Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wages Then ... Wages Now

Old-timers look back with fond memories on the go-go nineties, when wages were in high orbit because

1) there was high demand and

2) relatively limited supply of qualified talent for the making of cartoons.

By 1996, animation salaries had reached all-time highs as fledgling DreamWorks Animation (then part of DreamWorks, the new movie studio) bid against Disney Feature Animation and Warner Bros. Feature Animation for animators, board artists, and designers.

Television production was also going full tilt and tv production board artists were commanding salaries that we eight hundred dollars per week above Animation Guild minimums. Then, artists would say to me, "What do we need minimums in the contract book for? I way above that." ...

Twenty years back? Many folks were in Fat City. And today?

Wages haven't plummeted exactly, but they aren't at double the contract rates anymore, either. ...

There are a variety of forces responsible for the change.

A) The industry was robust through the center of the 1990s, but it's also doing well today. (We had 2800 union members then, we have over 2900 today ... with a few hundred more artists, technicians and writers working under our jurisdiction.)

B) Although Los Angeles has a lot of animation in 2015, there are many more animation departments inside universities today, and a lot more art schools, graduating people who are aiming to work in the business. Supply is closer to demand in 2015 than it was twenty years ago.

C) Since 2008, the studios have been on a systematic campaign to belt tighten and hammer wages down wherever possible.

On the live-action side of the fence, this means getting rid of big, overscale deals that studio once did as a matter of routine. It means every production expense is scrutinized, and star deals are stingier.

For animation, it has meant the end of a lot of long-term employment contracts, and keeping individuals working closer to union contract minimums.

D) Never under-estimate corporations' polished abilities to "coordinate" rates of pay between animation studios. Lawsuits, after all, don't happen in a vacuum.

We're a long way from '95-'96. And today I'm more likely to here: "Man, I'm sure happy we've got contract minimums"

So am I.


Christopher Soto said...

Excuse my ignorance. This is weekly pay correct?

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