For a better part of a year I’ve been observing the organization efforts in the VFX industry. I’d like for readers to comment on what they would like to see improved. Here are some of my thoughts.
We Need Clarity
Even though there have been informal meetings for artists, the IATSE has been reluctant to publicly announce many of these meetings. I think they are all being a little bit too cautious since they fear the companies will come down on employees and scare them away.
However, in the age of the internet, there should be no excuse to get that information out to the masses. The locals in Los Angeles and Vancouver have actually done a great job at this. The Animation Guild has had a very popular blog, new and informal website, and even hired a former VFX artist, Steve Kaplan, to help the organizational effort through outreach. Vancouver local 891 has done the same and recently held an informal talk with Dave Rand about the issues artists face.
The parent organization, the IATSE which is looking to form this new VFX union, needs to be open about the information on organization. Jeff Heusser of FXGuide has constantly asked representatives from the IA to do a podcast with them. They should openly answer artist questions and concerns with Mr. Heusser. They should start a website which gives concise information and compare their benefits to major VFX facility benefits.
I get the impression that the IATSE is used to studio-side negotiations where deals are made over face-to-face “let’s do lunch” meetings. Having a beer or lunch with IATSE reps is nice but they need to also understand that VFX artists are a digitally connected group. We converse over twitter, facebook, email and need direct access to information.
Artists Need To Get Involved
I’ve talked to quite a few artists that are gung-ho for organization, but when it comes to taking action, they are too busy to take the initiative. It seems to me that organizing is a lot like making bacon: We love the end result but want nothing to do with the process of making it. It takes courage to have your voice heard.
In a recent article I pointed out a scam at a vfx forum run by a shady businessman. The response was tremendous with artists banding together against VFXTalk. What I couldn’t understand was while the outrage over VFXTalk was huge, there was very little outrage by artists over the ILM/Pixar collusion settlement. My guess is that going after a forum or even the union garners very little consequences for the artists, however taking a stand over direct illegal practices involves having some skin in the game. My biggest fear about our industry is that we artists are going to wait until the freight train is directly in front of our faces to react. Prevention goes a long way.
We’ve Come A Long Way But Have A Long Way To Go
I know there are some who are going to use this post to gloat but consider the following. What happened to former ILM and Digital Domain executive Scott Ross’s proposed VFX trade organization? At the time I would have figured this would have taken off, however for the facilities this proposal was dead on arrival. Yet, no less than a year after Stranahan’s letter to James Cameron, there are green shoots of a grassroots efforts in the VFX industry by the artists themselves. I never expected it happen this fast but as far as I’m concerned, I’m still betting on the long game.