Monday, September 11, 2006

Residuals -- Again

We got this question from an animator working in a non-union studio, and thought it would be useful to share his query. And our answer... I was a union member when I was in LA at **** and I have been a non-union animator at **** for over 9 years. I had a simple question. Throughout all the years of animation, why don't animators get residuals on films? We are creating performances. Can you shed any light on this? Happy to. In point of fact, union animators do get residuals, but the method and type of payments are considerably different than residuals under the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild. In 1960-61, when residuals were achieved in entertainment unions' collective bargaining agreement, SAG, the WGA and DGA negotiated residual payments that went directly into individual members' pocket. The IATSE -- under which the Animation Guild operates -- negotiated residual payments that went into its pension and health plans. The reason for this was that 40,000 IA members worked in various crafts on hundreds of different television shows and movies, and if residuals were divided up among them all, checks would be small. Miniscule, even. (It would also be a nightmare to administrate, but that's another story.) Now, some people have been unhappy with this arrangement, because they would rather have money flow directly into their wallets for the individual projects on which they worked rather than being part of a big pool of active participants. But, for better or worse, that was how things were set up in the early sixties. Another point: residuals were not paid on animated features in the early years of the IA agreement. The producers took the position that animated features were excluded (IA animation workers still participated in the residual pool for live-action films, by the way). The IA pushed back, however, and a decade ago, residuals began to be paid on animated features under the IA's jurisdiction. A lump sum residual contribution was paid for earlier animated features ("Jungle Book," "The Rescuers," etc.) on which residuals had never been paid. This extra money has benefitted every union participant. Let's go into numbers: Residual money over the last few years has totalled $350 million to $371 million annually. Per those agreements in the sixties, this money has subsidized the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan and gone to participant's Individual Account Plans (part of the Motion Picture Pension Plan). In the late nineties and early 2000s, animators and others working under IATSE collective bargaining agreements received anywhere from five grand to fifteen per year into their Individual Account Plans (IAPs) from residuals. This money is now sitting in accounts in their names earning around 7.5% interest. (Some animators have IAP totals of 100,000 to 130,000 dollars in their IAPs, of which a sizable portion came from residual money. They'll be able to access this money at the time they retire.) Over the last five years, almost all residuals have gone to strengthen and support the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan. So, to summarize: Animation professionals working under IA contracts receive residuals into their pension plan and health plans. They don't receive checks for their individual work on individual films but instead receive pension and health benefits out of a large pool of residual money. This has been the way residual money has been distributed to us since 1960-61, when residual payments were initiated. One other point: Animators (at Disney, DreamWorks and elsewhere) have received bonuses and stock options over the years, but these benefits fall outside the purview of union contracts. They happen when companies institute them, or when individuals with clout negotiate them into their personal service agreements.


Anonymous said...

Addendum: Nothing prevents animators at non-signator studios from organizing with SAG. They are arguably performers (puppeteers are SAG members) so they could sign rep cards and go for it.

Of course, they have to win a National Labor Relations Board election. And have a contract successfully negotiated. But what the hey. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Anonymous said...

Nothing prevents animators at non-signator studios from organizing with SAG.

Actually, Article XX of the AFL-CIO constitution is supposed to prevent one AFL-CIO union from raiding another. (The key phrase being "supposed to".)

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