It's no secret that the movie business is on an economizing kick, and the cartoon sector isn't exception to that trend. Many studios are putting the screws to employees just like its live-action cousins.
A couple of days ago, TAG held a meeting with artists from various studios to strategize how employees should push back ...
Contract proposals to counteract perceived abuses were discussed, but it was pointed out that given the problems Hollywood labor organizations have had forging new collective bargaining agreement, 2009 wasn't the most opportune year to ride into town with a saddlebag full of fresh demands to rectivy abuses.
I pointed out that there were already numerous contract rules, along with state and federal regulations, that could relieve workplace stress. Some of the resulting suggestions:
* Holding crew meetings to build consensus about not working uncompensated overtime.
* Filling out time cards accurately. (Giving friendly reminders to fellow artists to fill time cards out accurately.)
* Reporting overlong storyboard and design tests to TAG so the guild can take the issue up with studio reps.
* Building an industry culture that will move toward self-policing abuses.
What I've observed over the last several years is: artists agree among themselves they won't work extra hours for free, then two people on a crew break ranks and start taking work home gratis, then other crew members see what's happening, get paranoid and take work home too. And the whole "we're not working free o.t. anymore falls apart.
I told the group that we need to find new ways to deal with the hours of free work that artists perform week in and week out. Companies get a false impression of how much work can be created in a 40-hour week, and keep raising the bar higher.
I said that the best way to deal with unreasonable schedules is to account for work time honestly. If somebody wanders around driking coffee for an hour, then takes a two-hour lunch, then that somebody should stay late and make up the three hours. But when an honest eight hours of work has been done, make sure that time cards -- which are legal documents -- show any and all extra hours worked.
I said that tighter schedules and pressure from production managers to "help out" with free o.t. have been going on since I started as biz rep nineteen years ago. There were abuses on "Tiny Tunes" in 1990, and there are abuses now. (The industry, if nothing else, is consistent.)
One strategy to combat the latest squeeze? Transparency and information sharing, both up to management and sideways to other employees. When artists work together to show how much work can actually be done in a 40-hour week, then studios will start building production schedules which reflect that.
But if companies can build schedules around a 60-hour week while paying for 40? Then hey, they will cheerfully do it that way.