Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Happenings at Sony Pictures Animation

Sony Pictures Animation still has a variety of projects percolating (I was there today and found this news out)....

Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs, after definite story pains, seems to be "on track" again (per staffers). The feature's most recent screening for execs went well, and most everyone (we're told) thinks the picture is coming around.

Surf's Up is still being tweaked (even as it is animated), but the last story artists on it are now switching over to Meatballs. As one Sony artist related, "The picture's got a lot of heart. Now they're in the process of adding gags..."

On the industry-buzz front, word circulates among some CGI artists and TDs that Sony Pictures Imageworks (the Sony entity that produces Sony Pictures Animation's animated features), will be hiring some staff in March, around the time that Disney Feature Animation is slated to lay off a number of CGI animators, artists and TDs. A CGI artist at another studio told me: "I don't think the timing's accidental; I think Sony is going to be picking up staff from among people that Disney lets go. They'll go after the pick of the litter."

Is the rumor true? I just report what I hear; I don't come to any final conclusions until reality overtakes speculation.


Anonymous said...

pick of the litter????

you mean sony will be re-hiring the same people they let-go who then went to disney and got let-go there. and mix in the people dreamworks people who are constantly hired and fired.

good thing we have a strong union and solid contracts to protect us ( note the sarcasm )

Kevin Koch said...

Would you prefer a union contract that guaranteed employment? That's worked well in other industries that have tried it, hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

I would like a union who supports the artists when studios offer contracts then decides not to honor them. like what happened during TS3 and what is happening now at feature animation.

our union is basically a really expensive insurance company.

Anonymous said...

The union can only support artists when artists support the union. Artists ARE the union!

The unfortunate reality is that while studios may not honor the spirit of their personal service contracts, they usually honor the letter of those contracts - stacked against the artist as usual. Not much legal footing for the artists/union to stand on, and not much stomach for a strike on the part of most folks.

MondayMorgue said...

"out union is basically a really expensive insurance co."

the union dues is hardly a lot of money to pay considering the motion picture insurance is fantastic, and delta dental offers twice as much as many other plans per year.

Anonymous said...

Sony may be a little late...I thought Disney was going to give notice by the end of the year to the artists mentioned above, not in March. And there are several other places that would like the pick of the litter, too.

Kevin Koch said...

Regarding personal service agreements, Steve Hulett has been advertising for years that they often don't mean as much as they seem to. And there HAVE been cases where studios have attempted to not honor the specifics of those contracts, and the union has filed (and won) grievances for the individuals involved.

Do you or someone you know have a PSA that a studio is violating? Call Steve and find out if you have a grievance. And next time you're faced with signing a PSA, call Steve to discuss what it really means (the sad fact is, these things are mostly written to defend the studio's rights, not your rights).

I think the Guild will always suffer from the "kick the dog" syndrome. You know, something crappy happens at work, so when you get home you kick the dog in frustration. When layoffs are happening, it somehow comforts some people to lash out at the Guild, even though the Guild has never had anything to do with mandating studio employment levels.

By the way, if you can find another organization that will get you first-class health care, two pensions, and workplace protections for a few hundred bucks a year, we'd love to hear about it.

Anonymous said...

I would like a union who supports the artists when studios offer contracts then decides not to honor them. like what happened during TS3 and what is happening now at feature animation.

Fair question. Let me give you some specific answers.

Re TS3 -- everyone who contacted me on that picture had a six-month personal service contract with an option for an additional year. All the contracts had been agreed to and signed by the employees. All the artists and techs that I know about had their contracts honored (i.e. -- they were paid for the six months for which they were contracted, then their options weren't picked up.)

Re most of the current Disney personal service contracts: these are "run of picture contracts," and the language in them indicates they are "at will" agreements, meaning that the company can cut an employee loose on 40 hours notice. The operative words in the contracts are "The artist shall be employed on [named picture] until such time as his services are no longer necessary."

So, even though a preceding paragraph contains the words "run of picture," all that means is the employee will work on said picture until the company is ready to lay the employee off.

Now, that isn't most employees' understanding, but it's the reality. But here's an interesting reversal: Over the past four years -- when an employee wanted to jump ship and go work somewhere else, the company would be mad about it, but would ultimately let the employee go because the contract was "at will" -- either party could sever the contract.

However, when a contract contains a "term deal" -- meaning that the company is guaranteeing the artis employment from, say, July 1, 2006 to August 31, 2007 and those dates are IN the personal service agreement, then TAG can and does take action. For instance, eight years ago Disney cut loose around twenty animators and cgi technicians, and all had "term contracts" with eight to twelve months left on their deals. About half of the employees came to us when the company graciously offered them a three-week buyout. In every case, we got those individuals 100% of their wages under the PSA, from six to twelve months of wages.

There were, of course, the ten employees who simply took the three weeks of salary the company was offering, never contacted us and went their own way. It's a free country, people can do what they want. But as long as I've been here, we have offered advice and support for artists who ask for help with their PSCs.

Hope this helps throw light on the subject.

Anonymous said...

our union is basically a really expensive insurance company.

Your union is what you make it.

Anonymous said...

Typically when a studio of this size is aware they are going to have to do cutbacks, its most likely, they will contact other studios to try their best to give them a heads up and possibly soften the blow by knowing there are studios that are in hiring windows.

Anonymous said...

Our union is basically a really cheap insurance company.

Among other things.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the many let go by Disney 7 years ago, and they did fine in honoring my term contract. I had 6 months to go on it, and I got a paycheck every week for 6 months. I didn't go for a lump sum as I wanted a weekly check. In fact, I still retained my badge and for a while had to hand in an invoice until payroll told me it wasn't necessary anymore. Then I still had health and dental insurance for a year after because of my hours collected. When my contract was up, I got hired at WB for the remainder of the year and part of the next.

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