Mill Exec: If You Don’t Like Long Hours Then Get Out

UK VFX execs are on a roll this week:

Speaking during the Unreality Checked panel of the VFX Summit, The Mill chief creative officer Pat Joseph said that although the nature of the work – particularly commercials – called for long hours, “the pay is fairly good and the work is absolutely fantastic”.

Joseph said: “You will always have disgruntled people who feel they have to work long hours, but quite honestly, they should get out of it. We don’t make up the schedules and the budgets for the projects. We live within a commercial environment.”

Pretty irresponsible statement but not surprising information coming from that group. BECTU conducted a survey for VFX artists that should be concerning for employers:

  • 77 per cent of people knew someone who had recently left the industry over workloads, overtime and poor working conditions;
  • 81 per cent of people had felt pressured or bullied into working overtime for free on films;
  • 83 per cent of people said it was difficult, or very difficult, to raise a family whilst working in VFX

Instead of actually acknowledging the problem exists, the UK Screen Association (the UK centric trade organization that represents UK VFX facilities) decided to question the survey itself. It’s pretty common knowledge that people in the UK VFX industry are very unhappy about the day rates and long hours.

In an interview I did with the BBC earlier this Monday I pointed out that VFX is being done in NZ, Canada, US, and Australia also and all of these locations have some form of overtime. The fact that VFX facilities in the UK can’t even respect the EU 48 hour work week limit by having artists opt out is a good example of how irresponsible many of them are. It’s also pretty sad that artists up in the ranks condone these conditions because they personally benefit.

It would be pretty interesting to see how quickly those execs would scream uncle if one day the professionals in the industry just decided to take Pat Joseph’s advice and leave all of them hanging on his next project.

Soldier On.

101 Responses to Mill Exec: If You Don’t Like Long Hours Then Get Out

  1. Jackadullboy says:

    Unbelievable.. I worked in London for fifteen years. Looking back I don’t know how I put up with it. People need to take a stand.

    “We don’t make up the schedules and the budgets for the projects.”

    … Er.. You might be inclined to have more of a say in those things if you start having to pay people proper overtime, and abide by ethical labour standards.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      Besides yes! The do make the schedules 🙂

      • tough says:

        no they dont. The client says we want this in 6 weeks. And the Mill says sure. If they dont they go to the next house that agrees.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Well after 6 weeks of running around with every facility having some balls saying no they will come back with a better schedule.

        If the facilities take it in the ass the artist should not have to wipe it 😉

      • faulknermano says:

        @tough: That’s exactly the point, but it’s an industry-wide issue and not singling out The Mill.

        Nevertheless, the issue with Mr Joseph is that that attitude is representative of the spinelessness of GMs/CEOs/etc who not only bend over backwards, but compel others to do the same. Tough talking from him: I wonder how personally acquainted he is with ‘vfx life’. I suggest he should get out himself.

      • Easy says:

        The Mill decides the scope of the job. They have control over the number of people they throw at it and how far they are willing to take it. So yeah, they actually have everything to do with making the schedule.

    • urizen says:

      If Mr. Joseph lacks the god-given balls to help competently budget and schedule work at his own firm, the question naturally arises:

      Why are he and his upper management colleagues compensated to help run that company?

      Surely there were other applicants for his position who
      might have shit the bed less spectacularly, or at the very least,
      less embarrassingly, in a public forum-

      And do it minus the perverse relish the strange Mr. Joseph evidently enjoys as a badge of honor in reward for his failure as a manager, in a presumably competitive job market.

      Or rather than a personal confession of failure, should we instead take his on-the-record quote as a targeted announcement of official corporate policy from The Mill addressed directly to the ad agencies, in the hope that somebody somewhere is listening-

      “We at The Mill don’t have the first clue as to what we’re about, so please come steal us blind. Front door key’s under the mat!”?

      • LAskyline says:

        If failure is defined by building and selling your business for $200million (what the Carlyle group paid Pat Joseph and his partners for the Mill in 2011) then what’s your definition of success?

      • At the cost of the people who actually built the company via VFX. It’s sad that these thugs get away with this shit. Outside of a few feature vfx gigs, I’m more of a commercial mograph guy but it’s a big deal with us too. There’s so little help from these thugs. Our days are numbered in mograph as the competition is pretty dog eat dog right now. I’m trying to imagine the future with us, but it’s pretty hard to know exactly.

  2. Rob says:

    Something very important that should be mentioned about the 48 hour work limit: “Employers can’t force adults to work more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks.”

    So even if people didn’t opt out, you could still ask them to work 80 hours a week for two months if you then give them the following two months off.
    There are additional protective measures in some EU countries compared to the bare minimum. But of course not the UK. A couple of years ago; the UK, Germany and some East European countries tried to push through a raise of the limit to 65 hours per week.

    As for leaving them hanging – I wonder whether that isn’t already partly happening. At least I keep seeing job postings of companies who just can’t seem to find people.
    I wonder how many already end up trying to do their projects with a bunch of desperate juniors struggling to make things work.

    • gameofdrones says:

      Look at Luma….LOL I see job postings for the same position for the last 9 months All they hire is young kids.

      • Frank N. Stein says:

        Yeah, what is the deal with Luma? They must have a high turnover rate, because they are one of the few companies in LA that are constantly advertising jobs. I interviewed there once, and the owner was actually criticizing the Weta shots on my reel, acting like Weta was overrated. WTF?

      • polyphemus says:

        Typical HR stunt… they tear down your reel and work experience then expect you to take a low rate.

        Silly, why the hell did you bother calling you in if you are just going to sit there and trash the stuff on the reel.

      • Rob says:

        Well, Luma is a special case, I suppose.

        But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that MPC and Framestore are often aggressively recruiting inexperienced and/or foreign workers. BlueBolt seems to have been looking for people for a quite a few months now too. At least I keep seeing the same ads. At the same time, I’ve heard of capable people turning down offers, exiting the industry or leaving the country.

      • gameofdrones says:

        fuck it we should start outing the bullshit practices of companies….you hear about the kid on twitter who got fired by Prime Focus?

      • Rob says:

        No, I haven’t heard. I guess soldier can only cover so many stories and I’m not aware of an even bigger project that lists all the industry news, good or bad.
        Also, at least one could write about one’s own experiences on But like with other things before it, it seems like it’s not being updated any more. What a shame. Makes me wonder what happened. Considering it was mostly just approving a couple of reviews every 1-2 months, it seems to me it couldn’t have been too time-consuming?

      • Charlie says:

        I’m just one of few who declined an offer from one of these studios always advertising for people. Everything went really well during the interview and my salary expectations was within the normal range for my experience.

        In the follow up email I was offered half of my normal daily rate.
        And I had the same experience with them downgrading my show reel in a rude way. I said thanks but no thank and got a short rude reply. Good luck with the junior guy you hired.

  3. Jim hillin says:

    The guy couldn’t be more incorrect. He is simply bulldozing the inexperienced workers.

  4. Philip Che Sung Man says:

    Of course, the hours might be shorter if some companies upgraded their hardware and software once in a while…
    The till…
    Cha Ching
    Right Pat?

  5. PolarisSoup says:

    Having been a key person in the original Mill Film (the one they closed because they could not make a big enough profit) I can say with confidence that both Pat Joseph and Robin Shenfield are essentially clueless. They are both very astute when it comes to commercials, sloppy business types if you will, but when it comes to film and vfx they are essentially lost, they just don’t get it.

    • cro says:

      I’ve heard this said about almost every shop at some point or another. It makes no difference what so ever. Generally speaking, owners are only interested in two things, money and prestige. The prestige of going to lunch with said director etc. The problem with Hollywood is, everyone wants everyone else’s job. PA’s want to be producers, producers want to be exec producers, they want to be studio exec. Everyone wants to be a director.
      The model for below the line Hollywood only works with a Union. VFX will always be struggling, tax breaks or not, without a Union.
      While what the MIll exec says is deplorable, he says it because he knows, no one will do a damn thing about it. No one is going to look him in the face and tell him to go fly a kite.
      More appropriate reason to leave the industry would be because you are one of a very, very small minority that is fed up with the apathy of your co-workers.

  6. Frank N. Stein says:

    Recently The Mill lost a class action lawsuit for for forcing employees to pay the taxes employers are supposed to pay. Here is the story on the Animation Guild site…

    • Easy says:

      This was pretty common for a while in NYC too. After a while, many companies realized what a scam these EoR companies are and stopped using them. Psyop/Mass Market in particular come to mind, I think they were the first to drop them, mostly because they’re not total dicks to their people. So then you had the option of being put on payroll if you weren’t an LLC or S-Corp. Other companies that are apparently run by dicks, like The Mill, forced people to use Yurcor even if they were an S-Corp. They do nice work at The Mill, they have a pretty robust infrastructure and there are some really cool, talented people that work there, but apart from that, the company itself? What kind of assholes have to be sued to stop scamming their talent?

  7. disgruntled says:

    How is it that the Mill can consistently violate California labor law and nothing ever happens to them? Paying flat day rates and improper OT is against the law in California. Everyone in vfx knows the Mill does it, but there is never any enforcement or consequences. What does it take for California to enforce the law against illegal business practices?
    The class action suit against Yurcor is a great start, but the Mill is STILL using them. They are still hiring employees and misclassifying them as Yurcor “contractors”. When does this end? Will employees ever stand up and fight back? Unionize? Anything?

    • polyphemus says:

      Because artists can be pushed around and many workers are afraid to stand up for their own rights. Even if they get you to sign a contract that claims you are not owed overtime, it is not legal.

      Heck The Orphanage pulled the same scam a few years ago on the Presideo… they claimed they didn’t have to pay overtime to its workers because the presideo was a federal park and wasn’t subject to CA laws. And a lot of folks fell for that, even though ILM a building over was paying all of its workers OT and full benefits.

      Don’t leave that money on the table…

    • Ford Prefect says:

      This! It’s well known to everyone around LA which companies are the offenders. Blur, Prologue, etc, etc, the list is really too long. Weekly rates, miscategorizing employees, 10 hour days where they screw with your hourly rate to make it seem like overtime and on and on and on. They’re shady, underhanded, insulting practices that are, at worst, pretty consistently against the law or, at best, evidence of a complete disregard and lack of respect for people’s talent and time.
      I was encouraged though when I received a recent call from the EDD (Employment Development Department). It seems to have started when someone (not me) at one of the companies everyone’s aware of had the temerity to request unemployment coverage for a 1099 job. I was asked multiple questions about the conduct of employers in this industry and working conditions. The lady on the phone seemed to already know what was going on and said their investigation was ongoing. They were most concerned that companies were skirting taxes and, in her words, improper categorization of workers seemed “widespread”. Having said that I’m used to hearing about positive developments that go nowhere and I quite seriously doubt this issue will be dealt with in the aggressive manner it deserves. All in all, as with the many issues that plague this “industry”, I’m not optimistic about the outcome.

      • Frank N. Stein says:

        If you apply for unemployment, the EDD wants to know ALL income from the past 18 months. So if you worked at one of the companies that misclassified you as a 1099 independent contractor during that period, you must include them. THAT is how the EDD finds out about these companies, not necessarily because someone makes an unemployment claim from a 1099 job.
        I am aware of a few VFX shops that got audited by EDD. They no longer hire employees as “independent contractors”, so I presume they were penalized heavily enough to stop that BS.

      • Ford Prefect says:

        Ah cool, thanks Frank, I wasn’t sure how it worked, especially since I haven’t eligible for unemployment for sooo long! I was encouraged when I was told it wasn’t about a specific company. So most of the questions were general and about how jobs typically hire and do they choose how you’re categorized or do you, do places need you need to be there at a certain time etc. Like I said though, I’m not holding my breath.

      • 20yearVet says:

        Ahhh- and I was also contacted by the nice EDD “Auditor” a month ago (her name withheld). Very pleasant, with a lot of questions regarding a previous job a year ago on a 1099. A very long, enjoyable and informative conversation I must say. Luckily that job did not interfere with an unemployment claim filed after that. She clearly was interested in the method of payment, to ascertain if I was mis-classified as a contractor. After I mentioned the owner gave me a “timesheet” to fill out, and had done the W4 (for tax deductions) I was assuming I would be paid on a W2, which helps for future UI benefits, and do not work as a “contractor” with a license. I ended up on an invoice and 1099. It was really clear The Labor Dept. is fully aware of the VFX pay crap going on, and they are definitely auditing companies regarding payment methods. Here’s the latest crap- You start working, and you’re given a W4 for taxes, I-9 for immigration to fill out just like a W2 temp employee job. Then you wait over a month for pay, contact them for your money, and they accidentally lost your timesheet you filled out. “Could you send us your hours again” like an invoice? Now you’re an invoice 1099 worker, Some have even requested to fill out a timesheet AND an invoice at the same time. WTF? A slight contradiction? If I have to pay taxes, so do they. Sorry, I’m a temp worker, not a business write-off.

      • Disgruntled says:

        Fuck Blur and their illegal mis-classifying people. Someone needs to report them!

  8. . says:

    employers encourage interpersonal fighting, black listing and games, because it distracts from the real issues

  9. Marlborough says:

    Can some of the artists who sued Mill L.A. office payroll-outsource company post their stories here again? Mill L.A. is not a little satellite facility, it is tightly run from soho and managed by soho-British management. Its fine to say long hours are a reality of project driven industries but at least have the intention to even pay people in the first place for their services! If you wander into M&S and walk out with a pair of shoes and a sandwich without paying, you will be in the nick double quick. There isn’t really any difference bewteen these two scenarios in principal. Guess it just depends on your upbringing, I guess.

  10. The Empire says:

    First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.

    Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?

    First Collector: Plenty of prisons.

    Ebenezer: And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?

    First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.

    Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.

    First Collector: I don’t think you quite understand us, sir. A few of us are endeavoring to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.

    Ebenezer: Why?

    First Collector: Because it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. Now what can I put you down for?

    Ebenezer: Huh! Nothing!

    Second Collector: You wish to be anonymous?

    Ebenezer: [firmly, but calmly] I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish sir, that is my answer. I help to support the establishments I have named; those who are badly off must go there.

    First Collector: Many can’t go there.

    Second Collector: And some would rather die.

    Ah, yes. It looks like nothing much has changed in English society in 200 years.

    Those bloody ungrateful peasants. This is what happens when you pay the lower classes enough, so they may buy meat. It goes to their head and then they have too much time to think.

    • jay_gould says:

      I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.

      ….J Gould

    • Anonymous says:

      Help! Help! I’m being repressed! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help!

      • Jackadullboy says:

        That’s a fun caricature (lol) 😀

        Care to elaborate on your point, though? You seem to be saying we should all just stop our whining, am I right?

  11. AngelOfTheNorth says:

    The funny thing about the Dickens recital is that, at least in the early days, the Mill was really run as a psycopathic, Darwinist experiment with rampant cliques and day-to-day confrontations, nearly bodering on fistycuffs or the threat of fistycuffs. Even the name ‘Mill’ was chosen as a nod-and-wink to Dickens bleak victorian workhouse Mills and William Blakes “Dark Satanic Mills”.
    Fairplay to Robin, he even said, a few years into the company life, that he couldn’t imagine some would want to work in frontline vfx for more than a few years. Some directors are still sitting infront of the flame after 20 years! Ad agency folk in particular love that meme of the overnight, toiling artisans bowing and scraping to aristocracy. Boy does it work! Won’t critisize the concept if your customers are enamoured with it. Fee paying clients love the image and concept that the Mill represents. Advertising is not a warm and fuzzy industry, Mr Joseph is spot on in this respect.

    Commercials post production at the top end mirrors the culture of the Ad agency. It’s infact a fair bit more pleasant. Short of electro-shock therapy, not sure how you can change this aspect of human nature and ego that is a paramount to the successful ad agency executive. They are cut from the same cloth as wall street traders. Advertising is inane, meaningless bullcrap. There is a reason why most people would choose never to work within it.
    There is still a culture that overhangs there from those early-days directors, as far as I can tell. I sometimes go in there from time-to-time nowadays as a client. When flame suites used to cost a million dollars, some people were elevated to a god like status internally and a culture of emperor Caligula god-worship. Look the wrong person the wrong way or even some playful banter would put someone out the door instantly.

    That’s one reason man-hours, not necessarily technology and efficiency, have been the driving force there forever. They were a technology based startup when the technology was cripplingly expensive and labor intensive but that changed over the last decade when you could buy a flame system on a mac or a turbo charged 3d workstation for a few thousand dollars. They still managed to survive the onslaught of outsourcing and lower entry costs. How? If you look at their general work, it’s not astounding like big budget movie releases. In the main part, its story editing for the big accounts and where you do see something intricate, its a quick cut away. Also there is usaully a footnote in the interviews that “yeah, we brought in this XSI/Houdini freelance specialist or on-set production specialist for this advert…” And however much they brand themselves as ‘creatives’ and ‘creative’, you really don’t have too much of a say or real input into that when you are licensed by the agencies art and creative director. They were smart enough to get out of that game and they are something closer to a marketing firm than a specialist production and vfx firm. So it doesn’t matter if some directors, as mentioned earlier on here, are ‘clueless about vfx’. They don’t do cutting edge work. They do profit earning work. Ad agency accounts usually have no interest in technology but they are very happy if you speak to them in marketing language. Bottomline.

    That sounds like a dig. It isn’t. They are spot on with everything else that pertains to client handling and perception. I can never see unions and fairplay coming into the realms of advertising. Its a case of herding cats to be honest. Nice idea but totally impractical and unenforceable when applied to the human species. It can probably work on larger budget and more stable enterprises like animation and studio networks, where there is more of a bonafide structure and mutual interest between local politicians and a largescale corporate or company.

    • Easy says:

      Most other aspects of production like filem are unionized. I don’t see a union happening either but for different reasons. Simply put we’re generally not a confrontational lot and tend to be somewhat insular. They constantly white knight the very companies that are twiddling away at the value of their lively hood, as if the companies need the protection. I gave up on the idea of a union when people didn’t just walk off the job en mass after the news broke about R&H accepting an Oscar while in bankruptcy. There were a few green shirts in the streets, tons of green pics Facebook but that was it. Sorry but I just lost all faith in the ability of VFX to work collectively at that point. If Daniel gets the CVD and it stabilizes the market, that will be good but I fear it won’t last. Look forward to more bad work environments and reduced day rates as more and more people flock to what is a fairly small industry that has limited future growth. As it is now in commercial production, budgets are being slashed and redirected toward digital/online media instead of slick TV commercials.

      • Vfxlabor says:

        Easy, keep in mind when you say that you’ve given up on a union or organizing, let’s be clear on what you are giving up on:

        1) overtime

        2) benefits

        3) vacation days

        4) sick days

        (Keep in mind the above were lost to freelancers and never recouped in the form of a higher rate, as some would calculate as much as a 30% paycut.

        5) rate minimums

        6) labor laws enforcement

        7) the ability to build wealth, meaning planning you life to have something for a family or retirement. Why? Because you allow companies to solely write the rules. You have no say. You work late and are more productive? No overtime, no reward. You get pregnant, your fired, get sick or hurt, your fired. Which leads to losing..

        8) …a voice in the workplace.

        What’s next on the chopping block?

        9) Weekend pay

        10) compensation time.

        11) basic labor laws, I.e you are now permanently a 1099, effectively another vendor in the chain to get screwed out of pay. You are now a corporation of one vs a huge corporation that owes you money. No civic laws of the land to protect you to get paid. Good luck in court.

        12) the remotest concept of a working day.

        I know artist that work 16 hour days standard. Standard. That’s every waking hour assuming you sleep 8 hours.

        So let’s be very clear in what you mean when you say you given up on unions because you make yourself compliant to these working conditions; and as a result you effectively given up on all of the above, hence living a proper life.

        You end up living to build someone else’s dream while giving up on yours and not even being properly compensated.

        You end up putting as many hours as if you owned the company, except many business owners strive not to put in that many hours. That’s why they started their own business.

        You are effectively accepting the short end of the stick for every possible condition of a social contract.

        Tell me now, Easy, that you accept all of these.

      • Easy says:

        I’m not giving up on any of that, I am just giving up on it in this industry!

      • jay_gould says:


        Im giving up on Unions. Hate to say it they are an old model. The Lawyers of the big six got together with politcians of many states and countries…….and changed the rules.

        Unions are only good under state law……move the productions to another state like Texas that are “Right to work States”. When that fails….move to Canada or UK……or worse like India and China that have no labor law and are borderline fuedal/peasant system.

        Unions will not save the day unless they can raise a $100,000 and ignite the CVD case……

      • Vfxlabor says:


        Keep saying unions will never happen and they won’t, and you will remain in the same pickle every time. The change has to come from the employees, and no where else. Even if the CVD effort was fullfilled and all this work magically returned to LA, there’s nothing to stop the employers from continuing their wage theft and labor practices.

        Labor violations and wage theft were just as prevalent even when digital VFX was at its peak demand in the 90’s as it is now. The only difference is that now it’s become more institutionalized. A good example are these British companies like The Mill and MPC.

        In a creative field, when you have people working for someone else, 99% of the time you will have the workers taken advantage of. Guilds and unions were the only solution, that’s why they are legal to form.

        Some interesting details on why the Acadamy of Motion Picture Arts &Science (the oscars) were formed:

        “I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them. […] If I got them cups and awards they’d kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That’s why the Academy Award was created.”

        You wonder why the only organization that vfx has is an “honorary” one that gives awards.

      • jay_gould says:

        @VFX labor

        Hey im not arguing that unions (at the core are a great concept) but they have become an anachronism. Out–dated……..unions have become impotent.

        Unions were formed in the 19th century as nobility faded into the past and workers became “self aware”. Industry in the early 1900s was very local…….It was hard to move factories and labor pools…….around natural resources.

        Now VFX has become global……..virtual desktops…..servers and render farms in different countries. Studios are in collusion…Countries governments are colluding.

        Unions are bound by local laws (mostly state)……..if i am allowed to move productions to another country….unions fail where there are different labor laws…

        Unions are very American…….which US labor has fought very hard for to get the current labor rights. Buts lets face it labor has been slowly being dismantled over the last 30 years. Unions went from 50% of the US labor force to little under 6%…why? Not because of workers who don’t give a shit…….labor laws are being dismantled by the very law makers themselves who are turning back the hands of time….unions are being erased.

        You want to beat a union? or break up strict labor laws, disrupt or even re-write Over Time laws, or how about just price fix and drive down wages…..all you have to do is be apart of fucking apple, google, imageworks, pixar, or dreamworks cartel……who implemented salary caps, black lists, and manipulated the talent pool.

        What did the unions do to stop subsidies? NOTHING and CANT…..

        That became very apparant when Obama came to visist dreamworks,……and the Union didn’t issue any statements. I was hoping that union would reiterate the labor laws around…saying its OK for union members to voice their opinion by wearing green t shirts to bring awareness to our president about our labor issues……..the Union stayed silent…and so did all the other spineless Dreamworker employees……

        so ask you………. are Unions effective in anything today?

        Will your pension fund be around when you 70? Will your union protect you when they move their offices to Vancouver?

        I was there when Steve tried to unionize Imageworks….i filled out my card and went to the meetings…..lets say for one moment that a Sony Imageworks union formed……would it have stopped Sony from moving everything to Canada? No…nothing would have changed….

        The fight for labor rights has moved from a boxing rink….too the MMA Octagon……..unions are still fighting in a boxing ring….meanwhile im getting choked out in the modern labor world.

    • Ivor Biggun says:

      That’s all fine, you can do nearly anything you want as a company as long as you comply with prevailing legislation. The only issue with the company is that it has been found to be at odds with prevailing UK and US taxation and employment practices in some specific instances.

    • The Empire says:

      I had a love / hate relationship with the Mill in London. The work was interesting, but the upstairs-downstairs mentality of many and the long hours just didn’t make it a viable choice in the longterm.

    • Vfxlabor says:

      Angel of the north,

      Thanks for the insight into the advert world in relation to post.

      However I disagree with your opinion on organizing commercial post. Simply because it is about money. The companies that are flat rate and with labor violations are VASTLY unorganized. The ones with some accountability of spent Money and time, I.e hourly, are smarter, more efficient, and offer more consistent work.

      Also, the abuse and hours are not sustainable. That’s when change happens, and it never happens at the top, it starts at the bottom.

      What counters the herding cats is education and organization. It’s pointing out what you describe above isn’t the status quo, but an injustice. When considered in that light, then you can introduce change.

      Call it what it’s is: an injustice. It’s not Art, it not advertising, it’s not “the way it is”, it’s an injustice.

  12. tough says:

    THe thing about the Mill was they paid the best, had the best parties and everyone was on Coke.

    • Depended where in the Mill you worked, MillFilm originally was, as PolarisSoup states the most dysfunctional and clueless of setups I ever worked at no fucking idea whatsoever, and when we worked hard to fix technical issues and the hard again to earn them an Oscar on Gladiator they were busy planning to get rid of most of us and also refused to honour agreements regarding all the overtime worked.
      Yes people in advertising got paid very well and a blind eye turned when coke and stuff was used regularly.
      They really are a bunch of retards at the top and I’m not at all surprised that Pat said what he did.

  13. Mike says:

    It’s a tough works commercially. I run moderately successful post house and no one is dying. If clients get silly I push back hard – but then I’m one of the artists that will be there all night. It’s easy not to care if you go home at 6. Make these guys stay the same hours as their employees and see how long before they’d change their minds.

    Films make more than ever before it’s simply time to stop feeding Hollywood studios the whole enchilada.

  14. Fred Bailey says:

    For what it is worth I used to work with Pat Joseph many years ago in optical effects. I can recall him working long days, nights and weekends and at one time when we were working together he had a cold which he could never shake off, but kept going. Turns out he had Leukemia, and he ended up seriously ill and bedridden for many months.
    The Mill is a hard nosed business that exists only to make money for the even more hard nosed owners, so don’t expect charity.
    Pat’s a decent guy with a truckload more experience in the industry than almost anyone who posts here. In this instance he’s made the mistake of being honest in public, which is more than you can expect from some of his partners in business.

    • Peter Greenaway says:

      but it was his business and he chooses to work long hours and he was rewarded with Leukemia.
      But he’s right. If this is the way, then I am out. At least until things will go normal.

      • matteobject says:

        I just love the cognitive dissonance of his telling unhappy people to quit the industry whilst simultaneously complaining that there’s a shortage of decent British talent.

      • Easy says:

        Don’t work for people who have miserable home life or nothing else to live for but work.

        There’s nothing as torturous than working for a guy who is jealous of the fact that you have a life.

      • Summers says:

        Its not dissonance. Its fully conscious. Soho vfx firms have to make a big noise about locally available talent constantly in the direction of the visa immigration services. By portraying a false impression, they can switch people in and out at will from international markets and financially discipline the domestic pool of workers. It was a problem in the early-mid ninetees with lots of Brits heading off to L.A. and Australia but never a problem in the last decade.

        You never hear why so many local based workforce have ended up moving overseas. Until quite recently it was a lifestyle choice. For one, the working conditions in soho have always been pretty bad but throw in the rest, it becomes untenable. In UK, it meant working in Soho, based in London, a very crowded, dirty and expensive city. Eye wateringly expensive. Even if you had long hours, moving to a more liveable location, with nearby leisure opportunities, better weather and paid overtime was a huge draw. I’ll be honest, the game plan for my peers was to get some experience in order to move overseas. I since moved back to Britain, 15 years later, but that is because I don’t need to work in a Soho firm and can live in a part of the country I want with life quality. My timing was good, the way the industry has now headed, you wouldn’t be able to do it now. The thought of embarking on a career now at somewhere like the mill seems incredibly grim. And I am one of life’s optimists!

    • faulknermano says:

      There are many people I work with (I’m also in the cg advertising sector) ‘decent’. Makes nil difference.

      Like many of us, I’ve worked long nights, long months, and long years even. Some of us work in poorer labour conditions even (eg 3rd world labour culture). But despite that, why is it that I feel that that ought not to be the norm? Because if you stay long enough to scratch a little deeper you would see that part of it is because it’s run by people who started their careers in the 90s: they think they’re piss and vinegar; they tell their employees how they made it; how many times have i heard them tell their employees “got to pay your dues” and whip them for years. You’d encounter producers who coerce you to bend over backwards *on their account* so they can look good in front of clients. You will sometimes notice that your overtime had nothing to do with work, but with ego. That is my greatest issue with it.

      Yes, this is the way, and thanks to people like Pat, there are always people who will keep it that way.

    • Wait what!? says:

      Wait a minute.

      Pat worked himself to the point of getting Leukemia, but a brush with what could have been a very painful death, didn’t teach him anything about the importance of balancing life and work?

      Instead the lesson he learned is to continue to throw others in to the meat grinder and the devil may care if they keel over?

      Either this guy is was dropped on his head as a kid or he’s related to Dick Cheney.

      • James says:

        @Wait what!? – Leukemia isn’t something you catch as a product of a lifestyle. Working too hard does not cause cancer of the blood!

      • Dr Bob says:

        Kind of does actually. Poor diet of fast food & processed meat and a lack of sleep actually increases risk of cancer and other diseases. Both of which are likely when working insane hours.

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        …and long hours in front of the screen. This is the worst job ever. You get sick faster than gettin’ rich.

  15. fairPlay says:

    Difference is Fred, Pat had reason to stay late and suffer. He had a direct investment in the business whereas a general artist doesn’t get a pension, a long-term contract or high wages as was evident in the early days of vfx. The VFX industry could do with learning from the Waitrose brand… those guys own part of the business and thus are more likely to at least ‘want’ to work the late hours. It isn’t easy putting in free hours when your family is waiting at home and your boss departs in his sports car. What happened to encouraging one’s workforce, not treating them like disposable donkeys? I don’t see this as being honest as much as arrogance. I understand how Pat deserves his trophies for taking the risks and running a business in this turmoil ridden industry but does he need to rub it in like this? At least we have proof from the top dogs that its not an easy industry to be involved in. 😉 Great point raised matteobject!

    • Fred Bailey says:

      When I was working with Pat Joseph, he had no financial interest at all in either of the companies he was employed by, and as it happens so often, they don’t exist any more. But he still worked incredibly hard despite a life-threatening illness.
      At that time he had no reason to stay late and suffer, other than just being professional.
      BTW he and I are not bosom buddies and have not spoken or met in maybe 10 or 15 years, but I think some balance is called for.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Let’s not smokescreen the issue by turning it into one of personality. Someone can be a nice guy/devoted/well-meaning or whatever, and still be utterly mistaken.

        This issue is the content and implications of what was said, which need to be held up to scrutiny and criticism, for the industry as a whole.

      • Vfxlabor says:

        Fred’ than you for your contributions and at least humanizing Pat Joseph. But it points to how this industry has developed the culture where one’s health and happiness takes a second or even third seat to profit and work. It’s unethical to think someone working thru such a serious illness. And today you would do so with no benefits from the company, or even a guild. It’s absolutely savage that people have to live that way in a high tech biz.

        It’s this stupidity that we have to repeatedly remind people of.

    • Thomas says:

      This mentally baffles me. If you want to have a direct investment in a business you might just have to start one yourself, with all the risk and hard work involved.
      Most VFX workers are just people that accumulated specific skills over the years and are paid to apply them. Almost none of them are entrepreneurs or business people. If you want business, start one. If not, shut up, literally?!

      • Easy says:


        Everyone is just a person who has accumulated skills over time and gets paid to apply them. Business people included. You are not a unicorn.

  16. jonavark says:

    Well… duh. After all.. it IS called “The Mill”.

  17. . says:

    It’s because London rent is increasing, the cost of work is decreasing and to make profit with such equal competition they HAVE TO get people to work for free.

    I am sure there are many “younger and hungrier” people who could do Mr Jospeh’s job for less without having to make people do overtime for free.

    He should consider replacing himself with a cheaper alternative, maybe it’s time ?

    • matteobject says:

      If the cost of doing business is increasing, then they should pass that on to their customers, not their employees.

      Oil companies don’t sell their product at a loss because people want to pay less at the pump, why should any other company adopt the same strategy?

      “Ad agencies don’t want to pay us for the work we’re doing” is not a valid reason for mandatory unpaid overtime.

      All Soho studios are subject to rent increases, so all of them should raise their prices or relocate to somewhere cheaper to keep costs down.

      Of course, they won’t do this, someone will work their employees to death to undercut a studio that doesn’t, which is why unions are so important in this industry. If all vfx artists in London told their employers to get stuffed, then no studio would have an advantage or incentive to overwork their artists.

    • Lost in space says:

      Yeah, sure. Rents are going up and profits are decreasing, but the exploitation of employees has been going on for years. There is a real “shit rolls down hill” mentality about how workers are treated in the UK. It has very much to do with the class system, that in many ways still is alive and well. After living in the UK for a few years it dawns on some that in many ways it still is a feudal society and if you’re one of the little people you’re merely canon fodder to be fed to the great Moloch.

  18. . says:

    “They had started the rebuilding of the windmill the day after the victory celebrations were ended. Boxer refused to take even a day off work, and made it a point of honour not to let it be seen that he was in pain. Boxer worked harder than ever. Indeed, all the animals worked like slaves that year.

    It was only his appearance that was a little altered; his hide was less shiny than it had used to be, and his great haunches seemed to have shrunken. The others said, “Boxer will pick up when the spring grass comes on”; but the spring came and Boxer grew no fatter.

    Late one evening in the summer, a sudden rumour ran round the farm that something had happened to Boxer. He had gone out alone to drag a load of stone down to the windmill. And sure enough, the rumour was true. A few minutes later two pigeons came racing in with the news: “Boxer has fallen! He is lying on his side and can’t get up!”

    About half the animals on the farm rushed out to the knoll where the windmill stood. There lay Boxer, between the shafts of the cart, his neck stretched out, unable even to raise his head. His eyes were glazed, his sides matted with sweat. A thin stream of blood had trickled out of his mouth. Clover dropped to her knees at his side.

    “Boxer!” she cried, “how are you?”

    “If you don’t like long hours then get out!” screamed Pat.

    – Animal Farm
    George Orwell
    (edited for relevance)

    • Out to lunch says:


      In a twist of irony Orwell’s residence is surrounded by something like two dozen security cameras in a various forms.

  19. vfxdude says:

    I left the entertainment industry pretty much at the end of last year since I saw no sustainability in it when it came to having a family and a house and all the other B.S. that comes with it.

    I have been fortunate enough to get a staff job doing CG in a non entertainment related industry. Before that I was what I call a “forced freelancer” did all kinds of stuff: CG, some comp, stereo conversion, previs, you name it.

    Before that I worked crappy part time retail jobs, so it is not until recently that I found out what it is to have what many may call a “regular job”.

    The atmosphere and culture difference is like night and day. Although I am salaried i have not had the need (and do not see the need ever) to work over time. I get health insurance, vision, dental, a small life insurance policy for free (which can be upgraded if you get money deducted), disability insurance, Paid vacation, paid sick days (which I can use if I or my kid gets sick), I even get paid up to 5 days of jury duty.

    I have this genuine feeling that I get treated like a professional and I feel appreciated, and fairly compensated. I can actually have a regular life. Don’t get me wrong, I love CG. Working in entertainment was fun (when there was work) and rewarding, but at the end of the day I work to live , I don’t live to work.

    Having said that, I don’t feel its fair to “get out” of the industry to get a chance at having a normal life. Just because Pat chose to overwork himself with Leukimia, it does not mean we all have to forsake our health, family, sanity, relationships, and life in general to stay in the industry. I’m sorry, but that is just plain silly.

    • Vfxlabor says:

      Thanks VFX dude.

      There’s no reason why vfx can’t have the same. We just have to fight for it. For too long the business has relied on, or even has based its business model on exploitation of workers. It’s now a crutch. We have to change that.

      • King of Mt. Pixel says:

        If VFX companies looked at themselves as talent agents and not factories and their employees as the talent not assembly line workers everyone would benefit.

    • Easy says:

      There are lots of reasons why VFX can’t have these things, a huge part of it is the unwillingness of VFX workers to do anything that isn’t in their own immediate self-interest.

      The academy awards came and went, no one went on strike in protest. Obama came and went, and again, NOTHING.

      My advice to you and anyone else who is fed up is simple:

      Leave VFX behind.

      If you don’t love it so much that you can’t STFU and stop complaining, then yeah, you should get out. What’s his name from the Mill is obviously a dick, but he knows you fools are going to keep coming. You will keep hoping to work for the Mill anyway. A sucker is born every minute and I think 1 out of every 10 grows up to work in VFX. Myself included.

      To those who are in school looking to do this for a living. Don’t expect this to get better, because it won’t. If you have $80k-$100k+ in student loan debt, you better be the best goddamned animator, modeler, lighter or FX guy around because even if you get a job, you will be struggling to pay that off with the VFX wages you’re going to get from now on.

      Accept the facts about the industry and either deal with it, or change your studies to focus on something else.

      I don’t say this lightly. I actually took me several years to figure out what to do instead. It’s much harder when you’ve had the same career for 20 years, but I am doing it regardless. I’m even the oldest guy in my classes, including the instructors.

      Fuck VFX.

      Yeah it’s cool, but when you guys all start hitting your 40s and you have jack shit to show for it because of all the money wasted moving around, the reduced day rates, no benefits and down time between gigs, you’re going to wish you had done things differently. Meanwhile, other people are still going to be raking in residuals for those films you busted your ass on for years to come.

      Hey at least when you are home on leave from your job in Vancouver or wherever the hell you work at this year, you can go visit your friend who had the boring, but stable job at his nice big house and you can say: “Look at this movie/commercial I worked on. I did this thing in these scenes here… No, not that one, John did that, he kicks ass. Anyway, I did that part… there aaand there, let me rewind… See it? Cool right? That took 6 months to do!”

      Meanwhile you are in terrible physical condition because of years of long hours and stress and everything you own fits in a fucking cardboard box.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        I hate to say it, but sadly there is a lot of truth in this. A conversation I’m having constantly of late with my senior colleagues, is ‘what’s a feasible plan B?’… Crazy because as I hit forty I feel I’m really just hitting my stride..

      • DoubleDouble says:

        Easy, I am right behind you. I too have left VFX, for good. It has not been the easiest choice or path to say the least, but somehow deep inside, I knew it was the right choice for me. Others might look at me like I was crazy.

        One being my Dad .(who knows nothing about VFX or little about what I used to do. He would say, “my son; the one who works on “computers” and “graphics” in los angeles; something to do with film or TV”). — I was a lighter/comper.

        My Dad; bless him, was a Janitor for a school. And yes, its not the most glamorous job (and certainly not for everyone). Back in the days I wasn’t always proud to say my Dad was a janitor , and that was my own hangup. Now, I could not be more proud of him. Because my Dad did what he needed to do at the time and made an honest living. I am proud because he provided for us, he made a fair salary, has always lived in the same hometown/house, had great benefits, etc., and the one thing most companies don’t even consider these days: he has a pretty decent pension, now that he’s retired.

        Looking back, I’ve had lots of great memories and tons o’ fun. Besides, I am in my forties, it wasn’t the coolest lifestyle any longer. No bueno.

        Good luck all!

      • Rob says:

        This reminds me – when I did my university internship as a rendering artist and told co-workers at the company that I could’ve been a programmer, they said I was stupid for pursuing VFX instead.
        Back then, I was convinced that doing what you’re passionate about is more important, even if you earn a little less.
        Of course by now, I know that it’s not just that you maybe earn 20% less or something. And am starting to think that they were right.

  20. myComment says:

    Lovely comments fellas and some very true points raised. Breaking backs beyond the call of duty to make others rich. :/ Just look at DNEG as an example. The flow of grads and juniors there is astonishing and the pay reflects their mentality of keep em young, keep em dumb and happy cos they’re working on Fast 29!… and how are their CEO’s doing? lol.

    P.S. Would love to get a discussion going on what you guys are managing to do when deciding VFX is no longer your chosen career path. How and what are you all doing?

    • It’s a conundrum because what is the alternative? What is a better job? Jobs are shit nowadays. VFX is better and worse than most jobs at the same time. It’s better because it can be fun and creative. But there’s a price to pay. Personally I think people should save up and quit. I’ve been trying to find an out from Motion Graphics Design and VFX. Not sure what. I looked into internet commerce work but that’s really no better. In fact, it might be worse. This is why so many people are frustrated, they are stuck for now. The moral? Save every penny and get out of this prison hell!!! I’d rather make my own projects for fun. Even if they aren’t up to major studio par, I can’t take this abuse anymore working in advertising. The negativity and the bad vibes just get me down. And it’s not just the execs. It’s also the other designers who at times act like scarce assholes.

  21. Enough to look at Pat’s face at the mill ‘corporate’ website, where he looks happy, carribean-sun-kissed and all smiley.
    And who do you think he bums to get this look?
    It seems that he never visits all these strange looking, pale people ‘downstairs’ – overworked, unappreciated, in many cases parents to children who they can see very often on… photographs by their desks…
    The ‘corporate’ business model kills all the hard working people, it kills creativity. We work for the shiny top of the piramide which – in many – cases don’t have a clue of what is happening on its bottom. At least not anymore.
    Shame on you Pat, shame on you…

    • It’s fucking sad. People are getting abused. Clients want everything to be pixel perfect. Yet they don’t want to pay for it. Via rates and overtime. Everyone should just save up money so they can quit for a while. Seriously. The studios be so screwed.

  22. VFX Wife says:

    Not surprising indeed. The Mill does not take care of their employees. The long hours in conjunction with other health issues while at The Mill LA led my husband into a disabling crash that left him bedridden for over a year. He was primed for disaster when he was working ridiculous hours, burning the candle at both ends, guilted into working too late and eating like crap. The cocaine use that is prevalent there doesn’t help matters either.

    When he was able to work again, they blackballed him from the company, despite him playing everything clean as far as the disability and health insurance. Shame on them for turning their back on their employees who sacrificed their health for The Mill’s profit margins.

  23. Per Bergs says:

    Hi all,

    Personally I really feel for Vfx people. It’s a beautiful job but it’s so horribly undervalued!
    I don’t understand why people keep undergoing this kind of threatment. You are entitled to good salaries, good working conditions and ample free time, have a family life, etc……
    I work in automotive visualisation and am quit happy with the way our company handles people. I have a max. 40h work week. They don’t like us to do overtime and if it happens we get time off for the time we worked extra.
    We are constantly looking for very skilled people with preferably automotive experience.
    Drop me an email if you are interested in working in Belgium.


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