VFX Law Disappears

2/14 UPDATE: VFXLaw has responded: “employer saw me blogging, read it, and told me to trash everything or not come back to work, had to shut it down, sorry #vfx folks”

Well that was fast. Writer VFX Law has abruptly disappeared  today with the twitter account locked up and tweets deleted. This isn’t the first time this has happened. If any of you remember this happened before 2 years ago.

Lots of speculation but really nothing verifiable. While I rarely disagreed with him/her, the VFX Law blog provided us with a lot of legal answers and advice especially with the recent turbulence in the industry.

A web cache of the blog is still available here.

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:vfxlaw2012.wordpress.com/

VFX Law’s last tweets were concerns about R+H employees not being paid and potential violations of the warn act.

Here is state info for those still waiting for payment:

http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/HowToFileWageClaim.htm

Here is info about the WARN:

http://www.doleta.gov/layoff/warn.cfm

Here are attorneys VFX Law recommended R+H employees contact:

http://www.hgmq.org/

VFX Law, if you’re reading we all appreciate your work and good luck.

Soldier On.

46 Responses to VFX Law Disappears

  1. Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

    Maybe R&H or Universal killed him?

  2. christian roberts says:

    did the posts just all get deleted?

  3. Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

    The site was taken down… Either someone took it down or someone spooked VFXlaw enough that he took it down. My guess is a strongly worded letter from a certain companies team of lawyers. Probably the same team of lawyers that decided it was okay to break the law by not paying the employees that have been laid off.

  4. christian roberts says:

    no i mean the posts here, there were a ton of responses about this topic a while ago and now they are gone. ?? VFX law posted it was his school sugested he take it down as it is not ethical to give legal advice when you are not a lawyer.

    Which is smart advice, I dont go to see a student doctor for surgery.

  5. Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

    Could be that it was something like that… But why no explanation? It really feels like he was disappeared doesn’t it?

  6. Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

    VFX law, are you out there? Should we assemble a search party? Should we avenge your killers? Send us a sign!!!

  7. Cold Water says:

    It seemed liked he hadn’t quite done his homework on the WARN thing. In order for WARN to apply, according to the very pamphlet that he linked to, R&H would have had to lay off 33% or more of their local workforce, which it doesn’t seem like they did. I suppose they may have, and it could be worth investigating the final numbers, but I suspect that they laid off just under 33% to avoid triggering WARN. Also that pamplet talks about a “faltering company” exception that seems to apply word-for-word to R&H.

    Of course there’s no harm in looking into it but I highly doubt that WARN will apply.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      You might have a point with the faltering company issue.

      Id still look into it. Rhythm did an interview with FilmWorksLA which stated the LA facility employed about 750 people and that was before a layoff in August so the current layoffs may be in the 33% threshold.

      http://filmworks.filmla.com/2012/08/15/rhythm-hues-special-effects-powerhouse-offers-insight-into-vfx-industry/

      DD Florida employees also used the WARN act but I’m not sure if that was successful. Anyone know:

      http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2012/oct/04/former-digital-domain-employees-file-objection/?print=1

      • Cold Water says:

        A good question re: DD Florida since they would clearly qualify for WARN if the “faltering company” exception doesn’t apply (it might), but the problem there is that I don’t think the ex-employees will ever get high enough priority to the remaining funds. If I recall correctly the list of secured creditors far exceeds the amount of money netted from the various bankruptcy sales (DDPI, In-Three patents, etc.) and secured creditors pretty much out-prioritize anything else. But it’s definitely worth them trying. It would be very interesting to see a DDMG post-mortem breakdown of where all the final money went after all the asset sell-offs. That might take years to resolve!

        DD Florida employees did get their final paychecks approved by the bankruptcy judge not too long after the closure, though. I doubt they got any banked vacation days.

        WARN is only truly helpful in the case of a non-bankrupt company closing down a plant or operating unit.

      • Ashes says:

        Also, it has some requirements on who is actually covered:

        http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/layoffs.htm

        The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is administered by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA). WARN generally covers employers with 100 or more employees, not counting those who have worked less than six months in the last 12 months and those who work less than 20 hours per week, or those employers with 100 or more employees, including part-time workers, who in the aggregate work at least 4,000 hours per week, exclusive of overtime. Regular federal, state, and local government entities that provide public services are not covered. Employees entitled to notice under WARN include managers and supervisors as well as hourly and salaried workers.

      • dismaldomain says:

        Nobody at florida DD got compensation for holiday and backpay or WARN. Even though twp separate law firms clearly proved in the bancruptcy proceedings that warn was broken on every level. The judge didn’t want to offend the Chinese overlords, even though the figures required to settle were a fraction of costs such as those claimed by the ‘restructuring’ vulture team.

        Welcome to Amerika, bitchez!

  8. Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

    The issue is not so much WARN as R&H seems to be following that. The issue is more that they broke the law by not paying employees on their last day of work. R&H seems to think it is okay to put those people at the back of the line. I believe their lawyers have advised them that the bankruptcy will get them out of paying these people based on comments they have allegedly made since Sunday night. Probably important that these people act fast because I’d imagine any new buyer that steps in will try to say those old debts are wiped out with the bankruptcy. In any case it could make things exponentially more contusing to sort out if the new owners can blame it on the old. I think that is what R&H is counting on to get them out of debt. They keep their building. They keep their IP. They keep everything… employees get screwed. Not sure what the people still working are thinking? It seems logical to me that if they are willing to screw over the first group, they are willing to screw over all the employees. And once the shows are delivered… and the money stops flowing…. Well you don’t need a crystal ball do you?

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      So much for r&h always treated their employees well…sure they did till mattered: your last paycheque

    • Cold Water says:

      The fundamental problem, one can guess anyway (I have zero inside knowledge and have never worked at R&H), is that R&H waited until they had almost no money left in the bank before making the call on Sunday to go chapter 11. They probably had some money, sure, but probably significantly less than enough to make a full round of payroll. We know this because *no one* has been paid yet, including people not laid off. People not laid off won’t get paid until the supposed studio loan comes in.

      But anyway my point is that it’s not so much that it’s abhorrent that R&H didn’t pay people out before laying them off (although of course that is, in theory, abhorrent), what’s truly abhorrent is that they *waited too long to throw in the towel*. They took a gamble that they’d be saved at the last minute, and the gamble backfired horribly and left a trail of what will be painful suffering in its wake.

      That said I don’t think we have to worry about the scenario that you paint. All finances of the company will be controlled 100% by the bankruptcy judge from now on, only ending if they get out of chapter 11. And the bankruptcy judge would never end chapter 11 while there were still outstanding wages. It doesn’t matter one lick if there are new owners or not, everything will be in the judge’s hands and he will make sure people get paid IF there’s money to pay them in accordance with bankruptcy laws and order of precendence to funds, etc.. The real question is if R&H gets out of Chapter 11 at all. If they limp through their existing shows and then find no buyer at the end it’s conceivable that laid off employees will never get paid. The other interesting question is if the judge will pay out the laid off employees right away, which I’m sure the management of R&H would much rather not happen since they’ll need every penny to keep things limping along.

      • Tyler Durden says:

        That all sounds about right to me, except the studios are the source of the money supposedly. They want their shows done that are going to make them millions in the future. Yet they don’t want to pay the laid off artists. They only want to pay the presently working artists because it costs them a few million less that way. R&H is complicit in this scheme and this does not bode well for those still working. They’d be wise to not deliver the shows until they are fully funded and no one is left holding the bag. But in VFX we don’t do that. It’s every man for himself.

      • Tyler Durden says:

        Also, if this is correct, which I hope it is, it would make no sense for the bankruptcy judge not to pay the laid off employees. Besides for the fact that this is the law, the studios will pay more if they know that their movie is in jeopardy if they don’t. They are not going to cancel films that are almost done over what is a small amount of money in the overall budget.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        I’d be curious if the 3 studios who give them 20m$ as loan will see that back if the shows complete and no buyer ?

      • Cold Water says:

        Tyler: Agreed that the studios wouldn’t want to pay the laid off employees. However I believe that they will have no say in the matter once they hand over the money. Only the judge can approve payments requested by R&H and he/she can force payments not requested by them as well. All unpaid workers will automatically be made creditors without having to do anything so I’m sure the judge will be evaluating all this carefully.

        Andreas: It may be that the combined payments reflect an advance on what would be their final payments upon delivery of completed work. So assuming they actually get their finished work the studios might be in ok shape regardless of buyer. Again, 100% speculation. It may also be that they are simply factoring in the risk of potentially losing money if there’s no buyer vs. the cost of pulling the work.

  9. Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

    worker bees can leave
    even drones can fly away
    the queen is their slave

  10. Sean Afshar says:

    Thank you VFX Soldier! You’re awesome…
    As Scott Ross said, the VFX industry (at least in Los Angeles) is shooting itself on a daily basis…. I am leaving the industry, but I am still active in making it better for the ones who are beginning to make their carrier in the VFX industry in Hollywood. More power to them and lots of luck…

  11. Steve says:

    Wasn’t he very critical over R&H’s decision not to pay money owed to certain people (I think he used the term W2, which I’m not familiar with)?

    This struck me as the only difference in opinion between VFXlaw and VFXsoldier – the latter has been totally uncritical of R&H management during the whole crisis.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Nice try.

      Half my work on this blog has been my activity on twitter. I’ve been tweeting and retweeting away and being very diligent about r+h not paying.

      Perhaps you can begin being critical of subsidies and read the news reports of r+h execs singling out the distorting effect of 60% subsidies that got them in this mess.

      • Steve says:

        Er, they’re hardly gonna say, ‘We went bankrupt because we mismanaged the company’ are they?

        I’m genuinely surprised you are pinning this entirely on the tax breaks issue – not even mentioning in passing the possibility of A) Management errors, or B) Studios’ questionable practices.

        R&H had tons of work from what I read. Tax breaks cannot be the sole cause here.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Your last 2 comments make 2 baseless accusations:

        1) you accuse me of being “totally uncritical” of R+H

        2) you vaguely pin the bankruptcy on “mismanagement”

        Where is your evidence?

        Meanwhile, I supply evidence with articles where Lee Berger specifically states back in August that even though they have facilities in cheap labor locations, and could supply cheaper prices with California artists exclusively, clients still expected them to open a facility in Vancouver just so they could receive a subsidy.

        Think about that. Can you imagine how much capital it takes to open a facility in Vancouver? This exposed the company to a cash crunch which has led to the situation they and many other CA facilities have been exposed to.

        What evidence do you have to make the accusations that you have made today?

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      w2 is a tax form in cali its means you are an employee. wages.payroll as opposed to a contractor

  12. ex_rh says:

    Maybe RH feared that the chatter on his blog would rile people into filing a class action lawsuit.

  13. freedomofspeech says:

    Is this what you guys are looking for:

  14. showMeTheMoney says:

    So what exactly is a wage claim going to do vs just being a creditor on the bankruptcy? I mean is it somehow going to push you closer to the front of the line?

    • Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

      If you don’t fill out the wage-claim you might not even be in the line.

      • showMeTheMoney says:

        How so? All employees and former employees are listed on the bankruptcy papers just posted. Is that not considered a line?

      • Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

        Perhaps, but you have not alerted the department of labor. You have not done the bare minimum to get someone paying attention to the fact that R&H broke the law. Remember the government gets a piece of all your wages too, in the form of taxes. R&H is also ripping off the state and local governments of revenue. Realistically R&H is not going to stay in business they will spend your money paying lawyers or delivering the shows that the studios will then make millions off of without paying the people who did the work to make them. Any new owner is not going to be interested in paying you either. What is Chapter 11 other than a way to eliminate debt?

    • Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

      Remember R&H broke the law when they did not pay you. This is not normal… it’s shady as hell. I’ve been at other companies that went under and they always paid me my last day. This is not the R&H that cares about its employees, this is a new low for a VFX company.

      • showMeTheMoney says:

        Yeah I agree, I am just wondering what filing a wage claim gains when dealing with a company that is going bankrupt anyway? I mean I guess it brings the labor commissioner into it, but doesn’t all the power reside with the judge who deals with the bankruptcy?

      • Heywouldyabuzzoff says:

        Who knows. I think we need to make some noise because the money, as of now, is still there.

      • Ymir says:

        Keep in mind, up until last Friday, R&H was expecting an infusion of $20 million from Prime Focus. It wasn’t until PF abruptly pulled out of the deal that fell over it’s own fiscal cliff. I guess it’s a matter of debate did they wait too long to approach PF or try to find other investors. I have no idea how long that process was going on. Steps were being taken to prevent this week’s events. It just may have been too little too late.

  15. […] VFX Soldier – VFX Law Disappears […]

  16. Some Guy says:

    Back in the 90s, Manex had to be sued by the CA Labor Commission, working on the employees behalf (because the employees were too chickenshit to do anything about it), to get all the overtime pay we were owed but which they refused to pay. I’ll never forget the day I looked at my paycheck and saw a couple dozen hours not paid for. I was told, when I inquired about it, that “we don’t pay for over 70 hours a week”, like it was my choice to work that long to deliver shots I was told had to be delivered.

    I’m quitting the industry tomorrow. I should have quit that day.

  17. whitelight says:

    OR FIGHT!

  18. Time to act says:

    So I read the update about VFXLaw.

    Is that legal? Didn’t think an employer could fire you for a blog…

    That I think proves more why we need pages like this and Laws..

    They aren’t with us(artist) they against us.

    • Zippy says:

      To be honest the employer in this instance was within their rights at least on the outset if and only if the person involved was using their network to actually connect to the web. If there is something defamatory published or something leaked from the company network it could come back on them if someone really starts digging.

      Now if the VFXLaw guy/girl was using a 3G iPad with no connection to the company network in any way then they should have told the employer where to go as what is on a personal/private iPad with a personal/private connection is none of the employer’s business..

      That said, blogging something that fiery at work with the possibility of getting caught doing it was a stupid-stupid thing to be doing!

      In a related story in London, one of the big studios there has cut the internet access to the entire studio as they are on to their 3rd or 4th breach from the inside by artists twitter’ing or Facebook’ing whatever they shouldn’t have been…

      • nathan says:

        Framestore right. It spread like wildfire on facebook I think. Funny thing is these guys can tweet over 3g? So why shut off the net?

      • goodman says:

        nah mpc
        annoying how the actions of a few idiots is causing us all problems

  19. VFX_Avenger says:

    The link to the cache has gone down, does anyone have the “how to file a wage claim” page that vfx law had on his website? I’d very much like to see it again.

  20. James says:

    Hello everyone, it’s my first go to see at this website, and
    paragraph is actualy fruitful for me, keep up possting these posts.

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