On the heels of the VES announcing it’s intentions to take a bigger role on VFX issues, VES member Joe Harkins responded with this:
I propose that a new non-profit is formed, with a completely different objective. The VES should help facilitate a trade organization that will rid us of small to medium sized facilities that are sweat shops, and collectively bargain with the studios to require them to use qualified personnel to complete work. Eliminate the facilities, bring the artists back in touch with the studios, and unite the artists together with the filmmakers to get their projects done.
This isn’t the first time an idea like this has come up. If you remember, former blogger VFX Law, a CG Supervisor preparing to become a lawyer, proposed a new model where we essentially hit the reboot button and work directly for the studios instead of facilities.
It caused me to write about something I always ponder: What Purpose Do VFX Facilities Serve? I also have written about the approval process and how going through so many different vendors and supervisors only increases overhead costs in a bid. Joe elaborates on this in a post advocating an alternative to VFX facilities.
He has also proposed the formation of The VFX Foundation which is a union that will do some of the following:
- Attain legal counsel to form a union.
- Create a communication drive to organize and certify VFX artists.
- Certify VFX facilities where they must follow labor law and employ at least 50% of certified artists.
- Negotiate with the AMPTP, the organization that represents the US studios.
You can read more details on the site but these are some very bold proposals. Even unions are too timid to ask for some of these proposals.
I might have some issues with the details of this but generally speaking, I’m for any proposal that would lead to better terms for vfx artists no matter where they work.
The word that screams out in my mind about all of this is eutopia: In a perfect world I would love to see vfx artists start their own union and go past the vfx facilities to negotiation directly with the studios. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. See Visual Effects Digital Artists Guild.
The issues that arise are money, legal, and logistics issues. I’m not against this proposal but there are challenges ahead and those bumps in the road need to be paved. Joe Harkins has indicated he intends to take this head on and initialize the funding himself. Again, bold and I hope it works.
Anything is possible with leverage and if enough artists support the cause then it could explode into an industry changing mechanism. The fact that this is an organization that intends to negotiate, set and enforce rules is already something that we logistically need. The VES is hindered by it’s charter not to collectively bargain or enforce any rules.
Regardless there is a general consensus of facts: There are legitimate problems in the VFX industry for the people who work in it. There needs to be change in the industry model. There needs to be standards in place that can be enforced.
The question is how this will happen and who will do it.