Scott Ross On ILM Exit

Anyone interested in working in VFX should be reading the blog of former ILM General Manager and Digital Domain Founder Scott Ross.

He has posted a 2 part piece about the events that led to him leaving ILM.

Here are a few reactions I had:

Scott Who?

You’d figure Scott Ross would be on a first name basis with George Lucas. Not the case:

In the years I worked at LucasFilm, I only spoke to George a handful of times. But seeing him there eating his enchilada with Amanda, I just had to come over and say something.  After all, my over all experiences at ILM and LFL were great and if it wasn’t for George, my world, and indeed the world, would not have been the same.  So…I cautiously approached.  He looked up at me, and I said ” Thanks George for all that you and ILM have done for me and my family”, and George looked at me, with a blank stare and said ” Sure….    by the way, what’s your name?”

Many artists come into the vfx industry to make that big pitch for their next big idea or some other big dream but you have to ask yourself, if Scott Ross wasn’t known by George Lucas, what are your chances?

Also this startling disconnect is nothing new in the VFX industry. I rarely see execs around work. In my opinion VFX is an industry where micromanagers thrive and are needed.

Consider the success of DreamWorks Animation. Jeffrey Katzenberg is a notorious micromanager but in a good way. Artists will tell you that he is at work on a daily basis, always in the loop with what’s going on and is quite accessible. Maybe he takes it a little too far: I’ve heard stories of Katzenberg making sure artists put their lunch dishes away correctly after eating.

If an exec is worried about that, how do you think he is handling the company’s finances?

You’ll Never Work Again In This Town.

We also have a revelation from Mr. Ross that execs at ILM essentially blacklisted him:

I was told in no uncertain terms, that I was not welcomed back. In fact, not only was I not welcomed back, but that I was banned from the ranch. Me, banned from the ranch….. What had this come to?

There was some talk about blacklisting in the VFX industry in my last post. It does happen and it happens often. However I’ve found it happens to just as many good workers as bad workers. I’ve been blacklisted from one company for taking a better offer at another company. My rule of thumb is if you’ve never been blacklisted by anyone in the VFX industry, you are probably underpaid.

Blacklisting happens to good workers because they can be known as boat rockers. Some people just want to maintain a status quo and few want to bring in someone who could change things just enough to render them useless and at the end of an employment line.

However, we never really look at the human and the economic toll in all of this. It’s stupid to me. I can understand legitimately bad workers being blacklisted but as I watched my mother burst into tears after a former employer revealed I was blacklisted for going to work for another company, it made realize that I was basically damned no matter what kind of worker I was.

Cameron Vs. Ross

The last line in Scott Ross’s post reveals a bit of a tease to his next piece:

Scott, EA could use an organization like the one you and your partners are building”. He continued, “And I would be thrilled to have you as its CEO”. I thought, fantastic. And then Larry said ” But as your boss, I could control you, but no one could control Jim Cameron…. so we pass”.

How prescient.

You’ve probably heard of the legendary Hollywood feuds of Katzenberg vs Eisner and Geffen vs Ovitz. Well in VFX we have Cameron vs. Ross.

Feuding egos are nothing new but the toll on workers who really had nothing to do with the situation just plain sucks. Ask around about the fall of ESC and you’ll understand. It’s all about egos and proving who is better than who.

They say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. I sometimes wonder if VFX is Hollywood for ugly people with very small penises.

Soldier On.


36 Responses to Scott Ross On ILM Exit

  1. n says:

    If you’re gonna talk about ESC you gotta start by talking about Manex.

  2. Arg says:

    He was banned for a pretty good reason.

    Some context always helps

    • Scott Ross says:

      really? what might that reason be?

      • Ed says:

        I know that if you don’t tow the new world order political line you find it hard to get feature work ANYWHERE. I was vocal on the global warming farce and the scientifically proven fact that 911 was controlled demolition on the work newsgroups at a top tier VFX company. I was mysteriously let go despite being local, having excellent work etc. I now get no replies from top tier companies worldwide despite having great feature blockbuster work on my reel. It’s all politics, talent rarely come into it unfortunately.

  3. T says:

    According to that Forbes article, here’s what Scott Ross has to say about VFX artists’ work:

    “There’s a huge growth opportunity,”he says. “Studios are making movies that ultimately don’t make money, so what’s the problem?The problem is they don’t run it like a business. They make cans of Coke for $10 a can. Can you make that can of Coke for a dollar?The answer is yes.”

    It’s really heartwarming to hear Scott Ross compare our hard work, the work that has made him and guys like him rich, to that of stuffing soda into an aluminum can. Thanks, Scott.

    Does his plan to save the other $9 per soda can include him giving up his huge salary and bonuses? He left ILM because he didn’t get a bonus. I’d say that speaks for itself. I guess the other $9 should come out of artists’ salaries.

    How have facilities and studios NOT run VFX like a business? Last time I checked many facilities and studios don’t hesitate to take advantage of artists, colluding with each other to keep artist salaries down, and are racing to outsource the work to places like Singapore. I’d say the only thing they think of is “business”, i.e. money. Does Scott Ross call this business model charity work? Do facilities have too much heart for him?

  4. vfxguy says:

    Mass.Illusion wow that brings back memories.

    esc was better known as ESCAPE – escape from manex.

    what a mess.

    speaking of blacklist. The early days of Imageworks paying artist overtime or just there time didn’t exist. When a petition was created by some of the artist about unfair treatment occurred hence those involved where blacklisted from sony.
    this is going pretty far back … back when imageworks was working on Johnny Mnemonic.

    gotta love it when those who try to do the right thing and end up getting screwed.

    another reason many don’t get involved with unions or trying to make change.

    Have no interest reading Scott ross’s blog cause I lived that crap.
    besides he not individual I can relate too.

    He talks about rich guy problem. Who cares

  5. Skitten says:

    While I have a fair amount of respect for Scott and it’s always fun to air some dirty laundry it does sound like the basis of his grievance was him and other ILM execs not getting a bonus.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      That’s correct. His grievance was that executives did not get bonuses even though the company wasn’t making a profit.

      If you look at Digital Domain’s original IPO, the company paid 10% bonuses while the company was losing millions.

      Now I don’t really care if they got bonuses, if that’s what those execs negotiated so be it. They had the leverage.

      However, I’m not advocating that VFX artists get bonuses, I’m advocating that they get essentials: Portable health and retirement benefits, enforcement of labor law.

      BUT NOOOOO! VFX companies don’t make a profit! We can’t give you those. Funny how when Norby used that argument to deny ILM management bonuses Scott Ross was the first one out the door. chutzpah.

      • Facts says:

        Get your facts straight. ILM was making money, and that’s why the execs were due a bonus. Executive comp was based upon base salaries (considerably less than VFX supervisors) and bonuses ( which were contingent upon financial goals being exceeded). Norby was unwilling to give ILM execs bonuses because the other divisions ( THX, LucasArts Games, SkyWalker Sound etc.) were losing money.

        It is unfortunate that many in this forum have the tendency to lash out ( without the information) at management. There is a fair share of mismanagement in our industry, but please get your facts straight beforehand.

        And for the record, the grievances against Norby were far and wide. The promised bonuses for execs (who busted their butts) was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  6. Scott Ross says:

    My comments about Coke were completely taken out of context….

    I have always been supportive of the VFX Artist and have employed thousands over my career. Through the companies I have run and founded, I have helped create thousands of jobs, built careers and opportunities for many and always am aware of the critical importance of the VFX artist.

    At the time, 6 years ago, my comment about the Coke can was directed at the MOVIE studios, who were making very expensive films and not reaping the incredible profits that they are today.

    I sometimes wonder why VFX Soldier ( who to this day remains anonymous) and some of his contributors (like VFX guy, arg, etc) continue to fan the flames of dissent between management and worker? In fact, management at VFX studios ( who are at worst, incompetent) are not the fat cats that some would make them out to be. The fat cats here are the motion picture studios, they are the ones that are making fortunes off the backs of the VFX artists and yes, the VFX Studios.

    As long as the industry continues their distrust of each other, does not recognize the real issues and continues to act like management is trying to screw the worker or the worker is trying to screw management, the end is surely near.

    If we do not work together, do not realize the real issues, do not stop fanning the flames and pointing fingers using untruths to further our cause… we better all start looking for new jobs or quickly learning Mandarin!

    • Paul says:

      No offense Mr. Ross but when you say “We” in your last sentence I suppose you mean “You”. Being who you are, you’re surely set for life, your children are probably set for life too, you grand-children probably set for life also, etc…

      Us lemmings are wondering where to start digging our own holes.

      • Scott Ross says:

        From your lips to God’s ears…. if only I was set for life!

        I ran ILM for many years and helped them transition into being organized, profitable and run like a business. I then visioned, started, ran and then sold DD in 2006.

        I have not been employed since.

        I am surely better off than my father ( who was a transport worker for the MTA and a staunch union man… ) but I am by no means “set for life” nor are my children.

        I started DD and helped build a company that has employed thousands of men and women. Employees that have gone on to win Oscars, start careers, get married, have children, buy homes, send their kids to schools…I am proud to have done so. I built a company that offered employees the best that a company in this margin-less business could offer.

        In the process, I worked many 60 hour weeks, had a marriage of 28 years fall apart, a child that tried to commit suicide (twice) and partners ( some of which are indeed set for many lives) try to sue me.

        I earned my money honestly.

        As for you “lemmings” as you call yourselves, I am willing and excited to help strategize and organize a reasonable and hopefully successful strategic effort so that the holes you dig won’t be your last. It will be imposible to do so if we cast stones at each other. Interestingly, I rarely hear anyone being disgruntled about the paychecks of James Cameron or Rupert Murdoch.

  7. Scott Ross says:

    Also… for the record.

    ILM Execs did not blacklist me. LucasFilm execs (Doug Norby) banned me from the Ranch and from ILM’s Kerner facility. ILM execs were Jim Morris, Ed Jones, Marty Shindler, Jeff Mann, Chrissie England… all of whom worked for me and seemingly supported me whilst I was there.

    Digital Domain was at times profitable when I was at the helm. When the company hit its financial objectives, bonuses were indeed paid.

    The original DD IPO S1 registration as well as the recent S1 registration was not on my watch.

    Any issues that Jim and I had did not affect any DD employees, particularly our digital artists.

    As to the analogies in your final paragraph…. I can guarantee that once again, you are lacking information!

  8. […] on over to VFX Soldier’s latest blog post, and you’ll see some interesting discussion between Scott Ross and some anonymous VFX posters […]

  9. n says:

    And what kind of overtime did DD pay its employees?

  10. Scott Ross says:

    As I recall we paid employees for a guaranteed 50 hour work week , which was calculated by taking their hourly rate and multiplying by 55 therefore in effect paying the 10 hours over the 40 hours at time and a half ( guaranteed, so that at times an employee could work less than his/hers 50 hour work week and still get paid for their 50 hours, with 10 hours at time and a half). Certain senior people and production people were paid a flat rate ( a salary) . They were not hourly employees. I was very concerned about the legality of HR issues, had a full time HR staff and several staff attorneys that made sure we were compliant with all state and federal laws regarding independent contractors, payroll issues, vacation time etc. We also made sure that every employee was given an employee manual and went through an employee initiation process.

  11. Scott Ross says:

    In addition, we never missed a payroll. We toyed with the idea of child care, but lack of space, insurance issues and our ever dwindling cash position quickly ended that dream. We at times all worked crazy and ungodly hours, especially in the beginning. I am and was quite aware of the studies done regarding ongoing massive amounts of hours worked and the terrible effects it has on workers and their effectiveness.

    Unfortunately for us, as vendors, we were not in control of release dates, turnaround times, delivery of plates, directorial whims or plain lack of knowledge of the process, adding additional shots at a very late date or a director’s (or even at times an outside VFX sup’s) inability to communicate their desires. For example,

    At ILM we were a union shop and as ILM’s GM, I was asked by the late great Eddie Powell of IATSE local 16 to be a trustee of IATSE. I proudly served as a trustee for a few years and also negotiated ILM’s union contract. I will tell you that no amount of overtime pay would have limited the OT at ILM or DD. As a vendor, you are not in entire control of the process, and since the Motion Picture studios no longer control directors ( especially really successful ones)… abuses happen and OT is almost always inevitable.

    I do believe there are solutions to this issue… but by increasing costs, it will not only not prevent the abuse of exhaustive and dangerous work weeks it will hasten the motion picture studios ongoing effort to take the work to low cost providers (i.e China and India).

    I have dedicated my working life in helping to build a vibrant and profitable VFX industry, and yet, because of the short sightedness and fear of many key players, I have failed to build the industry in a way that we all can feel good about.

    I saw this coming 20 years ago, and I was quite vocal about it. At times really pissing off the VES and its board, because I would not be a part of an honorary society that was not focused on the real issues at hand, business issues and employee retention. Let’s face it, if we don’t have a real business (i.e profits that make investors happy), we don’t have jobs.

    My hope is that the current VES 2.0 plan, will be effective and that key individuals will not act out of fear, but will act with haste, courage and conviction. Lets hope it’s not too late to save our industry. I am personally prepared to be a part of the solution.

    • mapleleaf EH! says:

      Thanks for your efforts and clarifying the comments posted. Its unfortunate that some people in our industry want to criticize individuals that our working towards positive change.

    • Skitten says:

      Thanks Scott for being willing to talk about all this openly and honestly.

    • Vfxartist says:

      Just to state the whole story, after Titanic, Mr Ross, many vfx artist were immediately laid off owning comp time. One artist I knew was owed about 300 hours of comp time. This is on a film that made record profits. Vfx was as vital as sets in that film… I wonder if any construction or set designers on that show owed hundreds of hours of comp time. I doubt it. When I heard of this, i was shocked and noted it as the begining of creating a false economy for vfx where it absorbs the overages of the entire production, with nothing pushing back.

      I mention this not to villify anyone, but to start a sort of accountability for not properly creating a proper foundation for our business. Not to single out you Mr. Ross, as there are many people and facilities that made the same mistake. However you’re one of the few to offer a dialog on the topic.

      You stated:

      “Unfortunately for us, as vendors, we were not in control of release dates, turnaround times, delivery of plates, directorial whims or plain lack of knowledge of the process, adding additional shots at a very late date or a director’s (or even at times an outside VFX sup’s) inability to communicate their desires.”

      In feature animated films like dreamworks and disney, they compartmentalize the different stages (animation , modeling, rigging, lighting, compositing). This forces the creatives to approve a rig before animation, shading before lighting, etc… This evolved from the 2D animation weekly “quota” systems. I recall ex DD artist, used to the compressing of work to magicaly be completed “in the last few weeks” finding the quota system “stifled creativity” since they were used to working with no structure. In truth, talented as they were, they knew no other way to work, amd came from a company that flew pirate flags on their roof. If I recall, T-shirts were made up saying “sleep is for the weak” on the back.

      I point all of this out because its a culture… And stuff like that starts at the top. Whereas the “culture” of structure and quotas from the animation studios started at the top as well.

      Pertaining to the above mentioned “compartmentalizing” of the different stages of a shot, why was not a similar process developed properly for vfx. You say as vendors, you had no control over director whims, shot counts, turnaround times, etc. At the time vfx was a limited commodity with just a few vendors capable of such a large volume and complexity. You guys could have defined the industry which at the time was so exotic with contractual obligations for shot counts, complexity levels, etc. You guys cpuld have also managed client expectations by under promising and overdelivering. How many times have we heard people brag about agreeing to do an effect while having no Idea at the time of how to do it. Vfx is one of the few “business” in our industry that operates so recklessly AND brags about it. I recall a british colleague of mine, fresh off the boat described the difference between fx in the US vs england. He said in england they are far more conservative, often stating uncertainty of completing a certain effect. By contrast in the USA, he said they say they can do anything, despite being clueless about how to do it. Like I said, its a culture problem.

      Now before people start talking about being on the bleeding edge and all of the associsted excitement, you have to ask yourself if you want to run a business or a non profit part R&D, part artist colony… Because many vfx shops ended up doing the latter pursuing “holy grails” in vfx. Yeah a photoreal human at the cost of a marriage or experiencing you kid’s childhood working 100 hour weeks. A whole economy created in vfx of unmanaged client expectation on the backs of artist working at 1.5x-2x to squeeze seven months of work into three so that the studios get a faster turnaround on their lian for the film (thank you “war of the worlds).

      We can talk all we want about work leaving CA, but its no excuse not to organize. Theres no way that a rag-tag bunch of vfx shops stateside, even if run violating labor laws with everyone dayrate 1099, theres no way they can compete pricewise with vfx shops overseas benefitting from tax subdidies AND a socialized healthcare AND no tarrifs for an american product produced overseas but consumed here. No way. Factories leave our borders all the time. Vfx is no different. However what work is done here, at least in socal, is done because it NEEDS to be done here. Be it because its 911 work, local TV work, the director wants to bike to the venfor and sit next to the artist…. Whatever the reason, it should be billed as a premium service, because it is. Theres a reason why real estate and gas is so expensive here still… demand… People WANT to be here. If your client is phoning in comments as he reviews dailies on his iPhone, chances are you will look expensive regardless of what you charge as you might as well be based anywhere if thats how you interface with your client. These are the questions we have to ask ourselves of vfx work to be done in town. I think the battle of outsourcing is already lost. What has to be dicussed among local vendors for a trade organization is what type of biz are they looking to run in town. It can’t be the model followed before.

      On the issue of artist organizing, again the logic of collective bargaining sells itself… Just look at the history of vfx over the last 15 years of wild wild west dealings. No minimums being defined means the value of the worker has no floor. That makes no sense to me in a business that defines itself as a young persons game. This, hence, devalues the business. When I started in post production, each seat cost thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hence there was an inherit wealth associated with work from the hardware alone. Today, the hundreds of thousands that a single seat used to cost can give you a facility, where each seat has a suite if toolsets on standardized hardware instead of black boxes. You also have a workforce that requires little to no inhouse training as they pay for their own training now, and are usually knowledgeable in several diciplines. So the only thing left to define the value of the business are the people…. Hence the need for defining industry minimums so that a clear value for that business is defined, and a wealth can be built. Thats why labor needs collective bargaining and business needs trade organizations, where you can sit at a tanle and set definitions. Without collective bargaining, all of the content that people watch online would have been exempt of the usual royalties that traditionally broadcasted content had to pay out. This is why writers and actors aren’t as screwed as we are. This is the dance thats been done in this town for decades, yet some vfx artist think this is akin to the teacher umion or UAW… Neither Of which create a product like ours.

      Btw, Mr. Ross, i got your email… Thank you. I will reply to it soon…

      • Scott Ross says:

        Thank you for your well thought out and carefully constructed comments. It’s a pleasure to read the thoughts of a thinking person that has something valuable to say without vitriol or misinformation.

        There are two issues that stand out for me in your comments that I’d like to weigh in on. The first being your comment on TITANIC. I believe it is now well known within our industry that DD did lost some serious money producing the award winning effects for TITANIC, even though it stands as the second largest box office film of all time. There were several reasons why we lost money, and IMHO, none of them had to do with the way DD was run. Hence the beginning of the end of DD’s “relationship” with Jim Cameron.

        Your second point is a really good one. If I were to paraphrase, one might say that VFX production pipeline and the facilities power structure to the studio has got to change. I completely agree. BUT… let’s look at a few of your examples.

        You state….”In feature animated films like Dreamworks and Disney, they compartmentalize the different stages (animation , modeling, rigging, lighting, compositing). This forces the creatives to approve a rig before animation, shading before lighting, etc…

        Yes, they sure do… the BIG difference here is that feature animation is a very different beast than feature live action. For example, in feature animation, the process is usually handled all in house. Pixar doesn’t go out to bid an animation facility, they ARE the animation facility, in fact they ARE Disney. Also, feature animation is an incredibly collaborative creative effort by its very nature. Live action feature films are dictatorial by their very nature. Besides John Lassiter or maybe Pete Docter, people outside the animation industry have no idea who the director is on an animated film. On the other hand, the live action director on big effects films are untouchable.

        As to your thoughts about redefining the way the industry works….

        Back in the day, when the VFX industry was coming of age, VFX were not the driving force behind box office as they are today. Additionally, most VFX shops were either formed by directors or by VFX creative or technical people at the helm. These early shops were not run as nor thought of as businesses. In fact, I would say that I was probably one of the first business executives that ran a large VFX shop that did not start their career as an optical cameraman or a DP.

        I tried desperately to change the way we did business. Change order process, approval of temps, turn around time, front loaded payment schedules, credits, etc., etc., etc. The problem was…. the other shops were not comfortable in pushing back at the studios. In fact, many people in our industry see me as difficult because I pushed back at the studios and because I took no shit from directors ( billion dollar ones as well). So, a culture was born… one that when the client says jump and the VFX facilities jump so high they go out of business.

        The same is happening today. I firmly believe that motion picture studios will never again allow themselves to be put in a situation where “the box office drivers” control the deal. Back in the 80’s, studios firmly believed that the key to a successful movie was a movie star. Mike Ovitz built a fortune as well as fortunes for his clients because of that. Today, the movie stars are VFX. Studios, understandably, do not want to be dictated to. They are looking for the lowest cost/highest quality VFX that will drive box office. And they are happy that the big VFX houses are starting facilities in India and in China, because it’s only a matter of time before the low cost providers understand and can produce high quality VFX.

        Last year I tried, once again, to start an International Trade Association. Meetings were had (btw, not one CEO of a major VFX facility attended), sandwiches were served, notes were taken…after a year of this I decided to write a letter to the heads of the 10 major VFX facilities asking for their support to start a Trade Association. Five companies never responded, even after 2 letters. Four companies said, “problem?, there is no problem!”

        And so, I just got tired…. the adage “you can lead a horse to water…. ” comes to mind. I truly hope Mssrs. Roth and Okun are successful with the VES 2.0 concept, but unless the entire industry is prepared to stand up and be counted, you all better learn Mandarin or Hindi or start thinking about how your skillsets apply to a different business.

    • doc says:

      Speaking of VES. You have to wonder, what type of an honorary society allows it’s key members to be treated so poorly by an industry dependent on their labor? VES are you listening, wake up and stop playing footsie with the studios, and if you’re going to drop your pants please, don’t bend over but show your chrome balls for once!

  12. Scott Ross says:

    My pleasure Skitten….

    I find it so very interesting that people recount stories or have opinions about issues that they have no clue about or were not involved with at all.

    In the future, if anyone has any questions regarding stories that they’ve heard and have the need to interpret, and yours truly was involved w the story or decision, please contact me thru my blog site…

    There might be instances where I cannot answer due to certain legal issues…. but if I can set the record straight…. I will gladly do so.

  13. Vfxartist says:

    On the topic if anonymity. Folks like yourself, Mr. Ross, come from a unique background and perspective considering the relatively short history of our biz thats well within the lifetime of a career like yourself. As such its much appreciated that you come here, cards on table, to discuss this. Don’t take our anonymity as disrespect.

    Its an unfortunate reality that any frank discussion of our business is akin to whistleblowing… just look at the recent blatent labor law violations like the MBO debacle and forced 1099 misclassifications. This coupled with the volatility of employment today in vfx where practically EVERYONE is a temp employee and can simply be blacklisted and not re-employeed for simply asking for a lunch hour or break. This is no exagerration. As such, what I see posted here as anonymous is the silent majority, and should be seen as such. Its less important who posted, and more important to shed some sunshine on the problems, sort whats legit grievenses and whats just venting, and start the problemsolving.

    When you see it as such, its less important who soldier is, and more important what the problems are.

    • Dave Rand says:

      I’ve been posting criticisms (using my real name) of shops, studios, vfx houses, IATSE, the lame bidding process, the waste, and the ripped off artists since my very first post on anything CG. I have yet to find myself blacklisted. At one point I was hoping to, I’ll admit, because blacklisting is when you get to stay home and not get paid instead of go on to work and not get paid.

      It’s my belief anonymity can be protective and i understand that. There’s another side to that coin. It can also spread the fear and worsen our situation.

      Talent is not a commodity. I see how HR depts struggle to bring teams together, on my last gig, as far as I could through a paperclip there were 12 different accents and none of them were local.

      Yes Scott is absolutely right, outsourcing is a real event. It’s my belief that countries like India and China, who’s middle classes each are bigger than that of all of North American, will one day soon be busy making their own stunning digital imagery. It won’t be long before distribution, content, and the fat box office takes will be “outsourced” as well and everyone will be looking for a better and smarter way to do things.

      I still feel that having the decision maker (director) in the same breathing space as the artists saves a ton of cash. You would not direct a movie set from your ipod, yet we put up with the waste of creative hierarchies and bad communication. I have yet to see a company with branches in different areas, states, or countries communicate efficiently with themselves and especially with that decision maker. I believe this is the core of the problem actually. That and the bidding process we seemed hypnotized into doing business under.

      Scott’s idea to form a trade association makes sense to me, he did a great podcast on that as well with fxGuide. I still believe a union could work for us as also but mostly I believe that people who work on projects that go on to make 100’s of millions of dollars should be able to earn a good living, artists and shop owners alike. It won’t be handed to us, we will have to earn it, and not by just punching a clock, or asking how high when asked to jump. We will also have to use our creativity to create a better business plan, stand behind it, with our names, and prove it makes sense to keep the work and the decision maker as close as possible to the artists. It’s no longer post production, it’s the production set where the most valued part of the movie is made.

  14. Scott Ross says:

    Fair enough…. I guess I was reacting to the misinformation, finger pointing ( without the truth) and general tone of some of the posts. I can understand the anonymity given your above statement. In my case, I don’t have a hope of ever finding another job within VFX, so I can speak openly and without fear of retribution!

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      If this is really the case, maybe you’re in the ideal position to lead this union drive, bond with Jimmy Goodman and maybe this time around we actually reach something. I know you tried before. But maybe the time was not right then? Maybe we are pissed off enough now and cannot ignore the problem any longer. I think we need a strong leader, Joe Harkins is going into the right direction but I feel his rep is separating as many as it unites. Your expertise would definitely be welcome and as an “outside” player with “inside” knowledge at least artist would not feel you have an own agenda. Its a win win for both sides. You get a job, you can act on your morals, we get a strong leader and somebody who has the experience needed. Question is how the studios feel about this as I am sure they dont remember you too fondly from before.

      any thoughts?
      thank you for reading Sir!

      Andreas Jablonka

      • Scott Ross says:

        The success of an organization depends on four things, leadership, vision, support and cohesiveness of constituents and funding. At present our industry has none.

        I would be happy to provide two of the four, but without the other components any effort is doomed to fail.

      • Scott Ross says:

        BTW, Michael Ovitz was not thought of fondly by the studios nor was Al DiTolla, Tom Short, Jeff Berg, Dan Ahlone, Ari Emanuel and countless others that stood up to the studios for their clients and in some cases for what was right.

  15. Turtle boy says:

    (Might be completely off topic)

    First of all…going to say I skimmed through the comments. Did by no means read every word. So sorry if I’m a bit off topic.

    I just find it hard to keep track of all these articles about what was “better back in the day” and what is shitty now and what is screwing us now. Especially the articles that are interviewing previous company holders blaming everything on the overseas market and not their personal choice to run their company.

    When I hear someone that has say worked on Titanic or movies alike in that time period talk about how they’re not making as much money today as they once were; that they were making doctor money. First thing that comes to mind is….well what did you do to blow all your money to where you care that much right now? Because there is still great salaries to be had..especially compared to everyone else working “normal jobs” ..we’re all kind of screwed as a nation right now. Everyone is on their own level of salary when it comes to experience, but I also think everyone sort of knows the limits to our potential salary growth.

    I’ve been to just about every company you’d want to try out in LA…and they’re all the same. All of them. Some of them just like to blow money more than others…some of them just work their artists to death. Never though, in my experience, did I go into a job not expecting what was about to happen. I just came from a job where I sat for weeks doing nothing…with production knowing. I sat there and got paid. The job before? I was working like a dog. All of these jobs I got treated exactly how I was expecting..based on what I had heard about these companies. Every company out there has a reputation.

    I guess my point is ( I know finally) the companies that still exist have been around long enough to have their “history” known. For example…if you want benefits, consistent pay, a “life” …why on earth would you go to hydrualx? for example? and not say..Dreamworks? That said…in LA..I have never had a problem in getting standard CA 40hr work week overtime. Never..well..except when Asylum shut down…that sucked. So I guess when I read these articles about not getting paid properly I automatically think people are letting producers/recruiters walk all over them. I mean I have a brother that is a nurse…and he gets paid shit. To save lives on a 5day/night streak. I guess I get through long hours every now and then thinking about how crappy other, “real” jobs are.

    Build your own rep and let them come to you.

    • VFXPeon says:

      Not sure where you’ve been working, but I’ve only been at one shop out of about a dozen in the last three years that paid w-2 wages on a 40-hour base work week.

      I think the obvious answer here is that while some of us try to avoid the nightmare shops, there are unfortunately enough of us out there willing to work under shitty conditions that it becomes the norm that just about everyone has to deal with. That is why we need some form of collective bargaining.

      If I told the next guy who tried to hire me today that I am only working for w-2 wages with real CA overtime, he’d most likely laugh in my face and call the next guy on his list. Not the way it’s supposed to work, but that’s reality.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        I have been around many shops in LA. I found most pay w2 and even the ones that force 1099 often pay Overtime. Maybe we SHOULD make a list with all shops and how they pay, frankly its not blaming them but making it apparent.

        I also want to thank Scott for being so open and in dialog with us. I cant remember when an exec ever been that open with his artist, maybe except Mr. Hughes of R&H. Please dont be disencouraged by some who just rant I think all this talks is birthing pains of a new industry that hopefully will fight back more against studios. the fine line between driving work away, securing it for CA and improving the working conditions at the same time.

        Andreas Jablonka

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