As long as I've been doing this, I've heard the complaint -- mostly from corporate types: "the damn unions cost too much money."
It's a fine old whine, but mostly, ah, incorrect. Unions, particularly IATSE unions, aren't budget-busting cost drivers. Let me give you a few examples of what is:
Fourteen years ago, TAG organized a show that a large conglomerate was financing. The director-producer, knowing the company had deep pockets, was hiring everybody who walked through the door and met his approval $200 to $400 above market rates (which, in turn, were then $200-$400 above scale.) The company that was paying these big bucks had no idea what normal wage rates were, and apparently didn't ask.
They were somewhat amazed when they found out (much later) what the market rates were. # # # # # # #
Seven years ago, a couple of corporate execs told me over lunch that of course companies could afford to pay residuals -- if they wanted to. But they didn't want to. (No duh.) # # # # # # # # #
In the early nineties, when television and theatrical animation were roaring along and salaries were climbing and budgets got bigger every year, it was the practice of one large tv animation studio to nickel and dime every expenditure in the pre-production phase: cut time for scripts, speed up boards, ship incomplete shows. Then, of course, the company would spend any amount of money on the back end to salvage the screwups at the front. When an editor I know questioned these skewed priorities, an exec explained to her: "Oh, pre-production comes out of a different budget and charge number, and we have to really watch it. But we have plenty of money to fix things when we're facing a deadline."# # # # # # # # #
President emeritus Tom Sito told me a long while ago how Peter Schneider -- then the head of Disney Feature Animation -- bragged about all the overtime Disney paid on features (this was the early nineties) and how the o.t. was just a tiny fraction of the budget and hardly made any difference in overall costs.# # # # # # # # #
I've seen studios where projects were in development for a year and nothing got greenlighted. And 150 people were yearning for something concrete to do, and quietly gnawing their way across the carpet in abject boredom. (That studio was shut down after three years.) And I've seen studios where everything ran like a Swiss watch and people worked happily for half a decade and more.# # # # # # # # # #
The point? Union wages and work rules aren't the biggest drivers of costs. What makes the major difference -- time after time -- is how well management does its job.