Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Visual Effects Digital Artists Guild?

Actually, that's kind of what TAG has become. We've moved from carbon on paper to pixels inside computers. Eighty percent of our membership now works on computers.

But a visual effects artist, inspired by the "Open Letter to James Cameron" on the Huffington Post, writes this:

I've started a blog to discuss these issues and welcome your thoughts ...

My thinking on the subject is, visual effects work is way past the point where it needs overtime protection, pension benefits, and a portable health plan.

When we began representing the craft a decade and a half ago, it was a qualified digital artists paradise because there were a bunch of high-salaried jobs chasing relatively few experienced digital artists.

One example: On Disney's pioneer CG animated feature Dinosaurs, it took the studio a year and a half to find personnel to do all the jobs. (They were looking for employees with lots of production experience, and back in the mid-nineties, there weren't enough.)

But supply has now caught up with demand, and while there are a lot of CG jobs, so are there many CG animators, modelers, riggers and technical directors. Abuses abound, gight schedules pound many into quivering heaps of protoplasm, and if ever there was a need for a more level playing field, the time is now.

I know from experience that it's easier to organize work from an existing labor platform than starting a new organization from scratch, but if people want to invent a new entity, by all means they should go for it. For our part, we will keep pushing to organize digital artists under the TAG 839 banner. We've been doing that since the early nineties, so we ain't going to stop now.


Woodrow said...

Great idea. I'm just wondering why the letter was addressed to James Cameron. He is clear to say that his is NOT an animated film. It is performance capture where EVERYTHING comes from the actor. What we see on screen is merely recorded by the computer. It was this rhetoric, and multiple other factors, that convinced me to boycott his latest film (I'm sure he's feeling the pain of my absence and the subsequent missing $12). Still, I hope the conversation helps the animators' recognition and remuneration.

Unknown said...

It was addressed to him because...
1.He's been in the trade himself in the past.
2.His recent movie brings/represents our craft to the masses like nothing else did if you consider the $ it made (- your $12)
3.He just *might* be on stage at the Oscars and if he brings this up it *might* bring critical mass to the cause.
4.You(we) deserve a break so Lee was trying to affect the situation.He struck when the iron is hot.


Katharine said...

From everything that's being said here, it sounds like the Animation Guild is interested in embracing VFX artists into its fold. I find this stance a bit surprising, to be honest. For years and years, ILM vfx employees had a union. When the union broke down amidst contract negotiations last year, ILM employees approached the Animation guild, looking for representation. Why didn't that work out?

middle life crisis said...

We're screwed.

It would be interesting to see if a new vfx union is formed or if vfx artist start joining the animation guild, and what the reactions from the big studios will be.

Still, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to retire...

Anonymous said...

I hear rumors that vfxconnection is trying to start a guild.

Boogie Studio said...

I am not sure if “We’re Screwed” is necessarily accurate but we do have a lot of work to do and it’s a bit of an uphill battle. I am not sure that a union or guild is the answer. I do think it is very hard to compete with the idea of outsourcing to studios that are willing to do the labor at half the cost.

The answer will come from the quality of work and the ability to produce content that exceeds the expectations of the clients or producers. Also, developing strong symbiotic relationships between the studios and the clients. I work in a specialized market. I work for Boogie Studio, we are a boutique style studio that produces high end visual effects for the advertising industry. We also work with some feature films but we are very careful of how we charge and bid. We need to be able to make a profit.

There have been far too many studios trying to live off of having one major project, once all the change orders have been performed on that project and without having a solid pipeline for the next bankable project, those studios usually always end up closing their doors. That is really unfortunate.

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