I hope other artists that they tried to sell that too did some math before signing.

      • Ymir says:

        “. . . it will all balance out, and I might come out ahead.”
        Any time you hear the words “might”, “may”, “could”, etc. . . . think to yourself “I’m being lied to.”

  45. VFXguerrila says:

    Timber…here come the small axes ready to chop the big trees down. Oh what a better world we will build once these giants fall!

  46. VFXguerrila says:

    They want to shut the internet down partly becasue of people like VFX soldier…Cuz blogs like this start fires.

  47. inVancouver says:

    This is just too bad, I thought it may be interesting to do a project in Singapore some time…I love the local food, for a start. As a comparison, I worked at ILM SF and while it was far from ideal, there were people there in department positions who were trying to make it work and value your contribution. Yes, there was an x factor to working there that made the negatives worth it, at least the first time. My experience with the HR person I dealt with (who has now moved on) was excellent. I’m hesitant to return to ILM SF for other reasons but if the time is right I will do so. I hope that the Disney buyout helps in the long run. I should also add the Singapore shots I saw while working on the show all looked great, although the discussion means I’m questioning of the conditions they were working under to get them done to that standard.

  48. Marc says:

    It’s a shame, this company like many others sux.. we’re human not product

  49. Adria says:

    So bad…. pfff When a website to rate Studios for our good health ?

  50. hoolioo says:

    A couple of sups and leads there are legacy black holes that just take tons a money with little or no skill to prove their worth. They are there to enjoy the “stability” of the company and have their frequent weekend getaways. competent people under them have left a many. The turnover rate in the company is so high they are always looking for people. It’s so true on the sites. The first week you’re there you will notice 3 people leaves.

  51. Paul says:

    Grass is greener on the other side, some people just don’t realize they’re already on the other side. Coming from the US what do you guys expect, better healthcare in India?! less rain in Vancouver?! sunshine in London?! Top sirloin in Singapore?! How about you move to Turkey and expect atheism while you’re at it.

  52. Pixowhisperer says:

    Meanwhile, in London, I am hearing noises that Pixomondo isn’t paying their employees – word is they’ve missed October payroll for some people there.
    For now I am only hearing this from friends of friends so I can’t confirm.

    • Sohowhisperer says:

      Heard the same thing at the pub. This shows some very bad attitudes towards their workforce and I dearly hope it will have some consequences. London won’t stand for this shit.

  53. vfxguy says:

    So… was Luis any good at his job?

    • anon says:

      Yay! The first blame the victim post. “Paul” is that you?

      • Paul says:

        You wish! Funny how yet only knowing one side of the story you sure have already made up your mind about the whole thing and be sure to stasi-patrol the web for stray sheep.

  54. kk says:

    Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to move to Singapore to do VFX work? You almost deserve what you get.

    How can you move to a different country and be surprised at the cost of living or renting an apartment? There’s this thing called the internet and you can find out information. If you are offered “healthcare”, look into it and verify it suits your needs.

    As to their HR being snakes, that is true of HR at almost every single company ever. Never make assumptions, get everything in writing and have a plan to walk away (ie don’t be a fucking idiot).

  55. ex-co-worker says:

    If what Luis claims has happened is indeed true than I am sorry for him and his wife, it is not something that should be wished upon anybody when they are pregnant. Having said that, it sounds like we only get one side of the story and that Luis made some errors in judgement aswell. It could have been avoided.
    Additionally, and this is just my opinion as somebody who has worked with him before, albeit not extensively – he is not always well received, so as far as I am concerned ILM might aswell just have gotten rid of him because he was a bit shit not because of anything else. Heartless in his situation but perfectly legal and again somewhat his fault too?

    • Reff says:

      If you do such accusation at least show your name, so people can verify what you say and also if it is true that you worked with him….sentences like that can harm people a lot in the internet in such a public place where all the VFX community is watching!

      • Paul S says:

        It’s interesting to know that ex-co-worker has to show his name because he has made accusations about Luis. How about the other people who have made accusations about ILM Singapore? Shouldn’t they show their names too, because what they have said will harm the company too, “in such a public place where all the VFX community is watching.”

        We don’t know both sides of the story yet. It feels like everyone here is supporting Luis just because he is the victim. If ex-co-worker is right and that Luis is really not well-received or is not doing well in ILM Singapore, would people in this forum change their stand?

      • ex-co-worker says:

        Just because Luis chose to put his name out all over the internet in this matter does not mean that I have to do the same. I have not accused him of anything, simply stated that there might be other legitimate reasons for him being terminated. If that is not allowed in this discussion then I shall remain silent and move on.

      • Marcus says:

        Whether he sucks or not doesn’t matter at all. The business practices at ILM Singapore are ridiculous, immoral – and it’s great that they are put on the spot.
        There doesn’t seem to be anything good that can come out of this for Luis, other than preventing other people from making the same mistakes and do their due diligence when dealing with an outsourcer.
        As with all of us who have been doing this for a while, his employability is still in the hands of ex-coworkers and doesn’t matter to this episode at all. If you get fired for legitimate reasons, fine, happens all the time, but you can’t also pick up the companies’ tab after being mislead and getting stuck on the other side of the world.

    • Anonymizer says:

      While people have every right to cast some doubt on that perhaps there were some fault for which Mr. Luis was terminated, but on the other side of the coin, company can just as easily find ways to terminate Mr. Luis (or anyone) just to save some money.

      I am also quite intimately familiar with certain company to which the company would find ways to corner some of its employees in order to set up that employee to fail in order to have him terminated and not having to pay any severances or the final month of salary or bonus. This was the conversations from the lips of the managements, not based on my interpretation of what I see.

      If you study the employment contracts, I think you’ll find vast majority, if not all, are highly lopsided toward the company’s favour, not base on favour for both side. Most young people I know are eager to sign their rights away without a second thoughts, and then cry afoul when they feel they’re taken advantage of.

    • another-ex-coworker says:

      What nice colleges I seem to have. I bet you don’t like Luis and you post your opinion about him for your personal vendetta. Lets just quote Luis from the hollywood article:

      “I think they fired me because of my wife’s pregnancy and because of how upset sending her away made me and my co workers feel,” Pages told The Hollywood Reporter.

      As a co-worker this is also my impression and not because of anything else.

      @Paul: You are pathetic!

  56. Jeff Heusser says:

    I think it is a mistake to get too tangled in the specifics of this one example. We all hear stories of abuses of all sorts from all over the globe. What we need is a way forward, a way for artists to unite and be strong enough to say we won’t stand for unreasonable terms of employment or miserable working conditions.

    Talking to younger artists in LA I find topics like holding companies to bookings fall on deaf ears… “I’d rather go snowboarding anyway”. Well enjoy that but you are screwing up the business relationship for everyone. Now the person next to you who is released early is a dick and uncooperative when they try to hold them to the booked days. I could list examples like this for days. And don’t even start trying to discuss retirement or health care even as they are one snow board accident from financial ruin.

    We are our own enemy… that’s the conversation I want to have.

    • scottsquires says:

      I agree with Jeff. It’s not this specific event that is as important as the overall situation. VFX artists have to see and understand the issues. They also have to consider the business aspects and take responsibility for that as much as the technical aspects. Those who choose to ignore it will have issues in the future.

      Everyone working in vfx needs to completely review their contracts and all related material. Get everything in writing. If HR describes fantastic things make sure they put that in writing. If they won’t, then those are just sales pitches and not reality. Make sure you understand the contract before accepting and signing. If you don’t like something in it, that’s a red flag. Have them change it or don’t take the job.

      It’s even more important if you are making a large move to another area or country. In that case you have to do the research on the new area and understand what the potential problems are. Don’t count on the HR department to do it for you. Consider everything – taxes, housing, travel, health, eating, etc.
      The internet contains a lot of information.

      The company is looking after itself and it’s profits. You have to assume you are the only one looking after yourself. Companies will make business decisions that have no moral basis. Despite what the US says, corporations are not people. The company is not your best friend. They are your employer.

      It’s terrible that so many people in our industry have to travel around the world to be employed. Unfortunately that what’s been happening and will continue to happen unless true changes happen.

      VFX Artists are supposed to be professional in every sense of the word, including business.

      Artists have to accept that there are problems in our industry.

      Artists have to make a stand if they wish things to change. You can’t count on the companies or studios to fix the issues. So fix what you can. If all vfx artists were united and took a stand there would be significant change to the industry.

      The US artists have an additional option regarding the union. If these artists united that would be a significant change. And if that change is like previous changes, it will improve even those who are non-union or in other countries.

      • Paul says:

        Yes or to put it simpler, don’t be a useful idiot and stop having an exotic perception of ILM or any other companies that made you dream when you were a kid.

        Stop telling your favorite musician that you’re fan of a particular song because it’s likely to be his least favorite.

      • Dull says:

        True, but on other hand. Artists are vfx companies core engine, you need take care about the machine. Its different from other business compies. Like DW katzenberg once in interview said.
        There are still good compies out there, but what ilm Singapore did couple if my friends is just wrong/evil.

        Its true many artists are naive and foolish. Sign everything and travel unprepared to countries get crewed.

  57. stranger says:

    Unless you are from the US or Canada you will have to move for vfx work. With contracts lasting a few month again and again…

  58. angry starwars bird says:

    i am a former lucasfilm singapore employee. I left after a year and found working there the worst experience of my life. The singaporean deputy general manager Jacqueline Tan is a complete racist and has no respect for foreigners and talent in general. All foreigners are just there to crank out as many shots as possible and help train the locals with zero hope of growth. My most memorable moment was when Jacqueline Tan said at a company lunch in front of a room full of people that singaporeans have to serve their national service “because singapore is surrounded by countries full of crazy muslims with tanks”. Anyone in the industry thinking of going just walk away its just not worth it.

  59. really says:

    interesting. there was a news article that mentioned that the country has all the talent it needs but it doesn’t know how to manage them.

  60. lol says:

    Is she a republican?

  61. aninym says:

    Unfortunately VES can not deliver on any of its promises.
    They write some open letters 3 weeks after digital domain want bust. Not exactly what we need.

  62. steven says:

    I have worked briefly in both san fran and singapore. I personally had a very good experience in san fran on a project then had a shockingly bad experience in singapore. As a foreigner working in the singapore office you get paid more than twice as much as the locals and the singaporean management makes you feel like they need to get their moneys worth at all times. Their number one goal is to grow a local team but that is still years away from being possible. As a foreigner you are made to feel completely disposable as they don’t expect you to stay longterm and nor do they want you to so your treated as such. Its absolutely shocking the number of supes and leads that have quit or were fired especially on the animation side. I think its sad that the rogue singaporean management can tarnish the reputation of the oldest and most respected name in visual FX all because they are busy trying to push their own agenda.

    • Peter.D says:

      I agree with you on the building of the local talent. It will never be possible because the locals dont get as much money, people leave as soon. and it’s back to square one.

      I was shocked at how much they get. it’s ridiculously low for nothing to enjoy their life. All they do is just work like mindless zombies. Management’s idea is that these people are replaceable with anyone off the street for a cheaper price. Just train them and all will be good. In reality it takes time to train. To be proficient is one thing, it takes another few more years to be really good at what you do. The turnover rate is extremely high so the talent will never grow and be better.

  63. zz says:

    As a former employee of both San Fran and Singapore. I have to admit that the “feeling” of working in Singapore sucks! People are always leaving and the politics is ridiculous! The HR…..horrendous. They think they are doing a great job, but they aren’t. I know for a fact that the recruiters will use any sort of tactic (be it wrong or right) to “trick” you into joining the Singapore studio.

    Had a friend who was tricked by a recruiter saying that rent in Singapore is super cheap, only SGD600 (roughly USD 450). You can’t event get a room for that price in Singapore let alone an apartment. My friend had to return to the USA every 180 days to ensure validity of his Green Card application. The recruiters told him it was not a problem, but it was a huge problem!

    Long story short, Lucasfilm is a great cool place to work; just don’t work in the Singapore Studio no matter how attractive the package is.

  64. VFXguerrila says:

    Lucas films deserves nothing but criticism. To anyone who wants to act like this company is anything but a waste of subsidies and talent…You need a reality check. You would say its a great company to work for but its a company that knows good and well its doing this to its employees…I dont see how people defend these giants assholes who exploit foreign loopholes…Youve got one life to live and its too bad so many people choose to live it in a sort of denial that what is happening is only just one aspect of this company…If they are such a good company to work for why do they do this? What part will you pick and choose to ignore and what paycheck will make you feel good about supporting a corrupt institution? You can work there and be honest…That no matter how good some of the people are in it…The fact that its led by the kind of people it is and how it treats anyone of its employees this way should be seen for what it is…The complete undoing of this beast. There is room for us to dream without these monoliths of inequity and profit…They want profit…nothing else. They like the BBC, News Corporation and so many others may in fact topple…
    Long story short.

  65. Tan Lee Lim says:

    Lucasfilm singapore is with out question the most wretched place I have ever worked. Recently they cut out all the perks of working there such as work parties free movies and events because the management has obviously blown it’s budget hiring firing a never ending revolving door of expensive foreign talent for a movie that clearly will never get made.

    Just today what the management did turned my stomach. The general manager jaqualine tan threw a lavish thanksgiving day luncheon for her inner circle of sycophants. it must have been 50 or so people in one of the big meeting halls for the rest of the studio to see. And i think they were only a few americans present. The most disgusting part was after they had finished eating they left the leftovers for the artists to pick at like dogs.

    She treats this studio like her own personal fiefdom throwing parties and expensive dinners and luncheons while the rest of the studio slaves night and weekends working unpaid overtime.

    management at lucasfilm singapore is reprehensible and should be fired.

    • sharklasers says:

      mhh..come on buddy..if I’m not mistaken next tuesday is free movie..”Rise of the Guardians” or something like that, the 8th there is the Dinner and Dance party and as you know they just introduced some type of toil policy..agree though..the thanksgiving scraps thingy was bad..but from the look of it my sushi that day was a more lavish lunch than what they had..for sure Singapore is the b team…just get over it..or apply to San Francisco…

      • vfxwoman says:

        the dinner and dance only covers entry not the drinks or food last year. no one is going. so money wasted at the wrong places again.

  66. vfxtime says:

    the company doesn’t treat the artist like professionals but like menial laborers. who’s bringing in the money people? These are the very skilled professionals that are making the things you see on screen pretty. dumb execs. They should be treated equally.

  67. Mushroomsoup says:

    The company is only for office suck-ups and making numbers on paper, if you can do both, you will be probably promoted in no time, No Management personnel in the company are putting in effort for long time goals, but short terms quick wins, they do not want to make an Awesome world renowned VFX Company, they just want a “good enough” for the government & a pat on the head but the company will go crashing down in time, its like AIG world recession in the making all over again.

  68. UnhappyFeet says:

    Lucasfilms singaporean management are just a bunch of scared incompetent bullies. They have the huge relocation fees intentionally because most people would just tell them to fuck off after the first 30 days. Once your there you might not even get the job you accepted. They will switch modelers to be roto artists or animators to go work in games or vfx artists from ilm to work in animation .You move half way across the world on good faith hoping to advance your career but then end up an indentured servant. They will swap your jobs to something you dont do and didn’t sign up for when you accepted the offer and act like they are doing you a favor. The singapore management is completely fucking ignorant of our industry and think its like a factory and we should just be thankful just to be employed by “lucasfilm” in any role they choose to give you. Lucasfilm singapore isnt even real lucasfilm. Its so fucking insulting. Then once they fuck you then you can sit there put your career on hold and eat shit for two years or you can quit and get screwed for all the money or stand up for yourself and be fired like luis pages. Now they are moving all the vfx artists to work on a piece of shit feature. Be warned anyone who joins Ilm singapore thinking they get to work on big summer blockbusters will really be working on a shitty low budget animated movie that the singapore government funded so that the locals can learn how to eventually make their own movies. Don’t listen to anything recruiters tell you it’s all bullshit taking a job at lucasfilm singapore is career suicide.

  69. BunnyColvin says:

    Lets just hope the management sees all these and take this in positively and make the changes necessery for a healthy vfx community in singapore, no one criticises for nothing. There are a lot of serious passionate artists in lucasfilm, not just a bunch of workers. What i see in ilm singapore right now is what i saw in ilm workshop 30 years ago, bunch of kids just wanna make cool shit. and that is a good thing, that is what made ilm happened. Its just a pity.. could’ve been awesome,

  70. Jorge Locust says:

    Jacqueline Tan is just a former government bureaucrat who has zero experience in vfx or animation. She was part of the negotiation team that got Lucasfilm to set up shop in Singapore who subsequently joined Lucasfilm.

    And if you guys think she treats the foreigners like dirt, she treats the native singaporeans even worse.

  71. whiterabbit. says:

    The level of racisim just doesn’t stop there at just americans or asians. The pay scale is very much based on skin color not your nationality or your skills. You could be an african american or asian american but be paid less than your white, american colleagues. That’s how unequal and racial this company is.

    Talk about what is going on at the core believes and values of this company and they try to cloud it with superficial parties and movies to “encourage bonding and unity”.

  72. Don't waste your time says:

    Just a heads up to everyone in this thread. The other “competition” DNEG Singapore – is no better. Management is messed up – disorganized and run by ex-Asylum husband and wife owners. No healthcare. Locals with experience has a much lesser pay check than foreign hires. Quite a number of people were hired not based on their abilities but cos they know the owners. Basically, vfx industry in singapore is just messed up.

  73. abuseRunner says:

    http://now.msn.com/george-lucas-gives-christmas-gift-to-lucasfilm-employees

    Plus a special bonus equivalent to 1/2 month salary per year worked at Lucasfilm.

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  75. [...] November I posted about pregnancy discrimination at LucasFilm Singapore. Previously, there was another case of a woman who sued and won a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit [...]

  76. [...] Pages, a worker at the Singapore facility that was terminated after taking agreed upon time off to tend to his ill wife who suffered from a high risk pregnancy. It’s also worth mentioning the current trial involving collusion against workers in [...]

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  78. Jessica says:

    I totally agree on the comments made about other artists here regarding how hopeless ILM, Singapore is. I am an ex employee and I am happy I no longer work there. The new artist manager Bhakthi is a highly incompetent hire. With very less experience in management she has been hired for such an important role in the company. I hear from other ex employees that she is one of the reasons they didn’t want to continue working there. I hear recently that she has been degrading the designation from say senior/lead to mid level of artists on a large scale. Highly unprofessional!! She has no people skills. She has no respect for artists even when she talks casually. When we wonder how she got this position , it is quite obvious that the studio head , Samir has specially ‘recommended’ her . I was told they worked together in India too.

    I totally second the racists behaviour in this company. It is a sweat shop after all , treating artists as mere labourers. So now the artists end up being paid less, removed of their rightful designation and demoralized.

    Think more than twice if you want to relocate to ILM, Singapore !

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