Monday, August 04, 2008

More about the Meteorites

A month ago, Steve posted about this. From Friday's New York Post:

A GROUP of digital-effects artists wants Brendan Fraser's help in getting paid for the work they did on his movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The artists are hoping that as the star of the film, which has grossed $76.5 million in three weeks, Fraser can pressure Discovery Communications, which owns the Discovery Channel as well as Evergreen Films in Pacific Palisades. They're asking for back pay they're owed from Evergreen subsidiary Meteor Studios, which handled the digital work.

Dave Rand, a spokesman for the special-effects crew, says they never got paid for three months of work in the fall of 2007.

"Meteor Studios was declared bankrupt shortly after filming," Rand told Page Six. "It has since reopened as a new company, Lumiere VFX, at the same location. Discovery is attempting to get away with this. Some of the employees worked over 100-hour weeks. Over $1 million is owed."

Rand tells us he persuaded the workers to stay and work when the paychecks weren't rolling in because he believed Meteor would pay up eventually. He said, "They would give me excuses like, 'There's an accounting glitch,' and, 'The checks will be here in a couple of days.' "

The unpaid artists don't blame Walden Media, which hired Meteor Studios for the digital work, or New Line, which distributed the movie. Instead, they're focusing on deep-pocketed Discovery.

"We just want to get paid for the work we performed," said Rand. "We are extremely proud of our work on the film.

"Many of these guys are scared they will be blacklisted, so I'm speaking out on their behalf." He adds that trade magazines including Variety have ignored his pleas to cover the story.

Reps for Fraser, Discovery, Meteor, Lumiere and Walden did not return our calls and e-mails for a comment.

But for an interesting change of pace, someone actually seems to have stepped up to the plate. A followup from yesterday's paper:

BRENDAN Fraser is trying to help nearly 100 digital-effects artists get paid for their work on Journey to the Center of the Earth. We reported Friday the artists are owed nearly $1 million by a bankrupt subsidiary of Discovery Communications. Fraser's rep says he has been making calls to help them get paid. "Brendan just heard about this for the first time. He's on it. He thinks what happened is awful, and he's extremely upset," said the representative.

Good for Brendan Fraser, we say.


Anonymous said...

It will be good if something happens. Otherwise, having your rep say you're "making calls" is just smoke until it all blows over and everyone forgets about the unpaid workers.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a d**k, but part of the blame should be placed at these workers. When you don't get paid, you shouldn't be working. I would of left after the first missed paycheck.

Don't get me wrong, I feel for these guys and I hope they get what is owed to them. The people who run that company should be lined up on the railroad tracks. But the pain could of been minimized.

Steve Hulett said...

I've had a back-and-forth with one of the folks who was up there.

I allowed as how all of them should have walked out when the checks stopped coming. This would have concentrated management's mind wonderfully. Here's what he wrote me back:

I've had that response from some other sources as well. Looking back of course it makes sense. However, there were some circumstances that kept people in their chairs.

1. There was no other work in Montreal, no jobs, it was dead

2. Christmas was around the corner, most of the artists had families

3. We were presented with a strong arguement that Discovery (6.4 Billion dollar corp of family networks) and Evergreen would cover by our US producer Aaron Dem in an orchestrated series of meetings and emails by people who had always been trustworthy.

4. We were very proud of the work, as it was a milestone achievement to marry digital with practical on a stereoscopic film. I'm sure your and artist yourself and there is something to be said about wanting to finish something you've been working for almost two years on.

5. Unless we all left together, friends would be left behind to pick up the slack. We were a tight group, that's like leaving your mate at the front lines. However, if a union had made everyone leave then, well, that's different.

6. Meteor was never late with a paycheck in all the years they were in business.

I have walked out before and since that experience for not getting paid, the circumstances surrounding those times were quit different.

Hope this shows you why EVERYONE stated.

I was asked to speak on the owners behalf and stress what I was told in production meetings about some of the things listed above. That is why I am vocal now, I can and will not turn my back on those artists even though our producer and owners have.

There are also some warnings I hope enter the stream of consciousness of the fx artists community, first being what you stated, second be aware that in some countries like Canada, employees are considered unsecured creditors and will be at the bottom of the creditors list during insolvency.

As I've stated to this gentleman and others, if you take pride in your work and consider yourself a professional, you should expect professionalism from your employer in return.

If you don't get it -- and non-payment for work performed is at the TOP of the "unprofessional" list, you get out of there.

I repeat. You get out of there.

Anonymous said...

The thing to do in a case like this is to do the work, and hold on to it, till it get's paid for!

Brendan would gain a lot from 'righting' this wrong!


Anonymous said...

"I hate to be a d**k, but..."

Then don't be's your choice... just like it was the workers choice to work.

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