Dave Rand: Insanity

The following statement was sent to me by Dave Rand:

In the circles of addiction a definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein is often cited:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Along those lines you can also apply the terms “enabling” and “enabler” to our business in a some ways.
For one … I’d argue that by not creating a force for change both the visual fx artist and the
vfx shops are enabling the vfx industry to continue on it’s march to the bottom hurting both artist, shop, and studio.

Scott Ross talks about fx shops coming together and working with the studios to rehabilitate the way things are done.

IATSE is trying to unify the artist’s voice.   Not much has happened on either front and things continue to slip.

Perhaps we need to kick the ugly out of union by making something different.  Our country’s  unions are based on laws and practices based on rulings from the 30’s and
unionized america has shrunk considerably…now in Wisconsin a new hotter dryer setting has been established.

I attended the Vancouver IATSE meeting today and was impressed by the vocalization of those that attended but not by the numbers.  Almost every one I talk to
is in favor of what is possible and what would be offered:   health care and retirement benefits that follow you from job to job, enforcement of overtime laws, fair pay, and fair play,  representation for
issues about working conditions and the cessation of being an enabler to the insanity that is ruining fx business across the globe.  In so many ways we are being begged to do something by the very people we see as adversaries, wage fixing news recently here http://bit.ly/fAi30q, and here http://bit.ly/vGHn3 The new emphasis on the practice of shrink and expand without benefits, and the practice of letting artists take the fall for bad business practices like at Meteor Studios  http://bit.ly/fLEdTe or Pirana 3d http://bit.ly/el0IA Who can forget the famous line from here:  http://bit.ly/dIz1Xg.  We are the most crucial and expensive element in the equation, yet we are powerless as individuals.

Again it’s fear behind the same old tired arguments surrounding collective bargaining since Jurgis was packing meat 16 hrs a day in the diseased factories of 1904 Chicago.  These fears are killing the potential for something great and those same fears can turn on us and soon we are doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It has to be done differently.  It has to involve everyone that will be at the table less the fear and stigma if this insanity is to be lifted.

Step one… a strong web presence with history and testimonials from the unionized shops that are working, both members and management.  Dreamworks is still in the top ten places to work in Amerca and very profitable and unionized…what are they doing differently?  Owning content, treating their workers like they are the most valuable component of their business and offering real contracts with real time involved. Disney the same, and if you do a comparison of what life is like in the few union shops compared to the rest. I think you may just have a moment of clarity.

So please take a moment to describe what your current employer’s shop is like, your contract, your feeling of security about your future there, about your future in general. Are you offered health care for you and your family?  pension or 401k?  Is the work environment encourage you to be creative, are you comfortable enough to be creative? Do you get feedback from the ultimate decision maker on your project or is there a complex creative hierarchy between you and that person?  Do you see waste all around you?  Does every production end up in a panic attack?  Do you often get to version 299 and want to stab your eyes out because you see spiders everywhere?  Does your shop have a plan for the future, maybe creation of their own content?

Maybe seeing what others are experiencing can be enlightening, and begin to paint a picture of how it can be.

Dave Rand


9 Responses to Dave Rand: Insanity

  1. Dave says:

    Large VFX Shop in LA:
    Health insurance me + wife/fam, nation holidays paid. no vacation, no sick days, no retirement of any kind.
    normal OT pay 1x til 8, 1.5x 8-12, 2x 12+, 6th day 1.5x etc. all @ a good hourly rate.

    One of their Projects:
    After this project I and 98% of the other artists are gone, with lots of time to plan. Each show starts out creative when you’re on the R&D team, then as production demands and noodling take over its hard to keep caring about the art and just try for finals. Kinda like version 299 thing. too many small changes, just change this, now this, now this, ad nauseum, finding/feeling what they want through lots of versions. There’s 2 levels+ of sups making lots of calls before the director ever sees it. Thats most of the waste. lots of extra work no one sees.
    The stress is palpable but very manageable in crunch (on this show). Hours, mostly 9-10’s some 12’s, short Saturdays < 8. No Sundays. Which is not the case on other shows at the same company.

  2. vfxPeon says:

    your links are broken. can you re-link, please?

  3. Comper says:


    I am at a small Feature Film shop. 1099, no health insurance, no 401k, no paid holidays, no sick days. Working 9 hour days on average, but only paid flat hourly, no 1.5x overtime. We are starting to ramp up heavily right now they are being strict on budget/hours, so when then want us to work over 9 hours/day, they ask can we take the extra time off later in the week to compensate (comp time essentially). I am contract hire, so will be laid off when the show is over, and have to find a new gig.

    Our sup is the overall sup for the entire show, so only one level before the director, which helps a lot.

    The work is good, but a lot of technical complications have arisen from the way the production side has decided to handle the digital workflow, resulting in a lot of lost time, and re-comping of shots because of their errors. The lack of efficiency starts to really effect everyone on the show.

    Also I am a strong supporter of a VFX Union. Workers need to be treated better than this. Our sup’s and creative team are great, but the management running the company need to change how employees are treated.

    • Jimmy Goodman says:

      Comper: doesn’t sound like a 1099 to me. the IATSE is ready, willing and able to represent you or to refer you to a labor attorney who will, at the very least, make sure you’re paid appropriately and legally.
      contact me at jimmygoodman613@gmail.com;

    • VFXproletariat says:

      “…they ask [us if] can we take the extra time off later…” then, “I… will be laid off when the show is over…”
      LOL – that old trick.

    • Tom says:

      Most states have basic labor laws in the U.S. If you are in the states and working more than 40 hours a week or more than 8 hours per day you are entitled to no less than 1.5 * rate. Most states have the info online. Nothing a quick google search wouldn’t find. Just be sure to search on only .gov websites.

      I know the UK and other countries are using a day rate. If you are in this position. I recommend calculating your day rate on 12h days. Rather than 8 hour. Even if the work at first is only 8 hours. Weta I know pays well, but I can’t speak for others.

      My last thought is, just because you are in another country dont mean you can’t start a union. The Animation Guild is one of many. However, they have much experience in both setting up unions and helping employees and employers get the best workable solution.

      Currently, you have no options. The employer is in control of your salary. Even more than you may know. When I was applying for my current position. I know the HR rep knew how much I made (because he told me). in my case he pushed for me to get more money. But others maybe stuck.

      It is illegal for companies to share employee salaries. If they are and you have written proof this might be grounds for legal action.

      All that aside, I have posted many times on this site. I have worked on both sides. Union and non union shops that is. I defiantly prefer the union benefits for one primary reason; that being portability of benefits from shop to shop.

  4. dave says:

    Here is a fairly clear language explanation of how comp time is required to work in California according to labor law.

  5. […] thought this comment in a previous post was something many of us know about: Each show starts out creative when you’re on the R&D team, then as production demands and […]

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