Why Don’t You Quit?

I remember seeing 2 children having a conversation about being in the boyscouts. One expressed his discontent in having to join them while the other replied with a snide remark:

Well if you don’t like it why don’t you quit?

and of course the response

Well if you like being in the boyscouts so much why don’t you marry them?!

I’m reminded of childish reactions to legitimate issues I talk about on my blog and with others in the VFX industry.

For example, in reaction to my piece about the failures of distributed computing I get this:

you’re really grasping at straws in your quest to bitch as much as possible about the industry, aren’t you? Why don’t you just quit if you hate everything so much.

Or in a tweet about VFX artists not being appropriately credited for their work, this:

@VFXSoldier No one watches credits anyway. If you want your name up in lights, quit #VFX and make your own movie.

and from the same commenter who later saw a Dave Rand tweet about VFX artists not being paid overtime a conversation ensues:

vfx_artist: rather than complaining about unpaid overtime, just refuse to do it and let the businesses adjust. #vfx

VFXSoldier: so #Vfx artists aren’t allowed to discuss about these issues? Quitting the industry isnt an option for families

vfx_artist: I’m all for discussion and I didnt suggest quitting. Just don’t do unpaid OT. I don’t and never been fired. #vfx

vfx_artist: Working for free is for students.

VFXSoldier: Try telling that to many of the #vfx workers in Canada labeled as high tech professionals. No OT pay there.

vfx_artist: I’d happily tell them that. No OT pay in London either and the only ones doing unpaid OT here are juniors #vfx

VFXSoldier: You’ve never worked a Saturday?

vfx_artist: Ive worked 6 Saturdays in the last 2 years and all have been fully paid. #vfx #london

vfx_artist: How many Saturdays have you worked in the past 2 years? And have you been paid for them? #vfx

VFXSoldier: So you didn’t get paid OT for those Saturdays?

vfx_artist: Saturday work was paid as an additional day on top of weekly 5 day rate pro rata. No penalty rates.

VFXSoldier: Therefore, you did not get paid overtime correct?

vfx_artist: if you define OT as time and a half, then no. If you define OT as additional ontop of weekly salary then yes.

vfx_artist: In 10 years, I’ve only had two companies in vfx pay penalty rates, Weta and early Animal Logic. #vfx

VFXSoldier: Thanks for answering the question honestly.

So what’s the point about all this? We often let the macho vfx attitude cloud our judgement.

Why would you advocate people quit the industry? Why would you call people complainers for asking for OT? Why would you call OT a penalty? How does this line of thinking bring progress to the VFX industry? If we want to change this industry, we need to change the way we think.

Soldier On.

44 Responses to Why Don’t You Quit?

  1. citizen says:

    From what I understand, this blog is to open a discussion on the problems and legalities related to the VFX/CG industry. Why are you expected to talk about anything less? I don’t go to a pizza place to order a burger. And the usual, “Why don’t you quit, then?” is irrelevant. You can love the work, but hate the operation. That, I can understand. I used to work lots of overtime and get paid little, so I did quit. I moved my family and started a new job. It’s worked out wonderfully. Sure, it’s a risk, but it isn’t as scary as everyone makes it out to be.

    If you like your job and/or the people you work with – try to make it work. If it keeps wearing you down, then yes – quit and find a place that deserves you.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I’m always curious to hear what other industries VFX artist get into. Mind if I ask where you went?

      • citizen says:

        Should have clarified, sorry – I’m still working in VFX. I wasn’t happy with the last job so I quit and found something better. Well, found something better, THEN quit. =]

  2. Dave Rand says:

    For me quitting is a very relevant part of the problems and legalities related to the VFX industry. It’s the ultimate conclusion to some. Most shops are not run well at all resulting in long crazy hours to finish the show when that marble hits the inevitable bottom of the funnel, spinning wildly. In my 17 years I’ve seen many relationships break up, even some families. Sure you can say no, and I’ve seen people do that and the results are not very smooth at all, especially for an artist that’s putting his all into his work. The best work I’ve seen comes from that type of drive. That kind of artist has a hard time handing work over to someone else or not completing a task…even when they are being led around by the nose.
    EVERYONE has to say no for it to take. Overtime actually is helpful to a production and therefore the shop, it keeps management on track. Often it’s the only thing that forces a better business plan into action, otherwise the artist described above will be consistently used and wrung out like a wet cloth to compensate for a bad business plan like the bidding process.
    When Meteor studios stopped paying altogether…no one left until their tasks were completed…Not one person out of 100. Most worked for 2-3 months without pay. Saying no did not happen just like when Michelangelo kept painting as he was going blind on the chapel ceiling. It’s easy to say “just say no” but the actual saying of it is not that easy for a devoted artist as we are driven more by our art that by the compensation for it That is the nature of being creative. Unfortunately those that govern us become aware of this an exploit it. So when someone says to me the very relevant question, “why don’t you just quit?” my answer is “I’d rather do everything I can based on my experience to make it better, better for the artist and better for the shop by speaking out and signing my name to it because this is too great a time in human history for artists, a time where we can finally make a living and that is worth fighting for”.

    Dave Rand

  3. Lindsay says:

    Why would you advocate people quit the industry?

    I didn’t, that was the first user you mentioned, so Ill leave that question to them.

    Why would you call people complainers for asking for OT?

    This was the tweet I responded to, which you didn’t post.

    Dave Rand via Twitter
    “Fx shops not paying overtime…yet another attempt to make the artists pay for bad business planning.”

    I see and hear comments like this all the time, blaming the shops for bad planning, no OT etc. Discussion like this has been going on for years and this “yet another” tweet reads to me as a complaint, not as someone who is asking for OT as you ask in your question.

    OT would be good for everyone, it would help businesses plan better and hopefully reduce the the crazy hours that we do sometimes in VFX. But, the reality is that not many shops pay OT, so we have to focus on what we can do. So what can we actually do? What can we achieve in the short term? We can refuse to work past our 9hr day unless they compensate us. We can refuse to work Saturdays without being compensated and we can refuse to work Sundays outright. This is my approach and it works well for me and I encourage my colleagues to do the same. We still do high quality work, we still get the job done and it is a grass roots approach pushing for change today.

    Why would you call OT a penalty?

    In Australia we refer to time and a half or double time as penalty rates. Overtime (OT) is generally thought of as hour for hour or day for day.

    How does this line of thinking bring progress to the VFX industry?

    You have taken a lot of what I said out of context. I hope that this clarifies how my line of thinking and how my approach of refusing to work for free or on terms that we don’t like is pushing for change today.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Why would you advocate people quit the industry?

      I didn’t, that was the first user you mentioned, so Ill leave that question to them.

      @VFXSoldier No one watches credits anyway. If you want your name up in lights, quit #VFX and make your own movie.

      That was your tweet.

      • Lindsay says:

        Yes, that was my tweet. If someone’s prerogative is to get their name up in lights, making their own movie is the best way to achieve that. If you started working in VFX to see your name in the credits then you are in it for the wrong reasons.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      On Return of the King everyone I knew that worked on it wasn’t paid OT until after 60 hours and they worked many Saturdays and Sunday.

      Were you paid OT after 40 in a week and after 8 in a day on LOR? Did you work the saturdays and sundays?

      • Lindsay says:

        On ROTK I was contracted for a 50 hr week at a set rate. 50-60 hrs was time and a half and everything over 60 was double time. I clocked 100+ every week working every Sat and Sun for the period I was there.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        So between 40-50 hours of work you weren’t paid OT.

        Were you given a choice to work those saturdays and sundays when you billed 100+ hours?

      • Lindsay says:

        As I said, up to 50 hrs was a set rate… which was generous.

        Yes I had the choice, you could do regular hours or put in as many hours as you wanted.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Let me clarify, when Weta mandated that artists come in to work on Saturday and Sunday, were you allowed to refuse?

      • Lindsay says:

        Yes, you could refuse. I didn’t.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Really?! After working 100+ hours a week, you were given a choice and still chose to work the weekend?

      • Lindsay says:

        Totally! I was working with a brilliant team, I was learning a huge amount, I was getting some great shots, it was for a limited period of time and I was getting double time. I’d do it again now if the same scenario presented itself.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        The workers I know at Weta were mandated to come in and work those 100+ saturday and sundays. Some didn’t even have time to do their laundry. It’s great that you would do it again but what would you advise for those who didn’t want to come in during that time and be with their families?

      • Paolo says:

        many many MANY people in this industry came from a wealthy background. just think how much the vfx schools costs. many of them don’t bother to work long hours because of their “nerdness” which means no gf no family no others hobbies than their job. most of them could stay at work endlessly because their work IS their life.

      • anon says:

        (I heard…) Even though ’employees’ were told that the “facility had to ‘temporarily’ move to 7 day weeks” this went on for months. This then became the expected norm during ‘milestones’ on every project. Some facilities make a deal that the studio will be billed for overtime directly as it’s more cost effective to get more hours out of one employee than employ another and if the studio can get the film done in shorter time they pay less interest on their production loan. The unstated implication (that has been written into ‘Hobbit’ law) is that because film workers in NZ are now all contractors, if a particular worker can’t ‘keep up’ with the mandated hours they will be replaced (at short notice) by a another contractor at the whim of ‘The Management’. These are precisely the conditions that the labor day movement eventually managed to reform and it’s ironic that Weta ’employees’ chose Labor day to march for these labor protections to be taken away from them. It’s been proven that workers with families and debts will give up benefits for the false perception of job security.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Day
        Globalized free trade supported by the WTO was supposed to accelerate the rise in living standards of developing countries, but are corporations, looking for the best labor bargain, reducing working conditions in developed countries instead?
        “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all”
        ‘The rising power of the Chinese worker’
        http://www.economist.com/node/16693333

  4. Lindsay says:

    If you don’t like the working conditions voice your opinions to those who have the power to change it. Work with your employer so you can agree to terms that you are both comfortable with, if they wont work with you and be flexible, then you will have to find someone who will work with you. You’ve got to strike your a balance that works for you and for the employer, otherwise it won’t work.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      well that’s exactly what Dave Rand this blog and many other artists are doing. We aren’t complaining, we voicing our concerns and getting together to leverage the power to change it.

      • Lindsay says:

        Sounds great. I’d suggest more affirmative on the ground action like refusing to accept conditions you don’t like and less misrepresentation of comments from people who subscribe to your message.

        I know you are saying that you are not complaining, but it certainly reads as if you are.

  5. Dave Rand says:

    Also for those who may not know, or may have forgotten: Overtime, A five-day work-week, minimum wage, paid vacations, sick days, Social Security, Medicare, and child labor laws, are all in existence worldwide because of organized labor.

    • Lindsay says:

      It is not because of organised labor that the listed benefits came into existence, they exist because of mass manufacturing and economic growth. Without the means to over produce, you can’t afford to give away any benefits.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Organized labor played a huge role in securing many of those benefits we commonly accept today.

        However I find the line of reasoning at odds with the fact that much of the success you’ve attained was partially subsidized by taxpayer money for filming in NZ, UK, and Australia.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Actually mass manufacturing and economic growth came well before unions. If you google “Overtime, A five-day work-week, minimum wage, paid vacations, sick days, Social Security” that becomes apparent.

    • Dave Rand says:

      …..and before that of course, in the early days of the industrial revolution which started in in England around 1733 with the first cotton mill..there was plenty of slavery going on….

  6. VFXPeon says:

    for me, being able to quit is some of the best leverage i have. that’s why i enjoy working in LA. if i don’t like the conditions at the place i am working, i grab my wacom and go somewhere else. there are a hundred (probably more) places to work for around here, so when i get tired of one place, i move on to the next.

    that’s also why i don’t want to work in places like louisiana or new mexico. if i moved there, took a job and found i didn’t like it, i can’t just quit and go somewhere else. the number of places to work in those areas is pretty small, so then i’d have to pack up and move to another state. that sucks.

    all of this explains why i prefer vfx houses concentrated in a few central locations as opposed to scattered in random locations around the world based on subsidies/labor laws. when you have a workforce that can easily get up and take a job at the place across the street, it keeps the people who run these places a little more of an incentive to treat their employees well.

    • vfx anon says:

      I would imagine that after quitting a few places due to you not liking their management practices, you will get blacklisted or labeled as a quitter, regardless if it’s your wacom or their’s. Sometimes it’s not as easy as you make it out to be, to quit and go work for another studio without the possibility of your trash following you. There’s nothing worse than burning bridges in the industry. Leaving during a production is one of those instances.

  7. Dusty Kelly says:

    What has the Union movement ever done for us?

  8. postTHis says:

    the union at work

  9. VFX Soldier says:

    Today was the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. He said this about unions a month before he died.

  10. […] to be proud of. I often run into people in the industry who brag about how they are able to endure such long hours and ask for more. I don’t look at it as a badge of honor, I look at it as someone trying make up for some […]

  11. Harry says:

    I worked on ROTK. Part of the recruitment bs was that I would not be working more than 50 hours a week (at least they paid OT). I ended up working 7 days a week for Months (reworking poorly planned shots over and over). Finally, I said I need to start leaving at 10pm so I could workout to stay healthy. The production said no. Once ROTK was done I left. 

  12. Jessica says:

    Do you know why I don’t pay artists ot ? Because it is your responsibility in the first place to finish the model , animation , simulation, and composite in the defined time frame. It is your incompetency that leads to overtime, which should not be paid. It is the guy one section up the pipeline that fucked up a render , a key frame , a texture that should be paying for your overtime, not me. You are an artist, you are not highly technical employees, those are the programmers that make production possible, tracking shots is not difficult, modeling is not difficult, animation is not difficult, simulation artists are complete jokes, and compositors think they are so technical loading preset scripts to auto composite.

    You are artists, you should never be paid for the process, you should be paid for the result, so you can stop fucking around at work on Facebook, and pretend to work in maya and nuke and give me some fucking results.

    At the end of the day, you are only button pushers, scraper copy pasters, tutorial watcher and doers, you are drones, not a skilled work force.

    Thank you, have a nice life making vfx, and if you are not happy with your pay, remember, there are 10000 students at the door waiting to do your work for free. We have no problem letting you go. And stop trying to influence the industry, majority of you just want a pay cheque.

    • Ashes says:

      Nice trolling, lol. Gave me a good laugh for the evening. What forum did you check out to get a list of vfx jobs?

    • WhyDontYouFuckingQuitInsteadBitch says:

      Golly! It’s all so obvious now! It’s us artists all being incompetent fucks! It’s not management grossly underbidding jobs, creating arbritary and unmeetable deadlines, abusing, threatening and bullying everyone into submission with how utterly replaceable we all are. No sir, it’s us artists who fucking suck shit is what it all comes down to- us greedy overpaid fucking wankers who should be licking the soles of your fucking feet in daily gratitude for the joy of working 100 hours a week and being paid only for 48, not getting credit for our work and constantly being told how fucking horrible we are at our jobs. Just remember Jessica, when you eventually have a shop -full- of nothiiiinnnngggg but fucking junior artists being paid the lowest possible fuckrate ever, it means ultimately you’ll need more and more and more of them, and won’t that just brilliantly solve all your problems.

  13. Kevin says:

    Client revisions create overtime. If versions one looks awesome, but the client wants to change it, it’s not the artists’ fault. Even if the work isn’t hard, it is time consuming, and artists and companies deserve to charge overages and be paid overtime respectively.

    It’s disheartening to know there are employers who think like that, Jessica. I’ve only met a few artist who were in VFX to slack and pick up a check, and they don’t last long once their reputation got out.

  14. WhyDontYouFuckingQuitInsteadBitch says:

    I have heard the ‘why don’t you quit?’ arguement mentioned one too many times and it is utterly infuriating. It only demonstrates a gross, disrespectful lack of empathy and understanding for another human beings’ suffering in the workplace. People who say that sort of thing disgust me so much that there aren’t words to express it properly. They always pretend to be your friend but saying that only serves to show how completely incapable they are of caring and definitely not knowing their ‘friend’ at all. ‘You should just quit’ is a positively repulsive comment to make to someone you actually have the nerve to call a friend, or to a co-worker, or to a colleague. Any person who says that needs to know they have just shown their whole, true colours.

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