The Price Of Mobility

A writer posted an article about how moving is actually a luxury:

I’ve moved four times since 1992, which was the last time I had to pay for the move. My companies have always shouldered the tab. This move we’re about to make to south Louisiana is on my own dime. I had no idea how expensive it was going to be! We don’t have a lot of stuff — we’re living in a fairly compact three-bedroom apartment now. Don’t be fooled by “three-bedroom;” it’s not that big. And yet, when we got estimates from various moving companies, the rock-bottom cheapest was $8,000.

Obviously the bulk of these costs involve hiring professional moving services to move stuff but if your a VFX artist like me, you probably have learned to go real lean. I’ve managed to only have enough personal items so I can move very easily.

Everything is in boxes because I never find myself settling down. My dream was to always get a really nice 60 inch flat screen tv. It’s not that I can’t afford it, it’s just the cost of lugging that thing around and the trouble of trying to sell it is just too much. You know you’ve been working in the VFX industry for a while when you factor in the costs of moving a potential item you want! I also have wanted a dog or a cat but I would hate to ever have to part ways if I had to move.

I consider myself one of the luckier ones, I’ve only moved around the California area and managed to get on longer projects so I have had to move every 1-2 years for my next job. I work so many long hours that commuting is out of the question.

My colleagues have it much worse. I’ve seen VFX workers go from UK, New Zealand, US and Canada in less than 2 years! Of course they’re getting more money (I hope) but when you factor in much of the costs of moving, you could actually end up losing big time.

You have to worry about breaking your current lease on the rental, or you can pay more for those super expensive furnished rentals that go month to month.

If you have a car you’re going to have to pay for storage or sell it. If you have to fly to your next project you’ll have to fit your life into 2 suitcases.

Hopefully the facility you are going to will pay for your airline flight. Wait did you ask if they’ll pay for your return flight?

Do you have a house? Now you have to pay for a mortgage and rent in your new location unless you find someone to rent it. What about maintenance?

Have a spouse? They’ll either have to come along or stay and then you are paying for rent in 2 places. Long distance relationships should work, if not find a new fling.

Have children? How the hell are you going to take them out of school? Try homeschool? Okay you can’t move. You’re unemployable!

What about taxes for all these countries you are in? You have no freaking idea how much of a tax hit you are going to take. You hire a CPA and even then you still don’t know what you’ll owe.

Don’t get me started with immigration. If your project abruptly ends you’ll have to leave the country immediately or deemed to be in violation of the law. Thanks for coming! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

They call it the movie industry for a reason, but for some of us we move more often than the pretty little pictures! This is getting absurd.

Soldier On.

8 Responses to The Price Of Mobility

  1. The flip side to this is of course the exciting opportunity see other cities and countries and have a bit of an adventure.

    My girlfriend and I recently moved from London to Vancouver just to see another part of the world. My VFX experience made it easy to get a job and work permits.

    It was expensive but move always is. But we chose to do it and the global nature of the VFX industry helped it happen.

    I can see that if you HAVE to move to work then thats a different issue but remember, you don’t HAVE to work in this industry.

    Life can’t be that bad for you if one of your problems in life is that you can’t get a 60″ TV.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Oh I love traveling but for some reason they don’t have facilities in areas Id like to live. It kinda invalidates the idea that VFX is a global industry. The health industry is global, you can get a job anywhere in the world working in that industry, not in VFX.

      Im glad you enjoyed the expensive move but with all due respect, you have to factor in the huge subsidies for your labor in that area.

      You said I dont HAVE to work in this industry? I dont understand. Its a global industry, why should i HAVE to move? Well here in California many of us are losing work because of the subsidies offered to US studios and my colleagues have no choice but to move.

      The very mechanism that is trying to make the industry global is coercing others to move. Its not like they can just leave the industry and find another job.

      And the mention of the 60 inch tv is because I’ve completely eliminated everything else: Marriage, children, a home. Not saying life is bad, but we give up alot to work in this industry.

      • There are subsidies in London and Vancouver. I’m well aware that that is one of the reasons why the companies are busy in both of those cities. I know I’m taking advantage of the BC subsidies by working here. Why shouldn’t I?

        You are taking the term global a little too literally. I know I would struggle to get a job in The Ivory Coast, but I could apply for work in Asia, NZ, Australia, Germany, France. That’s pretty cool.

        Also your “why should I HAVE to move” is a pretty unreasonable comment. I had to move from Manchester to London to get a job in VFX because there is no feature work anywhere else in the UK. If you want to earn a fortune working on the mines in Australia you have to live in the outback, not by the beach. It’s all about trade-offs. Why shouldn’t you have to move? Just because you were fortunate enough to live in California meant that you never had to move in the first place.

        This doesn’t mean I don’t have sympathy for anyone who find themselves out of work because their studio has closed to chase a subsidy. That isn’t cool.

        If the subsidies were to stop in London or BC I know it would have a massive impact on the amount of work there but everyone I’ve worked with is pretty smart. I don’t think many of them would be out of work for long. Some would travel to another studio, others would change career. You don’t have to stay in the same career for ever. It would be hard but I think most of them would cope.

        As for your comments about not having a family because of your career, this recurring theme in your posts, I feel is crap. I don’t know your personal situation but I have worked with plenty of artists with partners and children. The companies I have worked for are pretty flexible to help out parents.

        I find that most people with kids make a point of leaving on time and not working late and producers understand. If weekend work or late nights are needed it is worked out in advance so child care can be arranged.

        I moved to Canada with my long term girlfriend. She got a work permit with mine because we’d lived together long enough for the Canadians to count her as a defacto spouse. Her work permit is actually more flexible than mine.

        You should know that being in a relationship involves compromises. This might mean that you have to compromise career or living standards but that’s what you do in a relationship. If my girlfriend hadn’t wanted to move to Vancouver I wouldn’t have come.

        I read your post about the hot girl in the sandwich shop. It sounded to me like your career had nothing to do with your inability to talk to her. If you really thought that you couldn’t possibly make conversation with a girl because you might end up wanting to marry them one day, you are going about relationships all wrong. It sounded like you were just using your career as an excuse to justify your missed opportunity.

        If your job really did prevent you from talking to this girl then you have deeper issues that even unions won’t fix.

        Overall I would welcome a more stable and sustainable situation in the VFX industry but I have only been part of it for 4 years and I knew what I was getting into. I am making a point of making the most of the situation and the advantages that there are at the moment. If it gets to the point where compositing isn’t working out for me, or my girlfriend, I’ll look for another job.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Just today someone posted about the common conversation about divorce in the VFX industry:

        http://www.digitalgypsy.com/vfxlog/archives/2011/10/divorce-rate-in-vfx.php

        Scott Ross regularly talks about the high rate of divorce in the industry.

        I get emails from people thanking me for what I talk about my blog. There is a reason they come here, because there is validity in what I’ve said.

        I think you need to be in the industry a bit longer than 4 years to realize that. You’ve already done a big move. There will be more. At some point your girlfriend will want to settle down and Ill respect your decision whatever the circumstance. My decision to respect a significant other and not drag them through this industry was my choice because I know it was the right thing. I’ve seen far to many people live the fantasy that it can work and then poof: all gone.

        I don’t run away and leave because things are wrong. This is my career and I’m fighting to fix it.

    • Paul says:

      “But we chose to do it and the global nature of the VFX industry helped it happen.”

      Any industry will help it happen. People move around the world just to become cab driver, barista or cashier at your local liquor store. They move because they can have a better life, period. Why would you move to Vancouver unless you can get better wages and really love skiing? Maybe that’s your case. London is a great city especially if you make tons of cash, otherwise any city around the world is shit if you make little money. Would you have moved with less money/buying power? Unless you’re under 30 probably not. I moved from Europe to LA when I was 27 and even though I miss walking down busy street in a regular city I still haven’t moved.

      My point is that you probably didn’t move just to experience a bit of adventure and see other cities and countries. You can do that on your vacation time. Who would want to move to sunny California and take a significant financial hit? And for me to seriously move to London or Vancouver or dare I say India it would be because of a huge money bump. Even my british neighbor who has a job offer in London with a huge pay incentive is reluctant to leave LA.

      My wife went on a professional trip to Toronto for few days and got a good vibe of the city…and I thought “hey some good vfx companies over there”, So I spent hours online looking at jobs opportunities, real estate market, cost of living, city life, weather etc…well in the end I said no thanks!

      I’ve met some people who easily move like that around the globe, 4 years here 3 years there with all their “belongings”, these people are nowhere near $50/hour, and if they are they have one baggage and zero strings attached.

      Generally people want to settle by the time they hit 40. You’ll see.

  2. I saw that poll this morning and while it’s interesting please don’t think that the result will be remotely accurate. There are two huge issues with it I can think of right away.

    Firstly it asks if you know of someone who has had a divorce. If there is one divorcée in one studio and 2 people from that studio vote then that’s instantly skewed the result.

    Also, the kind of people who will find this poll are more likely to be the ones who have issues with the industry in the first place.

    I would be very interested to see actual divorce figures compared to many other industries.

    You’re making a big assumption that my girlfriend will want to settle down before me. She was equally excited about our move, I’m not ‘dragging’ her through this industry. If she wants to return to the UK or move somewhere else we’ll discuss what each of us want and figure it out. I know that she is more important to me than where I work. Work would be a factor in our decision but it wouldn’t be the overriding factor.

    I’m not sure you can respect a significant other that doesn’t exist. And if you had a significant other it’s pretty disrespectful to assume that you’d drag them through anything. What if they were earning more than you and their job moved location? What if they were happy to move around. What if they wanted you to move somewhere with them? Would you always pick your work over them?

    You’ll never know until you don’t actually ever pluck up the courage to talk to someone.

    I regularly read your posts. I find your blog interesting. I understand that I’m fortunate to be in a situation where I can make the most of things. Hearing about other people’s less fortunate situations opens my mind to what could happen.

    I appreciate that you and others are trying to make changes, and I agree with most of what you want to achieve.

    Personally I’m undecided about unions. I can see the advantages but I’ve also seen the disadvantages.

    Aside from the the subsidy issue, which I accept is a problem, a lot of problems that I hear from the USA seem to be linked more to employment law in general and lack of government support. It sounds like they could affect any industry.

  3. shadoukat says:

    Moving to other countries for work is very expensive and stressful. 4 Yrs ago I decided i wanted to leave CA, and make a drastic choice to give up everything (my home, my friends, my boyfriend) in order to leave LA and see what it was like to live in other countries and experience different studios.

    All I can say is that its VERY expensive, unfortunately, UK, Australia, and Canada do NOT pay anywhere close to the USA rates. And none of those countries will pay for your stay unless its a very short contract (under 2 months). UK studios hire for 1-2 yrs to avoid having to pay to put you up, Australia hires for 6+ months to get around that too.. and Canada, well they dont even offer housing for more than 2 weeks if you are lucky.

    Which means that you will usually be paying for rent in 2 counties.. specially if you own a condo or house elsewhere. So WHY would someone choose to move and travel? for me it was to get away from CA since I was not happy.. and I dont regret my decision one bit. Sure.. you have to be aware that you end up LOOSING money by doing so.. and you will have to be doing taxes in ALL countries you worked for that year.. which is a pain. But as a whole I have met some amazing people, and experienced some great trips by living in those countries..

    After 4 yrs of moving between USA, CANADA and AUSTRALIA, I have decided to take a staff job in Vancouver.. and I cant be more excited.

    It’s not for everyone, and you will have to give up a lot (stability, possibly relationships, savings, closeness to friends and family, etc).. but once you find a city to fall in love with.. it will make it worth your while.🙂

  4. […] The costs of moving are tremendous. You will have to pay foreign taxes, state taxes, and federal taxes. If you own a home you will have to rent in your new region and take upon the burden of paying a mortgage at the same time. Some regions are so expensive that VFX workers are renting rooms from local families to avoid the costs. Many of them are not able to own any tangible items as they are constantly moving and living out of a suitcase. Some of them must leave their families for long periods of time and must pay huge traveling costs to visit them for short breaks in between projects. Regions like Canada, and London have weak overtime laws allowing you to miss out on overtime pay. […]

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