Crime Does Pay

Discovery CEO David Zaslav

You may remember a few years ago about the campaign of Dave Rand and the VFX artists who were uncompensated for work that totaled $1.3 Million on Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

At the time I was angered that the eventual settlement for Discovery Communications, the studio that produced the film, would be to only pay 70% of what they owed to the artists.

Apparently the rewards don’t stop there for Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav:

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav rode a surging stock price — it quadrupled since late 2008 — to boost his compensation last year to $42.6 million, nearly four times what he earned in 2009, according to a regulatory filing Monday.

I don’t know what makes me more angry, a company whose CEO rakes in $43 million and only has to pay 70% of what he stole from vfx artists or the shear apathy of vfx artists to not even be outraged about it.

If I had my way I’d greenlight a sequel called Journey To The Center Of David Zaslav’s Ass starring my size 12 boot. But all jokes aside, Dave Rand forwarded me a letter one of his colleagues wrote about his situation to the white house web page which I’ve posted below:

Dear President and Mrs. Obama,

It’s my opinion that you can’t fix the economy without fixing the rules of the game.

I was forced to move my family to Canada to work on a film, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D because of foreign tax incentives that their government offers. Ironically the studio in Canada was owned by Discovery Communications, a US corporation.

Near the end of the project Meteor Studios closed it’s doors leaving several Americans stranded without a paycheck, and many Canadian artists and technicians broke at Christmas time.

Today I read in the paper that the CEO of Discovery Communications made $42.6 million dollars last year.

Where is the Justice? If this is happening to motion picture visual effects artists who are well educated and well represented I fear that the situation is worse for many many americans.

We need to put an end to unfair trade incentives that take our jobs overseas.

We need to stop the runaway executive compensation that is coming from all of our pockets in ways that aren’t even honest and shouldn’t be legal.

I’m sure you are aware of the many articles that document that the rich have gotten so much richer in recent years while the poor have lost everything. I don’t believe our country can get better until we address these trends.

Thank-you so much for your attention to this matter,

Visual Effects Artist, California


36 Responses to Crime Does Pay

  1. citizen says:

    Appalling. And to make it worse, he’s wearing a pink tie, ffs.

    It’s one thing to recognize the injustice, but quite another to correct a system that allows immoral behavior to go unpunished.

    But what rules need to be changed?

    What is Obama supposed to do about this?

    What actually needs to happen to keep artists protected from a studio going bankrupt? Once there’s a settlement, should the courts be able to change the decision after learning a CEO makes money 2 years later?

    Things like this should be avoided and guys like this should be punished – but how?

  2. Justin says:

    Wow. Were you able to make-out the identies of those who forced you and your family to move to Canada to work on a film? The authorities should have been notified at that point and those people should be brought to justice.

    I hope that you weren’t mistreated while in Canada, other than not receiving your last paycheck and, well, having to live in Canada. Were you subjected to their “bacon”? HUvvuuhVVvuhh.

    • Dave Rand says:

      I usually make a rule of not criticizing brash comments made by anonymous posters but this really deserves a comment as I found it insulting to all the artist that worked for months without pay under the promise of reimbursement from this multi billion dollar corporation. Those same artists kept their end of the deal and then they and their families where left to twist in the wind just before Christmas.
      My friend uses the word forced because he has a family and you have to go where the jobs are and sometimes yes for your family’s sake you are essentially forced to move in an industry that has begun treating it’s talent like migratory farm workers, thinking expanding and contracting with training is an answer to low profit margins.
      What would have made this move impossible for Meteor to pull of? A strong union. Without that you’ll see this happen again and again …as it already has. While we were not subjected to their bacon, we were subject to very weak labor laws and found that all of us were unsecured creditors, sharing in the risk but not the reward of doing business in Canada. Only by embarrassing the labor dept, the government, Discovery, and Evergreen, did we finally get 70% of our money two years later.
      When it happens to you and your family it will not be a joke at all. So if you like the way things are or if you see room for improvement…don’t be a lame heckler, fight for it!

      • Justin says:

        Anyone who writes the President of the United States saying they were “forced to move to Canada to work on a film” deserves to be heckled. He _chose_ to take an opportunity at a young company outside of the US, and he got burned. Some people own their decisions, while others do not.

        Should he have been paid for his week’s work? Absolutely, no one is ‘heckling’ that.

      • yeah says:

        And just what would ‘a strong union’ have achieved, aside from closing down the company a few months earlier? I also don’t understand why people keep working if they don’t get paid?. Ok, so a small company might struggle and I would give them a few weeks, maybe a month, but SEVEN MONTHS??? Are you crazy?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Dave Rand worked for 2 vfx subsidaries of very large conglomerates that closed down. One was union, the other was not. Guess which one didn’t pay the artists.

      • yeah says:

        I’m still curious to know why he and his colleagues continued to work for SEVEN MONTHS without pay?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Where did you get the 7 month figure. I read it to be 3 months.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Thank soldier, yes two months, three for many, we stayed because we were dedicated to the project and lied to about the potential of a bankruptcy. I also added more about this under the why don’t you just quit blog below this one. all 130 stayed, I guess Justin and yeah would have left there friends with their work to finish…that’s cool I guess. A union would have insisted we all leave until we were paid because the lawsuit from the production company would have been a giant stop sign to the plan to screw the artists. Our parent company was a multi billion dollar family network and it was right before Christmas so no one doubted their word. As for the union shop, soldier was correct. I was always paid on time. I was handed close to 30k on the way out the door after being given a yrs notice of the closing and plenty HR support finding another gig. They even hosted job fairs and paid us to attend them. I made close to 200k per year during my tenure there. So until you’ve lived in my shoes you really don’t have a clue what your talking about, your really are just an anonymous hecklers.

      • ♥♣☺☻ says:

        I was recently criticized for informing one perspective employer the identity of the other perspective employer, and suddenly i was off the list for the latter. I was chastized for being a noob in my negotiations, even though I’ve been doing this for nearly 10years. I was under the false impression that honesty was the best policy.

        So now I’m going to do the same to you. NEVER, i repeat NEVER, work for no pay or differed pay, you only encourage the practice in the future. Looking at this guys pat, and what it cost him to screw you guys, looks brilliant to the next guy looking to cash in on fools willing to work for no pay, and guess what, it’s actually partly your fault when the next guy does it, cuz you allowed it to happen rather than standing up for yourself.

        ‘Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.’

        Benjamin Franklin

      • Justin says:

        1st if all, My orginial post is spot-on. You have choices. Own your decisions.
        (B.) You’re right, I would have left. I don’t work for free. We’re not decorating a fucking float for homecoming here…it’s a JOB. You wanna do my shots for free…take ’em they’re yours.
        (3.) Don’t assume I haven’t already walked down these roads.

  3. Stephen Harper says:

    Ext. Playground (dusk)

    VFXdad pushes his son on the swing.

    Boy- “I love you daddy”
    VFXdad- “I love you too, son.”

    A white windowless van screeches to a halt. Four masked men, wearing bright red Canadiens jerseys abduct the father and son, pulling them into the back of the van.

    Masked Man #1- “GET in the van, eh!”

    VFXdad- “Where are you taking us!?! What do you want?”

    Boy- “Daddy!”

    VFXdad- “I love you, son. I love you.”

    Masked Man #2- “Shut up!”

    Masked Man #3- “You know rigid body dynamics right?” (louder) “RBD’s! Dammit!” slams hand on the vn window.

    VFXdad- “huh, yes. Yes!”

    Masked Man #1- “shaders? SHADERS?!? Can you write SHADERS!?!”

    VFXdad looks over to Boy somewhat ashamed.

    VFXdad- “yes.”

    Masked Man #1- “We got ’em. go. GO!”

    • VFX Soldier says:

      VFXdad – “who are you guys?”

      Masked Man #1 – “We are studio executives.”

      VFXdad – “what? why are you doing this? Where are you taking me?”

      Masked Man #1 – “Canada. The politicians there have allowed us to steal public funds if we send US production there.”

      VFXdad – “Will I be paid the same rate?”

      Masked Man #1 – “No. We’ve also been able to lobby the government to use High Tech Professional laws to basically strip you of appropiate OT pay.”

      Sorry I couldn’t resist.

      • Manboy says:

        VFXdad- “What about Albuquerque? Couldn’t we just go to Albuqurque?”

        Masked Man #2- “It gets pretty cold there too; many people don’t realise that.”

        Masked Man #4- “Yeah, and their chili’s are over-rated.”

        Masked Man #1- “Shut up, Gary!”

        VFXdad- “But there are other industries, stable industries, where I can use my technical skills and talents.”

        Masked Man #1- “True. But you love the rush of trying to find your name among the thousands of end credits. The hush at the dinner table when you say the code-word of the super-secret project you’re working on. Drinking it up at Siggraph when it comes to L.A., but no other city, because your company won’t send you to those.”

        Gary- “That’s why we’re forcing you to work ‘abroad’.”

        Masked Man #1- “Shut the f#$% up GARY!”

      • VFX Soldier says:

        VFXdad – “Okay you know what. I do love vfx and I think the wife is okay if we move. I’ll take the pay cut but hey homes are cheap in Canada right?”

        Masked Man #1 – “No. Canada’s real estate is one of the most expensive.”

        VFXdad – “Well uh. will you pay for my relocation?.”

        Masked Man #1 – “Hell no. The reason we need you to work there is to get that government subsidy. You know how hard we had to lobby for it? Get your own government cheese. I thought you said you love vfx?”

        VFXdad – “Well I do. Okay I’ll move just this once.”

        Masked Man #4 – “Hey boss, what about Singapore?”

        Masked Man #1 – “Shut up Gary!”

        VFXdad – “Wait what’s this about Singapore.”

        Masked Man #1 – “The subsidy in Singapore is much larger than the on in Canada. We are actually taking you to Singapore.”

        VFXdad – “Wait I agreed to go to Canada.”

        Masked Man #1 – “Yeah well we changed the plan. We get more money in Singapore.”

        Boy – “Dad I just enrolled in school in Canada.”

        Wife – “VFXdad, we can’t keep pulling our son out of school so you can globetrot around the world for less money. We already have a mortgage we are underwater with in Albuqurque.”

        VFXdad – “I thought you guys were moving the film industry to Canada. Now Singapore? What if we have to move to the middle east for a subsidy. Why don’t you move?”

        Masked Man #1 – “The taxpayer money in Canada, UK, Singapore and whereever the next foolish government is pays for my lavish home in Pacific Palisades.”

        Boy – “Dad look! It’s VFX Soldier!”

        VFXSoldier – “Hey.”

        Masked Men – “oh please.”

        VFXdad – “VFX Soldier, what are you doing here?”

        VFXSoldier – “Oh I was just walking down this road but I thought I’d inform you that this whole subsidy war is illegal.”

        VFXdad – “how?”

        VFXSoldier – “All these countries that are giving government money away to studios to lure production there violate WTO agreements all signed by these countries. I know this is as grassroots as it can get but we need to lobby the federal government to petition the WTO to take action against this.”

  4. Dave Rand says:

    I just received and email that the company that rose from the ashes of Meteor…Lumiere, now owes it’s employees for a full month of work and they have gone on strike.
    Some have tried to get on ”chaumage” (welfare?) but could not because they didn’t get her last paycheck.

    So if you think making jokes about this is appropriate think of your own family and how you would feel, because it may soon be coming to your door.

  5. Shootsy says:

    He has the face of his acts, degenerate inbred face with an embedded grin smile. Gosh when will we break these people once and for all?!

  6. Graham J says:

    “We need to put an end to unfair trade incentives that take our jobs overseas.”

    So to be clear, you felt you were forced to move to Canada for this job, you made some money there, then it closed down. What would you have done if this Canadian studio had not existed? Would you have been better off not going and having no job at all?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      fyi I did not write the letter. It was a colleague of Dave Rand’s that I felt was worth re-posting.

      First off the artists (who many were Canadian) actually lost money. They were only paid 70% of what they were owed.

      To your other questions that’s an interesting way of putting it: So either let David Zaslav steal 30% of your money or don’t work at all.

      • Graham J says:

        Oops, I stand corrected on the author issue.

        Don’t get me wrong, it sucks that they lost money and I certainly have no love for Big Media, I’m just saying it’s better to work for a while than not at all.

        My question about whether it would have been better not to have bothered moving was genuine – it’s one thing for the company you work for to close down if you live nearby but quite another when you’ve moved to get it. I just wondered if the money he did make while there still made the move worthwhile, despite the loss.

    • Shootsy says:

      Of course we seize every job opportunity knowing we’re gonna get ripped off because after all we’re just employees, makes sense.

      And the slaves had it good actually…how could they have fed themselves otherwise?!

      Love how people still manage to justify unethical, immoral if not criminal behaviors for the sake of jobs creation. No wonder drug cartels and mafia groups thrive knowing the amount of cash flow that sustain the lives of millions.

      • Graham J says:

        I’m not justifying these actions, obviously the workers should have been paid. But businesses close down all the time and sometimes people lose money. It sucks but it happens.

        But as they say, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. It sounds like he was pretty hard up, moving all the way to Canada for a job, so hopefully the money he did make before it closed down made the trip worthwhile.

  7. Dave Rand says:

    I felt it a good spot here to clarify what this letter was really all about. It’s a gimmick, much like the “Open letter to James Cameron” by Lee Stranahan, and much like Lee’s letter, the author of the letter to Obama never actually believe Obama would ever read it, that was not the point, It’s a gimmick, it’s meant to get YOU to read it and respond.

    Lee’s letter, however, made it all the way to Variety and the Huffington post, and thousands of posts on blogs, tweets and retweets. In the end I bet Cameron eventually actually did read it…but that was not the intent, but so many of us read it that it took on a life of it’s own.

    No one forced my friend to move anywhere, or work with out pay. The word forced was a just a figure of speech and not meant to be taken literally.

    I did find it interesting how much apathy was expressed in some of the responses. No wonder we are being herded like sheep and told when to turn right and when to turn left. It’s exactly what those that have organized together to capitalize of our talents are hoping for. What I feel most do not get is that our destiny from here is really in our hands. If you like the way things are now or want them to even get better you have to actively participate in that future or it will be taken from you because you have stopped deserving it.

  8. […] a couple of weeks ago I posted about Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav and his compensation surging to $42 million dollars. You’ll remember that Discovery owned […]

  9. […] from late May and according to Dave Rand, artists at Lumiere Studios, the company formerly known as Meteor which famously failed to pay VFX artists for their work on Journey To The Center Of The Earth, has yet again left VFX artists […]

  10. […] capitalize on the allure of prestige starry-eyed prospects get. I pointed out instances in Montreal, and Michigan where rich US studios took advantage of generous government subsidies and still […]

  11. […] pros were left unpaid. In 2010 there was Fake Studios. Then there was Lumiere. At the same time, Discovery Communications CEO which was sending work to Montreal facilities was making out like a […]

  12. […] unpaid. Dave Rand who has also been accused of the same things I have been accused of and still fights to this day for unpaid artists in Montreal after 4 years. So when BECTU recently made their efforts to help UK artists unionize I was ready […]

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