Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Tale of Moral Uplift in Three Acts

The following was sent to me by a friendly correspondent, and it's worth sharing:

This is a true story of a studio attempting to do wrong to an artist, and how that artist protected himself from it. The facts are all true, only the names have been changed or left out ....

In brief (if you haven't visited the link yet), the bullet points are:

1) A freelance viz effx artist person reached agreement on his deal with a studio, including pay rate and overtime.

2) The studio didn't honor the agreement. The freelancer up and left.

3) The freelancer had the deal in writing, sued the studio in small claims court for moneys owed, and won.

What I want people to note here is: The studio didn't live up to its end of the deal. The freelancer said "See ya, bye," and then went after what was rightfully, legally his.

There are a lot of variations to this basic tale. One of my favorites is:

The studio runs out of money (or says it's run out of money) then cajoles and intimidates employees into working for nothing.

Employees, ever eager to be "team players" go along.

Studio, when the project is completed, goes out of business and into bankruptcy without paying its "team players" (also known as "suckers.")

I've seen this scenario play out several times over the years, and I always have the same advice when I encounter it.

When checks with wages and deductions don't materialize at the proper time at your workspace, smile, get up from your desk, and get the hell out of there. Because refusing to work on a project for which you're not being paid is the BIGGEST leverage you've got.

End of sermon.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Steve. This is really good stuff. I really wish I'd have been more educated on the way things work when I got into this business. I think I could have saved myself a lot of grief, and also put a lot more money in the bank account over the years. I just wish i knew which FX House in Venice this was... Venice/Santa Monica/Culver are littered with these places, and more and more of them are trying to pull this sweatshop b.s. and try to back out of legally binding contracts using fear tactics. Good for this guy. I'd buy him a beer if I knew who he was...

Jeff Massie said...

I've heard lawyers for the IATSE say this time and again:

You cannot be sued, or get in any legal trouble, for leaving a job for which you have not been paid. Period.

And note that this advice is coming from the IA, which can be pretty conservative with the advice they give about standing up for your rights.

Anonymous said...

Could I ask everyone's advice about working at will when your contract is up?

The company I work for wanted to have me stay but are stalling on the contract. The old contract ended a month ago and so I'm currently working at will. While I'm still getting paid, I feel uncomfortable doing at-will work for a contract price.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm all for paperless 2D. The reason I'm such a big fan of traditional animation is the moody expression design, NOT the paper.

I'm hoping Kells will win big at the Academy Awards, but like everyone else here, it has no chance. That is so sad when the most creative films get trampled down by the most popular. It happened in '07 when Persepolis lost, and it's going to happen again this year.

Steve Hulett said...

At will employment ("week to week") is one thing, if you're being properly paid, but another if you're not.

Subtle intimidation goes on all the time, often ratcheting up to full-blown pressure. The people who are best off are those who know the actual rules of the road:

The right to share wage info with others.

The right to be paid for work performed as an employee. (Company has 72 hours to cough up a check or they owe you an additional day's pay up to thirty workdays.)

The right to go to court to enforce a labor contract when you're an "independent contractor."

And so on.

Anonymous said...

What the heck is going on with comments posted to the wrong thread? Is it really that difficult to be aware of what thread you're in before you start typing?

Steve Hulett said...

Apparently it is, since it happens repeatedly.

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