Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Plight of Viz Effx Artists

I've hit on this before, but Bill Cohen in Variety reiterates it:

... [P]ost-production labor issues rarely enter the consumer press. ... Daily Variety has covered the problems of vfx artists occasionally over the years, and with the production downturn and bad economy, matters are only getting worse.

"The fact that we have no representation means we have no voice anywhere," [Visual Effects Society chairman Jeff] Okun said, "so it's a free-for-all from the bottom up and the top down," where artists and studios alike must haggle for the best deal possible ...

Here's the way it works: Studios film their big,CGI effects movies, and put all the effects shots out for bid.

Then visual effects studios of various sizes swarm around like hungry tuna, bidding the projects at razor-thin profit margins.

Then the studios award the work to studios with the lowest bids or best reputations or a combination thereof, and everybody sets to work creating effects shots against a release date that is carved in obsidian marble.

In the course of all this, some high-flying effects supervisors do nicely from a financial point of view; many others get ground into dust by the insane work schedules.

And sadly, some don't get paid at all.

Once upon a time, most of the conglomerates ran their own in-studio effects shops, but they soon realized that it was way cheaper to farm the work out, so most closed their facilities and went the sub-contracting route.

Today, the visual effects landscape consists of a few large sub-contracting studios, and lots of smaller ones of various size and prosperity, all fighting for c.g. work. There are also a smattering of visual effects units attached to a few television shows, but the work is mainly project to project, with staffers and free-lancers scrambling from one job to another. The work is ripe for abuse.

CGI animated features are, relatively speaking, islands of prosperity and stability. They're far from perfect, but many are repped by union contracts. As Dan Rounds Dave Rand, one of the visual effects artists shafted by a Canadian sub-contractor for Journey to the Center of the Earth says:

"I have had by far the best year of my 18-year career in digital f/x." ... "I made more money, had the best lifestyle, worked with state-of-the-art technology for a company that has attracted the best talent in the industry. I've been treated wonderfully up here."

Mr. Rounds Rand works for IM Digital, which is covered by an IATSE contract, and represented by the Animation Guild.

Apologies for the screwing up of Mr. Rand's name directly above. My only excuse is a fogged brain.


Mike said...

I see the union is advertising for a union organizer. Are you leaving us?

Anonymous said...

You think THAT'S a problem? Ole' Chuck Zembicle has his panties in a bunch that no one cares what he says. WAAAH WAAAH WAAAAHHH!!!! I LOVE reading his arguments with himself (mainly because no one cares what he says). Reminds me of that great old film "Titicut Follies."

Better watch out...he might talk to himself some more! (btw, I'm collecting his rants to himself for an article).

Anonymous said...

(btw, I'm collecting his rants to himself for an article).

I think they might go better as a collection of beat poetry.

I avoided mention of his latest rant because it's clear that he's just trolling. His site numbers are down (even lower than usual), so he's trying to goose them up with a little "controversy" and shit-throwing.

Funny how he rants so often that he hates "trolls," given that he's become one himself. But next time, fulfill his worst nightmare--don't even mention his rant. His greatest fear is to be completely ignored.

As they say..."Don't feed the trolls."

Anonymous said...

Who on earth is "Chuck Zembicle"..?

Steve Hulett said...

I see the union is advertising for a union organizer. Are you leaving us?

No, I plan for running for re-election in September. God and the membership willing, I'll be here for a while yet.

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