Friday, March 27, 2015

Nightmare Time

Let’s share a Nightmare. In this dark dream, you are not a talented, creative artist. Instead you are an accountant. You work at the very same studio, in a very similar cube but probably with fewer action figures.

Your boss comes into your cube, compliments the color coding on your last spreadsheet, and assigns you to do the budgeting for that hot new animated show they just picked up, “Uncle Bunny and Zombie Pig.” He tells you to base it on the budget you did last season for “Tree Princess Zablimba” but he wants you to cut it down by ten percent.

As your boss walks away, a tiny part of you wants to scream at him. “Ten percent! Are you insane? How can we maintain quality?” But you don’t because, well, you’re an accountant and you live for this kind of thing. So you put in some long hours – sometimes staying as late as 6 PM. And finally you figure it out. If you cut back the storyboard schedule from four weeks to three weeks, you can save that ten percent.

So you send out the new budget and you wait to see what happens. A year later the show is on the air. It’s good. Or so you’re told. You don’t really watch cartoons. You do watch the budget numbers and since there aren’t any overages and the shows all delivered on time, you conclude that your shorter schedule worked.

Over in the next cube you see your boss asking the new guy to budget “Megavengers Action Powerbot Team Six.” And look whose budget he wants it based on - yours! You are pretty proud. Everyone is going to be using your new shorter schedule soon. You have no idea that it caused a lot of artists to work fifty and sixty hour weeks to keep up. How could you? None of them asked for overtime. If they had, you’d have seen it. And if it had been significant enough you might even have considered going back to the longer, less expensive schedule.

Sometime later that week, as you reward yourself with that extra dessert at Cheesecake Factory, a thought will occur to you: what about a two-week storyboard schedule?

Stop the nightmare. Working unpaid overtime gives the studios false feedback on how much can reasonably be done in a standard work week. When the amount of work you are given can’t be completed by your deadline without overtime, ask to be paid for it or ask for your deadline to be extended.

40 means 40.

Jack Thomas
President, The Animation Guild

The above, sadly, is pretty much the way things work in TV land.

Schedules are seldom expanded.


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