VES 2.0: My Take

This week VES leadership will be meeting to discuss input from the VFX community about VES 2.0. This is your chance to voice your concerns about what you would like to see. You can email them here:

leadership@visualeffectssociety.com

There have also been some good comments from Scott Ross and frequent commenter VFX Labor in a previous post.

Here is the email I will be sending:

Dear VES leadership,

I want to thank you for taking the time to address the current issues facing the VFX industry. As some of you may know I have written about these issues for over the past year.

Here are some of the issues I feel VES 2.0 should support.

Regional Labor Unionization

Each regional VFX market should be allowed and encouraged to collectively bargain to ensure the rights of workers in the industry.

Portable Health and Retirement Benefits

The VFX profession is a unique profession where most of the workers are project based. We move from project to project, facility to facility. Many vfx workers lose access to affordable health insurance for their families in the event that there is a gap between projects. When they join a new facility, they either offer completely different health
insurance or none at all.

There are also vesting periods for 401k plans that hinder the ability for us to adequately save for retirement. The unions have addressed this issue in the film industry by offering portable health insurance, and pension based retirement plans that are partially funded by studio
residuals.

The health insurance has no premiums or deductibles and can cover the entire family of the vfx worker. Most importantly, a bank of hours exist to offer coverage in between jobs.

Paid Overtime

Many employers do not offer compensation for OT or only offer it after 50 hours of work. I advocate the following overtime provision be adopted by all facilities:

Employees must be compensated at one and a half times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours in a workday, 40 hours in a workweek and the first eight hours of a seventh consecutive workday. Employees are entitled to double-time for working more than twelve hour workdays or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive workday of a single workweek.

Ending Misclassification Of Employees

Many artists are being illegally misclassified as independent contractors or are being forced to go through EOR managers. They are forced to pay the employer side of certain taxes and also face the possibility of being audited.

Regional Trade Organizations

All VFX facilities in each regional VFX market should be encouraged to form a trade union to collectively advocate the facilities business interests.

Transition from bidding structure to cost-plus structure.

Many VFX companies compete and underbid each other to get work or put competitors out of business. The current pricing system has led many good facilities to go out of business. A cost-plus system should be adopted where studios pay for the vfx costs plus a mark up to prevent companies from going out of business.

Ending Subsidies

Regional subsidies are used to artificially price VFX so the studios can obtain rebates from local governments. Smaller VFX facilities unable to open facilities in other parts of the world have been forced to go out of business. It also forces workers to globe trot with no reasonable certainty of long term employment. Some trade lawyers argue that these subsidies are a violation of WTO agreements. This practice leads to unfair competition and there needs to a be a countervailing mechanism.

Soldier On.

14 Responses to VES 2.0: My Take

  1. rfk says:

    That overtime provision won’t stop the “prepaid overtime” dodge that many studios use to avoid paying overtime below 50 hours.

    • Paul says:

      My experience with pre-paid overtime is different. You get paid for 50 hours (55 times the hourly rate when factoring in time-and-a-half for hours in excess of 40), whether you actually work it or not. So the studio is most definitely not dodging on paying overtime below 50 hours.

      However, the 50 hour guarantees artificially lower your hourly rate. This works to your disadvantage when you are working 12 hour days, full Saturdays, Sundays, etc. It’s much better to have an hourly rate more reflective of you are worth, and only get paid for the hours you work.

  2. What’s prepaid overtime?

  3. Craigers says:

    I haven’t posted in a while, but since I did, so much has changed. VFX solider kept chiding those who said work is bleeding overseas. Guess what? This whole union talk is now null and void. All the work is going overseas. Good luck with that union. I just finished a job in Dubai, let me tell ya, they ain’t mobilizing. It’s over. The industry is done in america. Have fun with your union of 20 people. See you in Sydney.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      You are absolutely correct. The fact that you did a job in Dubai is proof the industry has left California.

      • Craigers says:

        You know. There was a moment where this was fun retoric. Deems vs Republicans, you know? But now this is real. Organizing labor seems so beside the point now. Keeping the work in America, where we created the art, is the struggle. Hey, I like to travel, but I love my home more. The industry is about to topple in the US. All we can do, as artists, is go where the jobs are. This sucks. I know you always meant well, but the industry is toast in America. Another innovation. Outsourced and exported. Oh, wait… George Lucas opened ILM Singapore to “explore the local culture”. Hilarious.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Could you further elaborate on why me and my colleagues continue to find good employment in California at very good rates?

      • vfxPeon says:

        I work in California and am crazy busy this year….but not from working on vfx for big Hollywood blockbusters. That work seems to be pretty much gone.

        Every time I check the job boards, its pretty much flooded with gigs in London, Vancouver and Asia. It sucks. And now all the big “American” companies like RH and DD seem to really only be hiring abroad as well. I feel like we missed our chance.

        Again, I am working a ton and getting my rate, but it’s not on Hollywood blockbusters. I’m glad to be busy, but its a bummer that this major segment of post seems to have left the country.

        I’m pretty upset by the crappy organizing effort too. We missed our window of opportunity, the big facilities caught on and built up all these other studios around the globe in places that you know will never unionize.

        And the idea that VES will actually do anything to improve our situation is a joke as well. Why would any studio head care what VES has to say about working conditions and/or business practices? The studios have it great the way things are currently going.

  4. meh says:

    Thanks to various processes overseen by capitalism, such as urbanisation, the working class, the proletariat, should grow in numbers and develop a class consciousness, in time realising that they have to change the system.[112][115] Marx believed that if the proletariat were to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, abolishing exploiting class, and introduce a system of production less vulnerable to cyclical crises.[112] Marx argued that capitalism will end through the organised actions of an international working class

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