Thursday, June 14, 2012

San Francisco Stop Motion

This week has been non-stop. First negotiations. Then a quick trip to San Francisco to visit a Disney project in development at Henry Selick's Cinderbiter studio, housed in a big nondescript building in the warehouse district of San Francisco. ...

I was there for meetings with 839 members (working under a Disney-IA contract) and to get people into the ever-popular TAG 401(k) Plan. The studio is BIG. Lots of sets behind dark curtains, a screening room, rooms with design artists and storyboarders bent over Cintiqs, and a big area on a lower floor where props and characters are made. The place resembles Santa's workshop.

IATSE rep Steve Aredas and I had a couple of impromptu meetings with stop motion animators who said:

So what can the union do for us? There's not a lot of us working in this field. We go to Laika [in Portland], we come here, we go to work in Europe and Britain. We're always travelling to the next job. Are we going to be here long enough to get a pension? ...

When asked, I said that TAG had represented stop-motion artists in the past, and nothing would please us more than to represent a whole lot of them in the future. I said that the goal was to cover the whole animation business with a cloak of benefits so that people would end up with a decent pension and benefits.

Nobody I talked to objected to that idea.

The studio's staff reminded me of DreamWorks Animation's -- lots of artists from other parts of the globe along with lot of Americans. Some of them wanted to know why they should bother getting into a 401(k), since they planned to go back to their home country when Henry's current project (slated to go for another year) wraps next Spring.

I explained that there were a lot of French and English DreamWorkers who declined to get into the TAG 401(k) Plan years ago, telling me then that they wouldn't be in the States for very long, but whattaya know? Eight years later they were still at the Glendale campus, regretful that they hadn't enrolled earlier.

I mentioned something about how life always doesn't unfold the way you plan and anticipate, and that it's wise to take advantage of opportunities as they pass by, since they might not come around again.

(As to the plot of Mr. Selick's new picture: a staffer gave Mr. Aredas and me a thumbnail description of it, but it was very sketchy and we can't reveal story points in any event, since everything is under wraps.

The picture rolls out in October of 2013; if it's successful, I'm sure that there will be more productions coming out of the nondescript building by the bay. And those roving stop-motion artists will get the pension bennies and health coverage they desire.)


Joel Fletcher said...

When I was an animator on The Nightmare Before Christmas, also in San Francisco, it was a union job. The crew was under the jurisdiction of the "all encompassing" I.A.T.S.E. local 16. Isn't this project unionized the same way?

Steve Hulett said...

It's under Disney's IA-TSL agreement, also used by Disney Toons and Disney Feature Animation.

Steven Kaplan said...

Which is to say, the IA holds the contract. 839 has been given the honorable task of maintaining the contract and representing the members due to our already representing the craft.

Floyd Norman said...

I remember another San Francisco warehouse on "James and the Giant Peach." Some things never change, I guess.

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