Scott Ross, for those who don't know him, is one of the visual effects industry's giants. He was a director at Industrial Light and Magic and one of the founders and directors at Digital Domain. During his tenure in these studios, the visual effects for films have created, set and then raised the standard for visual effects today. Perusing his IMDB page, one finds the films that set the standard for effects over and over again. His opinions are highly sought out as an expert in visual effects as well as the former CEO of DD and a Manager at ILM.
He was recently interviewed by Jeff Heusser for an FX Guide podcast where he shows his stance on organizing the workforce by stating:
"I think a Union situation exacerbates the conditions we already have and will force companies to go out of business".
At the same time, he also professes his wish to get all the visual effects studios together as a collective in order to standardize contracts with the film studios, business practices, salaries and their payments as well as lesser matters like screen credits.
Funny, but that rings an awful lot like Labor Organization to me ....
As stated above, Scott has a long history of visual effects management. His statements against any union and for the visual effects industry and visual effects studios certainly fall in line with someone of his pedigree. Scott has been a director and manager of large visual effects businesses most of his successful career. His passions and experiences lie in the upper offices and boardrooms of these facilities and is intimately familiar with the operations and intricacies that go into making these organizations work.
What makes his argument ironic is that his goals fall directly in line with any labor organization and specifically my goals to organize the visual effects artists here in Los Angeles and beyond. The difference is, Scott is interested in bringing the effects studios together as a collective and bargaining with the film studios for better pay, conditions and to balance out the current distribution of power. In his interview, he explains that this will bring a "good work environment" to the artists who he admits are the backbone of the industry.
As much as I want to believe Scott in his wish to see the visual effects worker happy and provided for, I have to believe that his obvious disdain for unions points to an intention to keep the studio executives happy and comfortable while the visual effects artists are chained to their desks, quietly toiling away, too frightened to speak out lest they lose employment.
Scott closes his interview by contradicting himself again by saying that the large to mid-sized effects studios need to "[take action] or get off the pot" and show their commitment by dipping into the razor-thin margins an organized work force would break, and pony up to form this Viz Efx Trade Organization he has envisioned.
The final bit of irony in all of this? I agree with Mr. Ross. I also believe that the effects studios need organization. With organization, their margins will increase and ultimately the workplace for artists will improve. However, I would add that in that organization process, the artists be represented by an organization with the strength to enforce local and federal labor laws, provide health and pension benefits and balance the decision-making power of the workplace by giving that workforce a voice in the decisions that affect their daily lives.
In tandem, this kind of organization can bring effective, immediate and long lasting change to the industry that we are all interested in seeing.