The Animation Guild Blog has a post about an email sent by a VFX worker:
I am coming to a serious decision in my life….I’m getting ready to possibly leave the country I love (maybe for good) so i can find a new job. That’s how tough times have become.
I had two heart attacks by the age of 37 in this business. I got caught working 100 hour weeks on some summer blockbuster. On the 75th straight day of work (mandatory 7 day weeks/17 hour days) I fell asleep at the wheel and did two 360’s on the 10 freeway hitting 3 people. That was my only day off. I didn’t mind at the time I was making like $1000 a day.
The real problem occured after 3 months. I never looked in the mirror. With all the catered breakfast, lunchs and dinners, 12-15 hour days, I had shot up to 290lbs (I was 200 when i started the job). THats 90lbs in 3 months. Too many breakfast burritos…..and I smoked 2 packs a day….and drinking tons of coffee…….They took me to the hospital with chest pains around 120 days.
Certainly this artist made some bad choices: The over-eating, the smoking, etc. However it’s important to point out that as we are seeing our first generation of VFX artists hit their 40s and 50s, I’m starting to hear more stories similar to this.
Lee Stranahan mentioned that he had to leave the industry because of health reasons. He was diabetic and going blind. Some cannot attain private health insurance in their 50’s. Look at this long thread on CGTalk by young artists suffering from work related injuries. I also mentioned that I was developing a heart condition.
I haven’t been blogging much. Even though I work long hours, I have to run 4 miles a day to stay healthy and don’t have time to do anything else.
There’s a reason why the 8 hour work day was created: Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest. After 8 hours of work productivity and health goes down.
Health is the most important thing and working in the industry compounds many health related problems. It’s difficult to see a doctor regularly when you are working long hours or constantly changing jobs and health insurance plans.
There is also the stinging bite of COBRA health insurance. In the US, when you are laid off, you are offered to continue employer health coverage and the average family’s monthly premium for COBRA is $1,137. It’s named after a venomous snake for a reason.
The Obama stimulus plan included a provision that lowered that average amount to $398. Unfortunately that program expired today.