Variety’s MPC Puff Piece Reveals VFX Industry Woes; Few Solutions

mpc

Technicolor, owner of London VFX house MPC, is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary. Variety has come out with a series of puff pieces to showcase the company and one piece was on how MPC values it’s artists:

Moving Picture Co. Finds Valuing Artists is the Best Effect

Given the reaction in the comments section, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I snickered a bit reading the article. While I have never worked at MPC, many people have constantly expressed to me that it is one of the worst VFX companies to work for amongst the top tier VFX companies. I occasionally get an email from someone showing me an MPC contract that violates local labor laws by not paying overtime or I hear a horror story of someone who was wrongfully blacklisted or fired for really stupid reasons.

In my view MPC is sort of the Walmart of the VFX industry: It’s a powerful company that treats it’s workers just poorly enough to where they can get the most amount of work out of them. They’re pretty good at being really bad and I have to admit I’m regretfully impressed at the amount of work they can do at good quality while treating their workers so poorly.

So I read the comments on the thread about the bad conditions and can’t help but ask at this point. What do you want to do about it?

 

I’ve been in the complaining game for quite some time over the years and whether you agree or disagree, I stood up and did something actionable about it. Variety’s comments section is a great place to air grievances but what I want to hear from many of you is what’s your actionable solution?

I’ve heard a lot of proposals for solutions: “END THE UNDERBIDDING!” “MANDATE LABOR STANDARDS!”

I along with others agree with all those and I’m sure even some of the VFX vendors do. The problem is the big six studios based in Hollywood don’t care and in order to get them to care you have to have leverage to bring them to the table. What leverage do you have? “LETS DO A GLOBAL WALKOUT!” Okay so how do you convince VFX artists at Weta Digital, ILM, Disney, and Dreamworks etc to walk out because of how bad things are at MPC? Who is going to negotiate with the studios when that happens? You’ll probably need some lawyers. Who will pay them? How do you convince artists who love love love VFX and are willing to do anything, even work for MPC, to help change the industry?

Scott Ross and I have come up with our solution which seems to have the studios’ and national media’s attention. What’s your actionable solution?

Soldier On.

 

170 Responses to Variety’s MPC Puff Piece Reveals VFX Industry Woes; Few Solutions

  1. of course I'm anonymous says:

    We should all take note of who’s running the place.
    producers, Soups, Department Managers.
    Make a list and keep track of it.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      so blacklisting is the solution?

      • of course I'm anonymous says:

        is that what you would do with such a list?
        maybe, why not?
        is no one responsible?

      • golstein says:

        yes it is. The same they do with us.
        Blascklisting is the policy of most companies today. This is why they are looking desperate and are not able to find skilled workers. They invent, academies, universities, they hire people to train juniors, thinking perhaps, they will be able to survive.
        Blacklisted or not, these companies go down, the entire industry will crush and sooner or later, there will be some changes.
        Those who want to come up with viable solutions are those that will survive. Otherwise …
        If companies were not fed from taxpayers, these factories would have collapsed long ago.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I can’t believe I’m actually trying to explain why a blacklist is wrong and won’t help.

        Back when I was anonymous a group of artists against this blog decided to blacklist people they thought were VFX Soldier. How do you prevent innocent people from getting on that list?

        While I’m against a company like MPC creating blacklists of workers it seems to be an effective tool for them. I don’t know how blacklisting people at MPC would have any effect as those people wont be hired by you. But then again I guess I could be wrong.

      • golstein says:

        It is not about me – if I hire them – I don’t hire them.
        It is about artists who want to get into a company or another, just for them to know that in those companies are “PEOPLE” who encourage and generate the abuse, and once you are there it is to late for you to act, since, at the smallest movement, you’re exposed to “their blacklist”.
        I think it will help.

      • MilosB77 says:

        NO BLACKLIST – Artists suffered from blacklists put in place by studio. By no mean we should fight back with their own horrible weapons.

      • Jon Fitz says:

        Isn’t this essentially what Glassdoor already is? A blacklist for employers?

        Anyway…collective bargaining sure seem to work for everyone else in this position.

      • golstein says:

        Glassdor has no names in it… WE NEED NAMES! Name and Surname! of crooks that encouraged the abuse!

    • Jackadullboy says:

      Nothing like a bit of thrashing about an name calling to achieve real change.. And the beauty of it is you don’t even have to lift a finger! Slacktivism at its best!

    • Jon Fitz says:

      Glassdoor might not have names but…wouldn’t the practices be endemic throughout the entire company? If it’s got 1 star with claims of blatant rights abuses…I don’t think I’d work there. I don’t feel like this is a problem confined to singular persons…it’s an entire system that is nonfunctional.

      As Daniel pointed out, you’re not going to get anywhere unless you get that system to listen to you. The best way to do this is as a unified group.

    • . says:

      Actually what is need is a strong union.
      This is what Disney artists figured out in 1941.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_animators%27_strike

      Any VFX blacklist needs to be published and the union needs to file litigation against any companies and studios involved.

      End the anticompetitive abuse.
      Do not support the parasite companies.
      Stop the system. Change it.

  2. Pliny says:

    Sorry, new to the party, what did you and Scott Ross come up with?

  3. golstein says:

    MPC will continue to treat “some” of his workers, mostly juniors, in the same way even if you fix all the problems in this industry, the underbidding and so on.
    And like MPC, there are plenty companies out there. Most of them take big advantages from government of those countries that support them with money from taxpayers.
    Since 80% of workers prefer to look at the monitor and say nothing, my actionable solution is to try to invest my time in something else.

  4. AlphaTango says:

    I’m currently a freelance artist with no experience in the FX industry, and I’ve been going back and forth with MPC for work in their Montreal office. I currently reside in the US and as I’ve been digging in to some of the reviews from employees, I find that the outlook looks more and more apprehensive.

    So my question to anyone here, given the difficulty in getting a foot in the door with this industry as a jr. artist, what would be the best course of action? Go in, get the experience, get out? Avoid all together?

    • golstein says:

      Why do you want to work for them when it is very clear they encourage the abuse?
      There are no other acceptable solutions ? Why to go like sheep to the slaughterhouse?

      • AlphaTango says:

        In my situation, I guess I’m thinking the long game. Get some experience, get some work under my belt, travel and move on if it’s like what I’ve been reading.

        I’ll be honest, I’ve never been in a studio w/ the abuse. I like to think that I’d see it and just not put up with it, but I also know that that’s possibly a very ignorant and inexperienced idea. From there position, I guess that they could just fire someone for not tolerating abuse. There’s plenty of other willing artists to step in and fill that seat.

        I just don’t know.

      • golstein says:

        “There’s plenty of other willing artists to step in and fill that seat.” yep, this is why they came out with the so called “ACADEMY!”

      • golstein says:

        “In my situation, I guess I’m thinking the long game. Get some experience, get some work under my belt, travel and move on if it’s like what I’ve been reading.” yes, this is why they treat you bad. You have to be present and not project yourself in a future that doesn’t exist at all.

    • Pedro3145 says:

      Very important question, looking forward to finding the answer.

  5. JonMeier says:

    I would like to see a real ORGANIZED discussion on “Ending the Underbidding”. I see this as one of the biggest problems local to any VFX market, regardless of subsidy wars.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I agree but as I mentioned, you have to bring the studios to the table to get them to agree. That’s where I think a lot of critiques misunderstood the subsidy issue.

      The anti-subsidy duty case posed a financial threat to the studios bottom line and would have forced them to come to the table. I can say that 2 studios already took the threat seriously and attained counsel in anticipation. I have also had initial meetings with representatives from the MPAA.

      That’s much further than anyone else has been able to get but I’m more than happy to see someone else provide an actionable solution to negotiate with the big six studios.

      • forkazoo says:

        I’ve been saying for a while that if ADAPT eventually accumulates enough strength, a reciprocal agreement with SAG/AFTRA would go a long way. Currently a nontrivial amount of VFX work comes from commercials that use nonunion talent. If SAG agreed to only appear in projects with union VFX, ADAPT could agree to only work on projects with union talent. SAG would be very interested in having some leverage on the studios with regard to getting control of some of the runaway commercials (and to a lesser extent film) work that happens outside their sphere of influence. At that point, you could let SAG do a lot of the heavy lifting acting as their pawn, without having to force studios directly to the table directly on the strength of the still quite fragile VFX union movement.

    • MilosB77 says:

      The problem though is that they are several issues. One is the situation with the subsidies, etc, and the other is how generally vfx studios are poorly managed. Then they are other issues on top such as work going to China and India, illegal discussions between studios to create salary bands, etc.

      Two measures I could think of:

      1) One thing that would be great, is to somehow adjust pricing film studios pay based on some index so that when they send work to places where work is cheap (chapter than the index) some of the money is re-invested back into studios which are paying their artists at or above the index level.

      2) as suggested by a couple of people on the Variety website, our profession needs to get in control on the number of artist trained each year by schools and coming out on the market, so that we can regulate in studios the demand and offer load. Many profession do that.

      These are just a few ideas…

      • Regulating # student artists – You’ll notice film schools churning out thousands of students a year but that doesn’t decimate normal film crews because:
        1. Studios are smarter than vfx companies. They realize you can’t make a high quality film with all student crew. With the amount of $ involved it’s not worth the risk to save a little money on salaries.

        2. Guilds/Unions – Studios have hiring restrictions because they have an agreement with the guilds. In return the guild provides capable and experienced people. They are not gate keepers but you have to have some experience before you’re able to join a guild. And this tens to self regulate the flow of new people. No point in brining in 10,000 people every year if there are less jobs available.

  6. LSP says:

    Honestly Soldier, I think your adaptvfx effort & legal case against subsidies are amongst the best hopes we all have right now.

    The only other one I can point to is BECTU (the British union for VFX workers and others). This is more for UK workers rather than our VFX cousins in the US/Montreal/etc, but in London at least they’re our best shot at getting collective bargaining going and pushing back on some of the nastier tricks the VFX houses use against us. See for example the case of Cinesite’s illegal dismissal of 30 employees (https://www.bectu.org.uk/news/2133) – BECTU took them to an employment tribunal, and Cinesite ended up settling out-of-court.

    BECTU haven’t been publicising much of their work lately, but their most recent newsletter mentioned that VFX cases are actually making up a very sizeable percentage of their workload right now (especially given the size of VFX compared to their other branches). There’s clear demand for their help, and from their most recent meeting a few weeks ago it sounds like efforts are finally underway to establish a VFX branch of BECTU so that real campaigning & recruitment can start.

    Fingers crossed that one of these efforts comes to fruition, and the VFX industry’s working practices get the changes they so badly need!…

    Yours,
    LSP

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I support BECTU and I support The Animation Guild. I’m all for unionization. Where people are reluctant to join a union is because they want them to actually solve the problem which starts with negotiating with the studios.

      • LSP says:

        Agreed. It’s quite a problematic catch-22 for a union; no one wants to join it until they’ve seen it can be effective, but at the same time it can’t be effective until lots of people have joined. That’s certainly where your effort has a large advantage.

        Anyway, the best of luck to you and everyone else working on adaptvfx!

      • MilosB77 says:

        Not really. I was in meetings with managers when they talked abut the bectu at mpc and i also talked a lot about this with mpc atists and also other people who had actually worked with union in the UK (especially old bbc employees). My understanding is that first artist do think that being unionized is going to solve everything for them. They just think the union is going to sort out everything for them and that their world is going to become suddenly greener without making another other effort. Two and most problematic, the problem of unions is that it’s a company on its own. They make money when they have members and it’s their benefit to have people especially form the vfx industry to become members, however in the UK I doubt the bectu actually has any proper understanding of our industry. I think they just see us as opportunity to gain some new members and that’s pretty much all.

        The problem also is that if you somehow negotiate better conditions with the film studio, then I am afraid the money won’t go into the artist pockets but into the funds managing the studios (Technicolor and alike). So a global action, or pressuring studios to for example not making vfx for a while (like the strike of the script writer guild) wouldn’t be very beneficial I am afraid, if it just means that we get the guarantee that the studios will give more money for example to the vfx houses and give the job to companies who don’t benefit from subsidies, because i am sure the money will go in the wrong hands.

      • golstein says:

        they are already in the “wrong” hands

      • Jackadullboy says:

        But isn’t the idea that, through the union, artists gain leverage with the vfx vendor on things like OT and pay..? the vendor/s will then surely be forced to improve their deal with the studios to cover the extra costs. It has to start with artists pushing back at the bottom.

      • Here’s how a union works – You vote on other members to represent you. If there’s a large enough group of vfx members then either vote vfx members into those positions or discuss local/sub-group specific for vfx. You can also set up committee or working groups. This applies to UK, US, etc.

        So if the guild doesn’t have knowledgeable people with regard to vfx the members need to make it happen. It’s not like union management is all paid and made up of some isolated individuals. There’s unusually a yearly vote. And it does mean that individuals will have to man up and volunteer to be part of the union board or help on a committee. Expecting everyone else to carry the weight or the existing guild management to carry the weight doesn’t work.

        Keep in mind striking and other actions are all driven by the members, management/board of the guide can not simply call these things into being. They have to be voted on by the membership.

        I don’t get on how helping working conditions will only benefit the companies and not the workers? Members decide priorities and the negotiating committee tries what they can to accomplish those goals. In the end it’s always a compromise for both sides. That may be higher wages or simply lower amount of OT, etc. All up to members directive.

      • animcoop says:

        Exactly. While I support unions in theory, my issue with all current union propositions I’ve listened to is this: it seems we all want an organization with teeth that isn’t afraid to bite, but what we’re being offered y IATSE is a very limited and passive response to an aggressive and sprawling problem.

        Existing unions, the only examples we have to look to, seem to have taken a very non-confrontational, stand-off approach with NO-STRIKE clauses, their primary focus being portable benefits and OT pay.

        You get a union and an organizer who can rally people’s anger and frustrations with the industry, who can give us the promise of aggressive collective action to solve the problems, who can not just guarantee portable benefits but also go after things like residuals, and who can GUARANTEE the right to strike will not be negotiated: maybe then everyone will get on board.

        Right now it’s like we’re trying to swim across reservoir full of hungry sharks, IATSE wants to guarantee a drink of water but what we really need is a boat and some TNT.

      • With regard to the NO STRIKE CLAUSE – Why would the workers strike IF management was following the negotiated and agreed upon contract with the workers? Why would anyone sign a contract at anytime if there was a note that said we can do whatever we want, whenever we want? Whether it’s you and a building contractor or the studio and a union?

        This clause is in just about any union/guild contract because otherwise writers, directors, etc could simply say ‘Hey we know we signed a contract but now we don’t want to follow the contract ourselves and we want more money or we will strike’

        Hollywood contract negations are typically held every 3 years or so. They come to some type of agreement – both sides agree to follow the contract. The studios pay and provide as detailed in the contract and the workers agree not to strike and to follow the other requirements of the contact. It’s not rocket science.

        Strikes happen when a contract has expired and union members feel the studios are not willing to negotiate in good faith. At that point the members may vote to strike but not while a contract is in force. Obviously if there is a major break by the studios or companies in the contract that renders it null and void, then the members would have the option strike then as well.

        If the majority of a vfx company decide to unionize (i.e. sign rep cards) and the company is unwilling to negotiate then there are a few issues:.
        The national labor board will be contacted and require an official vote. IF there is a majority of workers willing to vote for a union the the company is in fact union. The national labor board can force the company to come to the table to negotiate.

        And those who have signed onto be union members are free to do a walk out or strike. Heck anyone can walk out and strike as a group if they want to (of course based on any legal contract they may each have individually with the company)

        The ability to strike itself is not the whole emphasis of a union. A strike is the big stick designed to help motivate the company to negotiate in good faith. It’s usage is of last resort. And it’s lack during a valid contract is no reason to dismiss a union. Makes as much sense as sending 4k EXR images to editorial for their avid cut.

        With regard to unions:
        Choices:
        1. IATSE – Covers most of the below the line film workers. Cinematographers, Production Designers, Costumes, makeup, etc. including animation.

        2. IBEW – They too have expressed interest in vfx and have had meetings. Cover electrons and other roles in Hollywood and very big outside Hollywood.

        3. Create a full union/guild from scratch.
        Who’s doing this? Who’s paying for it? Where do we get experienced union organizers/lawyers from? We have hard enough time getting people to join an existing union, let alone starting one from scratch. IA has indicated if there were enough vfx workers signed then they would form a specific local for vfx workers.

    • sabada says:

      I agree, BECTU is here in the UK to protect us against abusing companies. MPC people have that solution.
      Bectu already did some great job in few VFX companies in London, helping people after abusive redundancies by example.
      But it’s all very silent, and most of the vfx workers in the UK are not aware of their efficientcy. The only way to improve our life is for everybody to join this Union, and then companies like MPC will have to treat their artists better.
      PEOPLE : stop complaining and JOIN ! The solution is here.

  7. animcoop says:

    I know I’ve said this a half dozen times around these parts, but I strongly believe there is one solid actionable solution to this problem:

    We have to begin forming cooperatively owned democratic workplaces that operate outside of the studio system and the client/vendor paradigm.

    I have little faith that the client/vendor VFX model will ever be redeemable as long as the big 6 are involved, so the only way to get away from this completely broken model is to redefine it in a way that can not be influenced by the big 6 and that is as favorable to artists as it is to “executives”, and to create all content internally.

    When this model is initially suggested, many people tend to react with shock and laughter because it doesn’t fit within the spectrum of things we’ve actually seen or how we expect “capitalism” to work. How would anything ever get done? “Inmates Running the Asylum”!

    But when you stop for a second and think about a place where every worker has an equal vote in how the direction of the company, how profits are distributed and how payscales are determined; where every artist, accountant, and executive is an equal part owner; where the motive is not to satisfy anonymous shareholders but rather the actual shareholders (the people who do the work); where leadership was democratically elected and projects chosen democratically; where moving the location of the workforce or chasing tax incentives would need to be decided BY THE WORKERS, and the workers themselves were the beneficiaries not the victims of these decisions; I can’t think of any reason why we shouldn’t take a chance and why we would ever want to keep working in the current system.

    If someone like Gareth Edwards could make “Monsters” with a crew of 5 people, think of what 20 or 30 or 40 of us could do together?

    • golstein says:

      I am 100% with you. Do you know one, are you going to build one? I am ready to join.

      • animcoop says:

        @golstein: I have to be honest with you. I’m old enough to recognize and fear what a challenge starting this will be. There is a high risk of failure and while it will hopefully be fun it won’t be easy.

        Timing will be essential, not just for me, but for everyone who chooses to get involved, and will require the right projects, the right group, and the right motives for people to get excited about and rally behind. There are a lot of pieces that need to be in place before I can make the choice to leave my job behind and pursue this full steam. Those pieces are not in place for me yet, but I am actively looking at and planning for ways to get them there. If it happens before enough of those pieces are in place, it may require involuntary unemployment.

        I will note, I agree with some others who’ve suggested to me it’s important not to put our eggs in one basket. Every movie, every video game, especially independent ones, come with a high-risk of failure. The first people to do this may do brilliantly or they may fail miserably. But the potential reward is greater than the risk, in my opinion, and we have to keep trying.

        I’m suggesting the idea here because I think it’s an important thing for us collectively to, at very least, get into our psyches and to become a part of language and the tools at our disposal to take control of our future, our health, and well-being. And personally, I’m done putting my faith in any individual or corporation (including myself) to run a VFX/Animation company and treat people fairly long enough for people to retire from this industry.

        If you want to stay in communication about this, though, feel free e-mail me: animcoop@gmail.com

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I’ve heard about Coops and the problem usually comes to this: Where’s the money?

      All the computers, datacenters, pipelines, all the people. Where do you get the money to put together such a huge team and how do you properly reward those people in a coop solution?

      • golstein says:

        This I know it is the obstacle. The only one. Once we can find the solution, then Coops will be operational.
        Let’s focus on this together with the ADAPT…what do you think?

      • animcoop says:

        @VFXSoldier: Absolutely an important consideration, but by no means something that makes it impossible or should stop us from trying to find ways to make it happen. As I see it you can imagine one of two scenarios:

        1) A spankin’ new studio like the ones we’re used to working at lit up and ready to make the next Lord of the Rings.

        2) A strategic plan to make the first few projects within the scope of what can be accomplished by the people involved & whatever capital (if any) they can raise.

        Obviously scenario (1) would require massive start-up capital and rely on some rather dedicated individuals rally up crowd-sourced funding or find enough wealthy individuals interested enough in this type of business model to make such a high-risk investment in a business that they would not have any ownership in.

        The second could be done with minimal start-up capital and people committed enough to see the project through. In fact we do this kind of thing all the time when we make independent short-films, independent movies, etc etc.

        Obviously this is barely grazing the surface of how this kind of model could get off the ground and all the possible ways you might be able to raise capital if that were required, but when I think about it and talk about it with others I see only possibilities.

      • JonMeier says:

        I’ll speak this one for fun. The next VFX house that suspects they are going to go under, should instead convert to a coop, leaving the shaky financials to the employees who assume the risks (give massive pay cuts to themselves in exchange for the sweat equity of profit participation in IP that they create).

        The infrastructure will already be there for the mission, and if they fail in a given amount of time…….they would have failed anyway.

        I suppose in summary….. Failing VFX companies……try something bold BEFORE you declare bankruptcy.

      • animcoop says:

        @VFXSoldier: Also, regarding how to raise that capital, if you’re wanting to go for a bigger project, and how to “reward” those who invest: I’d love to hear fellow readers creative suggestions in this regard. (And yo folks, we all know how this CAN’T work so it’d be nice if you limit your comments to constructive ones and not nasty trollish ones)

        At the moment I only know of the obvious ones, some examples of which might be: targeting specific types of angel investors who are interested in this type of business model, acquiring sponsorship from companies to pursue mutually beneficial goals (real-time GPU rendering, etc).

        Naturally not everyone will have the time or energy to be involved in something like this, and I’m not suggesting every artist up and quit their job and start a cooperative. No one is required to believe there’s any reason it could succeed. But I’ve talked to enough people to believe there are enough people who think this is a good enough idea that given the right circumstances we could get a couple of these off the ground and running.

        If you can’t tell, I have a lot of faith in our cooperative ability.

      • JonMeier says:

        @animcoop. Start a Blog on this subject. I have no doubts you can crowd source some very intelligent ideas. There are plenty of people who will post-link to the facebooks.

      • In the vfx community theres a fantasy that you can gather a few friends and be making IP and making a living easily. And that rather than dealing with the realities of correcting working conditions we should all just start making out own material. Easy peasy.

        While I fully support people to explore their art and make things, the reality is it’s very hard, very time consuming and costly. Look at this as a creative endeavor and not necessarily a ‘fix’ to the vfx problem.

        The studios churn out quite a few films and Tv shows every year because many will be failures. It’s an investment and just like other investments you have to diversify, which is what the studios do. Making a single film/project over 1-4 years and hoping it does well is not a plan. People also tend to overlook things like writing, directing, distribution, etc. Sure you have vfx art skills but is your group cover all of the above? Can everyone on the project for nothing during that entire period and hat can they do when the project doesn’t happen or doesn’t return money on investment.

        Indie filmmakers, even large ones, are having a difficult time making any type of real money. Check out Ted Hope’s book Hope For Film. Short films don’t make money. Even though YouTube and other sites make it seem like there’s huge avenues there the reality is that YouTube is taking advantage of people and most of the big names on things like YouTube have to get their own deals since YouTube ads don’t pay the bills and you’ll notice almost none of the top listings are for narrative stories.

        In terms of a coop vfx company – That’s exactly how many vfx companies start. A small group of people start up a company. I started up Dream Quest with 5 others. That’s not new. Now if everyone has a say and profit participation how do you determine that? Is someone who works 1 week on the project make the same % as someone who spent a week? Who’s managing? As delightful as it sounds for everyone to be involved in every decision and everyone working in pure harmony next to each other it doesn’t work like that.

        If a coop is developing all their own IP how much time and money have they allotted simply for development?
        If a coop is working for someone (ie. studio) then it will be competing against the other vfx companies and the fact is most studios have a gate keeper who decides which companies they want to work with. You may have great talent but if the studios don’t want the risk or don’t see the benefit for them ($$) then they won’t hire the coop.

        One pif the key things that sets vfx apart from others working on a film is that it’s done by a separate company (i.e. not production) Just about everyone else works for production so they are paid for time work, they are covered by guilds, and there is a 1:1 connection to the director/producer/studios. If changes are made then everyone is paid and it’s up to the studio to regulate it. There is no one to underbid. There’s no one between the vfx worker and the production making a separate deal or taking profits.

        For the few things done by companies 9sound mixing, DI, etc) they usually have a different business model than fixed bid. per day, per hour, etc so once again there is a 1:1 connection to what a director chooses to do. These types of companies don’t underbid and they can pay their people correctly.

        So one of the solutions is to simply work for the studios directly. Be part of a guild and have protection of getting paid and other working conditions spelled out. The studios don’t do this specifically because the vfx companies are happy to take on the risk and underbid to the point it’s less than it would cost the studio to do themselves.

        This whole notion of underbidding and being poor to workers is all or part based on the broken fixed bid model used by all vfx companies. The companies are unwilling to fix that because they, like most vfx workers, have a notion that they’re cool and totally independent. They, like workers, are also so busy trying not to drown they don’t have the interest or energy to try to change.

      • animcoop says:

        @Scott Squires, your comments are always welcome, articulate, and thorough and I have a great deal of respect for you and the work you do. Respectfully, I’ll try to discuss a few of your points as concisely as possible.

        ————————————————————————–
        “In the vfx community theres a fantasy that you can gather a few friends and be making IP and making a living easily.”

        I’d first like to point out (for the record), I’ve stressed in the comments here just how difficult I recognize everything about this prospect would be. Don’t mistake my enthusiasm about democratic workplaces with naivety regarding how challenging it would be.

        ————————————————————————–
        “People also tend to overlook things like writing, directing, distribution, etc. Sure you have vfx art skills but is your group cover all of the above? ”

        The short answer is yes with regard to everything but distribution. The discussions I’ve been involved with regarding this recognize the significance of these factors and are focused on attainable solutions. I believe these are important considerations but not insurmountable challenges, and how they are handled could vary depending on the coop.

        We also recognize that there is a high risk of costly failure and it may take several experiments before someone gets the formula right.

        ————————————————————————–
        “If a coop is working for someone (ie. studio) then it will be competing against the other vfx companies…”

        In almost every discussion it has been pretty unanimously concluded that this model would not work for a cooperative.

        ————————————————————————–
        “In terms of a coop vfx company – That’s exactly how many vfx companies start. A small group of people start up a company. I started up Dream Quest with 5 others. That’s not new.”

        Respectfully I have to disagree here. At the point a small group of people begin hiring employees and consider themselves the owners of a company, it’s no longer a cooperative. I would pose that it was never the intention of anyone who’s started an animation or visual effects company to date to be collectively owned or democratically run by the workers, and therefore this is actually new to our industry. What we’re focused on here is the very specific model of a worker coperative (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worker_cooperative), and where regardless of whether you’re 5 employees or 500, every worker has a vote and is considered a shareholder/owner in the company.

        ————————————————————————–
        Now to the more nitty gritty:

        “Now if everyone has a say and profit participation how do you determine that? Is someone who works 1 week on the project make the same % as someone who spent a week? Who’s managing?”

        I can’t quite determine whether you intend this as a rhetorical device to make a point, or if you are asking a question or trying to push us to come up with the most solid possible plan: but I will answer as though it were one of the latter.🙂

        Without belaboring the point, there are quite of few examples of successful worker cooperatives across the world in other industries, and there is much we can learn from their trials and errors. A lot of this ground has been well-trodden, despite the fact that it is not a mainstream business model.

        I can say fairly confidently that if you posed a question to a large group of workers like: “should the person who works one day get the same % of the profit as the person who works one year?” you would probably get a pretty consistent consensus, and I have enough faith in our internal sense of fairness to believe questions like this could be easily sorted. However, I would personally suggest to the coop that profits not be divided by project with people on more successful projects receiving more profit than those on unsuccessful projects.

        With regard to who’s managing, this is entirely dependent on how a coop chose to structure itself, but I don’t believe our industry lends itself to flat hierarchy in the way a company like Valve might. So it would be most likely that any cooperative with which I would *personally* get involved would have an elected leadership model, with base compensation being decided on by the workers. As the companies grows, people who pitch projects to the collective may include the director/writer/etc as part of their pitch or leave it open to the company to elect.

        ———————————————————————–
        “As delightful as it sounds for everyone to be involved in every decision and everyone working in pure harmony next to each other it doesn’t work like that.”

        I have to respectfully disagree with you here. There is no evidence to suggest “it doesn’t work like that” primarily because it’s never been attempted in our industry. Infact quite the opposite, it has worked out fairly well for companies like Mondragon.

        Most worker frustration and discontent I’ve encountered in this industry is the direct result of the worker feeling management is making poor or unfair decisions and having no say in the matter.

        In the occasional case of big egos or what have you, the system will either weed out the bad seeds or in the worst case the company will eat itself from within. But I chose to be on the side of cautious optimism, as I think part of hiring would involve seeking out candidates who recognize the value of working together and understand that when everyone wins, we win too.

        ———————————————————————–

        Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough response, Scott. I’ve looked up to you through the years, I truly value your opinion and believe it is important for those of us who are invested in this idea to answer questions like the ones you pose before we can hope to be successful.

        I recognize that this is not an immediate or singular solution to the complex problems facing the visual effects industry, nor do I indent to diminish the importance of efforts like ADAPT, collective bargaining agreements, or some of the other suggestions you’ve made here and elsewhere. But I do believe that, were we to succeed at starting a few of these, it would be the most fair solution.

        I also recognize the inherent challenges (which is why I haven’t left my job and tried to start one already), but these challenges are not much greater than starting ANY new VFX/animation company, starting a VFX workers-union, a facility trade-union, or doing what ADAPT is trying to do.

        I’ve been a strong advocate of many of those efforts, and while I may fear the challenge like every one else, it’s not enough to stop me from believing that with the right strategy we could pull it off and be better off for it.

      • animcoop says:

        And just in case it got burried in there, again I’d like to emphasize that I don’t intend this idea to diminish or detract from the valiant efforts that are currently underway which have the potential to more immediately level the playing field and impact our overall sense of stability and quality of life.

        I, in no way, believe we should shift our focus from these more immediate goals.

        In fact, it is the courage and persistence of people like yourself, Scott Ross, and our one and only Daniel Lay that inspire me to pursue and promote ideas that may be full of risk and come with enormous canyons to cross, but have within them the potential within them to dramatically improve our livelihoods and basic standards of living and working.

        So thank you again for your critique, questions and insights.

      • animcoop you make many valid points. Certainly more thought out than who propose simply making their own IP.

        I will say it’s frequently the case where if you ask a dozen people their opinion of an idea or proposed IP that you will get a dozen different answers. Even for technical things like the pipeline. And for creative issues it’s more likely to run the whole range. Look at reviews of film or art. Some people hate it, some people love it. So if it’s a creative endeavor and everybody has their say does that turn it into a generic middle of the road result? I’m just saying it’s a difficult task to get a number of people all agreeing and working for the exact same goals while creating great results and making money.

      • animcoop says:

        @Scott Squires

        Absolutely excellent and valid points. Funding and organizational technicalities aside: The point you raise about what I like to call “the committee effect” is, in my mind, one of the most important pieces of the equation. In order to be successful at making good content (and efficiently), cooperative input needs to be treated differently depending on whether that input is operational, technical, or creative. I think we’ve all watched the committee effect water down or outright rot what might have been a great film.

        For a successful creative coop, in my opinion, there needs to be a mechanism within the foundation of the organization that protects the integrity of the story and empowers its writer/director to pursue a vision without crushing it under constant committee. All the while there should be a minimally invasive mechanism for concerns to be voiced if everyone can see things are going off the rails.

        I have a few ideas about how to deal with all of this, and I think different people might come up with different solutions or view the problem differently than I do, but I agree that in our industry we would need to pay special attention to the balance between democratic organization and unencumbered creative & technical direction. In this way the elected leadership model might help prevent unhelpful committee in these areas.

    • sabada says:

      That’s a great idea ! I’d love to work for an ethical and totally democratic company like this.
      I never thought about this, but it worths trying it.
      In some countries (but other industries), there is companies like that, and it works perfectly well, why not us ?

  8. JustSayNo says:

    My “actionable solution” to MPC, when their recruiters were calling, was to just say “No”.

    • golstein says:

      well…it’s not so easy. I know a guy, just spent 16000 at one of the “famous” schools in Canada and he is searching for work. MPC recruiters know about him and, they are offering a contract of 6months.
      Do you think this guy will throw the contract in the toilet and flush it?

      • vfx is so avesome says:

        Goldstein this is a very good point. I wanted to leave tesco’s shelves stacking I was just suffocating there. I’ve saved some money and thrown them into learning VFX. What I’ve been taught at Uni is one thing (you know these priceless unis and bullshit they sell there) but I was so determined that spend sleepless nights learning from gnomon or d-tutors (of course at extra cost…), all to be able to do what I love I’ve managed to compile quite good reel that could at least win me roto or tracking job. And now what? Fetting work is one thing but to get in as a junior to live in a hostel in London, having 4-6 months long contract and then be out of work for another 6 months? And what about huge egos and a rat race atmosphere in these studios? Everyone is saying its pretty laid back but truth is that if someone have a chance to stay longer at a cost of me loosing my job – well, they wont even blink their eye… The best is coming – I have a family to support.. Shit I should have studied something else but love vfx and film work… so what do i do? maybe it was better to stay in tesco in the end🙂

      • golstein says:

        you are a victim my friend….like many other thousands of students from so called VFX /games universities and schools.
        As soon as you realize this and try to do something else, to switch, you will be much happier than now, and more relax.
        Good luck!

      • VFXdrone says:

        I think it’s fair to say juniors have no power at these companies and basically have to, not only take these jobs, but do what they’re told or they will be fired. However, films cannot be made by juniors alone, as a senior VFX artist I would never take a job at MPC and I would encourage all seniors to do the same until things improve dramatically. We can also make all other senior artists aware of companies that are abusive to their staff. I suspect this is already happening, hence why they are commissioning these puff pieces. We do have some power here.

      • golstein says:

        I know a guy who is lead now at MPC but he is far for being a senior.
        However, none of the serious seniors are at MPC these days. Only the fake ones.

    • Nvfx says:

      Too many artists desperate for work. Even at ILM and Weta, I’ve run into experienced artists who fail to negotiate rates. If we fear to speak up for ourselves as individuals, how can we expect the industry at large to take a stand?

  9. contessa12 says:

    The artists must start a blog and blacklist the company! Spread the word that the blog rates the agencies and if the artist takes a job with them well… They’ve been warned! Sooner or later they won’t have any workers.

    • golstein says:

      see Soldier? I’ve told you. Before ADAPT let’s do the blog.

      • SoldiersFriend says:

        Talking about juniors. I’ve heard that Framestore are running a ‘juniors house’ in Bournemouth, UK. I’ve also heard its quite bitchy there as people are killing themselves in a rat race to get to more ‘senior’ positions…. all this for a wage that does not qualify them to pay student loans back…

      • Jackadullboy says:

        @soldiersfriend

        Well, that makes me sad. If students are engaged in that kind of rat-race scenario, it’s unlikely the ones that succeed will be the most gifted in their craft.

        So.. experienced senior talent is being lost at the top End, and the best junior talent isn’t necessarily making it onto the bottom rung. Great.

        Can’t bode well for continued quality and innovation in the industry…

  10. prat391 says:

    The idea of worker-run-enterprise is by far the best one out there. But to do this would be a herculean task indeed. But there are so many for profit studios in the world intent and hellbent on underbidding each other to death. This industry is going to crash. ADAPT or die. That’s what your tagline should be. Artists are so focused on their art,their families and getting a foot in the door that we have forgotten what basic living standards mean anymore. This is inhuman. And it’s not just in vfx. It’s in every other industry out there. You either get with the program or you don’t survive. Society is broken. It’s made by executives, for executives. So that they can buy their next luxury commodity, or their next vacation while the rest of us work minimum wage. Keep up with this and we’re coming for you with pitchforks soon. If any of you have seen showpiercer or elysium, well guess what, we’re living them. Ah the irony. For people in the business of selling dreams to be living such a nightmarish life..

    • golstein says:

      Today at CBC Canada was a debate about “Remembrance Day” – to be declared holiday (free working day) or not. Some voices were against this, just saying that if people will be free on that day, they will sleep more, so they will not celebrate it. As if they go to work, they celebrate it.
      Can you believe? My God…

    • animcoop says:

      @prat391 Brilliant synopsis.

      “Artists are so focused on their art,their families and getting a foot in the door that we have forgotten what basic living standards mean anymore.”

      That line right there really nails it. We’ve all poured everything we have into mastering our craft for these people, only to realize that in the end we’re not (and never will be) the ones benefiting from it. We have less time than ever to spend with friends and family or partake the simple pleasures of life.

      But I think we have an opportunity to take it back.

  11. Muse says:

    Wow the comments posted on that article were stunning in their unanimity. I mean, I thought the Tim Miller “My Simon” drubbing of a dozen years ago was the worst online beat-down I’d ever see, but we have a new champion.

    • golstein says:

      With VFX Mafia permission I will post his comment from there:
      AMAZING!

      The problem in a lot of the comments we see here, is that they relate people’s experience but not a lot of fact about the company itself and the way it’s run. If you want to help journalists and law people with means of actually seriously looking into mpc and the industry as a whole, you guys need to give actual facts. Talk about management practices, blacklists, bullying, things they’ve done which is illegal such as not keeping track of OT, how they sent 50% of the work to india, made propositions to people they couldn’t refuse, talk about your experience of studios talking to each other to create salary bands, … the whole truth must be said and known about this company, and its management team, because fundamentally they are just **criminals** who just got away with everything so far. This place is utterly EVIL and it’s almost impossible for employees to be taken seriously because if you can guys keep thinking that you can defend your industry by bringing facts to the table and organising concrete actions, then the sort of comments you see here will stay totally irrelevant and won’t change anything to the situation. You need to bring these people down using the LAW and getting organised and presenting fact. As long as you industry is not capable of fighting against the tax credit system for example, you won win. Even if you get mpc down, another similar company will emerge. You also have to say LONDON overall is just not a very good place overall, compared for example say Weta or ILM in the US. I am talking about ILM in the UK because everybody knows in the industry it’s just another Framestore and they only like to hire friends of friends there. You guys need to report your experiences with real examples of what these people did to you, and report what they said publicly or privately to you that would have been illegal.
      Note though regarding the salary band issue, blacklists, etc. that recently we had the revelation of emails exchanged between Jobs and Ed Catmull that were pretty explicit and apparently the law suit went nowhere. On the billions of dollars that were supposed to be given back to artists, they are not talking about 400/400M only.
      It’s really global. It’s all about money and I find to tone of Manuela offensive and misplaced (and she/isn’t right on many of the things he/she says), there’s something true about artists being good at complaining but doing little to change the situation.
      The funny think about Roberton or maybe almost the most amusing, is how he came every single month to these company meetings explaining in a theatre filled with the managers of the company, how the company was not doing enough money (it had financial troubles apparently) and how the entire film industry was doing so poorly and that therefore we had no other option but to lower artists wages. So I think he was really mis-informed because the film industry has never made so much profits in the last few years.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warner_Bros.

      And that’s just an example.

      1) So that’s a lie, but the worse maybe was that over the dozens of people in the room (maybe 70/80) not one would have the guts to say it was BS. So there were either very mis-informed themselves or really just to afraid to contradict their boss and get fired. Anyway this was just brain washing, and he has been doing this over and over and over and over….

      2) Funnily the numbers about MPC are public and can be found on the net. So anyone with at least an ounce of honesty, will spend 5′ looking for these numbers and seeing MPC is a VERY PROFITABLE company.

      3) Technicolor. If MPC was losing money, Roberton, Benson and the cliques would have been fired a long time ago. But they make money so they stay. However yes the debt of Technicolor is not going to be filled in with 10 years of MPC’s profits. So what’s the deal. Well, Technicolor’s business is primarily quite boring and unappealing. So they use MPC essentially for their cover. When you walk in their buildings their walls are covered with TV screens showing images produced by MPC. So that’s why they use MPC for. So in essence as long as MPC produces images they can use to appear sexy, they won’t touch MPC not matter how bad is its reputation.

      4) The VFX industry in London is just appalling overall, especially compared to other places such as Weta and ILM US. It’s all about cliques, and most decisions about who is doing what in the future are made at the pub. The whole SOHO environment is simply unhealthy and incestuous. Dneg, Method, Framestore are all in the same basket.

      5) London VFX is essentially made up of people who have never worked anywhere else than in SOHO. They have no idea how other studios do it in the rest of the world, and yet, they really take themselves for the KINGS of the VFX industry. They are essentially condescending, they have no vision, bad at management, and also quite racists. Brits do tend to think of themselves really highly. One VFX sup at dneg made his career by copying the code he had developed at Weta and re-installing it on dnegs system by changing the name of the app and the color of the icons. That’s the sort of unprofessionalism we are talking about and yet this guy has now a 6 figures salary.

      Many of us have quite the industry in the last few years. How bad the industry became has very much to do with London’s studios and the way they do business. However we have to say that you see the situation of Method and Deluxe, you have to think un-professionalism just seems to rule this industry.

      6) There would be simple things to do but no one does it. Every other industry such as lawers or doctors or pilots do impose quotas on the number of people who are trained to their jobs EACH year. If we could stop school from “producing” more artists that the industry does, it would be impossible for studios like MPC to make so much money by hiring un-experience cheap staff.

      7) However we are totally doomed because you guys have NO IDEA about what’s coming on the EAST side of the world. Even if we manage to make things working better on the West side, studios such as Warner and others will ship work to India and China directly. I met with a manager of Prime Focus recently, who told me who proud he was when his company put thousands of cheap indians to convert a film in stereo in 10 weeks when all other studios in the US said the could only do it in 4 or 6 months. Both the film studio and Prime made so much on this one deal! So how do you fight against 3000 “cheap” indians anyway? More and more tv series and even complete films are being shipped there as we speak.

      Good luck. These people just ruined what was a few years ago a beautiful promise. the digital VFX industry was originally driven by creative, passionate and truly talented artists and engineers. Now it’s ruled by a series of incompetent managers and sociopaths, just obedient to film studios. They beg work to them and to friends of friends who can bring work to the studio by keeping these friends of friends in position where they should never be in, if why are people in certain position truly based on experience and verified successes.

      • Mafia has a lot of good points. Some are still not valid:

        We all fear and feared China/India taking over. This has not happened. Yes parts are outsourced. But besides the train wreck sin city 2 what major feature was completed there? None. I’m not denying there is not some talent there (base fx, etc) but the communication barrier for clients is (thankfully?) still there. Even Robert Rodriguez did not want to interface with Mumbai they had ProneFocus

      • Mafia has a lot of good points. Some are still not valid:

        We all fear and feared China/India taking over. This has not happened. Yes parts are outsourced. But besides the train wreck sin city 2 what major feature was completed there? None. I’m not denying there is not some talent there (base fx, etc) but the communication barrier for clients is (thankfully?) still there. Even Robert Rodriguez did not want to interface with Mumbai they had PrimeFocus Vancouver be both a face to the client and an illegal subsidie tax shelter scheme!

        So far I see more outsource work go to small Indy companies in sf, Macedonia, Belgrade and yes India.

        We need to stand up together. Let’s avengers 2 with the highest VFX shot count ever be missing its release date. If only one shop like MPC, da, weta, ILM walks out for a week that would send a message.

      • golstein says:

        IO already walked out..it’s been 2 years now.

      • vfxmafia says:

        @golstein
        @ Andreas

        Please dont post fictitious quotes attributed to the moniker “VFX Mafia” . I can stick my foot in my own mouth thank you very much. I have no comment at this time about this article.

  12. golstein says:

    There’s another comment there:
    “I had a nervous breakdown at mpc. It took 6 months to get better enough to work again. I am now permanently on medication. If you value your health, don’t work there.”
    Guys, why you still going there? Now you know how bad the place is. Why?

  13. Disney exec says:

    HOW ABOUT: BOYCOT HOLLYWOOD FILMS until they listen. Walkouts don;t work you dumbassess.

  14. golstein says:

    I don’t know why these crooks are not behind the bars? This is not a question to walk out, these swindlers elude law flagrantly, they should be behind bars, not smiling and mocking on us…

  15. its true! says:

    MPC sucks! With the UK goverment subsides, one of the laws was to hire british artists mainlly, so, with this, they are hiring lots of junk artists.

    Also that thing about the non-paid overtime and artists in a blacklist, is TRUE! I can tell you that, because it happen with me.

    They prefer to have LOTS of dumb and stupid artists (who have the mouth closed and just look to the monitor), instead of just some, but awesome ones.With this, in the end, they lost A LOT of money and time. But the big studios and directos, dont know about this. They are a loosing lots of money about this scheme.

    • JonMeier says:

      @it’s true!. Work on your grammar and spelling before you berate your fellow artists.

      • its true! says:

        @JonMeier: LOL! When someone doesn’t have nothing to say, they refer the poor grammar of someone. The usual, in weak people. lol My english is better then your grammar and spelling in my mother tongue, this means: is none on your side! ahah Your boss at Rhythm & Hues should know that you are not happy with your position there, because you are writing, reading and watching VFX Soldier blog.
        Also, they are not artists, artists doesn’t have a boss, they are just workers. And they are nothing to me, I don’t own nothing to them, they are just my co-workers, and I dont have to be friend of them. If they suck, they suck, I dont have to respect them! They are there because of politic only.
        F*ckk you, you are a fat american pig! lol

      • golstein says:

        @JonMeier,
        What exactly you don’t understand? I can draw something fast if you want. Your “felow” artists are guilty to work in such a miserable workplace as MPC is. and encouraging blacklisting and bad work conditions that will trigger the whole industry down
        Is that clear for you?

      • JonMeier says:

        I am on the blog looking for ideas. Much like animcoops ideas to form cooperatives. I am no longer at Rhythm & Hues, as they went under because of the same pressure I fear every vfx facility will go under. They could not be profitable with the industry practice of perpetual underbidding.

        My critique of you “it’s True!” is that you are here shadow boxing. If you berate your colleague. you bring yourself, and your craft down to the level you put them. A downward spiral. Instead challenge them to do better.

        As for being on this blog, I don’t see any reason for any of my employers to give a damn that I am on this site using my real name. I speak what I see from analysis of working in this business 16 years, and wanting it to grow.

        I don’t actually care that much about the gripes of MPC, because the problem people are really trying to voice here is that they see no future for themselves. The money is drying up because the VFX companies are giving it all to the studios.

        If a movie makes 1 billion dollars, and people go to see that movie for MOSTLY for the VFX. I believe that VFX studio should be getting more money. But until vfx companies are producers of their own movies, they are going to continue to get squeezed by the studios. That’s not evil studios. That business.

        to “golstein”, yes. My “fellow” artists are guilty of allowing themselves to be exploited, just as I once was, and like you too in your first gig in VFX. Making movies can be very enriching when done properly. Anyone creating a blacklist (between companies, I believe) should go to jail. I’m not entirely sure that is happening.

        But until people start trying to motivate change with their real names. in public. in organized fashion……..then we’re all just venting. Venting that we are afraid there is no future for us.

        1) Go make something. Prototype some I.P.. Then get funding for it and start a company that does it The Right Way. Teach us all how to do that. I am not being sarcastic

        or

        2) Organize your fellow artists into a union. Bectu sounds interesting. Get EU/Canada/Us/NZ to do the same in lockstep. Then the VFX companies will have to demand more of the profits from the studios, as now they will have an excuse.

        SUMMARY. Berating your fellow artists will only look like you are chasing your own tail.

        *It’s True = Do you have any Ideas on improving the nature of VFX?

      • golstein says:

        “I believe that VFX studio should be getting more money.” how much money do you think they make. A little? Are they poor? They should shot down in this case.

      • golstein says:

        “just as I once was, and like you too in your first gig in VFX.” I can assure you, I never ever let myself exploited, think that trigger a big blacklist form everywhere.
        Those wo worked with me, know this. Never!

      • golstein says:

        “*It’s True = Do you have any Ideas on improving the nature of VFX?”
        I do have one. Put the big guy smiling on the Variety article behind bars. This will be one of a kind! How can you do this? Rest is noise…

      • JonMeier says:

        golstien. I am not informed on the realities of what laws were broken to the point of putting him in jail. Out of curiosity. Who would you say is “Doing it the right way”?
        I don’t think you can point to one?

        And no. VFX compaies do not make a lot of money. 2-6 % profit in a good year.

      • golstein says:

        They should close if they do not make profit, but they do. As of why he should be behind bars? ask a lawyer!

    • Atomica says:

      “one of the laws was to hire british artists mainlly.”

      No they don’t, you clueless fuckwit. They hire EUROPEAN artists, you know EUROPEAN UNION.

      Fuckwit

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Actually, it is worth asking, are the UK subsidies dependant in any way on hiring a percentage of specifically UK talent..? A European citizen can of course work anywhere in Europe, but certainly in canada there is a stipulation that local talent be given certain priority in order to qualify for subsidy money.

      • Atomica says:

        No, under EU law there is no stipulation that an employee at a UK facility be a UK citizen, just a citizen of the EU. The UK companies are audited regularly to check this.

    • golstein says:

      The auto shop in the corner of my street makes more than 6% profit?

    • . says:

      Most people in MPC are not from the UK, most are from the EU especially France.

  16. Glassdoor says:

    One thing that I don’t understand, how the VFX houses get away so easily not paying overtime or breaking other labor laws?
    with so many people affected, I don’t think it would be hard to find a lawyer to do a class action lawsuit.
    VFX houses will have no choice in following the laws and paying overtime. And eventually they will rethink how they budget.
    They will have 2 options:
    -avoid paying overtime allowing artists to work only 8 hours a day, which will give us a more balance life.
    -Or paying overtime which will dramatically increase their costs and will force them to bid higher to the main studios. Otherwise they will crash, its the only way they can survive.

    Either way we’re winning. They might need to learn the hard way.

    • Jackadullboy says:

      Usually companies find legal loopholes, such as misclassifying digital artists as IT specialists, that enable them to bypass local labour restrictions. No-one understands anything about VFX so they get away with it.

      MPC also got away with hiring people as freelancers for the longest time. Also not legal, as if you’re on company premises using company equipment, you sure as hell ain’t no freelancer…

      I dunno, maybe we’re being unfair, and these are just ‘honest mistakes’ on their part.. You know, when you’re so busy “valuing the talent ” and whatnot, you can easily miss a few things…

      • Economics says:

        Having spoken with a labor lawyer in Vancouver I can confirm they are not breaking any labor laws. I even had a lawyer check my contracts for all my jobs and again they were sound and they said I would find it difficult if taken to the courts.

        The main reasons as our industry sits in a very grey area as howw we are classified and most governments want it to remain that way as it is in there interest to reflect positive job , numbers industry growth an so on.

        There is a reason Canadian governments created many loop holes in labor laws to attract various business including yjr likes of Microsoft and google.

        If you want to fix things get lawyers on this and not subsidies. Removing subisdies will not make studios clean up there acts.

      • golstein says:

        “I can confirm they are not breaking any labor laws.” well, if after all I red everything is legal, then go ahead and work for them as much as you like. Good luck!

      • tazzman says:

        So Economics, listen to you or the hundreds of people saying the same thing about MPC? Which one is it? Credibility matters.

  17. Rob says:

    This reminds me to check in with a former co-worker who briefly after getting hired by MPC was really upset, complaining that they lied to him during the interview and wanting to leave the business all-together.

  18. golstein says:

    Normally once something like this is happening, a lot of companies should stand up and bring critics to what is happening at MPC. But none of them said anything.
    Why?
    They are all the same.

  19. […] that’s a joke. Obviously. But it coincides with another blog post from vfxsoldier about an article in ‘Variety’ where the frustration about the working conditions at MPC […]

  20. golstein says:

    @soldier
    “I seriously can’t believe people are still talking about creating a blacklist of managers at MPC. What is this high school?! “No it’s not.

    Well they do this blacklists – people from all around the globe. recruiters, supervisors etc…We should do the same and point with our fingers the people from each company that encourage the abuse. And I am talking about the guys we worked with. All the bad work conditions described in Variety are generated by some idiots, so normally we should reveal their names. Have you noticed once a company goes down, they spread like cockroaches? I was standing up so many times,against the abuse, most of the time alone in front of them, and all I’ve got is – “you are fired!” Some of the companies where these people worked, are closed, but they jump to some other ones, and obviously some of us, cannot get a job any more.
    I wonder when MPC will implode, where all these butchers will go?
    They are however very united, and I think we the workers should be as well.

    But I understand you are against this list, and I really understand that you cannot fix a problem by doing exactly the same thing.
    And plus, as someone said, it is not going to help at all. I’ve noticed so many different points of view reading your blog that I don’t know how someone will be able to fix something.
    If you talk about ADAPT, some will say it’s only USA problem, so why to join? If you talk about abuse, some will say that if you want to become a great artist ( like our supervisors) you should work 24/day.
    When I was talking about MPC ( and many other companies – mostly all of them) saying that what they do is illegal, a guy told me that he knows that is very “LEGAL”
    There is so little achieved, as I clearly understand and I see, no one gets nothing.No solution what so ever. Abuse, corruption, free government money, blacklists, and NO SOLUTION AT ALL!
    And you know why? Because not everybody involved in this problem ( vfx) is focusing on the same topic. Some of the guys around, are pretty ok with their salaries, and don’t really care about the rest.

    A clean up is necessary before is to late. This is why Nuremberg process was a good solution. It was not about blacklisting war criminals, was about to punish those who encouraged the abuse.

  21. Atomica says:

    “This is why Nuremberg process was a good solution. It was not about blacklisting war criminals, was about to punish those who encouraged the abuse.”

    OK everyone – it’s Nazi time. As we all know, Godwin’s law says that this thread is now complete and of no further use to anyone, assuming it ever was in the first place.

    • golstein says:

      I quote what JustTheLaw says on one of his comments from Variety:

      I will give a piece of advice. When I started in this industry, I was 27 when I had a mental bread down and had to stop for 6 months. I got on medication for a few days, and when I woke up a few days later, it had erased all my memories of the preceding days. I am not in my early 40s and I worked at MPC for many years as well as US studios and Weta. I have 120+ weeks at weta but it was only the last 3 weeks of the shows, and I had so much respect for people there that I didn’t care. We all had the feeling that we were achieving something unique. AND WE WERE PAID VERY GENEROUSLY EVERY SINGLE HOUR WE WORKED FOR THANKS TO THE AMAZING and HIGHLY MISSED Eileen Moran, who truly loved her employees and really truly cared for their well being. She was a amazing woman. God bless her.

      Now — my piece of advice — since I worked for MPC for many years I can certainly compare. This the worse, most unhealthy environment I have every worked in and company I worked for in all my career. So much that it me sick of working for an industry I chose by passion.

      Benson is half in the known. Benson is far from being as bad as Roberton. Roberton is a sick man who took control of a company and has no one to stop him. He is out of his mind, workaholic and truly manipulative and sadistic as over people suggested. Roberton has been involved in cleaning up his mess on many occasion so he knows, but since he is a pretty inoffensive man as such, I don’t think he has a real clue of what’s happening in film. So technically he is responsible for MPC’s action but again, when you get to that level of management 1) you are responsible 2) you should be competent in all field of management to understand, be aware and care for what happens in ALL parts of your business. Technicolor management knows also very well what’s happening there but never really interfered in their business. So they’ve totally ignore it essentially because their business is not going so well either so I believe they have other things to really care about.

      But as suggested by other mpc is just a mere reflection of what happens globally in the industry across the board. It’s the same at dneg maybe not as visible. People do OT a lot they have the same contracts, they work with tools which are not working, they are managed by sups with not enough experience to be in these positions and artist have to pay the price of their lack of experience. Most UK studios are production driven rather than technically driver which means that people who know a bit more about money but strictly nothing about the art of making VFX take decisions which are disastrous for shows. It’s also more client driven than image driven. We ask VFX sups to be an interface with film studios and that’s all.

      I know the sup you are talking about. He is really well known in the industry for being rude and treating people badly (and not being particularly talented or knowledgeable) but Christian and him are good pals and I think this explains it all.

      So finally my advice, looking back on my career and the fact that about 20 years ago my parents found my one day at the hospital after having worked insane hours in a studio:

      – the industry is now what it used to be any longer for reasons well explained by others … It an industry you should work in if you are TRULY passionate. You also need to be talented in away (but if you are passionate you will find your talent) and it should be organized in such a way that anyone working in this industry is well looked after. Is a specialized industry and if you are an animator for example it’s unlikely you can find a job in other industry when you get in your 40s. So we should be protected.

      – take your son of MPC before it gets too late. The problem you need to be aware of is that other studios ARE NOT MUCH BETTER. So if your son wants to keep working in this industry it will be tough anyway.

      The problem is REALLY that we need to clean up our mess internally first. We need to offer a clean healthy environment for the next people coming into this industry to work in. However it’s all managed by top managers right now who don’t really care about 1) making images and films in general 2) don’t really care about employees. They care about making bonuses and their 100K+ salaries. So the only solution is for artists to take the control back over companies, but this requires people to be united, and in the 20 years I have been in this industry I have never seen this happening and don’t think it will EVER happen.

      I am not saying employees and artists are cowards, but the reality is that most people like to complain but almost no one does anything. The few who did in the past got in serious trouble and got fired. I have witnessed horrendous things at MPC and yet no one moved among which are indeed bullying, harassment, etc. However I have seen this in other studios (dneg and method london) and yet no one did anything about it, especially the top management. It HAS BECOME a fundamentally dysfunctional industry in need a very large clean up.

      Keep in mind that what you sign up for is to be able to get a job, bring money back home to your family, pay for your kids education, pay a rent at least, pay for food for about 40 years. The challenge is to be able to work in the industry for more than 40 years. How do you do that?

  22. pastebin says:

    Variety Comment saved here if it should be wiped

    http://pastebin.com/fMrEi84A

  23. Glassdoor says:

    Single complains won’t fix the problem. We need to be united on this. It’s the only way we will have power to face them. And at the end they need us. They can’t create without us.
    Through history, we had a lot of abuses like these in other industries and the only solutions I have seen that brought up an agreement was when they had a major strike stopping production and/or serious legal action.
    Unfortunately that’s how it works, they will only be willing to change current conditions when they see that they are losing money.

  24. Glassdoor says:

    I liked some things that I read here and I agree that we need to accumulate legal evidences.

    One thing that might work is to create a survey system to accumulate information in order to create a petition to the labor department and/or a group lawsuit.

    On the surveys we can ask common questions of how they are breaking the law, like Do they pay overtime? and things like that. These questions will change based on local laws.

    Survey’s results will be saved in a database, group by VFX house and location. With that we can send a petition to the local labor department reporting the specific VFX house demanding enforcement of the labor laws . And we can also start a group lawsuit requiring all the overtime hours they didn’t pay and other things that might apply.

    I feel like people dont report now because they dont want to be the only one doing it, otherwise they will be blacklisted. But when we do as a group they lose the power of blacklisting us. Who is going to work for them if everybody is blacklisted?

    And I again I believe things will only change when legal action is involved and I think something like this might work.

  25. sessaelul says:

    Hello there.

    (*).
    I read here some interesting ideas…

    I was a senior freelance for another industry, and I decided to switch to the film industry by passion… and to become a 3d junior artist. What a crazy idea regards… the last “Jaws music cut off”, all the comments since few days about this industry, and when I realize how difficult it is to get a junior position.

    In the meantime, whatever is the industry, freelancers face the same issues. Being freelance also needs a certain point of view, character… to be “safe” in his mind ! But it doesn’t mean that we refuse any rights.
    It reminds me…. Freelens, the largest group of photo journalists in Germany issued a notice that Jahreszeiten (a publishing house) was forcing all photographers to sign a contract without the possibility for negotiation that would grant them ownership rights to all photographs taken in the course of an assignment.

    People with an “ethic” point of view have the power to say “No”, and should maybe federate and work together. I like the idea regards an independent crowdfunded VFX company, working on their own projects.
    In Paris, there is also a set of independent… running their own company, with only freelancers !!!

    (*): Sorry for the spelling mistakes, I’m European and not British🙂

  26. collective vfx says:

    LONDON VFX ARTISTS
    If anyone is serious about making a change and is interested in being a part of it, I’d love to hear suggestions about what you would like to see happen. I personally think a union could really help with some of the problems that a lot of artists face. I really would like to be able to work together with the studios to improve working conditions and still ensure that the industry can thrive and make money, but not at the expense of the staff.

    BECTU is having a meeting on Tuesday Nov. 18 2014 at BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LN. We are making a committee of visual effect artists to tackle issues and will be electing members and deciding which issues to tackle first. These members will be your colleagues and visual effects artists themselves.

    If you are interested in maybe being a part of something or at least giving suggestions, please feel free to come or you can personally email me and I will try to respond and bring concerns to the forum at that time. There will be a portion of the meeting for any other business and I think during that time people can ask questions or raise concerns.

    I personally have worked at a lot of companies (including MPC) and while a lot of things are true across the board (long hours on occasion, etc.) I think things can be better. Artist shouldn’t have to work continuous long hours, from one crunch to the next. I think there is a balance here where we can work with vfx houses to achieve something that would improve everyone’s lives.

    I now we all like a good moan, but maybe it’s time to do something productive about it. Maybe you aren’t convinced with a union, maybe you have another idea. I’d love to hear it. I have made a separate email address to deal with your requests. Any emails sent to me will be confidential. That email is: collectivevfx@gmail.com

    If you are not in London, which is where I currently am based, but feel like to email me anyway. That’s fine too. We really should have a united front across ALL COUNTRIES because we are a global industry. So hopefully this can be a collective movement.

    Feel free to share.

    • collective vfx says:

      PLEASE NOTE: The Nov. 18 meeting is a currently a closed meeting. I was unaware of this when I first posted. My apologies as many of the other meetings have been open. Since the initial meeting at which the establishment of a BECTU VFX branch was first discussed, BECTU has seen the full scale of the problem facing VFX workers.

      Over the past two months, a number of meetings have taken place about the incorporation of the VFX Branch into BECTU’s formal structures. This is essential in order to campaign effectively with all of the resources of the union behind us. We have also understood that the extraordinary problems facing VFX workers means that we will need creative problem-solving approaches to organising for change and protection of our members.

      All members were invited to these meetings and a smaller group of people agreed to go onto the Branch Committee which (it was agreed) would initially meet privately in order to draft a campaign plan for the approval of the whole membership. Outline plans were discussed and a sub group of representatives volunteered to attend a meeting on the 18th to draft up a plan and elect interim branch officers to carry out the short-term work needed to move us forward.
      This will then be circulated for discussion online.

      BECTU will also be trying to organize another open meeting. Please stay tuned for that meeting. I will repost it.

  27. IT Architect says:

    There is no better time then right now to strike out on your own or build a co-op organization. Cloud computing is opening the world to high skilled creative people(s) to quickly produce high quality work. AWS, Google, Adobe creative cloud they are building systems to empower the artist to focus on creating and not the software and hardware tools. Why do you think the old guard is so worried about services like this? It breaks the lock-in the tools and software are now accessible, people with the right skills can now do the work from anywhere in the world for pennies on the dollar in terms of IT infrastructure and software. Just like the VCR and P2P disrupted media in the 80’s and 90’s – Cloud is just the next round of disruption that is slowly choking the middle man (Studios). Look at American Hustle al done in the cloud by Zync now owned by Google.

    Google is going to make those tools available at some point because they know there is value in disrupting traditional media and they want to tap top tier talent for their content channels and youtube studios they have opened in LA and NY Likewise Netflix and AWS are rapidly disrupting traditional media distribution and creation via Cloud and OTT distro.

    There is always risk in striking out on your own but the opportunities are there. The technology is at hand you no longer need millions of dollars to build a VFX pipeline.

    • It’s not a question or issue of technology. Cloud or local computing.

      Just as cameras and other filmmaking tools now cost a fraction and you have free distribution via YouTube does not mean that there are now millions of people who great storytellers and filmmakers. Nor does it mean they can make money at it. Having everyone producing stuff does not raise the working conditions.

      • jona says:

        Well, he did say “people with the right skills”.
        Ultimately, this will be the paradigm vfx are created under. It still requires a significant risk on the part if clients and some investment to start it up. In the end, it only really removes the need for a building and will probably lower the wages for artists further. But yes, it is likely coming.

      • tazzman says:

        jona, some people have been saying for years a group of people with some PCs would be creating blockbusters out of their garage. Hasn’t happened.

      • . says:

        “Hasn’t happened.”

        ……yet

        it will

        what has happened is the games industry has become a bigger industry than film

      • jona says:

        @tazz
        Well. As far as blockbusters go, I wouldn’t use that as a benchmark since large facilities routinely create embarrassing failures.

      • tazzman says:

        Jona, it’s still a business and tent poles still driving the industry train.

  28. golstein says:

    “After hearing that our staff was so unhappy, I wanted to make it clear to everyone how much our workers mean to us,” Weinblatt said. “Also, Antonio’s Pizzeria is one of our clients, so it didn’t cost the company a dime.”http://www.theonion.com/articles/potential-employee-uprising-quelled-with-free-pizz,2441/

  29. lalaloopsie says:

    one day of a mondial strike in every studio, same time.Hollywood will lost a lot of money.

    • vfxWorker says:

      Except I fear it won’t cost Hollywood a penny, it will only cost the vfx facilities. If we pushed all the vfx facilities to the point where they collapse by striking, THEN Hollywood will start losing money. But then we will be left with either smaller facilities stepping up to become the new leaders with no real change at all, or a lot of movies without effects and still artists everywhere clamouring for the few jobs that do exist. More likely though they would all fold at different stages and once one major facility is gone all those artists would quickly give up strike action and go to wherever they can work to pay the bills.
      Basically I think it’s a bad idea to hurt the facilities this way, they aren’t all bad, some are just extremely stretched by ever tightening budgets.

      That said, it seems closer than ever that vfx artists will end up striking at some point. I don’t disagree with the idea of a strike in theory, but I think it’s benefit would only be to rally people to change, and bring attention to the situation. Using it to try and hurt Hollywood’s wallet will probably only end up hurting us, the artists.
      Some fantastic discussion and opinions here anyway, makes interesting reading!

      • golstein says:

        They are all bad.
        They might not want to be bad, but the way they treat people.
        All the vfx companies are making profit based on our talent and sacrifice. This has to come to an end.

  30. golstein says:

    “Employer liability
    Employers must provide a healthy work environment and must take steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Otherwise, they may be held responsible for the damage caused to employees when they allow discrimination to happen in the workplace.
    Because employers have control over the work environment, they may also be held responsible for the conduct of a supervisor, an employee or, in some cases, a customer, when such conduct occurs at work or during work-related activities.” – WORKERS’ RIGHTS IN CANADA

    • golstein says:

      “Beginning in fall 2014, the Government will impose fines of up to $100,000 (depending on the severity of the offence) on employers who break the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). As part of the Government’s efforts to improve the transparency and accountability of the TFWP, the Government will publicly disclose the names of employers who have been fined and the amount of that fine on the Blacklist.”
      So if you are Canadian PR or Citizen, and you have solid evidence that a company in Canada was hiring foreigners in your place, having the same skills and BG, feel free to fill a claim.

  31. Joe Downing says:

    A contract cannot superceed or countervine the laws of the land. Sadly the litigation route is a joke. All attorneys want is money and frankly they are both the ones who write the laws then charge vast sums to come up with workarounds. They are also the ones who sit on the bench and fund the campaigns to keep their friends on the bench. However, if you truely have national attention leverage it via elected officials. If you have a copy of an illegal contract send it to state officials (pre-election would have been ideal). Follow it up with something in what is left of this nations news. LA times perhaps?

    I am only partially of the solution you mentioned, however I am also aware that this issue has been around for a very long time.

    Regardless of what people think or say, I can whole heartedly assure you the fundamentals of the film industries revenue are more than just fine, the are stellar. If they where not the major financial institutions would have pulled out long ago just like Arnold pulled out of Planet Hollywood. There is tons of money in the game. Perhaps I should spell it tonnes.

    Best regards JD

    P.S. Don’t be so hard on fellow vfxers who went through a rough patch. Never Judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. Lives and families have been destroyed.

    • golstein says:

      “There is tons of money in the game. Perhaps I should spell it tonnes.” I know, but I don’t know why, workers believe that companies are not doing enough money. They are rich. Very rich.

  32. […] example of this can be seen in a blog post by VFX soldier where he talks about the practices of a visual effects house. Some of the objective claims are that […]

  33. rajesh2014@rediff says:

    hello vfx soldier

    We work at Prime focus We are having lot of problems here, have a very long hours working sometime we are work 2 12 hr shifts non stop.
    Artists not allowed to go another company as we are to pay back months salary to Prime focus if so, and are not let us leave the company forcefully. Woith shouting and abusing to us daily from production here.
    Now sending to us work from all double negative films from london right now and also working for digital domain but we are not paid correct, no pay increase in 3 yrs. Also have supervisors from US come here and work but not money for us. We have no internet so cannot contact outside. Saw your website and asking for suggestion from global artists in this situation

  34. david324 says:

    I used to have a high opinion of MPC. A director once suggested to me that I work there as a roto artist. I thought it would be a great place to work. Disappointingly, I now know better.

  35. golstein says:

    Guys! Why you are so afraid? Wake up!

  36. golstein says:

    MPC HR/ recruiters are very similar to this, going from town to town:

    Don’t let yourself foolish by these guys.

  37. JonMeier says:

    @golstein
    I appreciate that you have a lot of energy and are charged on the subject. It’s much more admirable than the apathy (or timid nature) of our ranks.
    I’d love to see some solid proposals by someone with your vigor. I know it’s natural to want to pick out what we don’t like and and call alarm on it, but I don;t think that MPC is the problem. It’s the side-effect of the problems in this biz.
    What solutions say you other than Lock Up our bosses? In the long run I think it’s better to think of our failing VFX company leaders as our dysfunctional or alcoholic parents rather than our enemies. In the most broken situations…..we should try to fix them, rather than talk about selling them down the river. Either solution will take an immense effort, but they will set incredibly different environments for us when successfully executed.

  38. Ido Banai says:

    Why don’t we just start with making sure a lot of these incompetent assholes get fired?

  39. JonMeier says:

    @Ido,
    Let’s say you get your CEO fired. What happens next?

    • goldstein says:

      CEO has to be fired if he is unable to settle a decent company in which people do their job and go home on time.
      Any other excuses, like for exemple – there is no money, those big 6 are shit, is unacceptable.
      What kind of company is MPC? What kind of CEO is the one who encourage these abuses?
      He has to go not only from this company but from all companies in the world. This is why we work more we are payed less and we are struggling to get a job.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Nobody ‘has’ to fire anyone.

        Not unless someone’s breaking the law, and employees are prepared to have the balls to point this out…

  40. JonMeier says:

    I almost agree with your statement:
    CEO can’t run company = Encourages Abuse = Our Work climate sucks

    Though watching the evolution of this industry over my 16 years in it…What I see is a bit more complex. It wasn’t always this way at every place. There was always place around that had long hours and crappy conditions. But the glamour of what we were doing was newer and felt more prestigious. It felt more…”Worth It”.

    Over time subsidies crept in and “disrupted” the market. Cinesite Hollywood (Owned by Kodak) was able to underbid every house in town, because they were financed by a company with a lot of money that had a lot to gain by getting their BRAND into the Digital Film scene. This forced bids lower than desired by the VFX companies trying to find a way to keep their doors open.

    Then governments got in the game by subsidizing films directly or indirectly. This made a notable difference in the profits that VFX companies were able to use to put into things like R&D. Internal development slowed down, so hat you could often only put real money into development if someone like James Cameron came and paid you to develop something for his movie.

    Eventually vfx bids were dropped to a level where houses could only keep their doors open if they had booked low profit work in volume (profit could not fund the gaps between projects)

    Companies then pivoted to open foreign branches where they could find workers at lower rates in order to compete. This didn’t prove effective enough in many cases (R&H, Sony, for instance)

    They then had to try to do most of their work in a subsidy zone, or face closure.

    Now that most of the big companies went bankrupt, or downsized to a skeleton crew in Los Angeles….the actual cost of Staff-Employed VFX became subsidy dependant.

    Now the studios are not just business, but are corporations. And corporate business is mathematically and magnetically drawn to the bottom line. They have little choice but to go with the lowest “acceptable” quality (for whatever metric determines this) at the lowest price(evaluating the liabilities).

    So here we have a mostly subsidized industry competing for an even lower price. No VFX CEO can consistently get awarded projects with highly profitable bid numbers. If someone knows differently, I would love to hear the story

    Now that we are approaching the bottom, I suspect we will begin to see the subsidized companies begin to merge (we’re seeing that) and then some start to suddenly close (next year or two, if I were a bettin’ man).

    Like I said earlier, we’ve always had companies with long crappy hours and conditions. It just wasn’t the rule. We’re see few long-term positions (stable jobs) and what that creates is a work force of desperation. People will now lower their standard of quality, standard of living, and standard pay so that they can work for a few months. That isn’t just MPC. It’s EVERYWHERE.

    Removing a single CEO in this industry and replacing him/her with someone that you deem is a nicer guy will not change the fact that the company cannot afford to treat you well. I worked for John Hughes (CEO of R&H). That dude cares about his employees personally. He cares about your standard of living, but R&H could not pay it’s employees any more (everyone knows the story).

    Good CEO or Bad CEO…..that won’t change the fact that they have to TRY to be the lowest bidder. It won’t change the fact that we’re all working in a broken model.

    ADAPT has ideas that lead to change in the model. The people pushing Bectu (union in UK) have ideas that lead to change in the model.

    • goldstein says:

      Coop is one great thing. But a coop needs MONEY as well.
      But I try to understand one thing. Why these guys are still working in this industry? Seems very clear that one day everything will fall in parts.

    • Joe Downing says:

      Well, if this is an option people wanted to consider you would have to coordinate on a grand scale.

      Consider this. If the issue is forced slave labor without accounting for hours worked striking for one day will just mean everyone has to work longer hours the next day, week, month etc.

      The only way action like this can possibly have any effect at all is if it is timed both in occurance and duration to effect the release date of major blockbusters at the high-point in the most profitable window for the people calling the shots. Adhock deflowering will have no effect.

      Let’s play the example game again. Was it yesterday Carl Icahn lost $40m on Hertz? Honey badger don’t care, what’s $40m? Nothing. OK you can buy a couple senators and a judge and have a few million left over, but there is still $24b left over so whatever.

      The studios aren’t the top of the food chain anymore.

      Honestly this post should be titled PMC fluff piece on MPC draws flurry of MMC replies.

      $100m dollar budget production.
      What do you think the marketing budget is? $50m?

      You can have a few flops, you can have a few more write downs, but if a film doesn’t hit theaters as promised a whole other world shudders and heads roll.

      Does anyone remember way back what happened with Eraser? Mountains and the Heavens and earth where moved to hit that release date.

  41. JonMeier says:

    You and your fellow employees can also DEMAND your vfx company begin risking it’s neck and your job on I.P. ownership and creation. It might actually pay off. Change in model.

  42. Joe Downing says:

    First let me apologize for any typos etc, I am traveling and doing this on a rather testy touch screen phone.

    Secondly let me say IMHO there is clearly a lot of brain power here. I would like to remind people regardless of where we are in this world something humanity seems to have forgotten, we are all in this together.

    There have been so many great posts and trying to keep up, chew gum and breath has been a choir. Not sleeping is something we are all used to.

    With that out of the way there seem to be a few things people are missing. Some have scratched the surface on a few of them. I would like to add some of them in a short list.

    1)YouTube. I have seen this mentioned. I actually left the game and started working on short films with you tubers. Your jaw would drop if you knew how much money they are making. They pay well and have been a joy to work with, though there has been some culture shock. I bring this up because I saw it mentioned at least once. I will quote Ultron since it seems superheros are all the rage, “you want to save the world but you don’t want it to change. There is only one path to peace.”. Yep you guessed it, I watches the trailer on Youtube. The reason I walked away was not just the mess of the industry but to be honest when I went through my darkest days I turned to friends in the vfx community and rather than rally the wagons they shit on me. I still see people doing that here. There is common interest vs self preservation at work, especially when the rent is do.

    2) for a long time all I hear was subsidies. Really? Tbh I even feel for this trap too for a while. It is such a small fraction of a much bigger picture. Look further afield, this is happening in every aspect of life, work and play across the world. The financial collapse orchestrated by greed and corruption lead to massive consolidation. Most of the studios are now owned by cable/internet providers. Most of the subsidies go to the studios and thus those who own them not the vfx houses. Which leads me to my next point if I can remember. Woody is here and he smoked a LOT of pot before I came on.

    3) Follow the money. I see a lot of finger pointing at the Brits but as mentioned MPC is owned by Technicolor (insert full corporate identity) which was an American company but is now owned by Technicolor SA. SA denotes it is a French company. In fact all of the companies at the top fall into the category of Multinational if you look far enough since they are owned in turn by multinational banks. Feel free to insert your favorite conspiracy theory any time. Boy things have sure changed. When did that change begin?

    4) Student loans. What on earth could this have to do with it? A lot more than most people suspect. The market is flush with fresh graduates burdened with big student loans to mostly For Profit educational institutions flush with cash and making a lot more money than VFX facilities. Almost anyone can qualify and as the video posted above so eloquently shows they use candy to bate children. As someone already mentioned when you come out of school with a big student loan and someone, anyone offers you a six month contract you will take it. Do you think there is a connection? Does a school host your event to deflect your attention? What we are seeing not reminds me of what we saw in housing before the collapse, easy credit, anyone accepted for a loan (mortgage) they can’t afford. Debt slavery anyone? Yes people talk. Yes there really are conspiracies. Did anyone catch the wage fixing conspiracy mess in silicone valley? It happens all the time. It is happening everywhere in all sorts of industries. For fans of this and the NWO we are at much greater risk of corporations forming a world government than that UN power waste. It effects you. Simply put communism is when the state takes over the corporations and fascism is when the corporations take over the state. One that note I would like to remind the Americans in the audience that the United States was never a democracy it is a republic. But I digress.

    5) Grey or Gray (if you prefer) Areas. An extremely good point was raised here. The law. A gray area. In order to be covered by a labor law you have to fight neatly into a category defined ambiguously by a verbose law. Again here in the United States our bi-cameral (cameral being the root word of camera can be extrapolated to illusion if one wants) legislature is defined as nonfunctional unless it passes thousands of laws, most of which are actually bills not laws, every year.

    Where am I going with all of this? Well, I have tried to listen to everyone. I have heard individual groups make good points and impassioned arguments. I have heard people talk business. I have read posts and comments saying “I have a solution but you aren’t ready” or “You won’t follow” or things to this effect but I have yet to hear a single solution that will work long term and cover all the bases.

    When the teamsters came to town to deal with the guys with the fancy trucks a few months ago it didn’t really have much impact and that is one of the toughest unions this planet has ever seen.

    When I worked in the video game industry we used to quietly chuckle at the top player who would brag about “winning the game” because we knew the truth. The people who win the game are always the people who made it.

    What was it Morpheus told Neo about the rules? Wow I feel old all of a sudden.

    Your problem isn’t MPC it is bankers and attorneys squeezing you for shareholder value. Fighting MPC are the entire world at the vfx house level is an futile battle which will help a few and leave the rest out in the cold. The real movers and shakers have long ago decided what percentage goes to the human debt slave and no matter what happens that will not change unless they are directly put in range of the metaphoric cannon fire. They just do not care. In fact they probably hate you more than they hate the person scrubbing their 5 million foot hatch and floating island in the shape of a certain type of tree.

    Wow Haliburton buying Baker Hughes, what would Howard say. Shocker right? Frackin hell man.

    Best of Luck!
    Anonymous ly yours

    PS sorry about the brontosaurus hoax, that wasn’t funny. I see that now. You have to admit we had you on the higgs boson thing for a while though!

    • WakeTheDead says:

      Conspiracy? didn’t anyone ever tell you, that you are not to say that word in public? Better yet, just pretend it doesn’t exist. Because people who understand there are conspiracies in the world also usually have a better than most understanding of who it is behind the conspiracies. And the people creating conspiracies to keep everyone else playing their game by their rules are not really interested in being found out. Makes perfect sense… If you aren’t a sheep.

      So Rajesh above says that Prime Focus IS NOT PAYING Indian employees properly and sometimes not at all… and they are working 24 hour shifts? If this is true, then this is a major problem with big repercussions throughout the whole industry and is a part of the reason VFX houses more and more resemble sweatshops. You can’t underbid free. And of course, this is not just happening in India. The VFX industry has been gamed. Like Joe said, the VFX meltdown is part of a larger meltdown in which the laws of countries have been deregulated and the middle classes destroyed… Intentionally. The sheep are still trying to wrap their minds around what has occurred.. The stumbling block here being the word “Conspiracy.” Because the one’s who have conspired have it drummed into our heads that conspiracies do not exist.

      So now that the VFX industry has been turned into a massive sweatshop, there is a Murdoch getting involved? Murdoch owned Fox News was a major player in leading the USA and UK into the expensive and never ending Middle East wars which we are all still “subsidizing” now since 2001. Can’t wait to see how this turns out.

      • Luma-natus says:

        You’re on dangerous ground here.. The last thing needed is some loose cannon with an overactive noodle rocking the boat. The VFX global propeganda machine is best manned by docile ruminants…

      • WakeTheDead says:

        The assholes sitting on the Board of Directorships of some of these massive corporations that have wrecked the VFX industry like Joe said are tied into the banking industry. But if you dig around a bit on Wikipedia you will see familiar names on these boards… names of assholes involved with The Great WMD Lie that led to the whole War on aTerror gig we are still paying into. In the case of both USA and UK the end result of both actions being to destroy segments of the middle class by shifting wealth into the hands of the 1% who are in turn shifting the money overseas into bank accounts where they don’t have to pay their fair share of tax dollars leaving that burden of taxation for you to pick up. In the case of both USA and UK, the VFX industries have been weakened to the point of collapse. Weakened companies with increasingly bad working conditions and pay and increasingly shoddy effects work as deadlines get shorter on projects in order to compete.

        Weakening and collapsing VFX studios and artists so they have no leverage serves the purpose of allowing the Big Studios and their backers to control the outcomes of the “Game”. Who wins and who loses.

        Naomi Klein wrote a book that explains what is happening to all of us I think. Her book is called Shock Doctrine and was applied to things like the Iraq wars. It explains how Libertarian free market types when they decide to do a free market takeover of a targeted industry or country, must first weaken and collapse all will to resistance. Sounds like what is going on in VFX if you ask me.

  43. Joe Downing says:

    Oh I just saw the tweet roll–I hate twits, nothing of value can be said in 140 characters unless your intent is to end a 20 year career or marriage fast–but I wanted to point something out. The trending topic seems to be write downs. Here is the dirty secret, they are actually good for big multinationals. I will attempt to illustrate this.

    You make movies which draw people to merchandize and $50 dollar sandwiches and themed stuff based on your movies. Thanks for the best education ever George. Then you move some money around and pay less taxes. This is why it is called a write down instead of a lose because it is a win. Because like I said the fundamentals of the Entertainment industry are massively good, at least that is what my man at the place that really owns this stuff keeps telling me.

    Remember this. We bailed out to big to fail but we didn’t bail out Detroit.

    We can forgive credit card debt but never ever forgive student loan debt.

    The world ain’t what it seems gunney.

    Just remember. If this was the fashion industry that computer would have needles and threads and the time clock would be unplugged.

    It is going to get worse before it gets better. A LOT worse. That’s what the physical therapist kept saying.

    • goldstein says:

      “It is going to get worse before it gets better. A LOT worse.” Let’s see this. I hope will get worse but I hope will get better as well. MUCH BETTER!

  44. ____ says:

    In London start with the main culprits. The scumbags who have wormed their way into management. Get hold of them. One at a time. And give them a kicking they won’t forget. Make an example of them. That’ll be a good start.

  45. Someone That Cared says:

    I did say something and it got me fired!

    I was one of the first 50 to get hired at MPC Montreal and one of the few first comers to get that 1 year contract. At first things were great. Small team, effective team and flowing communication. When we moved from Technicolor’s offices to where MPC is currently located, things started to get out of hand. Number of employees grew exponentially, within 6 months we went from 50 to 250 and they were now targeting 500. It’s only after Xmen that we started to lose some pretty good artists. For whatever reason artists choose to leave (end of contract, tired of the company, home sickness, girlfriend problem etc), I felt that MPC wasn’t putting the extra effort to keep them. My weakness was that I cared .. cared so much to write to key people (HR, Head of Department, my department manager, and the studio manager) to implore that they recognize the quality of people we were losing … Being a people’s person, I was not afraid of the answers I would receive, I was worried that the studio was leaning in the wrong direction. I even had a friendly chat with the studio manager to try to find solutions to the problem at hand.

    Needless to say, I had painted a target in my back and was soon fired “for really stupid reasons”. The email I sent had a consequence. Foolish of me, maybe. Now I just keep things to myself since I’d rather have work than worry about others.

    • Ido Banai says:

      I was at MPC Montreal from the early days of Xmen.

      MPC Fucked over FOX, their employes and the government of Quebec.

      They colluded to deliver an inferior product for the sake of cementing thier montreal office and staying in the black and commited many flagrant NDA Violations.

      overall they conducted business in a really unhealthy, unsustainable and unproductive manner and it will bare fruit soon enough.

      • bobby says:

        MPC Montreal is based on people who encourage the abuse – lead compositor and comp supervisor, vfx supervisor are all people who ruin many companies and brought financial lost to them.
        The whole structure of Montreal vfx community is based on cliques and opportunism.
        MPC is not the only bad place in Montreal. Framestore, Cinesite, Atomic Fiction are all made by people from other ex Montreal companies like DAMN Fx, Newbreed, DigitalDimension, and most of them were in charge out there.

    • bobby says:

      well..you will not have work for long time. The whole vfx will implode. You better worry about others, and report any abuse you will see.

  46. […] I don’t delve too much into my personal bio on this blog but as a minority who grew up in a pretty bad part of LA and had various odds stacked against me, I’ve been grateful to have worked in the industry. While I was aware of the low rates of minorities in the industry, I never came to the conclusion that there was a racial bias in the industry. In fact, I consider VFX to be one of the most egalitarian institutions I have experienced. Unfortunately it is my observation that this latest piece suffers a similar fate as a recent post on MPC artists: […]

    • Granite guy says:

      I love VFX and i am novice doing it on the side as a hobby and been fallowing this since it started. So what did you guys do? did you form a union or some trade organization or something to protect your self NO reallyyyyyy? and now you are bitching about how employe is f-ing with you its all about the money people. I work for a small granite fabrication shop and 35 of us formed a union in 2010 because our employ wanted us to work on weekend and fuck with our work schedule and other few things we got experienced union organizer to help us and guess what we are not working on weekend and any big change has to be approved by the union which is us. One day i hope to work with you guys and i respect and love what you guys do real artists. But its sad what they are doing to you guys.

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