VFX Supe Mark Stetson Supports Unionization & Trade Organization

Digital Artists Agency Founder Bob Coleman mentioned a VES Founders Award acceptance speech by Mark Stetson, an Oscar winning VFX Supervisor.

You can view the video here.

It’s a fascinating speech not only for his support of a trade organization or labor union, but because he reveals that as a one-time VFX facility owner, he was against unionization:

I was very fortunate to have started my VFX career at a time when VFX workers were covered by labor contracts and health insurance, under the auspices of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees.

The studios were bound by collective bargaining agreements with IATSE Locals, as are today virtually all the other departments in film production and post‐production.

The visual effects companies who worked on the top films worked within that. IATSE and the AFL‐CIO Union Locals covered most VFX workers.

Shamefully, that is no longer the case. We all watched the influence of the Unions dissolve away from the Visual Effects industry, and let it slip away.

I’m personally guilty of this – I dodged the unions while I ran Stetson Visual Services, so we could compete against other non‐union shops.

I’m not surprised by stories like this. Some of the most vehemently anti-union voices in our industry have sometimes transformed into the most passionate advocates for the labor organization movement once the facts presented itself.

I know this is true for me as I was once anti-union until I joined The Animation Guild. This is also true for VFX Foundation founder Joe Harkins. Witness his transition from my April 24th post to my June 22nd post.

This latest revelation by Mark Stetson is something I’m thankful to hear. I hope to hear more voices like this. Know hope.

Soldier On.

12 Responses to VFX Supe Mark Stetson Supports Unionization & Trade Organization

  1. Wow, I wasnt aware about the VES VFX Bill of Rights. Kudos!
    Im a budding VFX artist(studying VFX at Seneca, Toronto, Canada) and I know the current situation of VFX artists is worse than it ever used to be, I have seen 3 studios in Toronto(Canada) close due to lack of awareness. I have read the bill of rights and I believe it should be made an Industry standard and a part of the contract which Producers make the VFX studio sign or vice versa, the Idea of unionizing is also not bad, at the very least it will guarantee a fixed salary.

  2. AB/CD says:

    “lack of awareness” ? of workers rights? just not sure what you mean there.

    • edwardh says:

      he probably meant they were not aware that you cannot run a stable business when you keep exploiting people. without a team of people that grow with you and you are able to rely on, companies naturally can become fragile.

  3. meh says:

    The last generation was too busy making money by helping erode labor laws globalization to worry about the next one

  4. Wishful Thinking says:

    Mark Stetson is currently the Creative Directory/VFX Supervisor at Zoic. I wonder if he would be willing to pass out union cards at Zoic and encourage the artists there to organize? It would be great to see a senior member of the team step up and encourage the artists at Zoic to unionize.

    • The Observer says:

      My guess is no. He wouldn’t hand out union cards at Zoic.

      Zoic would go out of business if they unionized. Or they’d shift all their work to Vancouver and just use LA as a base of operations.

      • edwardh says:

        right… because a decent job atmosphere is bad for companies. you always want dissatisfied, scared employees.

  5. Paul says:

    One person sat down for an interview at Zoic for a mid-comp position, he walked out right after they “offered” $16/h for the job.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      there are always horror storries everywhere. I have worked at Zoic and they paid me very fair, according to labor laws, on time, overtime and were a grateful bunch. bit crazy and high hours but legal(!). I think it be interesting to see what union cards would do at zoic. I agree that I cant see Mark being as involved as to hand out cards but I also dont see them going out of business because of it.

      somebody has to make start though. thats where information comes in that all artist can access it (Im looking at your IATSE website to be…) and then act on it.

      • edwardh says:

        “but legal(!)”? what kind of an argument is that? who cares? that’s kind of the whole point of this! there aren’t enough (or not strict enough; or not strictly enough enforced) laws to protect employees, so they have to organize themselves. it’s pathetic, really. one shouldn’t have to do that.

  6. meh says:

    “The days of leading …companies via a one-way conversation are over,” says Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN and the author of the book “How.” “The old system of ‘command and control’ — using carrots and sticks — to exert power over people is fast being replaced by ‘connect and collaborate’ — to generate power through people.” Leaders and managers cannot just impose their will, adds Seidman. “Now you have to have a two-way conversation that connects deeply with your citizens or customers or employees.”
    A lot of C.E.O.’s will tell you that this shift has taken them by surprise, and they are finding it hard to adjust to the new power relationships with customers and employees.
    “As power shifts to individuals,” argues Seidman, “leadership itself must shift with it — from coercive or motivational leadership that uses sticks or carrots to extract performance and allegiance out of people to inspirational leadership that inspires commitment and innovation and hope in people.”
    The role of the leader now is to get the best of what is coming up from below and then meld it with a vision from above.
    This kind of leadership is especially critical today, adds Seidman, “when people are creating a lot of ‘freedom from’ things — freedom from oppression or whatever system is in their way — but have not yet scaled the values and built the institutional frameworks that enable ‘freedom to’ — freedom to build a career, a business or a meaningful life.”

  7. sk says:

    i think as an industry we need to educate our membership about the union movement and a push for vfx trade association. #vega,#vfxunion, #vfxtradeassociation

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