Tonight marks the 10th time the Visual Effects Society has gathered to present their awards for achievement and recognition. As I was sitting by Twitter eagerly awaiting news of results, this caught my attention:
Good day for a reminder that we all need to be @VFXSoldier 's, fighting to improve conditions for #vfx artists
Most of my recent conversations regarding unionization of visual effects end up in a discussion of why organizing is important. Usually, this begins by discussions of the Hot-Button topic of the day (Health and Pension plans, job protection, globalization, etc) but always end up in a dialog about the purpose of collective action and why standing together and organizing should be important to all artists.
At the core of the work relationship between artist and employer, there is a symbiotic relationship based on need. Shop Owners *need* artists for their experience, skill and talent. Artists *need* shop owners for their ability supply employment by successfully bidding on (or creating) work. This basic relationship is mutually beneficial and co-dependent. As long as the shop owner has work, the artists will keep working .. and as long as the artists keep applying their skill, the shop owner will be recognized as successful and continue to get work.
Union contracts like ours use the collective leverage that comes from the above mentioned core relationship to establish boundaries against owners seeking profit at the expense of artists. Our contracts set standards and conditions that artists have input in drafting. Effectively this resets the artist/owner relationship back to that core where both sides stand on equal footing with regards to the items stipulated in the contract.
Artists not only have to talk about this, artists have to stand up and demand this. There are precious few shop owners I know that are willing to open their hearts to unionization. Organization has to come from within and eventually be demanded by artists.
Artists need to learn what the union is, what it can do, and why collectively they are a dominant force in the industry. While we are able to talk to that, the message spreads more effectively and is better understood when it comes from within the community. None has done a finer job of this than the anonymous artist known as VFX Soldier.
For his efforts in maintaining and contributing to his blog, and discussions across the internet, his identity is constantly sought out. Jeff Heusser's tweet tries to tell us, the identity of VFX Soldier isn't important, his message is. Jeff also understands that in order for the industry to stop using artists as a means to speed up the race to the bottom, we all have to identify with VFX Soldier and stand for the same cause.
I've been questioned countless times by artists, friends and shop owners if I am VFX Soldier. While I can not say I am the blog author, I hope you start to say with me "We are all VFX Soldier. I Am VFX Soldier."