Thursday, January 21, 2010

Animation Directors

A couple clicks down in comments, the prolific Mr. Anonymous writes:

We don't even have animation directors in our ranks. ?!?!?! That's just the facts. So Social Darwinism reigns ...

A word about the survival of the most powerful and fittest:

In 1952, after an industry-wide jurisdictional vote, TAG was emerging from the wombs of The International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employes and Walt Disney Productions. And in our first contract, Feature Animation Directors were deemed to be "management," because they had the power to make hiring and firing decisions, and so were excluded from the union bargaining unit. (They pretty much had to be, since the law of the land -- the Fair Labor Standards Act -- required it.)

Ever since, Feature Animation Directors have been outside the union contract.

So why, might you ask, are live-action feature directors inside the Directors Guild of America?

Simple. At the time of the DGA's founding (the mid 1930s), live-action feature directors were studio employees, taking orders from the front office like everybody else. And getting memos like this:

I have talked to you about four thousand times, until I am blue in the face, about the wardrobe in this picture. I also sat up here with you one night, and with everybody else connected with the company, and we discussed each costume in detail, and also discussed the fact that when the men get to be pirates that we would not have "Blood" dressed up.

Yet tonight, in the dailies, in the division of the spoils sequence, here is Captain Blood with a nice velvet coat, with lace cuffs out of the bottom, with a nice lace stock collar, and just dressed exactly opposite to what I asked you to do.

I distinctly remember telling you, I don't know how many times, that I did not want you to use lace collars or cuffs on Errol Flynn. What in the hell is the matter with you, and why do you insist on crossing me on everything that I asked you not to do? What do I have to do to get you to do things my way? I want the man to look like a pirate, not a molly-coddle. You have him standing up here dealing with a lot of hard-boiled characters, and you've got him dressed up like a God damned faggot...

Etcetera. In those far-off days of yore, live-action directors did what they were told, like the janitors. Today, because those same directors are in the unit, and the DGA has the muscle to keep them there (and that all hell would break loose if management tried to pry them out) the guild to which Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Cameron belong retains jurisdiction.

Bully for them.

And yes, Social Darwinism reigns. Like every other labor organization in the movie biz, we suffer the indignities of "project to project" employment. We live in a corporatist age, friends and neighbors, one that's similar to the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. As there was ferocious Social Darwinism then, there is robust S.D. now. I live with that reality like everyone else, but I keep pushing back against it.

I'm stubborn that way.

Add On: As Mr. Anon said, Sito and I tried to get the feature animation directors into the DGA. (I made multiple phone calls to the Directors Guild before I got anybody's attention.) Nothing happened. It's difficult to change the status quo.


Truthy McTruth said...

Gee thanks, dead old farts!

Wouldn't you agree that this rule is antiquated bullshit, Steve?

Animation directors are studio employees. Subject to the capricious whims of executives, hired, fired, re-cast, and dicked around like every other studio employee. You know, "taking orders from the front office just like everybody else. "

Every director still paying into TAG out of habit should walk and take their dues with them. Clearly, we won't be missed.

Steve Hulett said...

To be clear, animation directors in television are under TAG jurisdiction. Feature directors are not.

To be even clearer, I spent a lot of time and effort attempting to get feature directors under the DGA's jurisdiction.

Didn't work out, but it wasn't for want of trying.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the hole in the dam created by not having feature animation directors in TAG is that the most successful (and usually the most talented) television animation directors transition to feature, and TAG loses again. It is just a very hard pill to swallow no matter how you look at this thing.

Anonymous said...

" live-action feature directors were studio employees, taking orders from the front office like everybody else"

What's the difference at most major animation studios today? Oh....nothing.

Steve Hulett said...

Because it's the way it shook out under federal law, way before I got here.

It was determined that feature directors had the clear ability to hire and fire, while TV directors did not.

I'm not saying I agree with the lines of demarcation. I'm just telling you why it is the way it is.

Anonymous said...

aspire to be a feature director, and kiss goodbye all the benefits you received in the animation guild that helped you get there. the benefits will still be there, but frozen in time. classic disincentive built into the system - why bother to advance your career?

it's a lot like, say, working for a corporation for thirty-six years, the one who holds your future, and then getting the boot?

Tony Bancroft said...

Having been a feature director (and currently playing that role still) it is frustrating to not be apart of either the DGA or the Cartoonist's Union. Because of this, I struggle to get medical benefits for my family (I have to negotiate for them at every studio I work with or pay out of my own pocket) and forget retirement. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do but as an animation feature director you get no support from unions or guilds. We fall through the cracks of beneifts and don't (for the most part) get any residuals for our work like live action directors do. Why can't this be changed Steve? Give up on the DGA (they are weak and worthless) but you could change the rules at the Cartoonists Union, right? Or are feature director's too small a group to go to bat for?

Anonymous said...

This is the first I've heard of it and it's imo totally absurd. Tony's right: get the freaking directors back under the TAG contract for pity's sake!

While I get the original reasoning that was a UNIQUE time at a specific place, more or less-but now? As long as I've worked in the business NO director has really had "hire/fire" autonomy, NO ONE. Not on any basis where they should be exempt from TAG. They can suggest that a studio hire or fire...but they can only strongly suggest, and while a director with enough clout can get people hired it's NOT a sure thing/done deal and has to be approved and negotiated with the studio, who's after all paying the bills/drawing up the contract/budgeting the show.

By this reasoning doesn't a DGA director "hire" too, and wouldn't that make them exempt from the DGA and only eligible for the Producer's Guild? It's just ridiculous!

It should be changed. What would it take?

Anonymous said...

The feature directors at the studio I work for cannot make unilateral hiring/firing decisions. They may have some input, but definitely not the final say.

I will add my voice to those suggesting that it is time TAG put that one in the negotiation docket.

Anonymous said...

Steve: How about it? Can it be put on the agenda to FIX this situation? It just should absolutely not be this way. Please respond.

Steve Hulett said...

Contract negotations happen in 2 1/2 years. I suggest that you come to a membership meeting and put this proposal on the table, and we'll see where it goes.


Anonymous said...

You got it. Tony, you coming?

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