Last night, Women in Animation held a panel discussion about unions and independent animation creators/entrepreneurs in the biz. Craig Miller, Tom Sito, Steve Hulett and Charles Zembillas were on the panel, moderated by WIA President Linda Miller. Here's my take on the proceedings ...
Tom S. outlined the history of unions in Cartoonland, from the Fleischer days to the present. Craig Miller described how the Writers Guild of America came to represent animation writers in the 1990s, and Yours Truly provided information about contract negotiations, organizing non-union houses, and what the Animation Guild has worked to accomplish over the past twenty years. Charles Z. talked about independent operators in animation, how he came to form Animation Nation in 1999, and how TAG blog comments should be moderated.
There were lots of comments and questions from the audience. Midway, the proceedings briefly devolved into a taunting and yelling match, but order soon prevailed and the panel discussion/Q & A went on. Some of the main points:
* The Hollywood unions' residual system began in the early sixties; the DGA, SAG, and WGA receive residuals as "mail box" money -- that is, checks to individual filmmakers. The IA receives residual as a moneystream into its pension and health plans. (The Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Plan.)
* The first animated television show created under a WGA contract was Craig Miller's Pocket Dragon Adventures. Organizing Pocket Dragons helped spur organizing by the WGA of The Simpsons.
* There are today more avenues for artists to get into the cartoon business, separate and apart from the Big Studios. Independent animated shorts and features can be show-cased on You Tube and other internet sites, and can be monetized through internet ads. However, the revenue derived from that source isn't high.
* Entertainment unions are often helped by their Big Names and Key Players during organizing strikes and contract negotiations. They often make a crucial difference between success and failure. (The WGA's show-runners were very important in the WGA strike 0f 2007-2008.)
* Unions are constrained by Federal Labor Laws and Regulations. For instance, they can't represent a group of employees who are already covered by another collective bargaining agreement.
* The militancy of Film Roman employees was a key reason the Animation Guild successfully organized the studio in 2004.
The meeting ended at 10:15. Hopefully attendees brought away a bit of new knowledge at the end of the whole thing.
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