... The studio is working us hard and fast, but at the same rate as 15 years ago. We have a smaller, crew, more work, and all of us are freelance. This amounts to a 35% pay cut. ...
$600 per page. * NOTE: 600 dollars per page is frickin' CHEAP!! (This from a freelance storyboard artist.)
Never asked to work more than 40 hours in five days in the past three years. (This from someon working 50 hours per week.)
We don't get paid overtime, but we work over 50 hours per week. Design is paid O.T. -- story isn't.
No paid overtime, salaried position only, including some Saturdays. Sometimes we work a 70-hour week. (This from a non-signator studio.)
No raises in the last three years. (This from a character designer.)
I'm making less than I was paid in 1997. I'm making $1485 now. (This from a storyboard reivionist.) ...
In the 1990s, animation artists were making two to three times Animation Guild minimum rates. Often I heard the cry: "What do we need a contract for? We're making three thousand dollars a week!"
But there was a reason for this: Demand, for a few happy years, way outstripped supply. (And Adam Smith isn't wrong.) But that reality didn't last, the industry dipped, and universities, colleges and art schools began turning out animators, board artists, and computer graphic tech directors by the thousands. And whattayaknow? Supply got up with demand. And overshot it.
So here we are in 2013, and the contract minimums again have relevance. Last week I spoke on the phone with the manager of a non-signator, L.A.-based animation studio who marvelled at another studio in New York who was paying artists $400 and $500 a week. "How do they do it?" she asked me. "How do they make movies and t.v. shows on some of their teeny, tiny budgets?"
I answered that there is no hindrance to paying low wages in New York City, because there is no union there putting upward pressure on wages. Added to which New York is a small animation market with little competition and a lot of hungry artists.
The entertainment industry in general, and animation in particular, is global. The United States has minimal trade restrictions on cheap and/or subsideized movie work. Little wonder then that the Los Angeles entertainment community has taken it in the shorts, work and wage-wise, for the last several years. Animation in Los Angeles has done far better than wide segments of live-action because the talent pool is wide and deep and not easily replicable.
However, "not easily" isn't the same as "not." Animation artists, as witnessed in the comments above, have taken economic hits along with everybody else, and they have long-term ahd snort-term remedies.
The short-term solution to not getting shorted on pay is to work cohesively with peers, and build a culture that demands to be compensated for actual hours worked. At union studios, this means encouraging people not to work for free when the schedule is tight, and letting the business representative (moi) know what's going on.. (This is often easier said than done, but I've seen artists that have worked together to not get shorted. I have been phoned. And I've seen artists succeed.)
For the long term, we've got to push for a level playing field where countries (Great Britain? Canada?) aren't being subsidized to the detriment of other countries. That should be simple to achieve, yes?