VFX artist and blogger TK1099 put up a post indicating that he was changing careers and leaving the VFX industry in the interest of his health and his family.
I never knew TK1099 but I’m thankful he took a stand and glad to hear he’s moving on to greener pastures. I guess my question is what industry did he transition to? I’ve always been looking for a plan B in case I decide to have a family.
There was a recent article about the challenges of working in the film industry: 7 Difficulties Friends and Family Have With Your Film Job. It talks about the project-to-project nature of the industry and how the very long hours, amount of traveling, sporadic income, and constant job changes can lead to difficulties maintaining a family.
My personal opinion is that having a family and working in the VFX industry is pretty much close to impossible.
If I’m going to have a family, I need to assure my loved ones with a few important things:
I need a location so my wife can work and the kids can attend school. In today’s VFX industry artists are not only working project-to-project but need to jump from the UK, NZ/AUS, Canada, and Cali. If I had a family I would either have to leave my loved ones and miss some of the most important moments of my life or have everyone stop what they are doing so they can globe trot with me.
Stable Income And The Ability To Save
The sporadic nature of the VFX industry leads to gaps in employment and income. The costs of having a family are much higher and incur other long term costs: Saving for college and retirement. I’ve found that the constant changing of jobs has led to many rules at various employers that prevent me from saving for retirement in tax sheltered accounts. Over the long run this will eat away future retirement savings. The film industry unions help dampen this blow by providing portable pensions and retirement plans.
One of the biggest costs for families is health insurance. In the US individual health insurance can be expensive and rise rapidly for family plans. Even then, you may be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. You can be denied for the littlest and stupidest things. The way around this is to get insurance through an employer group plan. However, once again, the gaps in employment compound this problem since you lose coverage once your job ends. Again the film industry unions dampen this blow by offering portable health insurance and a “bank of hours” that covers you and your family when you are either working non-union or are unemployed. I was able to get almost 18 months of incredible health insurance through The Animation Guild after my contract ended at a signatory facility.
Now there are those that figure out a way to make it work in the industry. I’ve found many of them to be married to someone who works in a more stable industry that provides adequate health insurance. Others are usually top-level supervisors but even they have extreme difficulty maintaining a family.
VFX Supervisor Eric Alba was even quoted in the Wall Street Journal as calling his job the “widow-maker”. He writes more about the challenge here.
Motionographer has a very good article and discussion on the issue also.