Getting the message right

Thanks to all who attended the VFX protest yesterday afternoon.

A gentleman on Facebook quipped that we should make sure to unify our message before this turns into another Occupy Wall Street. Despite the name of this blog, we would tend to agree. When the WGA went on strike several years ago, they had a very clear list of demands, and they knew who they were delivering this list to.

Let’s do the same for us.

VFXSoldier has done quite a bit to lobby the WTO, and we fully support his efforts. Along these lines, we demand an end to illegal trade subsidies. Visual Effects work should be awarded based on merit and talent, not based on corporate welfare for the movie studios.

We want a union and a collective bargaining agreement in place. We want pension, health, and welfare coverage for all. We want guaranteed pay, and payment for all hours worked, including overtime. This should be an international union, as artists who work in the UK and Canada should be entitled to the same overtime pay as those in the United States.

For the facilities that employ us, we want several things as well. We want a trade organization, so that these companies can protect their interests. This trade organization should accomplish two main goals. First, movie studios, or any client, will pay for overages when additional work is asked for. Nobody, or no company, will work for free. Second, when a facility creates a star character in a film, such as R+H did with Richard Parker in Life of Pi, the company should be entitled to residual income, as if that character were a SAG actor.

Finally, and possibly the most important demand of all:

We want to be recognized by the entertainment industry and the general public as artists, not technicians. We are not assembly line workers creating a commodity product. We are gifted and talented artisans who create a unique work of art for every shot in every film that we touch.

We should send this list to the six major movie studios, and other independent film makers who wish to use visual effects in their films.

Signs From The Oscar #VFXProtest

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#vfxprotest at the Oscars

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Life of PI, which has grossed over half a billion dollars internationally, is the sure bet to win the visual effects Oscar this year for some of the best character and environment work ever seen on screen which was intrigal to telling this story which 5 years ago, was technologically impossible to tell. At the same time the company that made the lead character of the film, Rythum & Hues is going out of business mainly as a result of being a causality of the 10+ year US VFX industry race to the bottom of chasing tax breaks, outsourcing, lowering wadges, and a un-unionized workforce.

We will be down at Hollywood & Vine to show our support. Not driving, taking the Metro of course.

Understanding Unions: The Good, The Bad & Unknown

Understanding Unions: The Good, The Bad & Unknown Of Forming A Visual Effects Collective Bargaining Organization- Part 1 from Visual Effects Society on Vimeo.

Understanding Unions: The Good, The Bad & Unknown Of Forming A Visual Effects Collective Bargaining Organization- Part 2 from Visual Effects Society on Vimeo.

IASTE representation card

For those of you who spend your lunch hour bitching about your company and the state of the industry, here’s a way you can take two minutes out of your day to start to doing something about it.

http://iatsevfx.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/iatserepcard-formatted.pdf

UNIONS – The people that brought you the weekend

Posting this to help show our support for the IATSE meetup this weekend. Get out there this Sunday June 3rd between 1 – 3 pm. Address:

The International Cinematographer’s Guild
7755 Sunset Blvd
Hollywood, California 90046

Additional information at vfx.iatse-intl.org

IATSE Launches a Web Site!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have a drumroll, please.

IATSE International has formally launched a website for the Visual Effects community!

Please take a moment to visit, and forward to everyone who has questions about organizing.

http://vfx.iatse-intl.org/

This is great news. One of the major issues that VFX artists have taken with the union is the lack of a web presence. As a community, we really need an online reference that we can consult from time to time when questions need to be answered. In addition, the online presence gives artists the security and anonymity inherent with anything online.

May Day

Tomorrow is May 1st. A massive general strike day being organized by the Occupy Movement. If you’re un-employed  or employed and able take the day (or even longer) off from work please get out there to show your support in the fight against your company that’s slowly chiseling away at your benefits while sending your jobs overseas.

If you’re like much of the middle class just one step away from being lower class and have so little disposable income that you’re simply too scared or just not willing to take off any work, at very least please don’t be a subservient happy consumer and restrain from shopping (an exception would be your small, local business of course) for all of May for crap you don’t need in the first place.

Gerneral strikes have been hugely effective through history for making the corrupt system which only serves the 1% be forced to listen to the people and have made major advances in forcing the regression machine in a progressive direction as more and more people realize they’re being forced to the bottom.

More information here:
http://occupywallst.org/article/may-day/
http://www.occupymay1st.org/

Imageworks management responds to organization effort

Imageworks employees are treated to a gathering on a semi-monthly basis, appropriately named monthlies. For those of you who haven’t spent any time there, the format is pretty simple. A handful of executives will get up in front of the theater and speak briefly about their respective departments, and they will talk about corporate direction, future bids, etc. Next, a Visual Effects supervisor or two will address the crowd and do a brief presentation on the shows that they are leading. Finally, sizzle reels for the shows in production are displayed for folks to see what other teams are working on.

It’s a nice way to take a break from work, see other folks face to face, appreciate their work, and have a few beers afterward.

This monthlies, however, had an interesting twist. Imageworks executive Randy Lake addressed the crowd and made everyone aware that management knows about the organization attempt. He said that while he respects the rights of employees to organize, he would encourage those employees to check out some of the benefits that Imageworks already offers employees. He then proceeded to encourage folks to get in contact with P&O (Sony speak for HR) to see what sort of benefits they have available to them.

While we don’t discount the fact that Imageworks offers benefits to freelancers and better benefits to staff members, we should point out the biggest issue with Mr. Lake’s points: most of the employees in that room are going to leave Imageworks at some point in the future, voluntarily or otherwise.

Even if Sony offered its freelancers the best benefits in the world, it wouldn’t change the fact that as soon as they leave, they would no longer be eligible for any of these. That’s where the Union comes in. Health care, pension, and 401(k) are portable with the Union, so not only do you get great benefits, you get to keep them no matter where you work, providing you work a certain number of hours at a union shop per year.

 

Short term / Long term

While our goals for good jobs for all digital artists and personnel can be found on the about section, it’s worth noting some specifics on how this site tends to operate. In our current broken system, we acknowledge that not only will that not happen anytime soon, but the corporate, underbid & cut costs at all costs mindset is racing us as fast as possible in the other direction which will only continue to eviscerate jobs and untimely create a permanent underclass where workers are constantly push to subsistence level.

It took a long time to get us here and while it doesn’t have to, we know it will take a long time to get us out. Here are short term and long term steps that must be taken to correct. If you are reading this chances are not only do you care but are also a non-passive consumer of information. If you’re far enough along that path that you’ve had the inevitable realization that your industry is disappearing from North America (US first, Canada second) and have figured out its the artists that must rise up and fight for good jobs, here are short term as well as long term steps that must be taken. And by the way, the United States has done all of these things before.

Short term: (you and me)

-Educate those who have allowed themselves to absorb 1% mis-information. An example would be the person sitting two desks over from you who says things like ”If we unionize that will make our jobs go away.”

-Organize vfx artists. You spend your lunch hour reactively bitching about the company you work for. Move past that onto proactively standing together to support the group of those who agree so you can all function as a whole.

-Action. Social networking and blogging is useful in terms or organizing but nothing will really happen without physical action. This is what the Occupy movement is about and where we aim to head if others continue to show interest. Help us build a group of VFX soldiers by letting us know you know.

Long term: (you and me and the people pushing bottom up activism that changes the public knowledge to the point where the political will is there to make these things happen)

-Strong unionization or trade unionism. This create leverage and power. “if you don’t pay all of us overtime, all of us are going to walk out the door until you do.”

-Tariffs. The train has left the station and is not coming back. No matter how organized artists are, organization at the ground level is mainly useful for working conditions and quality of life but doesn’t have a direct correlation with outsourcing to lower paying countries or other regions will worst working conditions. A tarriff says, ”hey company trying to maximize profit at all costs, you’re welcome to send that work to India so you can pay a worker 10 cents when you would otherwise have to pay and American worker a dollar, but if you do, you’ll have to pay a 90 cent tarriff on that.” While we can’t do much about other nations offering extremely cheap labor, what we can do is penalize corporations that choose to exploit that pool of inexpensive labor. At the very least, we should close tax loopholes which allow companies to send jobs overseas and pay little to no corporate income tax.

-Punish bad behavior / Reward good behavior. If the political will is there to support the 99% before the 1%, we would have the opposite of what we have now which is currently providing tax incentives to actually send jobs away. A tent-pole example of this is why most films are not shot in California even though all the studios are based in California, which is because studios are currently rewarded for bad behavior of shooting them out of state or out of country rather than being rewarded for good behavior of shooting them right on their own sound stages in LA. This draws parallels at every level of politics and an extension in another area would be rewarding companies that invest in green energy and punish companies that pollute which is the opposite of what’s happening now. Mainly thanks to lobbyists in Washington for the 1% special intrests.

-Move towards a better system. This is an entirely other subject of course but there’s no reason we can’t have a system with less economic in-equality that puts people and the well being of the planet before profits.