So many things to write about so little time! Well it seems IATSE Local 800, The Art Directors Guild has created a web site seeking to organize previs artists: http://www.directactionartist.com
I’m all for unionization as I was a former member of The Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839. The portable health & retirement benefits and enforcement of labor law would help set a standard that the VFX industry needs.
However there are a few problems here.
What Happened To The VFX Union?
Here’s a little background. A few years ago, many local unions were eager to represent VFX. For example TAG started a new website and hired former VFX artist Steve Kaplan as an organizer.
However allowing various locals to organize different disciplines in the VFX industry posed a problem: You could have bureaucratic divisions in a rapidly changing industry that would only cause confusion and weak contracts.
For example, a facility could see the cinematographers union represent lighters and compositers, the animation guild represent riggers and animators, and the art directors guild represent previs and layout. Different contracts, different dues, same facility.
The IATSE, the parent union of all these locals, jumped in and decided it would be best for them to take over the organizing effort and at the advice of many VFX professionals that they were consulting, start a new local dedicated to the VFX industry.
As you can see the result has been fantastic: IA leadership has basically gagged all communication with the media and artists and we are still wondering where that VFX Union informational website is.
So now that the IA is allowing one of their locals to go after a certain discipline, what does this say about the VFX Union? Is the idea to allow the ADG to rep previs artists and the VFX Union rep everyone else?
Aren’t Previs Artists Just Animators?
Perhaps my fellow previs artists can correct me but most of the ones I know are animators. When there aren’t any shots or rigs to animate, they move into previs and layout on shows that are just getting started.
Perhaps the ADG can correct me but I can’t name one previz artist that is represented by the ADG, but I can name you a bunch of previz artists that are represented by TAG at Dreamworks, Disney, and Sony.
By allowing the ADG to organize previs artists, it adds more confusion to an organizational process the IATSE was supposed to prevent. If you are a previz artist at Disney, you’re a TAG member, but if you go to let’s say Rhythm & Hues to do previz, you would theoretically be repped by the ADG. Same job, different unions.
The ADG Website Is Light On Information
Having a website is great but the whole point is to get information out. Go to TAG’s website and you’ll see everything you need to know about joining their union: The contracts, the fees, etc. None of this is on the ADG website. Are they going to charge an initiation for a former TAG member? Are there intitation fees and dues higher? If so, why do they feel artists should pay more for essentially the same benefits?
We’ve Come Full Circle
We are quickly approaching full circle with the IATSE’s organizational efforts. We went to a bunch of locals trying to organize VFX, to the IATSE creating a new local, and now back again.
I started this blog as a passionate advocate for The Animation Guild. I felt it would be too cumbersome to start a new union but many members of the community insisted on it for autonomy. TAG is already and has successfully represented all kinds of VFX artists at Disney, Dreamworks, IMD, and Sony Pictures Animation. These aren’t just animators but modellers, riggers, TDs, FX artists, and Lighters.
If the IA is going to allow a local to organize VFX let it be the one that has a history of dealing with VFX: The Animation Guild.