I was reading David S. Cohen’s latest article in Variety about the unionization effort in the US VFX industry. I found a lot of what was being said a bit ironic.
Academy governor Bill Taylor felt unionization would squander the VFX industry:
Taylor went on to note the power of the vfx industry and asked the business not to squander its power in squabbling.
The irony here is that the VFX industry has had no power at all. I pointed out how successful VFX has been for the film industry. Yet VFX facilities continue to get their asses handed to them by the studios (who are part of a trade union btw) in intense competitive underbidding.
The combination of the 2007-08 WGA strike, the protracted 2008-09 negotiations by SAG and the recession caused the vfx business to plunge.
The irony here is that the IATSE didn’t go on strike and actually took a stand against the more militant unions of SAG and WGA.
Most notably, CafeFX and Asylum visual effects of Southern California both closed their doors in recent months. Both were highly regarded for the quality of their work and their humane management.
The irony here is that these 2 humane companies had to bid competitively with inhumane companies that didn’t pay for benefits, OT, and misclassified workers.
Then VFX supervisor Rob Legato chimes in:
“If the economy was in better shape than it is now I would be all for it,” vfx supervisor Rob Legato wrote in an email.
The irony here is that the unions he supports came into fruition during the Great Depression.
“While I am all for representation and agree in principal that vfx should be unionized, I feel that the same effort to help the workers also hurts them in that the jobs will essentially go away.”
Hyperbole. The irony here is that the exact opposite seems to happen. Take animation facilities for example.
Dreamworks is unionized while Pixar isn’t. Pixar pays less, yet still opens a facility in Vancouver. DreamWorks has expanded it’s Glendale campus with the intention of making 3 films a year. They pay very good wages, and have made the Best Companies To Work For list 3 years in a row.
If unionization is so bad then how is DreamWorks able to compete with Pixar and still accomplish so much?
Then Jeff Okun comments:
“As one executive said ‘You guys are a dime a dozen,’ ” Okun said. “Which is sort of mean-spirited but in a sense, we are a dime a dozen, because no one cares to differentiate between talent and artistic ability and management skill.”
The irony here is if VFX artists are a “dime a dozen” why are executives at top facilities like Pixar and ILM engaging in collusion to prevent wages from exploding?