My Reaction To Variety’s VFX Live Chat

In case you missed it, Variety reporter David S. Cohen  had a live chat with Scott SquiresLee StranahanDave Rand, and Joe Harkins. You can view a log of it here.  It also spurred a new open letter from Lee Stranahan. Variety also published another article reporting on Joe Harkins comments about unionization which is echoed in his own open letter to VFX artists. There was also a very good dialogue on my last post which you should read. (Update: Scott Squires posted his reaction.)

IATSE Leadership Is Failing Us

I started this blog hoping for an open dialogue and I’m extremely disappointed in the IATSE leadership’s non-involvement. I criticized them months ago about this and warned that if they could not provide clarity in what they offer, misinformation will foment.

For example, in the Variety live chat, the issue of having a “certification process” or “hiring hall” for vfx artists was brought up. Anyone who has a basic knowledge of The Animation Guild and the vfx artists they represent know there is no such thing. This could have easily been shot down if the IATSE leadership allowed organizers to speak. This allows misinformation to grow.

Out Of Touch Artists Are Failing Us

I’m also disappointed in how out of touch some of the comments that came from Joe Harkins. Here is one he repeated in his open letter:

 I’d like to say this to all the artists out there working in VFX. If you really feel bad for yourself, on your next walk to get a five dollar latte, or when you go to your companies parking lot full of high end foreign cars, remember that there are people out there who woke up today and didn’t know where their next meal would come from.

Joe’s statements implying that VFX artists are spoiled is a stark contrast to reality pertaining to the gross amount of excess on display by the studios.

Just 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 Meteor Studios which failed to pay VFX artists like Dave Rand $1.3 Million in compensation.

They eventually settled for less money and I guess you could argue that’s fair given that you could still afford $5 lattes on 70% of your salary right? Afterall, according to Harkins, VFX artists should know that kids are starving in Africa. Mr. Zaslav seemed to miss that memo.

More Out Of Touch Comments

Joe further shows just how out of touch he is with a series of  tweets on Twitter. Check out this reaction to complaints about working conditions on twitter:

@tk1099 How many of you are complaining from the comfort of your Herman Miller chair and access to the internet at work?! #vfx #givemeabreak

Coincidentally, a day before he tweeted that a very long thread was started on CGTalk by many young artists going through injuries exacerbated by conditions at work. A month ago I even admitted that I was developing a heart condition at a premature age.

What’s in store for artists when they reach their 50’s and their health deteriorates further? It’s not pretty and it’s compounded by the fact that artists in the US lose their health insurance when they are laid off after working on a project. It’s unsustainable and we have an obligation to fix this.

In reaction to the violation of labor laws by some facilities Joe said this:

@tk1099 here in Cali most studios are complying, those that aren’t are easy to fix with a phone call to the CA DOL. They have a hotline #vfx

and on how to prevent collusion such as the incident between ILM & Pixar:

@VFXSoldier @AnimGuild And they got caught! How about evaluating Pixar, ILM, SPI and PDI’s benefits vs what a union offers?!

Again, totally out of touch. Yes ILM and Pixar got caught and they didn’t even get punished. Joe used to work at Hydraulx and it’s known they don’t appropriately pay OT and misclassify workers as independent contractors. Did you call the CA DOL about that Joe? Why not?

Just this week I got an email from an artist alleging that the  yU+co, a vfx company in Hollywood, work their artists 16 hours a day including weekends: No OT.

then there is this:

@tk1099 are you not sitting in front of a computer in an air conditioned office, and fridge/coffee maker nearby? What “working conditions”?

Funny Joe mentions that because at Digital Domain Vancouver an artist contacted me about how it’s common for the temperatures to rise around 90 degrees due to cramped conditions and a constantly broken air conditioning system.

A Legitimate Grievance

Look my point in all this isn’t to whine, but to express disappointment with our industry. It’s going through a huge boom and we are left asking for essentials like enforcement of labor law to stop unpaid OT, portable benefits so we can provide health insurance for our families and not have to go through vesting periods for retirement benefits every time we start at a new facility. That’s a legitimate grievance. This is why the film industry is so heavily unionized: The physical production model needs unions to provide coverage in between projects.

Now look, Joe’s a successful guy. Hell I guess he even wrote the book on it. I think the mistake being made is thinking that unions are for unsuccessful people. You’d be interested to know that some of these union meetings have been attended by former Oscar winners and nominees.

I’m not saying Joe is doing this but some of us are confronted with the reality of this industry and we respond with pride and condescending remarks. We sometimes use the dialogue as a platform to show others that we are better than them. I guess it stems from the work we do since we spend all day trying to prove we are better.

I’m all for proving how good we are on the silver screen. But for now if we are going to continue this dialogue, we are going to have to keep the egos at bay. That goes for artists and the IATSE leadership.

Soldier On.

56 Responses to My Reaction To Variety’s VFX Live Chat

  1. Lee Stranahan says:

    Ignore the IATSE. Ignore Joe.

    Transcend both of them.

  2. Montrealer says:

    Meteor went bankrupt the old fashion way: they spent more than they made. Meteor was an independant company with Evergreen and Discovery as 50/50 shareholders.

    Imagine that you own shares of AT&T and that it went bankrupt. Would you expect someone to seize your car or your house to pay the employees’ last paycheck? Of course not. You expect the shares being down to zero to be the extent of your losses.

    Mr. Zaslav and his millions have nothing to do with this and no amount of unionizing could have prevented it.

    Now I have to ask Dave Rand: did you eat any of the birthday cake for the JCE “droplets” 1 year anniversary? (This is not a metaphor: there really was a cake)

    How can anyone be shocked that a company that spent 1 year working on a dozen mundane shots ended up bankrupt?

    I really wish management had pulled the plug 1 month earlier in this whole fiasco. That way they wouldn’t have owed artists any money. Of course everyone would have been out of work a month earlier, so the net result would have been the same for artists, but at least I wouldn’t have to read Dave Rand’s condescending rants about Montreal every time someone puts a virtual mic in front of his face.

    • Dave Rand says:

      So why DID they eventually pay us?

      It was not the payroll insurance, no insurance covers three months of salary for a hundred plus people, especially with the minimum policy…..and why did the practice of going BK and screwing the artists continue….next at Damnfx, then Red fx, then Fake studios, and finally at the same spot where Meteor failed by the new owners of Lumiere screwing some of the same people repeatedly. You can stick you anonymous head in the sand but I never will and neither will many many artists.

      If you think that will help well it certainly has not now has it. With all of the benefits of having a shop in Montreal, low labor costs, incentives, and one of the best talent pools in the business, shops close and screw artists at a rate faster than anywhere in North America

      Maybe some of us think that is significant, and needs to be put in the light.

      “Let them eat cake” is not a great metaphor for your point either but it does have something in common with your identity.

      So please stick your anonymous head back in the sand and let the rest of us secure our futures by speaking out with our names attached, coward.

      Dave Rand

    • Dave Rand says:

      I’ve written this several times but it seems to be constantly forgotten.

      The production company for 300 went after Discovery for aprox $1,000,000 for their late delivery of the show and removed any mention of Meteor in the credits. They went after Discovery because they were able to prove they were liable. There’s a big difference between publicly traded companies and privately held companies.

      That is one reason we were strung along to make sure that Journey to the Center of the Earth was delivered with most artist working closer to three months to complete it without pay.

      I actually spoke to they payroll insurance agent connected to our case as they were trying to prove fraud so we shared information as they did not want to pay any of it. Meteor had the minimal policy to necessary to say you have payroll insurance and that came and I quote “no where near the amount due the employees and we only cover two weeks of pay” When I asked Les Normes about this they wrote me back “..yes John Honeycut (Discovery) is writing the check” You’ll remember that Discovery’s first offer was for 40% and we had almost no time to accept or decline or it was all we’d get. Thanks to Eric for creating the forum we were organized enough to get a vote out in 24hrs. The only reason we say any money at all is because Discovery and Canada were embarrassed in the press.

      You ask, how would a union have made a difference? We would have all walked out the first day payroll was late. Faced with more legal action like that experienced on 300 Discovery/Evergreen would have paid us and work would have resumed. Better yet, we would no longer even be considered as the scapegoats.

      • Montrealer says:

        Dave, you say: “how would a union have made a difference? We would have all walked out the first day payroll was late.”

        No we wouldn’t have.

        I remember asking co-workers, after the second time paychecks came late, “So… when do we walk out?”

        I got blank stares.

        I asked again: “So… after how many weeks without pay should we just stop showing up for work?”

        Uneasy silence.

        Of course, at that stage it was a catch-22. Being so close to delivery, if everyone walked out, then the show wouldn’t deliver, and there was no chance in hell to get our money.

        So everyone chose to keep going in hoping that delivering the show would get Meteor that last check from the studio.

        Had there been an union, any strike would have been voted down by members. I’m certain of that.

        You said: “Faced with more legal action […] Discovery/Evergreen would have paid us and work would have resumed.”

        The only “legal action” at this stage would have been a proper strike.

        Even if Discovery/Evergreen had written a check to keep the troops humming until the JCE delivery (which I doubt), what do you think would have happened next? Meteor would have still declared bankruptcy. How many bailouts would have Discovery made until they got tired of it? When you invest in a company, you expect to MAKE money with it, not POUR money INTO it (after initial startup, of course. Meteor was way past a that stage.)

        Also, while we’re reminiscing about good old times, how about those couple of weeks where an entire floor of compers were browsing Facebook because passes weren’t being delivered to them? I remember one freelance comper asking his boss to send him home *unpaid* for a couple of weeks and call him back when the backlog in 3D was clear. Not having shots to comp was driving him nuts.

        His boss declined.

        And somehow, “The System” sunk that shop?! Give me a break.

        Or how about having about the same amount of floor space devoted to management as there was to artists? Talk about being “top heavy”!

        And the “bidding process” killed the shop!?

        The reason we got any money is because some lawyer did the math and figured that the settlement was cheaper than possible future lawsuits.

        “Canada” being “embarassed” had nothing to do with it, come on.

        Discovery being embarassed had nothing to do either. If you asked 10000 Mythbusters viewers if they’ve heard of the Meteor story at the height of the affair, *maybe* one would have heard, and then probably would keep watching the show anyways.

        My point is simple: Meteor went bankrupt because it went bankrupt. Trying to blame Canada, Montreal, Discovery, The System, movie studios, etc… is a wild goose chase.

        The lesson I learned in this whole fiasco: don’t work for more than a couple weeks if they skip a paycheck on you, and don’t keep lots of hours in an overtime bank/time in lieu. You’re basically loaning money to someone who has no inventory or collateral, which is never a good idea.

        –Montrealer

        PS: Dave, so is Soldier a coward too for being anonymous?

      • Dave Rand says:

        I’m no expert but I am speaking from experience and not out my ass.

        The bidding process killed the shop like many. I’ve worked both ways, cost plus and bidding both in the fx world and constructioin where both models were born… so I speak from experience. I worked on a dozen bids with Meteor’s producer and each time my numbers were reduced dramatically to get the show in the door and get him his 7%…you think that’s a working business model? Production abandoned that decades ago. The best management team in the world can not turn a dime on that situation. Bidding shows and the bidder getting a percentage is a set up.

        Yes they paid us out of embarrassment, just like Cote paid everyone after Variety called him. Canada was doing nothing except admitting we were going to get screwed. The only return emails I got until the articles came out were about their bike club trips as I accidentally got put on that list. I initiated the press, after speaking and writing to Les Normes and the Governor General’s office with no response. After Brendan Fraser and the reporters began calling them they perked up..big time. Again, this was experienced first hand by me making calls and talking to people. What dd you do?

        Unions settle closings and non payment of wages far differently that you have attempted to describe. Again I’ve experienced that first hand having worked for a union shop that closed. I’ve been at four others that closed and were not union, those closings all screwed the artists.. What union experience do you have?

        Tell me what you did to help us get paid other than having your hand out when the checks finally came and now because your witnessing Montreal’s shops pull the same routine over and over again…you think telling everyone to shut up about it will help it go away?

        As I wrote on these blogs before I understand Soldier’s anonymity as it’s important to keeping this blog up. You may remember an anonymous blog that was started by another meteorite that took action to get us paid. It was taken down by the owner after Discovery threatened legal action. I don’t think Soldier is a coward. I think people all know what that person is about.

        I think all posters that bash others that stand behind their names are cowards or conmen. I think it just spreads fear and allows imposters and posers into the mix.

        So go ahead and put your name on your posts, what are you afraid of? If the Montreal fx community is so great and fair put your name behind that.

      • Montrealer says:

        “The best management team in the world can not turn a dime on that situation.”

        On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Meteor’s management around the JCE timeframe?

        Maybe the bidding process is screwed, but Meteor sure as heck doesn’t prove anything. That shop was grossly mismanaged.

        You still haven’t answered my question. Did you eat some “droplets” birthday cake? (It’s NOT a metaphor! There WAS a cake!)

        “Canada was doing nothing except admitting we were going to get screwed.”

        Who is “Canada” exactly?

        “after speaking and writing to Les Normes and the Governor General’s office with no response.”

        The Governor General!? Are you serious? You thought that the representative to the Queen of England in Canada would actually reply to an individual with a bounced paycheck? This is like calling the US Secretary General to contest a parking ticket.

        “What did you do?”

        I went with some other Meteor employees and consulted a lawyer. (He advised us to file a claim with Les Normes du Travail, which turned out to be good advice since they actually did the bulk of the work that ended up getting everyone some money).

        Before we knew the whole thing would go down, I also started invoicing 1.5x overtime for weekends after being asked to do week-end work (on a public holiday!!) after a few weeks of having nothing to do, which I thought was really bad project management. (That earned me a friendly chat from my boss and HR about how Meteor was “exempt” from obeying Quebec labour laws). They refused to pay 1.5x. Meanwhile, most of my co-workers stayed silent on the subject.

        I also refused to continue on Lincoln after they started skipping paychecks on JCE.

        “Unions settle closings and non payment of wages far differently that you have attempted to describe.”

        How?

        (BTW, my original point was that a union wouldn’t have *prevented* the actual bankruptcy).

        Besides striking, what other leverage does a union have? If a shop has an empty bank account, how can it force it to pay the staff? If the equipement and the office space are leased and there is no inventory to sell off, where is the money coming from? Meteor was a weird case with Discovery being shareholders, but most VFX shops don’t have a media conglomerate behind them.

        The most compelling argument I read on VFX Soldier in favour of unions is for portable healthcare benefits, which would be near-useless in Quebec with our socialised health care system. (Could be nice for extras like dental or vision I guess).

        “So go ahead and put your name on your posts, what are you afraid of?”

        Well, you keep saying publicly embarassing people that piss you off is a good battle plan. I don’t want to end up on the front page of Variety or god forbid having Brendan Frasier’s secretary send me a nasty e-mail.

        Why do you care so much? If your points hold water, then you don’t have to worry about me.

        –Montrealer

      • Dave Rand says:

        I be brief cause your running out of steam.

        I did not eat the cake, I felt bad for kevin…what’s your point anyway.

        Meteor’s management team did a great job considering they worked with a defunct business plan like most shops do for years and stayed alive. That’s my opinion.

        I chose the Governor General because a friend of hers contacted me and suggested she’d understand being from a country that steps on it’s lower classes and also being an award winning film maker. I thought there would be some leverage there.

        I tink anyone would realize by saying Canada I mean local and provincial governments. Common get a grip.

        Unions represent labor and labor management relations. Legal representation, arbitration, and collective bargaining. You can look all this up. It’s hard to make points with someone who has not taken the time to read basic literature on a subject. Or if reading is not your thing you can call the local IATSE office and let them explain it to you.

        ….I neve said the union would have stopped the bankruptcy what i did hight light for you was the 300 case with Discovery over late
        delivery. What do you think would have happened if we all walked out before delivering the show…would it have been cheaper to pay us and finish or would it have been cheaper to move the show, face law suits from Walden Media and have Discovery and Evergreen and all related to the project dragged into the press? It’s called leverage and it’s how unions work. Lots of history on that type of situation also..you should look it up. Discovery was work 6 billion at the time.. decisions to bankrupt divisions of a conglomerate are base on far more than that divisions bank account.

        It was not a wild goose chase if you think the coverage in NY Post, Gazette, Variety, CBC Radio 1, and Playback, and Brendan Fraser personal phone calls had no impact on Discovery or Canada then explain why we became a priority case with Les Normes and explain why Discovery paid the bulk of the settlement.

        You keep picking on Meteor…why don’t you comment on how the events at Meteor are being repeated at shops like Damnfx, RedFx, Fake, Camera E Motion, and finally Lumiere at the same location.
        Explain without highlighting that it’s a trend.

        Finally. You started this with an insult and you did it anonymously and that is a cowardice act. i don’t think anyone really cares enough to publish any of your comments. I do appreciate the opportunity to recount what really happened and what is still happening, and what could be different, Thanks for that.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Sorry for all the typos but I’m in hurry this morning. I would like to add that the Governor General of Canada called me back personally the day after the Playback Cover article was published, asking what she could do. I gave her the officers name at Les Normes, they called me the next day. When the NY Post article came out, Brendan Fraser called me personally within minutes of it going live online and asked me for all the phone numbers I had, he called John Honeycutt first, the exec at Discovery in charge of Meteor. He called Pierre next, he made calls and talked about it on his interviews all the way leading up to the films release. If you think this had no impact….well dream on.

        Why don’t your focus your energy on bravely speaking out yourself with your real name.

        I just got an email from a local who claims that you are with Lumiere’s management..is this true? Are you the person that called shafted Meteor artists and offered them their back pay if they came on board with Lumiere on the former owners projects?

        If so shame on you girl.

      • Montrealer says:

        “Meteor’s management team did a great job considering they worked with a defunct business plan like most shops do for years and stayed alive.”

        My guess is that they stayed alive over the years because Discovery kept pumping money into it. But I haven’t seen the books, so this is just a guess. I gave plenty of examples earlier on why I think that shop was poorly managed. To answer my own question, which you artfully dodged, I give them a solid 4/10. Sitting on my hands waiting for assets for 3 days and being asked to work week-ends *in the same week* has never happened to me elsewhere.

        “I did not eat the cake, I felt bad for kevin…what’s your point anyway.”

        My point was that this incident was the tip of the iceberg on how mismanaged that show was. After six months of fudging around, either go hard ball on the client if he’s being unreasonable, hire extra help, subcontract the shots, fire someone, but you can’t just let that stuff go on for an ENTIRE YEAR.

        “Unions represent labor and labor management relations. Legal representation, arbitration, and collective bargaining.”

        Fun fact: I was a IATSE member for a short time. I know what’s the dictionary definition of the word “union”. BTW, half of that definition (represent labour, legal representation and arbitration) also describes the Quebec Labour Commission (aka Les Normes). What I want to know is when a shop goes bankrupt, how can a union stop the artists from being shafted? You said in another thread that you had first hand experience with a union shop closing. Enlighten me.

        “I never said the union would have stopped the bankruptcy”

        Bingo. That’s my original point. We agree.

        “What do you think would have happened if we all walked out before delivering the show?”

        Your scenario is plausible, but we’ll never know, because union or not, everyone would have chosen to stay in. I was the one to ask “When do we walk out?” in my department. Had there been a union, a walk-out (i.e. a strike) would have been voted down, I’m sure of it.

        “It’s called leverage and it’s how unions work.”

        It’s called striking, and it’s the *only* leverage unions have. I asked you to point other types of leverage, you didn’t answer my question. Even without a union, everyone could have walked out. A few e-mails and phone calls and it could have been arranged. Nobody did.

        “Damnfx, RedFx, Fake, Camera E Motion, and finally Lumiere at the same location.”

        I can’t comment on how these shops were managed or how they’ve sunk as I’ve never worked there. I can say that several key management people from Meteor moved on to Lumiere. I can’t understand why anyone would choose to work there after the Meteor fiasco. Lumiere just proves my point that Meteor’s demise came from mismanagement. Same managers, same result.

        BTW, it’s easy to list failed shops in any place. Asylum, Cafe FX, Orphanage, ImageMovers. Explain these without highlighting that it’s a trend.

        “i don’t think anyone really cares enough to publish any of your comments.”

        You cared enough to point your twitter followers to my comments.

        “I just got an email from a local who claims that you are with Lumiere’s management..is this true?”

        Of course not. Why the hell would a member of Lumiere’s management go in great detail to explain how bad Meteor’s management was? They’re the same guys!

        “Are you the person that called shafted Meteor artists and offered them their back pay if they came on board with Lumiere on the former owners projects?”

        No. I’m just a regular artist.

        There are industry wide problems and Montreal is not immune. Shops go bankrupt everywhere. It happens. It’s ugly and it sucks. You say you want to help artists. Well a FUD campaign either does nothing at best, or scares away talent and clients at worse.

        You imply that unions and changing the bidding process are the solutions. I’m not holding my breath.

        Meanwhile, my advice to fellow artists is to keep your ear to the ground. A shop bringing in millions doesn’t prove they’re not losing money after everyone got paid. Be ready to walk out when the checks start to bounce and keep your timebanks low (use the days off or cash them out). If you are staff somewhere, make buddies with freelancers to keep an eye on the pulse of other shops in town. In Montreal, make the time to attend MontrealVFX happy hours (1st thursday of each month) and keep connected within the community. That way, if the shit starts to hit the fan, you’ll bounce back in no time.

        –Montrealer

      • Dave Rand says:

        Your started this with an anonymous insult. If you don’t like listening to my efforts then don’t listen. There’s always a heckler in every crowd isn’t there.

        You pick apart my efforts and those of others who stand behind their names but offer zero construct in return, zero, and you do it all anonymously. Don’t worry, no one wants to write about you or your apathetic attitudes towards others efforts.

        Les Normes has not recovered any money for fx arists other than Meteor from all the shops I’ve mentioned, yet you still won’t see the trend. Given the low rents, low labor costs, and incentive program Montreal shops are failing faster than any area in North America.

        Our case was made a priority and Discovery, not the insurance paid the bulk of the settlement because people like me and many others actively took part in our futures….we did not wait for mother Canada to solve all our problems.

        Unions are like that also, members actively participating in their futures.

        Some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some people say “what happened?”.

        I’d like to add one more…some people stand on the sidelines and hiding their identities and heckling those that are making an effort. Of course people will try to see who the heckler is, usually it’s a person with less that a righteous agenda.

        All of the VFX is performing below par, as Dave Cohen’s recent articles point out. Some of us are offering ideas for change. I speak of Montreal often because I get tons of emails from unpaid artists who are looking for ideas on haw to get paid and looking for ways other than Mother Canada to fix their issues. Same goes for us in the USA. You can’t wait for the government to fix everything.

        Montreal is the only place i’ve ever gone unpaid and it happened three times in a row. Yes the media is a very powerful tool, and always has been. One phone call recently got dozens paid the next day.

        So I’ll ask again What are YOU doing?

      • Montreal ARTIST says:

        Wow ENOUGH !

      • Montreal ARTIST says:

        Dave, I can’t believe you’ve carried on with this ASS clown this long without telling him what A BONAFIDE a hole he is.

        I’ve personally benefited from your efforts just like Montrealer has. You’d think he’d take a moment to thank you. We all appreciate your efforts and do not “subscribe” to the jealously against Americans campaign this fart has to offer. You truly are a great American and a great Canadian if you ask me. We appreciate the American film market and all the jobs it has given up here and apologize for our government’s lack of respect for it’s own people. I have so many friends left without pay from all the shops you’ve mentioned…and yes one phone call from the press got us all paid instantly recently at the last Montreal shop I was at. I’ve moved over to Vancouver for now and I sure hope that shit does not follow me here.

        Keep up the good fight dave and don’t let these few clowns waste your time…they are just jealous they don’t have your balls, your strength, and persistence. They are like baby birds with their mouths open waiting for mommy to bring the worm.

      • BluBird says:

        Hey Dave,

        I met you at a talk you gave recently, you’ll remember me as the one with the superman kid.
        Anyway, you were able to recover money owed me and my family from one of those shops and I truly appreciate it. I’ve also moved from Montreal to work in another part of Canada until they get their act together. People like you have really shown us the way and not to be afraid. I would post my name but this guy your being so patient with does not deserve to know who I am. There are only couple egg heads like him and I agree with the Montreal Artst, he’s got that “I hate Americans but love to work on their movies attitude”. Canada should come up with their own big movies, but they don’t, we did make IMAX and some key software though and I’m proud of that. I really wish this hatred would stop towards Americans. We would do so much better without it.

        Anyway, thank you so much for caring about our futures enough to speak out for us. I really hope things change. I’ll email you privately to see what I can do.

      • CompBrat says:

        You are a master at the straw man argument there Montrealer. Transparent and dissallowed in pro debating, I’m sure you are going to quickly look that up cause I doubt you even know the meaning. Although I do not agree with some of daves union stuff I’ll admit I need to look into it more to get a more educated opinion. Dave I read your open letter and that made me respect your integrity and courage to take on such large institutions and use your real name. I have a family so that’s my excuse for being anonymous. I actually work with you but n another dept we have spoken in the kitchen a few times, and also read all your
        posts and podcasts. People respect you and that’s why management promoted you to supervise even though your pro union and open about it. I really really appreciate all tour efforts. I’ll come speak with you later so u know who I am. As for Montrealer, he’s right your just a heckler! Let’s so what we can to keep that bull rap from spreading west. I have a family to support

      • Dave Rand says:

        No need to attack Montrealer guys with any bad language especially anonymously. I know there are a lot of heavy feelings out there about the biz and our futures (and Americans -some deserved) and I get it. I do appreciate the thanks. I also appreciate your ambition to take part in the future of our industry.

        I’m really not for any particular union effort just yet. Although I had a great experience with Local 839 while at IMD (wich did not close owing people money as Montrealer had lumped it in with some others that did- we all got handsomely rewarded for our tenure. I was handed 30K on the way out the door-as a bonus plus union severance)

        I’m not pleased with IATSE’s current performance.

        http://www.daverand.com/open-letter-to-iatse/

        I think we all need to question all of it. I’ve written and spoken about extensively else where you can find all the links on my website.

        All my friends in other areas of entertainment, writers, actors, editors and the like can not imagine their careers with out the union support as it’s become so ingrained.

        Apathy is one of the most common problems, people are quick to judge but not quick to act. Apathy is the enemy. Waiting for your Government to help you can be a awfully long waiting line.

        Unions are far quicker and far more interactive with members and pro-active with studios and shops as they have an infrastructure there and a conduit through the (AMPTP), a trade organization representing the interests of 397 American film and television producers.

        If you question the power of this leverage just read the history of the recent writer’s strike and the impact it had for both members and the entertainment industry.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007%E2%80%932008_Writers_Guild_of_America_strike

      • Montreal ARTIST says:

        I hear ya, I’ll cut back on the cursing, ass clown is really not a curse word though : ) Anyway some of us were reading this thread and we all laughed at how Montrealer starts out with saying he hates hearing you, yet he obviously listens to your podcasts, reads your posts, and even follows your tweets ! Seems a little obsessed to us.

        One of the American guys here said he was working at Fake studio as a freelancer and a bunch of them, a dozen or so, got stiffed on their last payment for 6 weeks work on Piranah 3d. The owner stopped returning their calls and emails so they called Les Normes got nowhere with that, so they called you. After contacting you, you referred them to a writer at Variety who called the owner for a comment and the next thing you know the payments rolled in real prompt like.

        Keep this crap in the dark is no solution. Thanks for helping me and my friends.

        Hey weren’t YOU the guy who set up the attorney meeting for us during the Meteor scam? My buddy says you were anyway. He was there also. I was out of the country.

        Keep up the battle..your a good man …don’t let the carnival barkers get in the way of justice.

      • snowMan says:

        Taking minute from my vacation after finishing my last show to write a quick note in favor of what dave has done. My last montreal shop owner tried to tell us not to talk to him or the press as it would kill the biz and the shop we all relied on for employment. So we delivered the Speak up folks! don’t rely on anyone else but yourself. Not sure about this union thing either but I am sure about the integrity of dave rand

    • Montrealer says:

      Dave said: “Your started this with an anonymous insult.”

      I said your rants are condescending. I think they often are. I stand by my opinion. It’s your prerogative to feel insulted. In return, you insulted me numerous times by saying that I was a coward, an ex-meteor manager (pretty insulting!), that I had called ex-meteorites to bribe them into joining Lumiere, by implying I didn’t even know the textbook definition of the word “union” and that I had a less than a righteous agenda.

      If you still want to know why I’m anonymous, it’s because I know my views are controversial and I don’t need friction about this outside of this forum. Ask your anonymous cheerleaders about the benefits of anonymity.

      You say that besides Meteor, Les Normes haven’t recovered money elsewhere. That’s not true, a colleague told me he had dealt with Les Normes with a similar issue at Big Bang. He said they eventually got their money, though it took a long time.

      Here’s the trend I see: when a shop goes bankrupt (note the difference between “bankruptcy” and “closing before the shit storm”), if it doesn’t have a billion dollar company as a major shareholder/investor to bail it out, they can’t pay you because the money is gone.

      I see no evidence that a union would fare any better than Les Normes in that case.

      Now, if it’s still up and running, the owner is skipping paychecks and he’s is telling everyone to go fly a kite, then yes, I agree with you, bring it on. Walk out, call a lawyer, call les Normes, call the press, do whatever you need to do. That shit is just wrong.

      You say that getting unpaid happened to you 3 times in row… well I can’t help but think of the old saying “Fool me once… shame on you, fool me twice… shame on me”. After the Meteor fiasco, if a place starts skipping pay, I know I won’t be around for long! I learned my lesson. Just curious, was Meteor number 1,2 or 3?

      Dave said: “So I’ll ask again What are YOU doing?”

      I’m following my own advice. See the last paragraph of my last comment. I wish there was more I could do, but I haven’t figured it out. Not agreeing with your agenda doesn’t equal apathy. Apathy is not commenting on this blog at all.

      Dave said: “If you question the power of this leverage just read the history of the recent writer’s strike”

      Twice I’ve asked you *besides* a strike, what leverage does a union have? Again, you reply by mentioning… a strike. And the WGA strike at that! I’m sure most VFX people remember the shitty year our business had to endure because of that one. Projects couldn’t get greenlit anywhere. Thanks guys.

      Also, there’s a huge difference between writers and VFX. It’s really difficult to globalize and outsource writing, especially humour. VFX can be done anywhere (with some drawbacks, but it can be done). A worldwide VFX union is a pipe dream.

      Dave said: “Unions are far quicker and far more interactive with members”

      Oh yeah? In a recent ultra famous case, 253 employees of a popular newspaper in Montreal got locked out by their employer after they failed to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. It took the union 2 *years* to finally negotiate a mediocre offer that got accepted by members (most lost their job). 2 years! That’s “quick and interactive”? See: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Journal+Montreal+workers+voting+offer/4353459/story.html

      When I was a IATSE member, I had to mail a cheque with my first union dues to them. Could they take it off my paycheck? Nope. Credit card online? Nope. Over the phone? Nope. Bank Transfer? Nope. Even a friggin’ pre-addressed/pre-paid enveloppe? Nope. Small detail, but I wasn’t impressed. Again, didn’t feel “quick and interactive” to me.

      Montreal ARTIST said: “he obviously listens to your podcasts, reads your posts, and even follows your tweets !”

      I’ve never listened to a single podcast from Dave. I read his posts here because I follow this blog in general. The only tweets I see from him are the ones re-tweeted by Soldier.

      Montreal ARTIST said: “like baby birds with their mouths open waiting for mommy to bring the worm”

      How am I different than you? Sounds to me like you are waiting for your daddy Dave to bring the worm.

      Hey Montreal ARTIST, Comp Brat and Blu Bird. Your man Dave has been calling me a coward for being anonymous. What does that make you? Dave has been pointing the finger asking me what am I doing to help? Well, what are YOU doing to help? Sounds like you all GTFO of Mtl and had your hand out just like me.

      One of you accused me of being anti-american. News flash: Most Americans don’t give a shit about Canada and couldn’t point Ottawa on a map. (Not that they should, I sure couldn’t point the capital of Finland on a map).

      Americans will throw you under the bus any chance they get. For a sneak peek, just look at the posts on this blog suggesting that the US files a complaint to the WTO against countries who subsidize their VFX shops (including Canada).

      Heck, Americans will throw themselves under the bus if they can save 50 bucks doing it (see: outsourcing).

      BTW, it wasn’t Dave who setup the meeting with the lawyer, it was Steven D. Other unsung heroes were Eric L. for setting up and hosting the forum and Julie J. who sent the “sorry we’re closed” e-mail and cc’ing everyone’s personal address… that made organizing everyone *much* quicker. To this day I don’t know if this was a rookie move or she did this on purpose.

      –Montrealer

      • Montrealer says:

        BTW, Dave, I find it pretty ironic to hear you complain about “Mother Canada”. According to this blog, “Mother” was paying half your salary via subsidies when you worked here. That made you her (ungrateful?) adoptive son.

        –Montrealer

      • Dave Rand says:

        Thanks for you patience with my reply to your last post, but like many these weeks before summer can be all consuming.

        “….but at least I wouldn’t have to read Dave Rand’s condescending rants about Montreal every time someone puts a virtual mic in front of his face.” 

        Yes I took that as an insult after working as relentlessly, spending my own time and money to get you and I, and our friends paid, always using my real name in every post and then speaking about the spread of that crime specific to the Montreal area. I responded to every email from ever screwed over artist asking for advice and help. Personally, I walked out after the first missed check from Damnfx, I’m no fool and saw through the lies being told to employees there.  I then sent work to Montreal about 700K worth and we got burned again! Am I a fool for doing that? I don’t think so, I did it because of all the talented people there  So before you say “fool me once…”  understand that not only did I not play the fool afterwards, I began doing something about it as I the emails kept coming from people continuing to get burned, the last email was for almost 40K to one individual from a shop that is still up and running. 

        And yes the press worked wonders as it keeps the artists from being brushed under the carpet in the dark. It keeps shop owners thinking twice about letting the artist take the fall while they do all they can to deliver the project and to protect their own reputation.

        I heard a couple people waited 5 yrs to get a fraction of their money from Big Bang…that’s completely unacceptable to me.  Why are artists unsecured creditors in Quebec? Sharing in the risk, but not the reward? Is that why Les Normes is overwhelmed with cases? That’s the excuse they gave me for not returning my calls until the case made the NY Post, Variety, and Playback and got elevated to a priority case with them.

        You do not see a rash of actors, writers, editors, sound engineers, set designers, hair and makeup artists, and the rest getting laid off with out payment… and do you know why? It’s the same reason their credits are listed at the top of the list and yours is at the bottom…if at all! Unions, that why, unions. They have far more power than just striking, they have a direct connection to the studios. The abuse stops from the top down.

        The writers strike was an example of power, and I was clear about that, my point being the ripple it caused, the one that affected everyone, including you. I would have appreciated that kind of influence when Meteor gave us the big fuck you.

        Have you noticed how the majority of artists that get screwed get screwed AFTER delivering a show?  I have trouble finding any that have not.  The money will flow when the show is shut down by labor.  Discovery or any Mom and Pop shop would work a lot harder on other options if missing one paycheck stopped the show and ruined their reputation. Like wars, strikes are not even necessary to keep the peace, there are many turns that make screwing the artists less attractive and less of an option. This is particularly important in a area with weak labor laws. Missing a paycheck brings in the union immediately to arbitrate as outlined in the labor contract, not a year later, not five years later, immediately. Worst case,  In the event of a bankruptcy you don’t have to go find a lawyer, you already have one and you don’t have to pay for it. You don’t end up in a stack on someone’s desk.

        There’s lots more leverage for the artists when the playing field is level. 

        Sure you can find failed union efforts, lost battles, but there’s far more victories…that have spread worldwide.  That’s why I said If you like weekends, 40 hrs weeks, overtime, paid vacations, pension plans, health care, workmen’s compensation and even getting the wage you get as a vfx artists…thank a union.  That’s just some of the things “besides a srike” that they have been able to do. Basically it changes the option of letting the artists take the fall or be used.

        Even the small shop owners, notorious for missing paychecks and lying about it only to play a shell game by closing and magically reopening a new shop would have a much harder time if the artists were a collective.

        In many ways Mother Canada is one big union..and I don’t have to thank her for my paycheck, that comes mostly through American Studios. Canada is not in the business of losing money by giving incentives. It creates revenue for the country through many channels of revenue created by their incentive program, did you think it was a charity program?

        Name on blockbuster Canadian film loaded with fx. If you don’t work hard to secure the labor environment in your own backyard, it will be the first to go when competitive incentives begin in California, something that is in front of the California legislature right now. With our moon being on par, there will be little reason to send work North.

        Steven D and many other unsung heroes like Eric L. for setting up and hosting the forum and Julie J and several others helped out with the cause.  You’d be surprised who got involved.  I did arrange a few legal meetings, not sure if it’s the one you went to or not as I don’t know who you are. I really don’t think that anyone was waiting for Daddy Dave to bring the worm.

        I contacted several attorneys in the area and forwarded all the info to the people you mention.  Here’s some examples of that

        “Mr. Rand,
        We would gladly assist you any way we can with respect to Meteor
        studio’s lay offs.  Kindly contact the undersigned in order to discuss
        the matter further.
        Cordially,
        Gabrielle Azran, attorney
        514.499.2010 ext.25”

        BEFORE  DISCUSSING THIS MATTER,DOES METEOR  STUDIOS  HAVE  OFFICES,  ASSETS  IN THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC?.  I AM  ONLY LICENSED TO PRACTICE IN THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC.

        I posted on several legal websites, I spent the first days doing this immediately after the closing. 

        “Heck, Americans will throw themselves under the bus if they can save 50 bucks doing it (see: outsourcing).”

        —-Do you mean like sending fx and film work to Canada——-? I guess that is a good thing eh?

        Some believe that the studios have influenced California politicians to keep competitive incentives from occurring in California in an effort to scatter the talent away from the unions.

        As most of the source of your work is unionized, and again, it’s the main reason you make a good wage.

      • Dave Rand says:

        And just a few short days later, the same place where it all started the same crap has been pulled on the same people. I am not trying be patronizing or show some fucked up superior attitude towards this situation. I ‘m simply trying to get it into the light so that my fellow artists can rally and do something about this sickness.

        Now just two years later my same friends are being ripped off again. The confidential sum of 1 dollar is hiding the fact that most are owed 15-35 thousand dollars. This time the project left for even cheaper outsourcing and the owners bankrupted the facility after promising that bounced and missed paychecks would never happen again if they all came back to work.

        http://origin-pwc.pwc.com/en_CA/CA/car/lumiere/assets/lumiere-001_053011.pdf

        and with that I will close this thread.

  3. anon says:

    “Oops! Google could not find http://www.successunder25.com

    Maybe clawing your way up the ladder to VFX middle management to float above the VFX proletariat doesn’t work anymore…

  4. Lee Stranahan says:

    Working for free against your will is called ‘slavery’. It’s stunning anyone would defend Meteor.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Thanks Lee for backing us all up, and for always signing your name. Some say I do it for self promotion but the truth is I do it to help alleviate the fear of speaking out so that my anger get’s a healthy outlet and the support of other fearless individuals. God knows I’ve pissed off both potential employers and the union and yet I’m still working and sought and even promoted.

      I’ve spoken at length about the reason’s Montrealer said Meteor failed and I agree with him on that point. However, screwing 130 VFX employees and their families after promising to pay them upon delivery with a bonus right before Christmas needed to be exposed as it was a conglomerate of family networks doing the screwing…..and they were American like me.

      Watching this cancer spread throughout the city afterwards needs to be exposed as well as our already defunct business model for VFX has been given a new twist in Montreal. It’s a win win situation for the shop owner. I’ll lay it out for those who have not witnessed it.

      1. Start a shop with minimal down payment, or buy a bankrupt shop for pennies on the dollar from the bank.

      2. Have the client sign over their incentives to you and give them a very low bid in return.

      3. Skim as much as you can from the incoming cash flow as an audit is very very unlikely in this disorganized and possibly corrupt environment.

      4. If things start heading south, do whatever you can to deliver your show, after all, studio laws suits can be expensive. Promise the workers anything.

      5. Then screw your largest unsecured creditor – the artists – (as by Quebec law that is what they are) and head for the hills, our personal wealth intact.

      And all of this can be done in the shadow of the law. Are Toronto, Vancouver, and the US next? I do my part to work against that trend.

      David Cohen has been putting together a long piece on this and needs locals to come forward on the record. If you disagree with any of what I’ve said or have new information then this is your chance to defend your city.

      write him at:

      david.cohen@variety.com

    • Montrealer says:

      Lee, if you think I’m defending Meteor, read me again.

      I’m just sick and tired of Meteor being the poster-child of the “Montreal is fucked” bandwagon. Meteor should be the poster child of “If you run a shop like an arse, you’ll go bankrupt” bandwagon.

      Also, everyone was free to quit at any time, of course. Saying anyone there was working against their will is just a lie. Pretty much everyone (me included) chose to stay in the hope that delivering the show would get everyone their money in the end. (That gamble didn’t pay off the way everyone had hoped).

      Some people believed that lie longer than others.

      –Montrealer

      • Dave Rand says:

        …..And some people stayed on an made calls to others offering them their back pay if they signed on to the new venture to do work for the former owners….and now they are looking for jobs.

        The whole thing stank. I’ve been through a lot over the past 16 yrs in the business but always got paid except in Montreal where got ripped off three times in a row So yes I talk about it all the fucking time and I’ll always will till I see change, Your co workers email me regularly about shorted paychecks, no paychecks from Lumiere, Damnfx, Redfx, Fake Studios (one friend just lost almost 50k) even New Breed has had some missed or late payment . It’s sickening.

        Some are legit like Hybrid and Mobus and they should be getting both the talent and the work because they deserve it.

        If you or I ran our personal finances like that we’d wish no one would find out either but that’s not the case. …that’s why there’s credit rating companies in both Canada and the US. There should be consequences.

        Rip me off and expect me to shut up about it? Fuck that.

        If you so concerned do something about it, but don’t tell others your tried of hearing about it, that’s not doing anything but perpetuating the lie.

        One thing you can do. Email dave.cohen@variety.com and tell him on the record what you think. Takes some courage to use your real name.

        Another thing you can do is call the local office for IATSE (the union organizing vfx in all of North Amerca 1-416-362-3569

        ..but don’t ever expect me to be quiet about being robbed and it was more that from just Meteor, it was a result of the business plan that spread after other shops realized they could get away with it because there seemed to be no consequence, especially from the artists bitching about it.

  5. vfxPeon says:

    While I don’t agree with many of Joe’s statements, I think people should step back and take a moment to think about where they are coming from. A quick google search shows that he entered the business when things were good, and there wasn’t too much saturation in the vfx labor market. The guy clearly found his specialty/niche and was able to rise up the latter and up the payscale. He obviously is an expert in his specific field — he wrote the book on it and taught it at Gnomon.

    So basically we have a guy who has little in common with today’s junior artists. We entered the market when the getting was not so good. It is not so simple to move up in a company because things are more established and there is more competition between artists. Prices for vfx are going down and there is more outsourcing than ever.

    I am almost never provided a Herman Miller chair to sit on or drive a Ferrari. I DO generally work 1099 and have to pay extra taxes that my employer should be paying and have no unemployment safety net once my job is over. I AM expected to work overtime without it being paid for (sometimes its a “day rate”, sometimes its “straight time”). I DO have to pay for my own health insurance which will become ridiculously expensive as I get older and which I may not even be eligible for if the Republicans repeal health-care reform at some point.

    Again, this guy Joe is clearly crazy talented. But he’s also a generation apart from people like me. I hope one day to be at his level, but until then I just want to be paid legally.

    Obviously the union seems to be screwing things up, but I don’t know what other options we really have. Walking away only works so much. There’s always some other dummy willing to take my place. And what does “transcend them” even mean? Seriously. You can talk shit about the unions all you want, but then show me the better alternative. I don’t think think “trascend them” is the answer.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I always said unionization was just part of the answer. So was Scott Ross’s trade organization. There is no one solution out there.

      There is another option which I have been planning to write about for the past year. It’s one of the most important posts I’ve written. Stay tuned.

  6. occlude says:

    Thanks for the post Soldier. You’re sticking to the facts, so I can’t say anything negative about any of your points.

    I did want to address your question regarding Hydraulx. When I worked there I was a W2, staff supervisor, on salary, with health/dental/vision insurance fully paid for by the studio, paid vacation/time off, and a bonus agreement. I often fought for artists that I felt were getting unfair treatment- ie: their rate was low, or they weren’t getting paid hourly, working too much, getting yelled at, etc. Usually when I stepped in on behalf of an artist their situation improved, but not always.

    That being said, I was the minority there. Most people were hourly with no benefits. They did get OT, and food if they worked late, and everyone has a herman miller aeron chair, snacks/drinks provided, and a nice office right off the 3rd st promenade to work in. But yes, there were issues. Sometimes 1099 artists didn’t get paid on time, and there was tension there. The yelling/screaming, random firings of artists, and working people to death thing got old quick for most people.

    I will openly say, most of the 1099 artists and others there did not like me. I was never yelled at, and I was treated differently. All around I enjoyed working there and have zero complaints, even after the fact. I had benefits other didn’t, and it didn’t help that I was favored by the owners and that I drove around Santa Monica in a Lamborghini.

    I think VFX Peon hits the nail on the head. I got lucky, I found a niche, and I moved up. I got in at a good time, and I did pretty well for myself, and I learned to capitalize off of it…

    If there is a generational difference, and artists that are working under me are struggling, I haven’t heard much about it from them. I wish, if that’s true, they would talk to me…though I guess that could be intimidating. In all fairness, I am in management and I get it’s not easy to start that dialogue.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I actually think you we agree on a lot more things than what we disagree on.

      I agree with you, there should be a rate that is a minimum.
      I agree with you, artists should be paid on time.
      I agree with you, they should be paid OT.
      In fact, you even mentioned we need an organization with teeth that could enforce these standard that I think we all agree to. There is a word for that – a union.

      Now from what I hear from some hydraulx artists is that they paid OT only after 50 hours a week. OT should be paid after 8 in a day and 40 in a week.

      • occlude says:

        I think we agree on many things too, and that’s good! I think it’s good we even have these discussions since so many people are unwilling to talk about it, especially if they have to put their name out there. I, on the other hand, will openly discuss whatever.

        Just to point out too, I’ve read the book on the history of the animation union, and read through the CBA FAQ on the TAG website, and through the ENTIRE contract with IMD. And, I’ve been doing my own research on unions and history of unionization. So, I’d like to think that I am one of those people paying attention, listening, and even embracing some of the ideas that I might disagree with. That is to say, my mind can be changed, and everything is negotiable.

        Also, to answer your question about Hydraulx OT, 1099’s were paid OT after 50, and staff were paid after 40. Hell, to be honest, I dunno for sure about the 1099 guys, so many of them wanted their own deal (even after offered staff with benefits!) and who knows what they were getting…whatever they negotiated I’m sure.

  7. Greg Duncan says:

    I’ve been on this site almost daily to find out what is going. I never comment because I’m not great with words. I feel like since the lack of IA help and people not standing up as themselves this discussion has turned negative. I agree with Dave that people need to start using their real names. I have worked at almost all the major VFX studios or I know someone who has worked there. There are some places that treat you fair and there are others that don’t.

    I’m a Roto/Paint Artist and If you ask Joe or most people that work should be outsourced. But as I said in the variety discussion that is nowhere near perfect
    and I know my job isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

    Here is the problem I have. My roommates girlfriend was all happy when she got to go union for her FIRST feature for Fred:The Movie.(For Makeup)
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1595842/

    When I know nobody has ever heard of that movie. Yet alone seen it. I’ve worked on 5 times as many features as her. The movies I’ve worked on have grossed hundreds of millions. I can get twice as much work as she does,yet she is now in the union and I don’t . All I want is union coverage to be fair. If a production person and a Post-Production person work on the same movie they both should be covered. Doesn’t matter how much money I make because I could tell you about some union production people that are making more than me. I know my work sells the summer blockbusters. VFX is what makes the big blockbusters.

    We need to start standing up and know that we are all in this together union or no union. Lets start figuring out out how to fix this problem.

  8. migrant_work says:

    20 years in the world of vfx and all I can say that it has become down right ridiculous.
    I personally don’t care if there is no “OT”. I value my time and would be more then happy to work the 40 or 45 hrs per week govern by law.
    Perhaps studio should start budgeting and managing there artist with this in mind and stop underbidding and working there artist to death.
    Sure I would love to be a studio owner if I can get away with not pay artist for there time and getting tax incentive/gov. grants. Its a win win situation for the studios.

    Short term contract is another side of the industry that has gotten to point where your a hired gun for 6 month and then you have to pick up the entire family move god know where just to make a living.

    Oh yeah not to mention all the necessary crap that comes with situating your family in a different part of the world with very little assistance from studios.
    Far cry from the mid 90’s where things where taken care more. Not so much now. Here’s your plane ticket get your ass at the studio when you land.

    I think this mentality is too deeply entrenched and most vfx work in fear.

    with that said I look forward to the day I no longer have to make my living doing vfx. The very thing I once enjoy and still enjoy doing.

    For any this to make a change every artist has to be unified or it will never change.
    union or not thinking as one to a collected goal which is very difficult to achieve !

  9. skaplan839 says:

    Greetings –

    Many of you know me by name. I am the Labor Organizer for The Animation Guild. We are Local 839 of IATSE.

    As Soldier, Dave Rand and Lee have pointed out repeatedly, the need for organization continues to become more apparent. Whats important for all vfx artists to realize is the strength of cohesion. Collective action is the focusing of the leverage inherently granted through the dependence on your skills. Speaking as a unit helps to get your point across and carry the weight of that dependence along with your requests.

    While I may disagree with Lee’s sentiment of “transcending the IATSE”, I wholeheartedly stand in favor of Lee’s suggestions of starting discussions as a group and using your leverage to speak to your managers about issues at hand. I think you’d be surprised at how receptive and open your managers would be.

    That’s bargaining .. and the crux of what a union would do for you.

    Joe – as I offered in our twitter conversation, I am open to having lunch with you and discussing some of the topics that concern you regarding unionization of visual effects. As much as I feel that you’re wrong about many of your points (most of which have been vetted out in blog discussions like these), your passion and commitment to open discussion is the key to bringing about the change the industry so desperately needs. If you are open to the idea, feel free to contact me. If not, please accept my thanks for keeping the discussion alive.

    Steve Kaplan
    Labor Organizer
    The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE
    skaplan@animationguild.org

  10. Dave Rand says:

    Thanks Steve! I had heard Loeb would be lifting the cone of silence this week.

    I’ve always have had nothing but respect for you and Steve H.

    THE IATSE don’t have to kneecap anyone like the old days http://bit.ly/gq09mL but please pass the word that they do need to push the envelope a bit (or at least have an envelope to push).

    Seems the studios have no problem breaking the law and getting away with it so the least they could do to get the organization of the biggest money making force in the history of film rolling and I’m sure we will keep it rolling.

    I will not accept that the failure of the epic event will be because the artists did not care enough.

    I WOULD believe that this is a force the studios would like to see controlled and would take great measures to do so.

    • skaplan839 says:

      Hello Dave! Always a pleasure to chat with you.

      I have had no communication with President Loeb. I was not given a silence order. Local 839 was asked to support the vfx organizing effort and we provide as much assistance when called upon. I’m surprised to hear he was contacted by Variety and did not participate.

      I’ve actually read that Variety article on President Emeritus Short. I’ve not met the man and only know him through second-hand stories. While that article paints a sordid past, Steve Hulett’s article on his retirement attempts to highlight some of his achievements: http://goo.gl/0nDfl

      This effort hinges on the support of vocal and well spoken individuals. You set an incredible example for artists to follow. Please keep up the excellent work.

      Steve Kaplan
      skaplan@animationguild.org

  11. maple leaf eh says:

    Hey Occlude

    Thanks for your honesty on your working conditions that you had versus some the of the contract artists.

    If facilities compensated all of their artists a fair rate, OT after 40 hours and after 3-6 months of employment rewarded the contracted artists with full time statues and a benefits package. We wouldn’t need a union.

    • vfxPeon says:

      exactly. if companies actually paid their employees according to the law (w-2, overtime after 40) no one would even consider organizing vfx into the union.

      but that isn’t the case. as a freelancer, when i get asked my rate i have to consider so many different ridiculous variables…

      –is it w-2 or 1099?

      –do they pay overtime at all?

      –if they do…do they pay real overtime or just more straight time?

      –if they pay overtime is it after 8, 10, or 12 hours?

      –are they going to make me join some bullshit employer of record that is going to steal 5 percent of my paycheck every week?

      if these companies actually just followed the law, i wouldn’t have to waste my time figuring this all out, then haggling my rate, then realize after i get my check that they just fudged my timesheet and screwed me out of the overtime i thought i was getting.

  12. vfxPeon says:

    i’d also like to point out joe’s statement about sticking up for less powerful junior artists being abused on the job. that’s great that he did that, but clearly he is just one guy and can’t save every less experienced artist from being screwed. nor should he be expected to.

    that is why we need some kind of collective bargaining. as much as joe may be willing to help when he can, it’s not enough. for every junior he helps, there’s a hundred more getting the shaft. i honestly don’t understand how anything but collective bargaining can realistically improve our careers as a whole.

    • occlude says:

      Hi Peon, While I may have stuck my neck out for a few artists from time to time, for the most part I tried to tell artists to stick up for themselves. But most didn’t, and were too scared to do anything. Also, I have to say, most artists have never even spoken to a lawyer. I have mine on speed dial. Anytime I have a question, I call him. Same with my CPA. Anytime I have a question, I’m on the phone straight away, no matter how dumb the question may be. What they cost is pennies compared to the price of headaches and pains that I would have to go through without having them…It may seem expensive at first, but trust me, it makes a huge difference. Quite frankly, having that advice has made me more money over the years. I also recommend having a financial planner (separate from CPA) who can give strong investment advice, and help you create a budget, goals, etc…

      • occlude says:

        *the above recommendation is not industry specific. Most people go through life without having qualified advice that they’re paying for. Having a lawyer, a CPA, a financial planner, etc, will make a huge difference over the years. It’s hard to quantify or put a dollar value on, because honestly I think it’s priceless.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Joe,

        I totally agree with you on this. I’m actually trying to create a list of lawyers artists can use as agents. I have one and will be writing about it. It is probably the most important thing that has happened in the industry for me. Email me with your thoughts and I’ll work it into the piece I’m writing.

      • occlude says:

        Hey Soldier, just to be clear, my lawyer does not act as my agent. My lawyer does things like answer questions about my contract (if I have one), or if I have a question regarding timecard vs paycheck on a freelance job. He also handles any personal claims I may have against an employer, or issues. Without fail, the mere mention of me having a lawyer and then actually being able to give his number and say “call him if you have a question about this” to an employer scares the shit out of them. Most employers think they have the upper hand, especially with HR people telling you a line of BS. Literally calling your lawyer in the HR guy’s office and handing them the phone…it is not just effective, it scares them, and they remember not to mess with you on anything.

  13. Viriginity says:

    You are all virgins. Get a fucking life!!

  14. Vfxartist says:

    Occlude, thanks for the info and comments.

    Do you think it’s possible for you to recommend your lawyer to the artist here for council in the future?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I was going to write a post revealing who my agent is. Stay tuned!

    • occlude says:

      Absolutely! I’ll give you his name, but I don’t want to post his e-mail/phone number without permission. Feel free to look him up: Ryan D. Golds.

      He has a small practice in Agoura Hills, where I live.

      For big stuff, like if I get an employment issue (has happened), I call up heavy hitters like Brian Kesluk: http://www.californialaborlawattorney.com/
      Brian is one of those guys that has a reputation that would scare even the most bold lawbreaking companies.

      What I recommend is for small stuff, or regular inquiries, find an attorney near you in case you need to bring them a document or look at something, and then have some big guns on tap ready that you know you can call in for a serious battle, or just to scare the shit out of someone (ie: recognizable attorney will likely have a reputation and scare the crap out of large companies).

      All attorneys will usually talk for an hour or two for free, evaluate your situation, and offer some basic advice. Then, if you have a case or real work (ie: modify a contract, write a letter or response to something) then they charge you for a few hours here or there, and only when they’re working. It’s expensive, yes, but it pays for itself. Even if you were in a union and had access to attorney’s for work related stuff, you still need legal counsel for everything else (buying a house, signing a contract, insurance claim, someone tries to sue you, blah blah blah, it goes on and on).

      Point is, you don’t want to need an attorney ever, but you should have one so when you do need one you have who you want already lined up ready to go.

      This same advice is true for having a CPA, of which you only need one really good one, and that relationship can make a financial impact for years and years…these are must have items in my book!

  15. Dave S says:

    Re: Dave Rand vs Montrealer

    Its a shame you both make great points but felt attacked personally and/or didn’t feel counter points were being addressed.

    Dave’s point for a Union are great. And a strike/walk out is a strong way to force management to make a change, even the strong threat of one makes changes. (among other points)
    Montrealer, great points as well. I’m basically in agreement and felt that way about a few LA shops that closed that I worked at.

    Bottom line is there is a financial crunch that is pushing poorly managed companies into the ground. Companies that are not focused on efficiency are going to be the first to go. The only way to force change on large groups of people is to group together yourselves, unionize.

    There will be pros and cons of Unions but for the time being the industry need it.

  16. […] For those who have long denied there were any problems at all, this announcement puts the naysayers to rest. There are legitimate problems in our industry and they need to be solved. […]

  17. […] I’ve seriously lost count of the number of times this has happened but VFX Artist Dave Rand comments: Now just two years later my same friends are being ripped off again. The confidential sum of 1 […]

  18. […] Guild. This is also true for VFX Foundation founder Joe Harkins. Witness his transition from my April 24th post to my June 22nd […]

  19. […] Harkins 1.0 – I’d like to say this to all the artists out there working in VFX.If you really feel bad for yourself, on your next walk to get a five dollar latte, or when you go to your companies parking lot full of high end foreign cars, remember that there are people out there who woke up today and didn’t know where their next meal would come from. […]

  20. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an email.
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