There is a hot threat on linkedIn that was started by former ILM General Manager and Digital Domain founder Scott Ross.
He would like various VFX facilities to pay $3 Million for the first year to establish a VFX Trade Association. Here is a snippet:
1. The ills of the industry can all be traced back to one single issue: VFX facilities are unable to make a profit.
2. If VFX facilities were able to be profitable, many of the issues raised would simply go away.
3. IMHO, an International Trade Association could address the core problem.
4. For an International Trade Association to be successful, several things have to happen:
a) At least 4 or 5 of the Big 10 need to be members
b) There needs to be a substantial budget to do the work
c) There needs to be broad based support from artists and owners alike
5. I have unsuccessfully tried to organize the Big 10 executives
6. I have unsuccessfully tried to get the support of the VES
7. I am now trying to get an awareness and hopefully broad base support from the artists, and other owners, in the hope that, like OWS or the Arab Spring, the populace could effect change.
Scott Squires has his reaction which I largely agree with. To say that profits for VFX facilities will trickle down and end bad labor practices is simply not true: Look at Pixar, they make a HUGE profit and engaged in collusion. However, at the end of the day I agree that the industry needs a trade organization to represent the VFX facilities.
However I’m reminded of a situation at a restaurant where I ordered a hamburger. The order was completely wrong and the burger felt a bit cold. I complained to the waiter and he took it back to bring out a gorgeous piping hot burger that I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.
I took a big bite only to realize: It’s the same damn hamburger!
$3 Million Needed
Scott Ross has been proposing this trade organization for a long time and twitter and the thread is blowing up as if this is something new. It’s the same hamburger, the only thing new here is the $3 Million figure.
Just to put that number in perspective, The Animation Guild‘s yearly dues is at most around $400 a year per member. $3 Million is enough to fund the membership of 7,500 VFX artists!
Under TAG they would immediately get portable health insurance that covers them and their families in between projects, 3 portable retirement accounts, and enforcement of basic labor laws such as OT and the elimination of Employer of Record ripoffs. The best thing: All you have to do to unionize your facility is sign a rep card.
More Details Are Needed
Scott Ross’s trade organization is a little bit trickier. He needs $3 Million and then needs 4-5 of the big 10 VFX facilities around the world to agree to his proposals… wait, what are the proposals? and who is interested in joining?
According to Scott Ross only 1 out of the 10 have shown interest in the trade organization. So even if VFX artists decided to donate their hard earned cash to the tune of let’s say $10 Million, a good number of VFX facilities would still have to show interest.
But what specifically is Scott Ross proposing to do? Can we get specifics? Can he post a simple 10 point memo of what he will do if facilities agree to join? How about answering these questions?:
Many VFX facilities don’t make a profit. What mechanism will the trade organization create to ensure facilities make a profit and how will they do this without violating anti-trust laws?
Non-Californian VFX facilities heavily benefit indirectly from regional film subsidies offered to US studios. Many Californian VFX facilities are hurt by these same subsidies. How would the trade organization resolve this issue?
Californian VFX facilities would benefit from state-side subsidies to US studios to prevent work from going to other regions of the world. Non-Californian VFX facilities would be at a disadvantage and object to joining a trade organization that would lobby for competitive subsidies. How would you resolve this issue?
Many VFX facilities in emerging economies use pirated software to do VFX work. How will the trade organization combat facilities that engage in piracy?
It seems that VFX artists are being asked to donate to help raise the $3 Million for the trade organization. Yet Scott Ross has routinely pointed out that eventually their work will all go to cheap labor regions like China and India. Why should VFX artists support an organization led by someone who believes in such nonsense?
Sorry that last one was a cheapshot. Here’s the point I’m trying to make. Stop trying to play kumbaya with the world. An international trade organization would only be weakened by trying to make all parties happy. Instead focus on organizing the facilities in California. I’m sure most of them would agree with ending subsidies and going to a better pricing model.