Dave Rand Message for 3/14 Pi Day

Dave Rand put together the video above urging everyone to sign a rep card for 3/14.

Big thanks to the Animation Guild for offering pizzas for R+H workers over the weekend. The company could no longer afford to offer food for overtime workers. The Hollywood Reporter has more.

The VES wanted to have a vote on whether to support food for OT workers, unfortunately their charter restricts them from taking a position on the issue. 😉

Soldier On.


162 Responses to Dave Rand Message for 3/14 Pi Day

  1. vfxguy says:

    So this whole thing was about free pizza all along…

  2. Frank says:

    “The company could no longer afford to offer food for overtime workers.”.. but i bet they’ll sure take those profits when they come.

    and why no news of Triggerfish cape town – films Zambezia, Khumba. 80 peoples – all staff – pink slip. it is it because it not LA it gets no attention?


    Fairs fair people. Either we are all in this together or no.

    Because I don’t believe this whole subject can be only an LA issue, and if ones tries to sell it on that basis, unfortunately, you play right into certain peoples hands, and again unfortunately you’ll loose.

    • tonyb says:

      it’s not just about la. it’s about an oscar winning vfx house being forced to declare bankruptcy. and fyi, rhythm and hues has offices and artists all over the world.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Thanks for the link to Cape Town News. There are things you can do like this to help. It’s not an LA thing at all. That is why we are reaching out globally. Perhaps you could be a point person Frank, we need spirited individuals like your self.

    • P-Fi says:

      Frank, if there is big news you know about send it in here. It will go up. Nothing is being excluded, the more we all know the better.

    • Frank says:

      Thanks for the words of support guys, I was just feeling that too often small independent companies like this get left out of the news.

      And whats important (to me) is that if small companies, who like most business’s out there get ignored, we all suffer, and there going to be no place left.

      I know for instance that if Ford has layoff’s etc it hits the news, but smaller companies always tend to get ignored.

      I didn’t want this to happen, not with a company with so many great vfx people in it.

      As I said, I just think we’re all in this life raft (just like PI) together, and we have to all support each other, if we want to ( and are going to ) make it to shore… and better days.

      Thanks for the words of support guys. It means a lot.

    • Scott Ross says:

      The cry for VFX workers needs to be a universal cry. From the out of work in LA and London, to the soon to be put of work in Vancouver, to the VFX facilities all over the planet, to the Indian VFX worker that has been treated like a slave… the entire VFX industry needs to come together and solve the issue that the Motion Picture Studio does not compensate VFX facilities appropriately.

      Frankly, I don’t blame the Studios. I am not trying to vilify them at all. After all, they are business people just trying to make the best product for the least amount of money. If anyone is to be blamed, it is us, the VFX industry for allowing our goods and services to be sold at unbelievably discounted rates. Where the VFX facility takes most of the risk. Where we eat each other alive by dropping our prices so low that we cannot sustain the lean times. It is not the big bad Movie Studio that doesn’t respect us (and they don’t) that has caused our undoing, it is us that doesn’t respect us that has.

      But….. I have a dream (it worked before!) that all of the owners/managers/CEO’s of VFX shops form an International Trade Association that could deal with the Studios, that would allow the shops to regain their pride, that would ensure that our industry continues to survive.

      I for one have been doggedly pursuing this effort for a very long time. I ask for all of you to demand that your bosses form a coalition and start to organize such a Trade Association.

      As someone once said: “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.”

      I don’t agree.

      I’d rather consider and paraphrase….A Trade Association, it’s our only hope.

  3. S says:

    I looked over the vfxunion website and could not find answers to some questions that I have. Perhaps Steve Kaplan can jump in here and answer these questions.

    1. Unionization seems like it is going to be hard considering most artists are not at a company long enough for the unionization process to begin. I got the sense that last year at Sony, management purposefully didn’t extend people knowing that they wouldn’t be around when rep cards would be counted. How do we get the process rolling fast enough so the next group of artists asking to unionize are not out the door before the process begins? or more like how long does the process usually take?

    2. Do the rep cards even matter if the artists are let go? Does being let go mean that your rep card no longer counts and therefore aids in the prevention of creating a union?

    3. If you are let go before union contracts are official and you then come back to the same company, having already signed a rep card before being let go, or even getting employment at another union shop, would you get the union initiation fee exemption that you would have got if you were still employed at said company?

    4. Will we get our own chapter for vfx?

    • skaplan839 says:

      Hello S,

      1) Indeed, that is going to be one of the biggest challenges for short-work vfx shops. The ultimate answer is to know when the support for unionization is at its pique at said shop and then be able to use that moment to approach the company and demand recognition and bargaining. It happens all the time in live-action. It also counts on the union being informed as to when that moment is. http://animationguild.org/online-repcard/ is a great way to tell us where you and and when.

      2) Yes they do count. When setting the list of artists that will make up the “bargaining unit” at a shop, we can set a range of dates that could encompass artists who have already been let go. Having a signed card never prevents the creation of a union.

      3) For 839, if you’ve been in a facility that went union, were on the original bargaining unit list or can show that you supported the effort to bring that facility to the bargaining table, we will waive your initiation fee. That is up to the local, and when the VFX Local is formed, I would assume they would follow the same policy.

      4) It is the intention of the International to form a VFX Local when there are enough vfx artists to be able to do that. That magic number is between 200-400. So, Yes. That means your own charter, your own executive board, your own elected officers, your own business representative. The whole gamut.

      Steve K

      • Josef Bloomfield says:


        Regarding creating a VFX local, will benefits accrued at say the animation local transfer across to the VFX local? A lot of people jump back and forth from VFX and animation.


      • vfxmafia says:

        On the current job I am fortunate enought to workign with an X-Dreamworks union member. I grilled him about it….and he boiled the IATSE down to this…

        1. Inital one time fee……$1,500-200 which jump starts the new union member into IASTE’s giant coffers…..(a draw back not too bad)
        2. Once you pay the inital fee …all you have to pay is $400 per year and that covers your medical insurance…(is this correct?)
        seems like very little for insurance…..but he wasnt super sure about that
        3. He also mentioned he didnt pay into his pension …..dream works covered that (seems like he is off in this regaurd)

      • skaplan839 says:

        Josef –

        Since the animation guild contract includes participation in the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan (MPI), all signatory studios to that agreement make contributions for each of the covered artists to that plan. The “Accrued Benefits” then follow these members from one signator studio to the other.

        If the IATSE were to sign visual effects studios to MPI, the same would apply, and artists that went from Dreamworks to a unionized vfx shop that has MPI in their contract would enjoy the same benefit.

      • skaplan839 says:

        vfxmafia –

        Here’s some corrections and further explanation:

        1) Our initiation fee is based on the minimum wage in the contract for the job category an artist is hired in to. Our highest is Animator, and the initiation fee for that category is $3,200.

        That fee does not have to be paid all at once, although we certainly don’t turn that away either. That fee regularly is spread out over a year with regular monthly payments.

        At studios that organize, that fee is waived. So, if you organize the shop you are working at, and you fall under 839 for representation, you would pay *NO INITIATION FEE*.

        2) Dues range between $92-$105 a quarter. At the highest, its about a dollar a day. These do *NOT* pay for your participation in the Health and Pension Plans (MPI). The employer makes those contributions. Dues and fees go towards the operational needs of the local. Salaries, liabilities, etc. Think of the dues as payment for maintaining and supporting the contract.

        3) Same as above. Dues do not pay MPI costs. Employer does. So, your colleague is absolutely correct. Dreamworks paid for his participation in the Health Plan and into two parts of the Pension Plan … all for him.

        If he elected to participate in the Guild’s 401k plan, that came out of his check. However, participation in the 401k plan is not mandatory.

      • vfxmafia says:


        My friend from Dreamworks went on to add…..when he got laid off…..they gave 6 MONTHS warning. They had a job fair for the people they were laying off and the soon to be cut artists were actually PAID to talk to recruiters. They even had a fricking Psychologist/counseler for people to talk to about changing jobs and the trauma of unemployment.

        He went on to add that there was a severance package when he was finally laid off…

        does a severance package come out of the company or out of union funds?

        Make me want to work for Dreamworks….

      • skaplan839 says:

        I’ve heard Dave Rand tell similar stories from when IMD closed. Dreamworks has, to my knowledge, always attempted to be good to artists they have to let go. This time is no different.

        However, a lot of that is the decision of the studio and not part of the union agreement. You can see the agreement here:

        If the company offers a “Severance Package” its typically because the artist is under a term agreement. Meaning, the working agreement between the artist has a start and end date (as opposed to an “at will” agreement). In the case of term agreements, the company has to pay out the remaining length of the term in order to terminate the agreement. This comes out of “company” funds. Not sure what you mean by “union funds”.

        That’s not to say that Dreamworks isn’t offering money for the current round of layoffs, but its at their discretion, and not contracually bound.

        From what we’ve seen, again, they’re being very generous.

      • bleepblorp says:

        Hey Steve,

        If we decide to sign up for the union, how will our future rates and contracts be negotiated? I remember a few years ago VEA of BC (Vancouver Effects Association of BC) was arguing that the union would set unreasonably low rates compared to how much we normally would get on a contract. I haven’t heard any updates on this issue, but has there been any progress on creating fair rates for artists?

      • skaplan839 says:

        bleepblorp –

        Check out the link above and you’ll see our minimums we have in our contract. If I had to guess, I’d say the IATSE would use our rates combined with the Disney TSL rates to set minimums.


        Having said that, nothing is for certain until its in the agreement and ratified by the unit. That second point is most important .. the unit has to ratify any agreement before it can be signed by the union.

        So, even if the intention was to sink wage minimums, the unit that is being negotiated over would have to agree to it before that could happen. And, honestly, I don’t see that happening.

        Finally, its also important to remember that the rates in the contracts are minimums. Floors that contractually cannot be crossed. There is no cap to the job categories and artists are free to negotiate better terms and conditions than the contract provides.

        Remember, these contracts are only there to provide workplace standards and conditions and some tangible benefits. The union would not want to get in the way of an artist bettering themselves by setting wage caps.

    • A Voice says:

      Don’t make this overly complicated, spend the 44 cents and mail in your rep card. Go to the next company and spend another 44 cents and mail in your rep card immediately, so you can be there as long as possible. If we all keep this us, it will work, it will cost your 44 cents at each company you go to.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      Id like to add to 2) : your rep card is “valid” 90 after your contract end. often times our contracts are short and Im amazed how little the IATSE is pushing this fact, your rep card still counts to reach the majority to hold a vote at that facility.

      Im unsure if you get to be invited when they hold a vote but its NOT a valid argument to NOT sign a card just because you are leaving.

  4. Ray Sun says:

    Hello, I’d like to give thanks to VFX Soldier and David Rand for standing up for us. No matter where this leads, I feel grateful for your doings.

    And when there comes a time for signing a rep card in Canada, I’ll be sure to sign one! = ]

    Good luck David, keep on Soldiering!

  5. England VFX-er says:

    This includes international artists too, yeah? VFX WORKERS UNITE!! oh, wait…. nope, sorry. Not in LA? stuff you.

  6. AnonForNow says:

    Thank you VFX Outside of Los Angeles. I keep seeing people criticizing this movement for being “LA Only” or “California Only” and time and again the response is that we’re going for unity worldwide. Talking about unionizing is not excluding other countries but instead, if by God it happened, to be an example of how we should all come together. The idea of starting some kind of international guild from scratch is completely unrealistic, as it’s reinventing the wheel and would become as toothless as the VES is now. One alternate to IATSE could be the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW – http://www.ibewyes.com) – they cover broadcast workers already and are willing to form our own local. The point is that we have options and need to start seriously investigating all of them.

    • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

      There are things that we can find common ground on no matter where we are from. I think that anyone can see that subsidies will not last forever so if you’re honest you can see that they’re not really a good thing for anyone (it’s not as if we make anything off them). Good facilities will still survive, bad ones won’t no matter where they are.

      Workers, be they artists, software developers, facilities, production or whatever deserve some type of basic protection where they don’t find themselves owed money for weeks of work (or even worse move state/country and be told on their first day that their job no longer exists).

      Basic health care should be a right. If the government (as in the tax payers in a country) don’t provide it, then a system needs to be in place where by people aren’t being screwed over by companies.

      We contribute as much to films as the actors, directors, DPs, grips, gaffers, sound designers, editors, screenplay writers, stunts people and craft services and it’s about time that this old fashioned snobbish industry acknowledged the fact that we’re not some annoying, overpaid bunch of computer geeks that deserves to be treated with disdain. We’ve earned our place in this industry, and qute frankly deserve some respect for what we’ve bought to the table in enabling some amazing movies to be bought to the screen.


      • chicagoVFX says:

        I agree that basic healthcare should be a right. However, in the United States it’s *not* a basic right – the most you can hope for is having it defined as a minimum condition of employment. You can sign all the union cards you want to, but until the people of the US vote for a proper state-funded healthcare system (like most other civilized first world countries) and have it enshrined in the bill of rights it’ll only ever be a “perk of the job”

      • tonyb says:

        chicagoVFX, healthcare would continue to be provided by employer, or the union would provide a health plan to anyone who wants to take advantage of it. it would be a choice. this is an example of benefits that are local and would change by region.

  7. Jeff Heusser says:

    In May of 2012 we did a fxpodcast with Peter Marley, International Representative for the IATSE. In this interview he provides a lot of detail about the organizing process. http://www.fxguide.com/fxpodcasts/fxpodcast-visual-effects-guild-the-iatse-interview/

    Jeff Heusser

  8. Dave Rand says:

    We are adding information to the page vfxunion.info constantly.
    Stay tuned for an online card for British Columbia, and information for more countries. If you find something we should add please email me at dave@daverand.com

    Call you local reps and ask them to consider putting up an online card. This will usually mean you have to eventually sign a hard copy but it realy helps with the process.

    Also you can elect yourself as a shop steward and be the person that has cards and can get answers for people by pointing them to the person or resource.

  9. A Voice says:

    Hi everyone,

    This video explains the wealth distribution in this country. The CEO of the big studios are considered the 1%. We do all the work, they make all the money. Please understand this is what happens when companies get too powerful without people banning together to stop it.

  10. contessa12 says:

    Hooray! March forward, those who are reluctant in other countries to sign on, will soon follow, once they see how much better you will be treated! I think the post production house will like this as there is less for them to horse trade about with the big 5 studios. As a union there will be more of a fixed cost for the studio that can’t be shaved at their whim. You are terrific Dave, kudos to you for leading this effort.

  11. Frank N. Stein says:

    Sign the rep card! Why not? What could you possibly have to lose by doing so? That being said, I don’t think it will help with keeping jobs stable. What it will do is give you portable health insurance, and help with working conditions. And possibly provide screen credits a bit higher up. It is worth supporting.

    As for R+H, the hell with that company. At the same time they are going through bankruptcy, they are making yet another outsourcing studio in Taiwan! They fired a bunch of people with no notice, did not pay them for back wages, and filed for bankruptcy to avoid having to pay them. R+H is going under because of bad management, I don’t buy the story of tax incentives being the cause. My only concern is for the crew losing their jobs, otherwise the company should go down in flames, and probably will.

    Dave Rand, I applaud your efforts. But I wonder what are you still doing there at R+H??? You have been quite vocal about getting screwed out of wages by Meteor Studio. Are you not concerned about a repeat? Is the current crew there getting paid, and on time?

    • RH_vfx says:

      Crew and everyone now at R&H are being paid and on time (for now). I don’t think the artists, TD’s, software devs here will ever know the real story about the Taiwan studio. I’m incredibly skeptical.

  12. vfx_nomad says:

    In the interest of inclusiveness, simplicity of message, and building a database to gauge support, the vfxunion.info site should mimic the animationguild.org site with their elegant idea: the online-repcard.

    Globally, anyone can sign the online repcard. It lets artists in every country declare that they are ready and willing to organize into a union (even if they currently cannot). It would allow the leaders like Dave Rand to have a tally of actual, interested artists and where they live (approximately) to bring to negotiations and discussions. It could still be anonymous for the artists but keeps momentum building.

    Beyond counting green icons on FB and Twitter, has anyone done this kind of tally? Would this be a difficult html script to write into the website – Name or nickname, email address, and city/country? Is this a good idea?


  13. Blacklight says:

    Would the money used to fund pensions and healthcare for VFX workers ultimately result in less money for the producers, executives, and their assorted hangers-on? Because if the answer is yes, I can see things getting very ugly.

    • RH_vfx says:

      Absolutely it will. The executives and higher-ups will get paid less because they will now be forced to pay workers (and hopefully VFX houses) what is actually due. They will forced to stop being so god damn greedy.

      This will definitely get ugly. In the end they will be forced to give up money and I have absolutely no remorse (and either should anyone) for any money they lose to pay vfx workers fair wages, portable healthcare, pensions, etc…

      • usefullogic says:

        So if I am reading this correctly, the consensus is that the Executives at the VFX studios like R&H, Dreamworks, DD, DNeg… etc. are the 1% and are going bankrupt and laying people off because they want to keep their huge salaries?

      • Blacklight says:

        You are not reading this correctly. An enormous amount of money is going to actors, producers, directors, and executives OUTSIDE of VFX. If more money is to go into VFX as a whole, it will have to come from these people’s bloated paychecks.

      • usefullogic says:

        Yes, Blacklight, but how exactly does a union force people outside of VFX to pay you more? You are not paid by the production company, you are paid by a VFX studio and that is who you will be entering into a collective bargaining agreement with.

        I am gonna get flamed for this most likely, but let me play devils advocate… Ask yourself if having a Union in place at R&H could have done anything to prevent their bankruptcy and layoffs? Could it have prevented Dreamworks Animation from layoffs. DNeg, DD, etc. etc would having a Union prevented those layoffs?

        Sure, people would have had more notice, they would have had healthcare protection and pension portability, all of which are wonderful and absolutely fair. They would, however, still be unemployed.

        I am not saying that its the Unions job to make sure that the companies you work for stay in business, but unionizing, despite what anyone might say is going to make the cost of having your labor more expensive and you totally deserve it.

        But as a consequence, at a time when VFX studios are struggling to compete with each other across the globe, with other options in tax incentivized regions, adding that cost may cripple the VFX studios while the actors, producers, directors etc. will still be getting exactly the same piece of the pie they are getting now..

      • another_rh_dude says:

        @ usefullogic

        Well the union wouldn’t have kept RH from going bankrupt. But as John mentioned in a few company meetings, 5% of our already slim profit margin goes towards healthcare.
        With a union (if I understand things clearly), the healthcare fund comes from residuals (i.e. Not money from the VFX shop) which means 5% savings for the shops.
        Bill Taylor had mentioned that in another union meeting with the IBEW a few years back. He basically said that he couldn’t have afforded to offer the benefits to his workers without the union.
        So in the end it might actually help the shops financially and make them more attractive for talent.
        …Unless I’m completely wrong. 🙂

      • Dave Rand says:

        There’s two sides to that coin. Often massive imbalances of leverage actually harm many industries and stunt their growth. You see it in Nature and you see it in business. Disney has done just fine for 75 yrs with organized labor. Talk about a creative culture that learned long ago how to treat artists and staff right.

      • usefullogic says:


        As far as I know, the health and pension plans are funded by residual payments AND employer contributions.This means that costs will go up, for some, drastically as they are currently in violation of Labor Law by not paying OT and maybe not so drastically for others. If the bargaining agreement is with the VFX studio, it would seem to me that there is no direct path to residuals as the VFX studios dont get any to begin with… Please correct me if I am wrong

        @Dave Rand

        There are lots of great examples of how Unions have operated successfully in situations where they are negotiating directly between individuals and the studios, but our industry doesn’t work like that. Artists contract with the VFX studio who intern contracts with production. I am curious how a Union functions in this model, unless the endgame here is to push for Production run VFX?

        Productions ramp up, they rent equipment for a project then they wrap and all that goes away. VFX studios have to continue to maintain and improve their pipelines and infrastructure, that takes a commitment and long term investment that historically the film studios have not wanted to take on (with a few exceptions of course). Just imagine a world where every post job was starting from zero, building infrastructure and pipeline as they go and then breaking it all down when its done. That would be grossly inefficient and frustrating.

      • RH_vfx says:

        @usefullogic’s first statement.

        Just to be clear, I wasn’t taling about the executives at VFX studios. Dreamworks is a different story, Katzenburgh is part of the 1%, but they’re not a VFX house and are already unionized (at least in LA) and this doesn’t concern them.

        The 1% I’m talking about is the executives at production studios: Marvel, Warner Bros., etc…

      • usefullogic says:

        sorry RH_vfx, I meant Dreamworks Animation

      • Dave Rand says:

        @usefull The rest of the talent found the need to organize. Visual effects is no different, we are the set now for so many of the films we work on and we are employees, no different than many other organized professions.

  14. Jerry Weil says:

    I have a bit of a beef (no pun indended) with the food companies provide for OT work. There is never a thought given to those of us who prefer to eat healthy food. I wind up bringing all my own food because I never know if the food they provide will be real food or pure poison. Some companies are better than others. They range anywhere from 20% of it edible to 80%. I feel that if you’re being asked to work late or through lunch, they should provide the meals; but it would be nice to have a little more thoughtfulness put into it. I’m so much in the minority on this that I can’t really speak up about it. Many years ago when I was actually a long term staff member, I did scream enough to get my company to offer healthy snacks in addition to the junk food. It’s ironic when so many artists are out all the time for sick days, and the companies are making them sick with their crappy food. It would benefit them financially to feed the artists better food.

  15. RH_vfx says:

    Online rep card:


    Just know that this is NOT the official card. However, this is a way to alert the union that you’re interested in representation and requesting more information. They will automatically send you an actual repcard with a postage-paid return envelope that you can fill out and return to them (this is the only official form).

    I’ve said before that unionization will not solve all the problems facing the industry. However, I believe that it is an absolute necessary step to get us going in the right direction.

    Again, this isn’t a California only thing. Please please please, vfx workers around the world, consider unionizing.

    Fair treatment is not region specific.

  16. P-Fi says:

    I’m sorry to those of you who feel this does nothing for you where you live. I have to say you are wrong.

    A few thousand people becoming unionized or even just organized in our industry anywhere in the world is nothing but good news. This is the start of something that will eventually spread everywhere.

    If I may quote Tracey Chapman

    “Revolution…starts with a whisper”

    • Dave Rand says:

      Merely the action of attempting to improve our own lives changes things. Also, it’s a well known fact that those who work in an industry that contains a high level of labor organization benefit whether their part is organized (union) or not.

  17. tazzman says:

    If enough fx people unionize, then there comes a point where the studios cant just keep running around and forcing fx studios to keep underbidding: they will all be staffed by unionized workers.

    So, this will force the studios into an acceptance of a higher margin.

    They will have nowhere else to go.

    • VFX_Boom says:

      Indeed. This may take some time, but united, we WILL get there.


      “Screw you we’ll take our show to London. Ohhhhh. Ok, screw you, we’ll take to Canada….wha……them too? New Zealand! Final offer! Seriously! Is there no credible studio we can Fuck over any more?”

      Digging it.

      • cgChina says:

        naaaw they’ll end up settling on China since they are underliscenced and its illegal to form a union or collective nargaining body.

        then, while it may be cheaper it will be an organizational disaster and the quality will be terrible… then the studio realizes that they should probably pay full price elsewhere. this cycle will take 1 or 2 years.

        if you think its shitty that you lost that work to them, imagine how bad it is to do the work in China. those poor guys are trying to get a foothold over the other billion people, even if it means an early death.

      • tazzman says:

        cgChina, if the work in Empire of the Deep is any indication, the studios will gladly pay more for better.

        China isn’t there yet.

    • Ashes says:

      How do you figure that? The reason underbidding occurs for a lot of places is the attempt to match the government subsidies. The union won’t address this.

      • usefullogic says:

        There will always be companies who will charge less than their competitors, maybe because they have fewer senior artists, maybe they have lower overhead, or maybe because they are getting a subsidies in their city…

        You are still going to have to chase those subsidized jobs too. Even if every shop in the entire world was governed by one agreement and one salary rate, there will always be some government that will offer an incentive to bring the work there…

      • RH_vfx says:

        So what do you propose we do?

        Please tell me you aren’t part of the “do nothing because it’s hopeless” crowd are you?

      • usefullogic says:

        Oh no, far from it. I do think that debate is a very important part of the process and that there is a lot of misconceptions about what the different efforts in this process will solve.

        My personal opinion is that Unionizing, should be a phase two, not a phase one approach, but it doesnt seem to be going that direction. Passions are high and signing a card is something that people can connect with because its direct action, so I get it…

        What I would hope is that efforts to set up a trade organization for the vendors would be the first option, but I also understand that the two efforts represent conflicting interests in some ways.
        Adding increased pressure on VFX studios that are already unstable might have the unintended consequence of causing productions take a harder look at other options in the near term, pushing more work to this country or that country, reconsidering their tentpole models, deciding to set up production based VFX. Historically, once you start loosing opportunities, its harder to bring them back. I would hope that establishing a trade organization would create enough structure and self imposed regulation to stabilize things first, then if people are still being worked over, lets move to phase Two.

      • VFX_Boom says:

        A Union will begin the process of a unified voice. Hopefully globally. With this unified voice the global issues such as the subsidy issue can be begin to be addressed by having the unified artist standing up for themselves. Refusing to move, killing themselves on unpaid hours, and being protected from bad labor practices. This is just the beginning of pushing back towards the top pressure.

        A unified voice can encourage the vfx houses to push back on the studios.

        There is NO single simple solution. The solution must take place on several levels. Artists (Organizing). VFX Houses (Trade Association). Film Studios (Removing their heads from their asses).

        It won’t be easy. It won’t be quick. People will be upset and scared. Hang in there.

      • Ashes says:

        “You are still going to have to chase those subsidized jobs too. Even if every shop in the entire world was governed by one agreement and one salary rate, there will always be some government that will offer an incentive to bring the work there…”

        Um, yeah, that’s my point.

      • tazzman says:

        The union is on the artists side. Once that happens it will reinforce the artist pool at most of the major facilities and even the mid-tier facilities.
        A vendor-based trade association will then allow those facilities with union-backed workers to go to the studios and say “go ahead and go to China see how that works for out”.

        So really, the first step is artists protecting themselves and pooling their numbers for more pressure on the vendors. This will then give facilities plenty of incentive to form a trade association when they see a unionized workforce pool.

        So then, they form a trade association.

        But it has to happen internationally.

  18. frasu says:

    this whole thing reminds of the days of Avatar. Back then, studious were failing because of the insane schedules and lack of business experience. Fairness for VFX http://leestranahan.com/open-letter-to-james-cameron-fairness-for-visual-effects-artists/

    • Dave Rand says:

      It’s been going on since 1996, failed shops, unpaid artists. The same broken business model affecting subsidized states and countries, an equal opportunity destroyer, and it all comes down to one word…. Leverage …those who have it, those who do not.

  19. notla says:

    Feels more like the dotcom boom breaking down in 2002 to me.

  20. Frank says:

    Dear Dave Rand,

    your right … Leverage …those who have it, those who do not.

    Maybe this will change your perception of WHO actually has leverage, and what can be achieved when it’s applied.

    Maybe after watching it, people will realize it’s time to come down from the hills, en masse.

    RIP Hugo Chavez

  21. wb says:

    “It’s been going on since 1996, failed shops, unpaid artists.”
    so…if it’s going from 96 – why NOBODY said nothing so far?
    Why “artists” instead of standing up and refuse to work in such conditions they continue to struggle for a piece of pizza?

    • Dave Rand says:

      Good question. If you look at history though it took about equally as long for the other components of film production to organize. If you look even further artists were treated poorly and had similar troubles 450 years ago. “By October 1512, Michelangelo had been working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for four arduous years. In a letter to his father, who had written from Florence asking for money, he wrote: ‘I lead a miserable existence. I live wearied by stupendous labours and beset by a thousand anxieties. And thus have I lived for some fifteen years [as an artist] and never an hour’s happiness have I had.'”

      • Dave Rand says:

        You can sign a card online today. http://www.vfxunion.info. An online card for British Columbia should be up today. There’s also phone numbers and websites for reps where you can have a card sent to you or hand delivered to you wherever you like. Information for all countries is being gathered here.

      • Jack Boats says:

        Let’s not forget that as blessed Michelangelo was with his talents he was also imprisoned by them and this is a common fault of many Artists. They are so self driven and obsessed with their craft they can be easily taken advantage of by their financiers.

    • Ashes says:

      I started before 1996 and when I first started I asked people about a union. The main reaction was one of, “Why do I need a union? I have healthcare, a good rate, and there’s plenty of work. I don’t want a union telling me how many hours I can work.” When I pointed out that in about 10 years when everyone is hitting their 30s and have families it might be a good idea to have some sort of pension and healthcare, most people still weren’t too interested.

      IASTE also had no real interest in us. mainly, I think, because they didn’t know where to put us. At one point I had heard that they were considering lumping us in with the cameraman since everything we did was reshot to film.

      The reason, IMHO, that you don’t see a massive strike is that most US artists don’t expect any major support from the international vfx community. We’ve already seen that with the subsides. If US based artists complain about them then the reaction is, “Tough luck, you all are just entitled whiners. Unless someone undercuts us, then they are stealing our jobs.”

      If everyone from ILM, DD, and R&H walked out now, it would not change a thing. WETA, DNEG, MPC, etc would not turn down work from the studios and the studios know this. I can’t blame them, they want to survive too. So, all that would happen would be the work would be pulled from shops and then they would be blacklisted unless they were willing do a mea culpa and do a show for huge discount.

      So, until the union decides to take on subsides, enforce strikes globally, and explain how US shops can still bid competitively with the add cost of the union on their bill, I’m not sure how successful a push for unionization will be.

      I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Scott Ross and a trade organization might be the way to go. Personally, I’m more for idea of an independent guild or union and not necessarily IATSE. I’m leery about them because of pass dealings and how they have treated people who voiced uncomfortable questions to them on various forums, this one included. Kaplan’s answers have not instill confidence that IATSE even knows anything about our industry.

      I’m currently at one of the big vfx houses and I can tell you the majority of the artists don’t like the idea of a union because they haven’t seen the union stop the loss of jobs in any area that they represent. That’s the most pressing problem for a lot of artists and until they see action on it, then they aren’t going to flock to IATSE.

      I could be completely wrong and maybe on 3/14 you’ll see a shift with more calls to unionize. However, as far as I can tell, it seems the freelance are for the union and the staff against.

      Just my opinion based on my observations.

      • skaplan839 says:

        “I can tell you the majority of the artists don’t like the idea of a union because they haven’t seen the union stop the loss of jobs in any area that they represent.”

        The union isn’t established to do such a thing. I believe I’ve told this to you before Ashes, but take a look at 839s history with the attempt to stop “Runaway Production”.

        This local went on strike in 1979 when it attempted to get language written into the contract that forced the producers to staff up completely before sending animation work to Canada. The producers balked, the unit hit the streets, the producers were unprepared, the strike lasted two weeks, the producers signed the deal in order to keep work flowing. Then, in 1982, when the next round of negotiations took place, the producers wanted the language out, 839 wouldn’t agree, the unit hit the streets except this time, the producers had three years to prepare (schedules shifted, money saved, etc), the strike lasted 10 weeks before the International stepped in and told us to take what we had.

        “Stop the Job Loss” .. by what? Ending subsidies in another sovereign land? Spending what little political capital the IA has on attempting to do what VFX Soldier is?

        The union wants to set standards and conditions for vfx artists across the industry. Ones that need setting and enforcement by the people working under a contract they had a hand in forming. Silly little things like labor laws, minimum wages, and some portable health benefits. Things maybe you already enjoy by working at “one of the big vfx houses”.

        Get enough vfx shops under a union agreement, and a “Multi-Employer Bargaining Unit” is formed. Imagine the sight of all the vfx shops under the union contract sitting together and hammering out the stipulations of a union contract .. together. You know what Scott Ross would call that? A TRADE ASSOCIATION. Its why he says he’s behind the union effort now.

        Another thing you may not know, once a VFX Local is established, it can operate autonomously from the interests of the International. It can attempt to “stop the loss of jobs in any area that it represents” by doing anything it’s members desire.

        How’s that for confidence?

      • Jack Boats says:

        The staff doesn’t want union or at least IA, because the staff are afraid to rock the boat. I agree that the IA has a lot to prove before we should just throw them support. I don’t see a Trade Assoc. really doing much for Artists but if there is some sorta Guild attached to it that has a very strong vote in the Trade Assoc. I think I’d support that.

      • Ashes says:

        Kaplan, yes you have said it before and it really doesn’t change the outcome.

        The senior and staff artists at the major effects house are worried about losing bids which would, in turn, could cause them to lose their jobs. That’s what they are worried about. The union won’t help with that. So, therefore it doesn’t get much support. The question that was asked is why the artists haven’t pushed for a union. That’s the answer I gave.

        Artists aren’t scared of “rocking the boat” or of change. They just want to make a change that will help the situation they find themselves in and they haven’t been sold that the union is the right answer.

        And, no, a trade association and a union are not the same thing.

      • skaplan839 says:

        Losing bids, how? You are still beating the “Unionization brings extra costs and we can’t bear those costs” argument. Its been beaten to death so many times, you have to be sick of using it.

        You want the union to stop outsourcing? I’ve already said that unionizing is your best chance to do that, even without the blessing of the international. The VFX Local, much like many of the IA locals that backed FTAC years ago, can go after subsidies as furiously as it wants to. So, if you want it to, the union *WILL* go after the subsidies.

        The catch? The VFX Local has to be formed and populated. Dues have assessed and paid into the Local coffers and money has to be used to retain a lawfirm. Yadda yadda. In the end, you’ll be chasing your tail, but at that point, you’ll be swinging a collective tail. And after you get tired of pissed the local money away, you can also fight for a strong VFX contract.

        It boils down to leverage. Right now, you have none. You want to make change, focus your efforts.

        I never said the Union and Trade Association are the same thing. I said the unionization of vfx artists can seed the trade organization.

    • Jack Boats says:

      Exactly! I can’t agree more about this Pizza Pay mentality. Partly its the Artists fault for acting like children and getting all excited over a pizza party. The average level of maturity in a VFX house is somewhere slightly more than puberty because they keep cycling through the latest crop of cheap laborers these trade schools pump out. The other reason is that since 1996 the MGMT of these places has been bringing in H1-B visas and outsourcing to drive down your wages. Now, when that has caught up to the MGMT and they are being off-shored they are organizing a defense and, as usual asking for your help, but its only because they are finally affected by their lack of foresight. They’d still be screwing Artists over and throwing them pizza parties if their job wasn’t about to move to Bangladesh or some other place where dowry burnings are on the rise. Karma’s a B!

  22. Jack Boats says:

    I would rather be paid CASH for overtime and not be thrown pizza scraps as a way to buy more of my time for nothing. I have no problem taking a needed hour break to go feed myself. I am not some kind of indentured servant WORKING FOR FOOD. I do not need pizza from my employer and the fact that this keeps coming up as some kinda AWESOME perk is ridiculous. I want a Union that fights for better wages, better hours, and job security! I don’t care who buys PIZZA!!! so they can’t afford pizza but opening a new shop in Taiwan is totally in budget. Why isn’t the IA pointing that out? Why are IA wages for Animators so low? Who does that union really represent?

    • Blacklight says:

      You’re obviously not a Ninja Turtle.

    • skaplan839 says:

      From what we understand, payment is being made in full for RH artists working OT. We were approached and told that the weekend meals were no longer being provided. After seeing the amount of solidarity at the Oscar protest, we felt it would be a welcomed gesture. In an email to me, John Hughes seemed to think so.

      It’s also my understanding that the RH Taiwanese office was well in the works before the bankruptcy and its viability is also in question.

      I understand your frustration, Jack. But if you don’t think we “fight for better wages”, the enforcement of labor laws and better workplace conditions, you’re welcome to arrange a time we can meet and I’ll go over exactly what we went through in the last round of negotiations.

      As for who we represent, 2700 working artists and professionals at these studios: http://animationguild.org/studio-list/

    • Jen says:

      @Jack Boats – Why are IA wages for Animators so low?

      The 2012 Animation Guild Wage survey shows at least one 3D Animator made $5200/week last year. If that was a union gig, s/he got top-flight health and pension benefits ladled on top.

      I wish I was paid that “low.”

      • Blacklight says:

        Just curious, are there any details as to whether this person was employed every week of the year and whether the weeks consisted of 40 hours or 100+ hours?

      • Jaded Artist says:

        For a top animator at Weta or DWA that would not be considered an abnormally high wage at all. Top Supervising animators at those places (and others) can command up to $10,000/week.

      • Jen says:

        Just curious, are there any details as to whether this person was employed every week of the year and whether the weeks consisted of 40 hours or 100+ hours?

        Whether this artist had employment for a full year, I do not know. The wage survey is anonymous.

        However, the survey at the very top states: “For comparison purposes, all salaries are computed on a forty-hour week.” So that artist earned $5200/week when working 40 hours a week.

      • Blacklight says:

        Wow. Good for her!

      • Aruna says:

        Ugh.. One high wage is not common. The red line below is the right one to judge your rate on. From 2011.

        Out of 3000 wages in visual effects, this is a graph for North America. A median low of $20, to a median high of $66.56. This takes into account all professions in the industry.

      • Jen says:

        Aruna, I was not discussing wages for the VFX industry.

        I was discussing wages for animators working under IATSE Local 839 contracts. Upthread, Jack Boats claimed that “IA wages for Animators [were] low.” I chose to focus on one well-paid Local 839 animator as proof that a union contract does not harm an artist’s chances of earning a good salary.

        If you look at the 2012 Animation Guild Wage survey, you can see the median wages for different categories in the unionized animation industry as well as the journey minimums (the “floor” wage) set under each category.

      • Sceptical says:

        Just curious – do you have anything to back that statement up?

        “For a top animator at Weta or DWA that would not be considered an abnormally high wage at all. Top Supervising animators at those places (and others) can command up to $10,000/week.”

  23. Jaded Artist says:

    And as we all argue about rights and fair pay and the plight of these companies, the picking over of the corpses goes on under our noses and the cycle continues. DD has apparently been awarded Black Sky by underbidding all of the other major houses who were also jumping to grab it. So one bankrupt vfx house underbids everyone else to pick up work from another bankrupt vfx house. Even when artists around the world show their solidarity and unite, the vfx shops are perfectly happy to continue going around underbidding each other, and the studios go right back to the crippled teat, driving the industry further into its death spiral. Nothing describes our industry better right now than one bankrupt company bidding on another bankrupt company’s shows and “winning”.

    Ironically DD is the same company that WB had huge problems with during their bankruptcy and claimed DD owed them a bunch of money. And whom DD lost about $15 million working on Jack with according to public records. But WB goes right back to them with their 911 work on Black Sky because DD is willing to whore themselves out to the cheapest bidder to keep their doors open and pick up work over a slow summer. Which to be honest all the other majors were bidding on as well, so this isn’t an anti-DD post. The big 6 are all willing to whore themselves out to the cheapest bidder, and until THAT changes, nothing will.

    And to be very clear this ISNT about subsidies, and this case is yet another example of that. DD will do most of this work at their Venice studio from what I understand, NOT Vancouver. This is about VFX shops that continue to underbid and steal work from each other just to keep their doors open. We’re all eating each other while the Studios are happy to profit from it. It would have been such a fantastic message if the vfx houses around the world refused to underbid or take work away from R&H to bail out WB on the projects they pulled from them. Alas, that wasn’t to be and we start this same depressing cycle again.

    What a great message of solidarity it would be if VFX Artists around the world targeted WB and refused to work on their shows. If you’re at DD tell your manager you won’t work on Black Sky while your counterparts down the road at R&H sit collecting unemployment. You are them, and they are you. If you’re at one of the shops that the 300 sequel is being shopped to, tell your manager you won’t work on it. Take a stand. Send a message.

    • RH_vfx says:

      Yep. And the funny thing is that I think these vfx companies are afraid that WB and Marvel and all these other shitty production companies will not work with them anymore if DD or WETA or ILM stands up for themselves. They NEED to get work done from somewhere and will be back.

      The big production companies are SO MUCH more dependent on us than we are of them. People will say no, they have the money, we need them. Who makes them money? We do. They would have nothing without us. Sigh.

    • nope says:

      this is false

  24. dzl says:

    Is it me, or is there something wrong with the address field of the online registration card?

  25. Scott Ross says:

    It’s about ALL of it…. subsidies, tax rebates, underbidding, controlling the process, having the Studio control the director, fixed pricing model, overages, turn around time, labor practices, change orders, back end participation… but mostly it is about fear. Our, no strike that, YOUR FEAR of standing up and righting the wrongs… YOUR FEAR of retaliation, YOUR FEAR of trusting others…. IT’s not the Studios that are screwing you…. it’s you that is screwing you.

    • andrei.gheorghiu says:

      I was wondering , talking about FEAR, why only 3 or 4 people are posting the real names – even the one(s) behind VFX Soldier is afraid.
      As a first, step I think it will be nice to use our real names.

    • really? says:

      Yes and no. it is about a lot of issues. Lets talk about how studios go for the lowest cost and know that shops here in CA are breaking labor laws by not paying overtime and having artists on vendor contracts. It is not only the studios, but it is the production companies for episodic and the agencies for commercials. Until the law is unable to be broken in CA, this will go on. You think you can get all the facilities to follow the law?
      “IT’s not the Studios that are screwing you…. it’s you that is screwing you.” Why don’t you go up against a studio? Why doesn’t someone question the director of a big film like “Lincoln” and ask him if he knows artists are working 70 & 80 hours a week on a flat to get his film done? You should know. At DD you did not pay overtime and follow labor laws. You were pushing to get more artists over here on visas so you can pay them less. You are no friend to labor. The facilities are all running scared and do what ever they need to do to stay open. If you cannot operate under the law you should close your doors.

    • P-Fi says:

      Scott is dead on, the VFX shops are not going to change unless all of it’s employees stand up and revolt.

      But instead, employees quietly pack up and leave their families behind and move to some incentive town. Or they stay in LA and accept large pay cuts. If not that then it’s fewer benefits, an HMO instead of a PPO insurance, or no insurance at all. Or people who are asked to go home mid-day, unpaid for the rest of the day if they are finished with their duties for the day.

      Where does it stop? When is enough, enough? I’m ready!

      • Jason says:

        I think in this context that “employees revolting” just give the vfx house producers at worst: a complete nightmare, and at best: some kind of plausible excuse for bad blood when they are facing the studios. I seriously doubt the current state of this riled up solidarity movement is effecting any good with the VFX houses when it comes to dealing with the studios.

        Focus your energy on getting a union (seems like London needs one to force employers to pay overtime) or getting visibility with the media to force politicians into offering a subsidy in California. Just getting mad at the VFX house ain’t gonna work.

      • P-Fi says:

        Sorry, not stated very well. But a union would indeed be a revolt of sorts!

  26. Bill Gilman says:

    A therapist friend was talking to me about the things we’re afraid of in this world, and she suggested that I needed to investigate that fear, take it from the darkness of denial (or anger or ignorance) and into the light. I remember her saying “Everything’s scary in the dark!”

    Andrei, I agree. Using our real names takes us out of the darkness and into the light. Talking about this does too. Keeping it civil makes it more efficient.

    I’d like to thank Kaplan for answering all these questions time and again, patiently, since he knows that no forum covers the whole audience, and that new people are coming to learn more every day.

    I’d also suggest people read (skim?) this story from Mark Twain about the organizing of riverboat pilots in the mid 1800’s. http://www.classicreader.com/book/2886/16/

    Similarly, I’d recommend that everyone look into the book “Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions.” You’ll recognize the same scare tactics and fears on both sides every time a group organized from the 1930’s to the recent past.
    Interview with the author podcast here:

    I agree with Scott Ross – although I’m not sure immersive therapy is the best solution – that we are afraid and that is our biggest barrier to progress. We are also very independently minded, self-reliant people, as a rule, communing with our workstation monitors way more than people directly. We need to take a step back, realize that we are truly all in this together, and as the saying goes, “Either we all hang together or we hang separately”

    Now back to work!!

    • Bill Gilman says:

      ps. I meant to mention that I learned about the Mark Twain story and Tom Sito’s book from forums like this. Whoever posted those, right on with the right on!

  27. Blah says:

    Can somebody clarify precisely which job categories are or are not allowed to be members of the union or to sign rep cards? Is absolutely everybody employed by a VFX company included? What if you’re a supe or manager of some kind? What if you’re in a shared “facility department” rather than crewed to a particular show? What if you’re a software developer, or a trainer, or somebody else who plays a crucial role in VFX production but doesn’t directly work on specific shots? Are rep cards from those people helpful, or will they not count? If they go out on a limb to help with unionizing, will they find out at the end that they are not allowed to be a member or to receive union benefits?

    • Bill Gilman says:

      This is a great question. My guess is that if we create our own Local, that the jobs therein are up to us. I have a feeling that there could be some ruffles between the different disciplines but to me it only makes sense that we would want to make the tent as big as possible. Having distinctions between production vs. animation vs. comp vs. roto paint vs. editorial vs. sys would be counter productive, at the very least, and would make movement between positions way harder, if not impossible. Kaplan or other knowledgeable people, can you chime in here?

      • Bill Gilman says:

        Hey Steve Kaplan, can we get some clarity on this question?

      • skaplan839 says:

        Hey Bill,

        The establishment of Job Categories in the contract with regards to wage minimums is a very organic topic. As times change, the need for category redefinition becomes apparent. The problem lies in the fact that no side wants to “give up” something when a new category is introduced.

        Its all part of the dance that is negotiations. It all happens there and once the local is formed, they’ll likely be dealing with it continually.

    • skaplan839 says:

      Good question and thanks for asking.

      With regards to representing workers of any job category, it comes down to who has requested to be represented by the union. Therefore, the cards. Its imperative that anyone who wants representation sign a card.

      The union can include any job category in a bargaining unit that we have a card for. We can attempt to do so without a card, but its almost an indefensible position.

      There are some titles that are inherently troublesome to include in a bargaining unit. “Manager” or “Supervisor” are specifically mentioned in the National Labor Relations Act (http://www.nlrb.gov/national-labor-relations-act) Section 2 (Definitions), paragraph 11:

      (11) The term “supervisor” means any individual having authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibly to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action, if in connection with the foregoing the exercise of such authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment.

      There is usually a lengthy discussion regarding employees who carry this title. In our discussions with Nick over their CG department, some “Supervisors” were included, some were not because of the definition above.

      Finally, the title “Producer” would likely cause similar discussions over the same language in the act, even though its not specifically mentioned.

      • Bill Gilman says:

        Producers do not seem to qualify under the NLR Act you mention; production staff (ie. coordinators, interns, production managers) could, no?

      • skaplan839 says:

        Its not to say that Producers don’t “qualify”. It all depends on what the person actually does. If a producer performs the tasks included in the above description, they would likely be excluded from the bargaining unit.

        Its always best to have anyone interested sign a card. All the other job classifications you mentioned already have a history of union representation.

      • Scott Squires says:

        In my mind a supervisor is similar to a DP. Yes, they oversee their crew but they’re not the ones defining overtime or other ‘business’ relationships. For that matter a Director oversees the film (i.e. not necessarily budget) and they are covered (as are DPs) under a union.

  28. GetPerspective says:

    what good is joining a union when the company I work for is not a union shop? Wouldn’t that mean I would be paying anywhere between $300-$420/year for union dues when that union cannot and will not do anything for me because I would not be working union hours? And what happens if my rate is higher than the union deems it should be? then I would be taking a pay cut to work at a union shop, and I would be paying between $25 and $35 dollars a month for union dues.

    I understand the need for a union, I really do. I would like health insurance, paid vacation, paid holidays, standards for OT etc. etc. But if the studios I work for are not union shops then a union is utterly worthless.

    Studios need to sign union contracts before I can even see any benefits from this union.

    Even if studios finally did start signing union contracts(nickelodeon? congrats) what good would it do me to join when only one studio in the entire LA area was union? Studios keep me around for the length of a project then I’m on to the next studio. If 10% of those studios were union, I would never reach the union hours needed to make a union worth the cost and I would not see any benefits.

    Organizing a union in VFX seems to be a terrifying thing for most VFX artists. There is an underlying thought process: unionization=losing jobs to overseas.

    So instead of making a video ordering me to sign a union representation card, how about making a video to better inform the vfx public about the benefits of a union and explaining to them what a union representation card actually is?

    How about informing them of ALL the facts of joining a union. Including the not so shiny ones that include the fact that I would have to work 400 UNION HOURS (essentially 3 months) in a 6 month period to qualify for union benefits? Which means I need to work 6 months out of the year at a UNION SHOP to even see a union work for me.

    And what happens when a shop doesn’t sign a union contract? Not many of the small shops in town would be able to afford to hire union workers because of the pressure on studios to underbid projects.

    A union is necessary. I agree with this. But there is a darker side to it that is just out of sight of the non-informed masses. All this information is free and available on IATSE’s VFX webpage but most people will not take the time to read up on it mostly out of fear of unionization. Make a video that takes the fear out of unionization. Perhaps then you’ll gain more support when everyone knows what is at stake.

    If most shops start going union, we can all live happily until our work is completely outsourced. But if most shops do not sign union contracts then joining a union would be a waste of money for a freelancer who doesn’t have the luxury of being a staff member and would always be wondering if they could reach the 400 union hours per month minimum…

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      GetPerspective, You got some facts wrong:
      1) if you are not working at a union shop you will be on “honorary withdrawal” your fees will be suspended. it does not hurt you to work at a non union shop but of course you will not get the same treatment at one

      2)the union only provides MINIMUM rates, not maximum. you can negotiate as high as you can and they will not interfere. i even argue that the rock bottom rates are not paid as often, most make more, maybe not by much.

      3) the 400 hours calculation you did is based on a 40 hour work week. how often did you work just 40 hours for a whole production? they will always be overtime. id argue the last month of any show will still see 60-70 hour weeks. so your hours fill up VERY quickly. and after you leave a union shop you have banked TONS of hours from that overtime to float your healthercare up to a year or so.

      4) if people dont read the iatse website they cant really complain they dont know how it works. your miss information proved you have notr read it either or miss understood it. I agree they should make more socially accessible media.

      any questions? shoot steve kaplan or any of the organizers a mail. you can mail me too if you like (disclaimer: dont work for any union, just an artist trying to get people to unite and stand up for themselves!)

      • skaplan839 says:

        These are strange times, indeed! Thanks Andreas!

      • GetPerspective says:

        Thank you for clarifying some things! I have read through several pages on the IATSE website but admit that I haven’t had time to really look into all the questions I have or even absorb some of the info I’ve taken in, mainly because the project i’m on is in crunch time and I’m working 60+ hour weeks right now. None of my following comments are meant to be rude in any way and I apologize in advance if anything comes across as such. I’m only trying to learn as much as possible about unionization.

        1) can you point me to this on the IATSE website? I’d like to read more.

        2) can you also point me to this on the IATSE website?

        3) Yes, you are correct, the 400 hours I calculated ARE based on a 40 hour work week. Most of the studios I’ve worked for do offer many more hours than this but I’m keeping my calculations at 40 to look at the some of the worst possible scenarios so I can plan ahead. And you can only bank 450 hours according to the website.

        4) My misinformation has not proved that I have not read the website. I have read as much as I’ve had time to read and absorb during the OT I’m doing right now.

      • skaplan839 says:

        GetPerspective –

        1) Honorable Withdrawal isn’t something we have described on the website. However, we mail a pamphlet to members who have just been laid off from work. It has some useful information regarding what to do next. We describe Honorable Withdrawal in that packet. You can read it here: http://animationguild.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/HILO_Booklet-print.pdf

        A Google search for “IATSE Honorable Withdrawal” is also pretty helpful. https://www.google.com/search?q=iatse+honorable+withdrawal&aq=0&oq=IATSE+Honorable&aqs=chrome.1.57j0j62l3.5070&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

        2) To see what the contract includes, simply visit our contracts page: http://animationguild.org/contracts-wages/

        Reading through the minimum wages pages, you’ll find that our contracts set minimums, not caps.

        3) The hours you are speaking of (600 to get in, 400 to remain) are for the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan (MPI). If you’re working at a facility that has a union contract in place that stipulates MPI participation, then yes you need to work 400 hours (that’s 10 40-hr weeks, or 8 50-hr weeks, and so on) to qualify for participation. Participation doesn’t start for six months though, so even when you get those hours, you’ll have to wait for the six months before you can begin.

        For shops that don’t employ artists for that long, paying into MPI would likely already be a deal breaker. The IA has a national benefits fund that allows for cheaper health plan contributions and has different participation models.

        Further, you’re another person saddled with the cost argument. I guess I really can’t say this enough times .. but you can’t know what the costs to a union contract are until that contract is written. Anything you’ve heard, from anywhere, and anyone that tells you that a union contract will bury a studio under insurmountable costs does not have the experience with the flexibility in current Union contracts. That includes my dear friend and fellow VFX Soldier, Dr. Scott Ross.

        Glad to see we agree on the necessity. I’d be glad to go over some of your percieved “dark side” fears at your convenience. Let me know when you’re available and I’ll gladly pay for a lunch where we can sit and chat.

        Steve K

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        I was going to reply but checked first if Mr. Kaplan might have done so and of course he did 😉 I call him the Tag Bulldog, always eager to help or bite your butt off hehe. Anyway did the reply clear things up or do you have any other questions GetPerspective? I did not read your questions as rude at all. The NonParent in me wonders why people dont type heir questions in google first but that aside im happy to help. were all in this together!

    • John S says:

      Unions are mostly about enriching the unions. Everyone I know in IATSE and ACTRA hates it. They pay insane amounts of dues for basically nothing. I get how it makes sense in the US, where the government doesn’t provide health care, but in Canada, all the unions do is keep out non-union employees.

      Up here, it’s not about “protecting workers”, it’s about snuffing out competition for union jobs. I absolutely refuse to join IATSE, and so should all other Canadians.

      • I like IATSE says:

        For $100 per quarter, IATSE is a very good deal.
        Portable health insurance that lasts up to a year after you lose your job, even if the company that you were working for went out of business.
        Residuals that go into your pension and health insurance.
        Union minimum rates, but no limits on how high you can negotiate your wage.
        OT pay.
        Not bad for $100 per quarter.

      • Dave Rand says:

        I paid under 600 in dues / yr worked 2yrs at a union shop and had great health care and pension contributions. After I left the health care continued for 1.5 years instead of having to pay cobra at 475/ month per family member.

        Even better than that, I knew there’d be zero free Overtime going on, and zero chance of it ever being considered that any employee would work without a paycheck for any reason.

        Best of all was the ongoing presence of complete respect !

        I was always in a contract, my last one included a completion bonus of 22k. This was not a union payout but an example of the respect given by organizations that grow with this culture.

        Ask the artists of Montreal that were kicked around, ripped off repeatedly by Meteor, Lumiere, Damnfx, Fake, Redfx, bounced paychecks, sudden closures, bankrupting and opening under a new names. Companies clouding to lower wages through back door deals with shady HR personnel. Ask them if they could have used a union, or if the free Government healthcare made up for it.

      • andrei.gheorghiu says:

        “Ask the artists of Montreal that were kicked around, ripped off repeatedly by Meteor, Lumiere, Damnfx, Fake, Redfx, bounced paychecks, sudden closures, bankrupting and opening under a new names. Companies clouding to lower wages through back door deals with shady HR personnel. Ask them if they could have used a union, or if the free Government healthcare made up for it.”
        As I spent my last 10 years in Montreal – i have to tell you , you are perfectly right.
        I do not see the smallest interest (on forums and everywhere) for a union in Montreal or Canada.
        You should add Mr.X as well on your list – they’ve opened a branch in Montreal and close 2 years later.
        Please add – overtime unpaid or payed one time, threats, incompetent managers and producers, cheap labor( sometimes15 – 18 cad/hour – for a compositor) unpaid work as well.
        People know about every single aspect of abnormality in Quebec. They do not want to talk or take any mesure.

        Despite all of these, Framestore is here, MPC as well, Mikros and in the Future many more, until the end will come and the government will lose money.
        But if in BC this was made public, I do not think in Montreal it is possible.
        You might fix the things in LA , but I do not believe this is possible in Canada. With 250000 people entering in this country every year and starving to get a job at any price.

      • Dave Rand says:


      • andrei.gheorghiu says:

        Ok Dave
        I just sent an email to IATSE Local 667 Montreal: M. Christian Lemay
        As I can see there is no Rep Card for Montreal so far.

        All the best


  29. bob says:

    We have a choice. 1. We can continue to let the studios dictate our value with no voice in the matter or…
    2. We can organize and have a say in the matter.
    Whatever side of the fence you fall on regarding unions, especially traditional unions which I don’t think are the right fit, with a union you have a vote, you have a say. If the leadership isn’t working you can vote them out. You currently have absolutely no say within the current dynamic. So regardless of what you have been told your whole life about unions and free markets, what is most appealing, having a say in a democratically organization or remaining in a dictatorship that eludes you to believe you have a say. Though truthfully you don’t.
    If a union comes out of this effort it won’t be the union you have been manipulated to believe what union is.
    If they were so treacherous then Hollywood wouldn’t have a 99% union ratio.
    This generation has been raised to believe union leaders are thieves, and though with any establishment there are thieves and liars, it is simply naive to think organizing a standard (union) will make anything any worse then the dictatorship you already embrace and are compromised and or established through.
    Truth is you can become invaluable at the snap of a finger in the current situation. The only reason anyone could think that isn’t possible and they have value and a say is because it hasn’t happened to them yet. But it will, at some point it most certainly will.
    This is an opportunity to have a voice. Organizing is as simple as that.

  30. bob says:

    I must add, there are obviously a lot of nubies here, in the sense that things haven’t turned sour for them yet. You can have 20 years in Europe or elsewhere and feel that this whole idea of organizing is a threat, it’s outlandish even that you would need such a thing. Yeah the industry has been good to you, cause your talented and respected, you’ve earned that. Proven yourself time and time again and you undoubtedly have. But as L.A. artists have lived and learned it is simply all to easy to discard and there in lies the reality, threat and issue.
    L.A. artists have lived it and realize that none of them have a future in vfx after decades of dedicating themselves to honing their craft to move to a position that is valued only to find out becoming valuable became their handicap. Suddenly they were too expensive suddenly the years they dedicated, sacrificed and strived to become respected and employable were their downfall.
    This will continue to happen under the current Junta. And it will happen to most of you, eventually weather you can fathom it or not. And you’ll end up older and unemployable and unable to retreat to an income that was acceptable in your 20’s and 30’s with a unique skill set you spent decades developing that translates to nothing other then HW, which has discarded you.
    I know dramatic, but that is in fact happening to people now. L.A. today, London tomorrow, Canada and so on.
    This does not have to be the case. This does not have to be any of our futures regardless of where on the globe you’re working.
    As valuable as you truly are, you’re completely invaluable. At least with the current HW leadership. You’re as interchangeable as brake pads on a car that is being leased to them. I flashy item that isn’t significant enough to know it’s true value our purpose.
    Just some food for thought.

    • andrei.gheorghiu says:

      “Scotties” – white tissues – as soon as you take one from the box, another one is just coming up right away.

      This is how the “artists” are – some sort of white tissues.

    • Blacklight says:

      True. No one thinks they will ever become obsolete, but everyone eventually will, and IMHO, hyperspecialization is the fastest way to become obsolete.

  31. Iatse891vfx says:

    Hello everyone, I noticed some BC cards are being signed by vfx professionals and artists who are not working in Vancouver, ie California or Montreal. Be assured that your card will be forwarded to the correct IATSE representative if you have filled out the wrong one. Here is the one for Vancouver workers:


  32. . says:

    It show many different feeling to be unionization: To be negation the salary, initiation fee …etc. You can not take whole best interest. I know for certain: the to be unionized VFX artist could only benefit certain people and push many VFX artist out and filmmakers.

    • Jen says:

      I know for certain: the to be unionized VFX artist could only benefit certain people and push many VFX artist out and filmmakers.

      Why? The Local 839 hasn’t stopped animators from working at non-union shops, nor has the Local 839 kept filmmakers from using non-union labor. South Park, Rough Draft and Klasky-Csupo are just three examples of non-union animation houses employing animation artists outside of Local 839 contracts.

      All the Local 839 offers artists is better working conditions and a chance of a comfortable and secure retirement.

      Why would the VFX industry be different from the unionized animation industry?

    • Scott Squires says:

      ” I know for certain: the to be unionized VFX artist could only benefit certain people and push many VFX artist out and filmmakers.”

      ?? You know for certain? So how does the union selectively benefit only some people and push many vfx artists out?

      if you’re in the union, working under the union contract you get benefits. If you’re not in a union and not working under union contract then you may or may not have benefits. (certainly no union benefits)

      Union members can work non-union. Non-union can’t work on a union project unless they themselves become union members.

      I can’t go into Costco unless I buy a membership either. I don’t complain they’re only benefiting certain people.

  33. Jackadullboy says:

    I work at a large vfx facility in Vancouver that has culture of hiring people for six month contract, working them OT and six day weeks almost from day one, with no guarantee of a contract extension. It’s paid OT and so on, so that’s not at issue.

    My concern is the work-life balance – I’m perpetually exhausted, have no time for any sort of a life outside of work, and would simply rather not work the hours, irrespective of pay. I’m certain that i’m far from being alone in this.

    So, my question is this. How can a Union help in this, my one major concern? If a company is underbidding for the work, and the schedule is compressed, leading to relentless overtime, yet plays by the rules as regards OT compensation and the rest, how can a Union help?

    Beyond ensuring people have portable healthcare and pension schemes, etc., how can it address the issue of the long hours culture, and the inherent job insecurity which comes from having these ‘indefinite contracts’?

    Are there benefits to organizing that transcend these immediate issues?

    Just putting those questions out there, as I do like the idea of forming a union, and it seems the only action we can take as artists. I’m just wondering if it would have any teeth in the above regards.

    • vfx_nomad says:


      I too was working that 6 month contract cycle, mandatory 10 hour days (even if we were waiting on elements, we had to put in 10 hours – and some vfx shops have the gall to blame artist salaries alone for the high cost of vfx).

      The large vfx company in the States I was at decided to close shop and move TO Vancouver for the tax incentives, so I had to move 1,500 miles away from my family, chasing one contract after another to keep bread on my table and a roof over my wife and kindergarten age daughter, so I hear your plight. I’m living that plight.

      How will this change, or more to your point, how would a vfx union change this? Alone, I don’t know if it can. As Scott said, a union might only be able to start negotiating a cap on hours.

      It’s the vfx shop owners themselves who most directly could address the artificially compressed post timeline being contracted out by the Studios, seemingly causing the OT situation. I know of 4 vfx shops started by former (and current) vfx artists. THEY are in the position of having to agree to untenable working deadlines, the lack of locked cuts, lack of pre-viz, lack of locked art direction – if a Studio can shove the responsibility of making these hard decisions off onto the vfx houses, why wouldn’t they? They already have, in many cases. Looks aren’t set in pre-pro, edits aren’t locked until late in the vfx cycle, the whole process is too rushed, and who eats much of that cost? The vfx facilities, taking a shot to final, which is then omitted by the Studio, and then you as a compositor, having to scrap 2 weeks of work and either start over with new elements or move on, possibly with more shots and definitely with more OT (this entire scenario I witnessed 2 weeks ago).

      However, it doesn’t seem that the vfx shop owners are anxious to organize into a trade association. They may have to be cajoled, or encouraged to do so, to represent their interests in conjunction with a vfx union representing our interests. In fact, I personally would like to see the vfx shop owners organize BEFORE a vfx union – they are the ones going out of business, getting squeezed by salaries on one end and reduced budgets from the Studios.

      But waiting on them to organize has led to this current situation, and my sense is that, after DD, R&H, the Oscars… many vfx artists are simply tired of waiting. The Studios and the vfx shops have let the situation deteriorate until one of the only options left is the forming of a union of vfx artists.

      I would love to hear a discussion from the Studios and/or the vfx shop owners. I think artists might have to organize to get that to happen.

      • Scott Squires says:

        You are correct that a large part of the issue is the companies. As you point out the companies refuse to form any type of accusation and refuse to stand up for themselves.

        Those companies that are poorly run and do not stand up for themselves should go out of business so the others can succeed.

        Artists at this point are left holding the bag.

        Artists can’t control the studios, governments or the companies so the only option for them is to unionize. That provides them at least some legal protection and does provide a strong organization base. Unionizing will get the attention of the studios and the companies and potentially provide some leverage for the companies to change some of their ways. It might even be enough of an inceptive for them to form their trade association.

        But to be clear a trade association is for the benefits of the companies. Even if that happens and they get their own businesses in a better working mode, that doesn’t mean the artists will benefit. Better to be covered now.

        Workers in the US use excuse the work will go elsewhere cheaper if workers unionize. Canada is already the ‘cheaper’ place as far as the studios are concerned. What’s prevents BC visual effects artists from unionizing? Since most of health care already covered I can’t imagine there would be a huge cost increase. Some people seem to think it will be of no use for them and they’d simply have to pay a few hundred dollars a year for nothing. I could say the same thing about the Academy for which I am a member or any of the other professional organizations I’m a member of.

        If you’re a professional in the business then these are business expenses. These have value. Value of information, value of networking, value of education, etc. The union provides you a basis for working. Isn’t that worth something. Are people going to wait until the boat is half submerged before they’re willing to make a stand?

      • Jackadullboy says:

        It does seem ludicrous that the VFX houses would appear to be so complicit in their own demise, and need to be ‘cajoled’ into acting in their own collective interest.

        Then again, I suppose the facilities are founded largely by artists, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised 😉 Desperation to win the next gig fosters a kind of endless state of denial about the urgent need to fix the business model.

        As you aptly put it, Scott, the artists are left holding the bag, ultimately. Our time and our passion have become a seemingly limitless resource to be dipped into as needed. In fact, it’s not just our time but that of our families and significant others too.

        It does seem organizing is really the only choice left here, or we stick around on the sinking ship pretending everything’s fine and dandy. The landscape is going to change one way or another.

      • vfx_nomad says:


        That’s really what it comes down to as you stated – for anyone left on the fence: “It does seem organizing is really the only choice left here”.

        The situation will not solve itself – indeed, it seems the Studios are hell bent on keeping the vfx houses at each other’s throats in perpetuity, with governments pitting province vs province, CA vs GA vs NY vs NM, and why not country vs country.

        Some have acknowledged that, should vfx artists unionize, costs for labor may rise and end up on the vfx shops. I have many friends who are artists/shop owners. They are being pinched, I know, and I truly feel their pain. And I would actively participate in a discussion with them and/or the Studios for any alternative.

        As you said, the silence is deafening.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        …And yes, the silence on the part of VFX houses and the Studios is deafening…

  34. Scott Squires says:

    A visual effects union could negotiate for what visual effects workers wanted. If a cap on hours or making OT non-mandatory, etc would all be options if the majority of visual effects workers agreed. Not to say it would be easy or even possible to negotiate but to would be a start.

    Any company that has massive OT from the start has done a poor job of scheduling and producing the work. OT is expensive (if it’s actually paid as it’s supposed to be) and working people more hours is less productive. They should have scheduled to hire more workers from the start to avoid the OT. Better for everyone, including their bottom line.

    • scathie says:

      Uh… this is what the government is supposed to do.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Every government is different. UK has a cap (48hrs) but workers are required to sign an agreement that they are willing to ignore it. UK has no overtime wage rates so it’s entirely up to the company which may not pay them at all or may provide a regular comp day.

        Most governments have rudimentary working conditions requirements but even here in the US that varies between states. And not every thing is regulated.

        And companies also frequently break their labor laws and working condition laws. As an individual you can report them but good luck with that. If you have the union then you have the backing of all other workers there and abuses and law breaking would be reported and if it wasn’t resolved the union has the power to make the change directly or indirectly because they have a signed contract with the company outlining the requirements.

        Governments also don’t really get involved in wage issues with the exception of minimum wages ($8 hr) A company can choose to reduce every workers salary some amount (such as they did at DD) with no notice. They could tell everyone working there that their salaries would be 1/2 next week. And if jobs were tight the individuals would have no control over it. Do you wish to do vfx for $8 an hour? With the number of people trying to get in vfx companies and film companies could consider that. FIlm studios are smarter than that but without the unions they could certainly be whittling down the wages each year if they wished to.

        So no governments do not do the same thing as a union.

    • mclovin media says:

      Scott but wouldn’t you also argue that it’s very hard to quantify what will make THAT feature really work. It’s like a painting, at times you need to step back and figuire out where to make a few dabs, no?

      I realize that some of the estimates could come out of the R&D phase. But still.

      It’s like asking a team at a lab to unlock genetic code. Well, they might have the tools and the theory. But until they apply and test and develop they are unsure how long it will take. I dunno. I’m agreeing with you on one hand, but this arguement seems more complicated than just blaming mgmt for OT. Although, yes they are in the need to be accountable.

      Really to me you all will be fine if you continue to speak up as you are being heard. It’s just growing pains. The studios will try to go overseas. They will succeed with paint and roto. But they will be TIRED of managing any sort of “creative notes” globally. So they will have a core staff here. I’d bet on that. Just give it a couple years.

      But it won’t help that employers will dangle the carrots of the artists…reminding them they can be replaced. To me those threats will come if you guys don’t continue to speak up. They will go away if that arguement is significantly quashed with this protest. Good luck fellas.

      • Scott Squires says:

        yes, it is much more complicated. That’s why having fixed bids is a problem.That’s why preproduction is so important. There was a time when vfx companies told studios how long they think it would take and the studios based releases on that info.

        That’s why ideally they’d give estimates now and the studios would pay accordingly, especially if they wished for something new and different. If management accepts a job that requires OT from the very start then it’s likely they haven’t employed enough people. That’s managements decision. If they didn’t have enough people or the best people in R&D then that’s managements issue. If management’s estimates for R&D were way off then they will halve to monitor it and bring in more people as needed.

        There will be times when production simply drops things in management’s lap so no, that’s can’t be blamed on management but management at most companies could do a better job of keeping things on track. And if at some point they’re asked to do the impossible they may have to say no rather than force all workers sky high OT

  35. jackadullboy says:

    Then there’s the matter of systematic misclassification of artists here in BC as “High Technology Professionals” to get around the statutory OT rules. According to the definition, as an animator I spend most of my time:

    ” applying [my] specialized knowledge and professional judgement to investigate, analyse, design, develop, or engineer an information system that is based on computer and related technologies”

    Hmm… flattering, perhaps, but really not the case, I assure you.

    Here’s an interesting write-up from a Vancouver Lawyer on the matter:


  36. greg says:

    All that’s going to happen Dave is by pushing against the stream more and more work is going to flow to Asia.

    You’ll be speeding up the process.

  37. mclovin media says:

    Does signing the card on 3.14 restrict you from taking emergency non-union work on the side? If for some reason times get uber slow? Just curious.

    • jackadullboy says:

      The way I understand it is that being a unionized worker does not disqualify you from working a non-union gig. Rather if you want to work on a union gig or for a union company, you then need to be a member of or join the union..

      Can someone correct me if I’m wrong? I’m new to this too, and need to understand clearly…

    • Pi says:

      If you are in the union, you are free to do non-union work. This has already been discussed above.

  38. mclovin pizza says:

    Happy Pi Day!
    I’m excited for you all.

  39. Jefferey says:

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    • McLovin Pizza says:

      Makes me ill. Everytime I come on here I feel nauseous. It’s the grey bars on the side. Not Soldier’s fault. It’s just I’m on here way too much.

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