Dave Rand’s Open Letter To The IATSE

VFX artist Dave Rand has posted a very strong criticism of the IATSE leadership on his website:

Since Mr Loeb announced your “Drive” to the Visual Effects Society, Variety, and the world last November the workers of the VFX industry were excited at the possibility of finally gaining their seat at the big round table of the film world. The web lit up with voices of praise, concern, and hope, when in the past there was a lot of empty dark space concerning our futures. Next we looked towards the shiny charisma of your leaders and the premier of the fruits of all your eighteen months of groundwork.  We knew you were not the only solution, but a we hoped your were a great turn on the race to the bottom ……and then ….nothing happened.

Variety also has an article about Rand’s concerns:

The union has neither publicly put a timetable on its campaign, nor predicted a quick conclusion to its bid to organize workers in an industry that is far-flung and encompasses a wide range of companies of varying size and scope.

I’m not at all surprised by this. Months ago I wrote a post about my concerns and that IA leadership meddling would lead to a backlash.

Now the hecklers are going to heckle but look, there is a fair amount of criticism that should be pointed out at the IA. If you read the MVP section of my blog I am a huge advocated of The Animation Guild, a local of the IA. They have represented VFX artists for years and they had a game plan in place to organize VFX workers here in California. I always felt they should have been the ones to lead the drive.

Now there are those who are going to use this as fodder to support the status quo. You know I can go back to being that artist with the headphones on. I can shrug my shoulders as artists have trouble getting health insurance for their families. I can make fun of them when they don’t get paid OT or even a paycheck at all. I can use twisted logic that working longer hours or turning a blind eye to illegal practices like collusion is somehow good for you.

There are reasons why people like Dave Rand other artists are doing this. We have a responsibility to look out for each other.

Soldier On.

11 Responses to Dave Rand’s Open Letter To The IATSE

  1. n says:

    And here the IA sits, squandering the opportunity to organize. Great.

  2. OrganizedVFX says:

    IMHO, the IA has lost the expertise to run an organizing drive. I don’t know how else to explain the floundering, flailing approach that has been on display for the last 18 months. Sitting back and waiting for the national organization to get their act together is turning out to be an act of futility. I contend that it is going to be up to us, the artists, to present the IA and the entertainment industry in general with a gift wrapped package of unanimity.

  3. Dave Rand says:

    I’d like to be clear that my critique is not aimed at Steve Huelett, Steve Kaplan, Jimmy Goodman, or Dusty Kelly. I aiming much higher and feel these fine folks are doing the best job they are allowed to do. That is why I used the tied and gagged references.

    In a world where those that would exploit our good natured artistic talent to quench their boundless greed, laws are broken on a daily and even hourly basis. If we are to level this slaying field might we push our own envelope a bit? I’m so tired about hearing how noble yet weak we need to be for fear of losing face or politically correctness.

    Some see only the billions at stake and that brings out the true characters, the slimy geckos. Like that beedy eyed CEO of Discovery Holdings company pictured below…eyes that could not see the righteousness of paying families the 1.3 million he owed them before Christmas while he takes in 41 mill annually for a company worth 8 billion, a company that owns family programming.

    The quote heard around the vfx world was fired right out of Dave Cohen’s pen when he wrote what a source explained as his motivation:

    “If I don’t put a visual effects shop out of business (on my movie), I’m not doing my job.”

    I have yet to meet a vfx artist that does not remember that one. It’s from this article, it might as well have been brought down from the mountain by Moses cause it started a fury in me.

    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117965871?refCatId=1009

    So IATSE brass lets see what you got. Although it’s easy to say you want us to do all the work and that’s just how it’s done…..fuck that..no one else is playing by the rules, so lets bend a few, at least the 70 yr old tactics, the smoke signals gotta go before we are out of time. Show some leadership, get in some faces, push until your asked to back off, we’ve got school buddies running HR depts making back door deals right in everyone’s face and getting slapped on the wrist. Everyone’s jockeying for position in what is becoming the most profitable movie making force in history.

    Work every angle you can to get the leaders in our own midst the confidence they need. Cookies in the park? why not hire U2 at the Greek? Get a website with so much history and testimonial and descriptions of a better way, that it chokes our friggin ipads.

    I don’t ever want to hear “who is IATSE?” again from artists that need you more than ever.

    It’s 10pm, I’ve been at work since 7am on my 20th day in a row.. we work hard …if your going to impress this bunch and get us on board, stop acting like it’s all about us and admit your fingers are in the pie to, and that you are willing to impress with some hard work, that your not just working for the studios and lining your own pockets at our expense and wasting our time.

    Dave Rand

  4. n says:

    If you want to cut through all the IA bullshit, get your shop to sign rep cards with one of the existing unions!

  5. SF Comper says:

    Dave,

    I could not agree with you more. I feel like months have passed now and the whole things feels like it losing its steam. I for one was excited about the benefits the union was going to bring, and was really hoping the industry would take to this change, and it could hopefully transform and give vfx some respect that it deserves, rather than just constantly being walked over by studios. IATSE needs to step up and start showing us what they were promising. Its a real shame that the Anim Guild werent in control of this whole thing, because I feel they have a grasp on how to do it in todays modern age.

    IATSE, where is the website you promised us this month? Also, I thought I read you finally booked a Podcast with FX guide? Where is that? Its time to hit this thing with everything you have, and be constantly in everyones faces about what you can offer us. It’s going to take a lot of work to overcome many artists opinion of unions, but once everybody realizes the benefits you can offer, and are educated about it will get easier. Come on IATSE, show us what you can do!

    Dave, Thank you for being the voice that this industry needs, and for saying what others wont! As a fellow vfx artist, it is very much appreciated!

  6. Vfxartist says:

    I, too, am very disappointed…but in the artist!

    While I agree with Dave Rand’s points about iatse not taking at least a higher tech approach with a strong web presence, it’s still up to the artist to organize. Iatse is a mechanism to help artist organize. It’s not a service to be purchased or club to join. Everything about a Vfx union has to be built by the artist, not iatse.  Should a union magically form tomorrow, it would quickly crumble without Vfx artist maintaining it with meetings, votes for officers, votes and discussion on contracts.  This takes commitment, compromise and art it working together.  This takes research, educating oneself on existing contracts (like TAG’s), and the commitment to plan for the future and go up to bat for one another when it come to contract negotiations.

    It also requires Vfx artist to look at themselves for what they are: labor.  They aren’t business partners, or even silent partners of the companies why work for.  They are labor. They are paid a wage for their time, multiplied by their skillset/demand. Artist it put too much of their personal self worth into their jobs instead of finding it outside of work.  They end up putting as much effort into their job as if it was their own business.  

    For any of that to change, it’s up to the artist.  They have to make the effort to organize, have meetings on this.  I mean,..  I Don’t see artist having meetings.. I see iatse via Jim Goodman organizing meetings, but I don’t see artist having meetings.  I don’t see artist organizing dinners or inviting colleague into their home to talk about this.  I don’t see artist doing anything constructive toward organizing.  I see a lot of bitching about hours, about iatse, but I don’t see any action.  Te same criticism brought up against iatse can be said about the artist!

    Have artist even done the minimum:?  Educating themselves?  Have they read Tom Sito’s book on the history of animation and labor to educate themselves?
    http://www.amazon.com/Drawing-Line-Untold-Animation-Simpson/dp/0813124077/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303089772&sr=8-1

    Have the Vfx Artist visited the Animation Guild website and reviewed their contract, which can serve as a template for ours?
    http://animationguild.org/contracts-wages/

    Have any of the people who have complained about iatse done the above “homework”?  I’d wager no.  

    That is where the problem lies.  Not iatse, not their web presence…  It’s effectively because the artist are simply so unorganized and unwilling to do the minimum to help themselves. 

  7. Dave Rand says:

    That’s becoming a very tired argument, and i believe it’s the exact excuse being slowly built upon by the those that don’t want vfx to unionize.

    All successful organization efforts took real union leadership. You can look it up.

    We need advice from real leadership not advice from vague anonymous sources.

    Dave Rand

    • Vfxartist says:

      Dave, it’s not a tired argument. The keyword to organize IS organize. You need that to have meetings, votes, etc. I talk to a lot of artist, and while many bitch, so few if any will come to the meetings with me or sign a rep card. They want to either subscribe to an organization the way one would for VES or ACM and forget about participation while someone else affects change. While iatse hasn’t done as much as it could, there are tremendous resources online that ANYONE can reference without fear of being exposed. Artist HAVE to help themselves… That’s the core problem. They have to acquaint themselves with the links I posted, educate themselves, and have an informed opinion on unionizing. It’s critical for them to have the perseverance, endurance and focus to follow through on forming a union. Blaming and making iatse the problem won’t get you that far. Fact is, Vfx is the last discipline that’s not organized. That’s Vfx fault. I see too many people vested in prestige and award chasing, all distractions from the core business problems (no trade organization as vendors see themselves as future directors, not businessmen) and core labor problems ( Vfx artists ignorance of labor laws, their own rights, and not educating themselves about unions)

  8. Dave Rand says:

    For example when I googled “Union Leaders Paychecks” I found this:

    “The Center for Public Integrity found compensation for leaders of the 10 largest unions ranged from $173,000 at the United Auto Workers to $618,000 at the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and almost $480,000 for the president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.”

    Or when I googled something simple like “Unions Today” I got this

    “The most dynamic unions today are those who’s leadership has recognized that organizing must be going on continually”

    and

    “Officials of labor unions have a special responsibility to the workers who look to them for leadership”

    That was just in the first ten minutes of pretending I knew nothing and wanted to find out more about union leadership. ..and yes I realize the workers themselves get elected to serve, but the initial leadership and organizing comes from PAID union employees and their leadership…I’m just asking them to do their job so we can do ours and I’m accusing the top brass of purposely dropping the ball on this and furthering the new renewed theme of misleading the masses for profit. I’m asking if any of the other relevant unions would like to step up and lead us to the benefit of everyone.

  9. Dave Rand says:

    Today ask three artists friends these questions:

    1. Who is IATSE and what does it stand for?
    2. Which shops are union shops in our industry?
    3. What do you have to do to join?

    The answers you get will give you an idea of how great a job their doing on their membership drive, they can’t even get the word out. With today’s information age that’s a disgrace. If this is the same effort they’ll use to represent me, I’d rather give someone else that responsibility.

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