Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Continuing O.T. Dialogue

The Issue that is always with us:

A few days back I got an e-mail from a producer-director at one of the major animation studios. It's worth sharing, and so I share it. It went as follows:

I'd like to say a few words about this from a director's/producer's point of view. If anyone is being taken advantage of, then definitely, they should say or do something about it.

Now...union hours as we all know, are 9-6, with two fifteen minute breaks and a one hour lunch. If you were to come over to the BLANK offices right now, you'd find that fewer than one third of the staff is in the building, let alone at their desks beginning work (I am writing this at 9:15).

We don't make a big deal about it, because ultimately, the work is getting done. I admit that usually I don't come in at nine either, I take long lunches, and goof off during the day. That's why I don't mind staying until 7:30 or 8:30 usually.

This is also the case with other employees I've encountered here late at night. I've actually asked some of them to go home, but they reply that they came in late and want to make up the time.

Again, if an employee is honestly being taken advantage of, they should make an issue of it. But if any of the people who are complaining are guilty of any of the above habits (long lunches, excessive talking or phone conversations, long breaks, or coming in late), my response is for them to shut up, sit down at their desks and do the job they are being paid to do. They might find out that they don't need to put in overtime to get their jobs done.

I responded with this:

Yes, I get complaints. I've had meetings with board artists at BLANK where I've said the following:

"Put down the ACTUAL amount of time you work each day on your time cards. The cards are legal documents. If you take a long lunch and work six hours that day, put down six hours.

"If you work eleven hours, put down eleven hours. Just be honest and accurate."

But you know the drill. People complain about the uncompensated o.t. they're doing, but of course nobody wants to rock the boat and stick his/her neck out by getting vocal about it.

From my p.o.v., scheduling for shows is all over the map. Sometimes it's realistic, sometimes not. I think there are ways of adjusting things without a lot of pain, but it always depends on everyone's flexibility. I tell artists to let management know if they're having problems as a group. (This has happened a couple of times, believe it or not.)

Wandering through studios as much as I do, I see lots of different things happening and get lots of different complaints, stories, etc. Two weeks ago I was at a big studio (not BLANK in the exchange above) and got complaints about two different shows.

On Show #1, a demanding director who wanted changes, changes and more changes, caused everyone to work extra hours, and it was made clear that "there was no budget for o.t." So everyone was sucking it up and working uncompensated o.t. (I got one complaint from someone leaving the show. Nobody else made a peep of protest.)

On Show # 2 (same studio) I was getting complaints about endless o.t., overtime on many nights, overtime on weekends, etc. Problem here was, arms were getting sore and sleep was being lost. But no problem with uncompensated o.t. On this show, the studio was paying all the o.t. hours.

Like I say up above: In Toontown, the ways artists are treated tend to be all over the map.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it's safe to say that most of the people working a lot of unpaid overtime are disgruntled by it because they find themselves actually WORKING more than 40 hours a week.

Anonymous said...

ANY exec who says "sit down and shut up" just lost me.

Yes, it's true: there's happily a less than sweatshop looseness to the start times, generally(but not always followed everywhere). It's ALSO true at EVERY place I've worked, feature and TV, that NO ONE observes the official breaks. By that I mean supervisors/non-artists. I can't count the times meetings, reviews or other business are scheduled with no allowance that in the morning and afternoon there are scheduled, mandatory union break times. Just try walking out in the middle of some producer's spiel at 10:30 or 3:30. They'll be really understanding, yes?

NO. And on one production I had the directors complained that every meeting was scheduled during the lunhc hour, say after day. That wasn't an acident, it was dmaned deliberate-a cost saving device from the most powerful company around. Nice, huh?

I've also-at every studio-suffered under production managers giving the EVIL eye if I am, god forbid, getting coffee or visiting a neighbor. Guess what, Mr. Producer? We artists actually need and use "breaks" like that to rest our backs, talk over a scene, get some good vibes, refuel, network, ask pertinent questions et cetera. On the other hand I can tell many stories about highly paid producers who sit in their offices talking loudly on the phone planning vacations, weddings, dinner and other purely personal, non-animnation, social stuff.
You'll get your work, believe it; if you don't, we know perfectly well that we won't stay employed. We also know that every last ome of you seems to resent the fact that fun loving "people who can draw" get paid pretty decent salaries for our talent that befuddles you. Deal. And sit down and shut up.

Steve Hulett said...

And on one production I had the directors complained that every meeting was scheduled during the lunch hour, day after day. That wasn't an accident, it was damned deliberate-a cost saving device from the most powerful company around. Nice, huh?


Know the company. I got into a fight about it with an exec. I said: "Bringing sandwiches in for a 'working lunch' doesn't constitute a work break."

She argued that it did. The Studio Labor Relations person in the room said, "Ah, no it didn't."

I've always given execs polite hearings when they lay out their cases that usually boil down to: "It's not my fault, the artists are lazy and shiftless."

I just don't happen to agree with their premise.

See, when I see a production manager leaning on artists to work o.t. without compensation, I don't think it's artists at fault. I think the production is being mismanaged.

Steve Hulett said...

Now...union hours as we all know, are 9-6, with two fifteen minute breaks and a one hour lunch.

Actually, union hours, also what we call "non-exempt employees" hours (which, under Federal labor regs, includes animators, revisionists, assistants and some others) is:

Eight hours at straight time, the ninth to fourteenth hours at time and a half, and more than that at double time.

When I worked at Disney, the work hours were eight to five, with an hour for lunch. We clocked in, clocked out.

Same thing at Filmation. Eight to five. Clock in and clock out. An hour for lunch (state law requires at least a half hour.)

Anonymous said...

"I've also-at every studio-suffered under production managers giving the EVIL eye if I am, god forbid, getting coffee or visiting a neighbor. Guess what, Mr. Producer? We artists actually need and use "breaks" like that to rest our backs, talk over a scene, get some good vibes, refuel, network, ask pertinent questions et cetera. "


Production managers and Line producers are a sad little bunch anyway with their charts that don't apply to anything relevant, their schedules with deadlines that can never be met and their budgets that are so precious to them.

They are often tyrannical to artists because it's the one group they can bully without fear. When they're not hunched over all of their meaningless charts and graphs, they're endlessly kissing the asses of producers and executives. They'd throw the artists into a furnace if it meant keeping their job for another week.

jon anon said...

Sounds like I’m in the minority, but I refuse to work more than 5 days of OT without compensation. Like Hulett states above, it’s about the production being mismanaged. Why do I have to pay for someone else’s mistakes? And then not get any kind of compensation??

Obviously there will always be some kind of overtime and sometimes, sure, I’ll do a little bit for free out of dedication to the show/company. But more than a week? Never. Esp. with the guild to back me up. 9 times out of 10 the guild has helped me out on OT crap. Just had to actually speak up and LET. THEM. KNOW.

“I’d rather work OT for free than be unemployed”. Really?? For how long? Months and months? And then get the shaft anyways after the project is done? Then get re-hired for another project and get OT-raped again and again? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

obviously you are in a minority. lots of people are just too scared to risk being unemployed.
animation is a competitive industry and there just arent that many jobs to go around. maybe its gutless and wrong, but this is the way it is and it will probably not change anytime soon.
knowing that, i think its still up to the union to do something to help their members.
i think someone should monitor productions that have lots of people working unpaid overtime and when that happens the guild should put the pressure on the producers to make changes.

Anonymous said...

There's plenty of jobs. Especially in LA.

By not stating your legitimate grievance about uncompensated OT, you're also at fault for perpetuatting the problem.

To be fair, some studios are on the up n up, and do things by the book. Other studios,especially outside the US,are wayyy demading. Like at WETA, where you're expected to put up to 80 hours, no OT but straight pay, and if you do less than 70, they look at you funny...

Rufus.

Kevin Koch said...

knowing that, i think its still up to the union to do something to help their members.

We say it again and again, but it bears repeating -- "the union" is ALL of us, together. It's not Steve Hulett or the staff on Lankershim. If individual animation professionals are willing to put up with the nonsense without saying or doing anything, then there IS no union, and nothing will change.

i think someone should monitor productions that have lots of people working unpaid overtime and when that happens the guild should put the pressure on the producers to make changes.

The only possible monitoring is by the people doing the work. That's you, my friend, and me, and our coworkers. Production won't monitor it (of course), and the business agent of local 839 cannot know what's happening unless the people getting abused tell him. There aren't any crystal balls in Steve's office.

And, as Steve has written here many times, there are plenty of examples where animators HAVE told him of overtime abuses, and he HAS gone to the producers, and money has been paid out or the abuses have stopped. But, unfortunately, those interventions only affect that production, at that time. It's an ongoing problem, that requires ongoing intervention. There is no one-shot, blanket solution.

Until more of us working professionals understand that part of being a professional is expecting to be treated like professionals (i.e., that our work has value, and that we must receive compensation for it), the problem won't go away anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Rufus, you are like a borken record every time this topic comes up. someone says "there isnt a lot of work out there" and you come back with "yes there is" as if your personal experience represents what the rest of us go through. we get that your better than the rest of us, so give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

"We say it again and again, but it bears repeating -- "the union" is ALL of us, together. It's not Steve Hulett or the staff on Lankershim. If individual animation professionals are willing to put up with the nonsense without saying or doing anything, then there IS no union, and nothing will change."

We say stuff to you all the time... if you guys aren't going to take the role of representatives and be the ones to stick your necks out for those of us who are afraid to, then what's the f*cking point of having union reps at all?

You can rag on us for being "scared" all you want, but that just shows how little you understand the situation we're in.

Anonymous said...

"Again, if an employee is honestly being taken advantage of, they should make an issue of it. But if any of the people who are complaining are guilty of any of the above habits (long lunches, excessive talking or phone conversations, long breaks, or coming in late), my response is for them to shut up, sit down at their desks and do the job they are being paid to do."

And I'd guess that in your estimation those "any of yous"? are 99.9999% of your employees, right?
And that other guy, that .0001% who challenges you about the unpaid OT that HE is entitled to won't have a bit of trouble getting his fair OT pay, right?

What an absolute load you're shoveling there, my friend.

It's blatantly obvious that you feel it's YOU who are ill-used by your goldbricking, lazy, over-entitled peons.

"They might find out that they don't need to put in overtime to get their jobs done."

Jesus. You just couldn't be more patronizing, could you?

Well I'm 1000% positive that you have no idea how long it takes to do any of the jobs in your productions-only how long you've scheduled for them in your underbid, self-serving budget.

Steve Hulett said...

We say stuff to you all the time... if you guys aren't going to take the role of representatives and be the ones to stick your necks out for those of us who are afraid to, then what's the f*cking point of having union reps at all?

Okay. Just to keep you informed:

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with 75% of the story-boarding staff on a teevee show at a BIG company. We met in a conference room away from the work area.

I went through the usual drill about time cards and federal and state law. I asked: "How many of you work uncompensated o.t.?" The crew said: "all of us." They also said the production manager leaned on them to work uncompensated o.t.

Everyone was fine with me "doing something." Nobody was fine with me revealing anybody's name. I told them: "I'll go talk to the producer. I'll complain to Labor Relations about the production manager asking for falsified time cards, since that's what it comes down to."

Everybody said "okay."

I went to the producer's secretary, asked for a meeting. (He was out.) After a few days of no response, I went back to the studio, found the producer in his office, laid out the case of his overworked board artists. He made some polite demurrals, but he got my point: lots of compensated o.t., please adjust and make it stop. I also told him of the production manager and the arm-twisting for falsified time cards.

At the same time, I called the company's labor relations department, and forcefully made the argument that the production manager had to stop asking for falsification of time cards.

My follow-up: A few days ago, I talked to some of the same crew, and found out that there have been some changes, that the production manager is "nicer," that they're trying to work things out.

Now, have all the problems been solved? No. Will there still be abuses? Yes. Do I intent to keep making an issue of this? Yes.

I work to monitor the situation at a whole bunch of studios, but I am only as good as the information and support I get from people working at those places.

As I've said before, anon., I'm happy to do whatever you think will be effective. Give me specifics, and I'm there.

Steve Hulett said...

You can rag on us for being "scared" all you want, but that just shows how little you understand the situation we're in.

With all due respect, Kevin and I both worked at different studios and we know the climate.

What, specifically, leads you to believe we don't understand what employees in the industry are going through?

Anonymous said...

"I went to the producer's secretary, asked for a meeting. (He was out.) After a few days of no response, I went back to the studio, found the producer in his office, laid out the case of his overworked board artists. He made some polite demurrals, but he got my point: lots of compensated o.t., please adjust and make it stop. I also told him of the production manager and the arm-twisting for falsified time cards.
At the same time, I called the company's labor relations department, and forcefully made the argument that the production manager had to stop asking for falsification of time cards.
My follow-up: A few days ago, I talked to some of the same crew, and found out that there have been some changes, that the production manager is "nicer," that they're trying to work things out."


NOW we're getting somewhere!

This is what you should be doing ALL THE TIME. RELENTLESSLY. NON-STOP. In fact, stop reading this and go get in more faces.

Eventually (hopefully) producers and managers will get so sick of your constant badgering that they won't even TRY this kind of bullshit in the first place.

Kevin Koch said...

This is what you should be doing ALL THE TIME. RELENTLESSLY. NON-STOP. In fact, stop reading this and go get in more faces.

This is why Steve visits different studios virtually every day. Just go back and note one crucial thing about the above example he gave. He had SPECIFIC workers complaining about a SPECIFIC show and a SPECIFIC production manager. If none of the affected story artists had told Steve what was happening, and where, and by whom, then he couldn't have accomplished a thing.

Steve could go visit labor relations departments every day of the week at every studio, and spend hours "getting in people's faces," but it wouldn't do a whit of good unless it's coupled with specifics.

Unfortunately, I know all to well how things work. Steve can only back up people who are willing to speak up. He CANNOT do anything for people who are so frightened that they won't even "stick their necks out" far enough to tell him what's happening (that's directed at the anonymous stalwart about 5 posts up).

Steve Hulett said...

This is what you should be doing ALL THE TIME. RELENTLESSLY. NON-STOP. In fact, stop reading this and go get in more faces.


I do it a lot more than you know.

But here's the problem. What do I do when I have meetings (which I've had) and the artists say:

"No! Don't talk to ANYBODY in management! They're gonna know where this came from! They're gonna know who complained! Keep your mouth shut!"

This has happened more than once. What do you expect me to do in a case like that?

Usually, I do what the artist(s) want, and keep my trap shut. Once in a while, I go complain anyway.

Several years ago, at Disney TVA, I bullied artists who were getting screwed working on development to let me go file grievances.
In the end, everybody got extra checks. Everybody got extra hours. Nobody's career went into the toilet.

Know how many people wanted me to take action?

Zero.

One other thing. I'm not "sticking my neck out" by filing grievances against studios or being a general pain in the ass. The companies don't like me much, but they can't fire me because I don't work for them. So I really give less than a total shit.

But I am sticking my neck out if I get aggressive when the artists whom I rep, who pay my salary and can throw my ass out of office, specifically tell me "don't do anything!" and I go and do something anyway. Now that's risky.

So do you see why lots of time I don't do anything? The person who's being abused tells me not to do anything. And I go against his/her wishes at my peril.

jon anon said...

"I think its still up to the union to do something to help their members."

This is the EXACT bullshit I'm sick of hearing. From my friends and now on these boards.

Is the level of comprehension really that low?

1.If you don't tell someone, how can they help you?
2.If you tell someone the problem and then tell them not to say anything, how can they help you??
3.If you accuse someone of doing nothing(even if they leave a trail of evidence that they are) wouldn't it make sense to give suggestions? Help them help you?

Since so many people are quick to boast "Well we give the unions tons of suggestions and they still don't do anything!"...maybe there needs to be a blog on SUGGESTIONS.

I've said it before, the union ain't perfect and I have some issues with em too. But when I complain to them, they get on it. Do they win 100% of the time? Nope. Do I expect them to? Nope.
But they've helped me more times than not, even when I'm not working at a union shop.

I used to think the union was worthless to. Until I called them up one day to bitch for a looooong time. Felt good and I got money that was owed to me. peachy.

I understand about not speaking up cuz you don't wanna lose your job, but if you don't start giving the union SOME way to help you you'll keep gettin' bitched around.

Kevin Geiger said...

"I think its still up to the union to do something to help their members."

The members ARE the union. And when the members are resolute and united they tend to do better for themselves than when they are meek and divided.

Having a spine means standing up for your rights (and the rights of others) when there is something at stake and you have something to lose, not when there is nothing at stake and you have nothing to lose.

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