Monday, January 03, 2011

More Collusion Fun?

Strange how the world spins. Today I got a call from a vfx employee at one of our fine, larger effects houses. (Non-union, of course, like most of them.) His project was wrapping up and he was getting laid off, so he was sniffing around for other work. And he told me the following:

"I sent my demo reels to a couple of different studios who're hiring, Studio A and Studio B. Both seemed interested. Studio A made me an offer, so I told Studio B I'd gotten an salary proposal, and told them from who."

"Studio B stopped talking to me, like instantly. I've e-mailed them and called them, but I've gotten no response. A week ago they were acting as though they wanted me. Now, nothing. But they're still advertising for people in my classification. You think they're colluding with Studio A?"

I told him I was of the opinion that they were. I also said that, sadly, there was probably no direct hard evidence to prove collusion, but there appeared to be circumstantial evidence. (On the other hand, maybe I'm an just an overly suspicious guy. Because I'm also of the opinion that bears shit in the woods, the sun rises in the east, and seasoned cement is hard when you fall on it.)

I've toiled in the studio and union vineyards for a few years now, and like I've said before, I've witnessed lying, cheating, and browbeating of employees by managers. I've read studio-drafted contracts that prohibited employees from exercising legal rights. (And when that failed, I've watched the good old standby of intimidation get practiced.) So I'm not under any illusions about the ethics of large corporations.

They don't have any.

If you've been paying attention, you've figured out that the basic rule in 21st century America is "Whatever works for us, we'll do. And if we get caught, we'll deal with it. Probably cheaper in the long run anyway." Which is why I long ago abandoned the concepts of "fair" and "unfair." Maybe those words have meaning and weight in heaven, but they're mostly parrot talk down here on the temporal plane. It really boils down to these two basic tenets:

Almost everything is arbitrary ... and everything is temporary.

You end up getting what you have the leverage to get.

I told the guy that there was no easy way to nail Studio B unless a stoolie came forward. ("Yes, your honor. We've had a 'gentlemen's agreement' against poaching with Pixar for years. Here's hard-copies of all the e-mails" ... Yeah, like that's going to happen.)

But I'm telling you, Virginia. Bears do shit in the woods.


Anonymous said...

To the tune of "That's Amore":

When two studios call,
With an offer for all,
That's collusion,
To lure poor unsuspecting folk,
Into being treated like a dolt,
That's collusion,
To have rivals' offers back-to-back,
It's part of the trade and a knack,
That's collusion,
To secretly plot behind false hidden doors--
--Need I say more,
That's collusion,
When someone won't fess up,
And you say, "hey what's up doc?",
That's collusion!

Sorry couldn't resist...

Anonymous said...

Is the moral of the story, "don't name the employer who gave you a better offer"?

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't be so, but since there are studios who are actively engaging in illegal, unethical collusion, I'd have to say yes, absolutely. Your best bet is NOT to explicitly name the other studio bidding for your services.

If they are actually colluding, this won't necessarily prevent them from finding out, but at least you've done all you can to prevent them from colluding.

Anonymous said...

Is the moral of the story....."Get out of this stupid business, because it's a hopeless battle?"

It doesn't sound like anything is going to change for the better anytime soon.

I've been following this blog for YEARS...and the stories never change.

It seems obvious........go get into another line of work.

Against Anonymity said...

And that kids is how you get screwed over by the animation industry. It's not all rainbows and unicorn farts.

Anonymous said...

And while I agree that collusion is bad, its the artists fault for telling Studio B all that info.

I've had the exact same situation happen to me, and simply told Studio B that I had another offer and that I would love to work for them if they can meet X amount of dollars. They asked who Studio A was and I didnt tell them. Know what happened? I now work for Studio B.

If the studios are going to play dirty, the artists have to be shrewd. Not rude: shrewd.

Steven Kaplan said...

Anon 7:24am -
What should have been your take-away from Steve's post is that artists should approach their work with the understanding that the need to protect themselves is just as present as it was back in the 30s when TAG was formed. What we're pointing out is that the same reasons we were formed exist in the visual effects trade today and we're here to offer some contractual protection.

Entertainment is always going to try to find quicker and cheaper solutions. That's business and it generally is at the cost of the artist. Having some protection at the scale and comfort with which we offer it *should* be a simple decision.

If the fact that the industry is out to better itself at your expense is frightening to you, sign a rep card and ask others to do the same. Once you're a member, be aware of your surroundings and get involved with the union.

If that's too much, please continue to visit our blog where we'll keep posting about reasons why we think its important that you do as suggested above.

Steve Kaplan said...

Revision .. "back in the 1930s when Animation was unionized" should have been my statement. TAG was formed in 1952 and was not around in the 1930s.

Anonymous said...

Of course they're colluding. That's why you'll get an identical offer from three different studios.

NEVER tell someone you're negotiating with ANYTHING you don't feel they NEED to know. That's not even vfx/animation specific, that's just basic business sense. I wonder if Studio B told him who else they were interviewing.

Rookie move.

Anonymous said...

I agree, rookie negotiator mistake. It's poker. You NEVER show your hand.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of this post? He got an offer from company A, so company B does not want to bother negotiating. It's not necessarily a collusion issue. These days animators are practically a dime a dozen, it probably is not in company B's interest to fuss over rate unless the animator is outstanding.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of this post? He got an offer from company A, so company B does not want to bother negotiating.

Or something.

rufus said...

Huffington Post today:

the news is spreading!


Anonymous said...

After 20+ years in the industry, I've pretty much left. Except for some consulting work and the occasional job I do for fun. The reason for bailing in the industry was crap like this. I got sick of playing the producer game. Well, actually I got sick of playing the producer game 10 years ago and started my own company. Then I got sick of the client game.

Anyhow. If there is demand for your talent, you should be able to play them against each other. But, I would never name another studio. If there isn't much demand (too much supply), I'd probably dance around the issue more carefully.

Life is much more enjoyable now that I'm out of that mess. And financially stable for that matter too.

Good luck.

Site Meter