Thursday, August 25, 2011

Highlights of the 2011 Wage Survey

Wages, wages. All kinds of wages.

Below the fold, results of the latest wage survey in some major categories.

For comparison purposes, all salaries are computed based upon a forty-hour week.

Directors - TV

  • Minimum: $1,312.50

  • Median: $2,625.00

  • Maximum: $6,009.61

  • 2010 median: $2,500.00

  • Change: +$125.00

Production Boards (TV)

  • Minimum: $906.25

  • Median: $1,892.50

  • Maximum: $3,000.00

  • 2010 median: $1,900.00

  • Change: -$7.50

Character Layout

  • Minimum: $1,034.04

  • Median: $1,854.00

  • Maximum: $4,000.00

  • 2010 median: $1,677.00

  • Change: +$177.00

Visual Development

  • Minimum: $1,098.76

  • Median: $2,101.20

  • Maximum: $3,900.00

  • 2010 median: $2,115,38

  • Change: -$14.18


  • Minimum: $952.56

  • Median: $1,800.00

  • Maximum: $2,612.50

  • 2010 median: $1,672.73

  • Change: +$127.27

Character Animators

  • Minimum: $1,155.00

  • Median: $1,639.23

  • Maximum: $3,163.23

  • 2010 median: $2,068.84

  • Change: -$429.61


Steve Hulett said...

You might be asking yourself: "Wait a minute! Some of these rates are below contract minimums."

And you'd be right.

But remember: This survey takes in a large swath of animation professionals, working in union and non-union studios.

What you are seeing above are the market rates. If you want to nose through the various classification minimums in the Animation Guild CBA, go to the guild's website and pull the sucker down.

It's up there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Waitaminute...what TV director is making $6,009.61...?

Maybe someone misunderstood which category they were putting their salary in?
I can't think of a single TV director that is making that much just for show direction no matter how long he/she has been doing it or whether it's for cable or Primetime

Anonymous said...

And I'd be willing to bet that whoever is making 4k a week for character LO is not just a Char LO Artist.

Anonymous said...

Two questions:

1. Is the median data significantly different if non-Union studios are removed from the data set?
2. You mentioned Action-experienced board artists are in demand... In general, are these the higher paid positions because of the required skill set?

Anonymous said...

Not sure where some of these figures come from, but the 2 places doing the majority of action boards are WB and Starz. WB standard rate is 1700/wk and Starz is 2000/wk.
Whoever is getting 3000/wk isn't working at either of those places for action boards.

Anonymous said...

I thought WB was a union shop - at least it's listed as such on the Union Webpage. In which case the standard rate should be at minimum $1872.74.

Steve Hulett said...

As we noted in the previous post, minimums are listed in the TAG contract, available at our website.

If somebody is making less than the minimum rate at a guild shop, they should immediately call the office so we can take action.

(818) 845-7500.

The phones are open 24 hours per day.

Anonymous said...

"I thought WB was a union shop - at least it's listed as such on the Union Webpage. In which case the standard rate should be at minimum $1872.74. "

Maybe I'm blind, but I don't see this rate as cited above on the list. What I see is $1,628.56 for Journeyman salary per week. Am I reading it wrong? Which would mean the $1,700 salary quoted above would be above union minimum. Right?

Steve Hulett said...

The production board rate is 15% above animator/ feature story board rate. It's listed in the contract as a footnote on page 65.

Been that way for decades.

Steve Hulett said...

Let me say, $1872.84 is the contractual minimum rate for production board.

The data we received showed the median as being $19.66 above that.

(So ... that would be a decrease of $7.50 from the previous year.)

yahweh said...

It's obvious from the posts above that there seems to be some miscommunication as to some of the rates ...why is the contract so coy about some of them and expect everyone to do math to figure out what the correct amount is? Isn't it just asking for problems?
Kind of seems like WB doesn't bother if the statement above is accurate at all.

Anonymous said...

The thing that bothers me is that these are all based on 40hr/wk, when Dreamworks and Disney neither work 40 hour weeks as a standard.

Justin said...

These numbers are based on a 40 hour work week so that salaries can be compared across studios. If the artists at Disney and Dreamworks filled out the survey correctly then the number they reported on the survey will be 18.75% lower than they are actually bringing home each week (5 hours + time and a half). So a character animator making the median $1639.23 per 40 hours will actually take home $1946.58 after working 5 hours of overtime at Disney or Dreamworks.

Steve Hulett said...

Justin is correct.

All wages in the survey are based on a 40-hour workweek. DreamWorks and Disney have "built-in" overtime, but that is stripped out for purposes of the wave overview.

There was a 23.4% return rate this year. (Last year it was 22.9%.) We had a much higher number of survey forms returned in 2011, but we had a higher total number of participants, so the percentage was not drastically higher.

Anonymous said...

Ouch for animators. -$400 a week compared to 2010 adds up. :(

Anonymous said...

But it still doesnt make any sense. An animator at Disney or Dreamworks will never, under any circumstances, take home a weeks pay of anything less than what the pre-approved overtime provides.

So claiming an animator at Dreamworks makes $1398 a week, when they actually make $1922 every single week of the year is disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

Point being, if you're going to compare across studios, it should be important to know what the ACTUAL take-home money is.

So If Im an artist, and I get an offer from, say, Nickelodeon, and they offer me 1600 a week, and I look at the TAG survey and think, oh, okay, thats about the median, that seems fair, its doing that artist a disservice because the median is really 1900.

Anonymous said...

"It's obvious from the posts above that there seems to be some miscommunication as to some of the rates ...why is the contract so coy about some of them and expect everyone to do math to figure out what the correct amount is? Isn't it just asking for problems?"

That's why it's so important for each individual to understand what the contract says, and how it applies to them. We can only protect our rights if we know them.

Anonymous said...

"after working 5 hours of overtime at Disney or Dreamworks."

Disney does 45, Dreamworks does 50, if Im not mistaken...can someone clear that up?

Steve Hulett said...

DreamWorks Animation generally has a 50-hour workweek.

Disney Feature generally has a 45-hour workweek.

In each case, the hours over 40 are paid at time-and-a-half.

Individuals working at or near minimum scale work 40-hour weeks.

Anonymous said...

Individuals working at or near minimum scale work 40-hour weeks.

Which is nobody, right? Please correct me if I'm wrong here. Do interns work 40 hour weeks or something? Because every single artist I know at both Disney and Dreamworks always work 45 or 50 hour weeks.

Anonymous said...

You're wrong. I'm at DW and I work a standard 40. I'm not the only one either.

Marcus said...

@anon at ~12pm
Of course it makes perfect sense for the survey to be normalized to 40h. It doesn't matter what facility has what OT guarantees (you might actually have to work that OT, too!) - the only thing that matters is your hourly rate.

Steve Hulett said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong here. Do interns work 40 hour weeks or something? Because every single artist I know at both Disney and Dreamworks always work 45 or 50 hour weeks.

Actually, no.

There are any number of people on 40-hour weeks.

At Disney, in the meetings hiking hours to 45, the point was made that people working 40 at scale would continue working 40 at scale.

(Kind of defeats the purpose of lowering costs if you build in o.t. hours to employees working scale.)

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected, but I honestly didnt think any union artist at Disney or Dreamworks wasnt working the pre-approved 45 or 50 hours.

I thought the singular point of the pre-approved OT was to reduce hourly rates (but keep weekly pay the same) thus reducing the amount of overtime pay during crunch.

Anonymous said...

the only thing that matters is your hourly rate.

See, I disagree with that. I only ever care about (negotiate with) weekly pay, since every studio is different (including non-union shops like Pixar and Blue Sky)

Steve Hulett said...

I stand corrected, but I honestly didnt think any union artist at Disney or Dreamworks wasnt working the pre-approved 45 or 50 hours.

You were honestly wrong.

I thought the singular point of the pre-approved OT was to reduce hourly rates (but keep weekly pay the same) thus reducing the amount of overtime pay during crunch.

You can't reduce hourly rates -- legally, anyway -- below the contractual minimums.

So it makes no point for a company to build in overtime to weekly rates that are already as low as they can go.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and I remember them saying that when this came into effect, anyone who was making the minimum would be getting a raise, but the rest werent.

But that was years ago.

And when new people were hired, they all came in at 45 hours.

Anonymous said...

If you're in a front-end department (as I am), you likely care more about weekly pay because you're rarely working more than 40 hours a week regardless of your guarantee. I think it would be useful to see the "real" weekly rates in addition to the normalized ones.

Steve Hulett said...

We go with the 40-hour baseline because it's contractual. And most everyone starting-point.

Disney's policy (as I understand it) is to make employees work a "hard" 45-hours. If your deal is 45 hours, you work 45 hours.

DreamWorks Animation has had a long-time policy of a "soft" fifty hours. Meaning that, if you get your work done before you hit the fifty, you can often leave. (But you work the fifty without additional compensation when required.)

Policies and rules change from time to time, from studio to studio. And there are always people who manage to work thirty hours and take home forty hours pay. (Ward Kimball once told me he never worked more than four hours a day at Disney. I think he was being hyperbolic, but that's what he said.)

Anonymous said...

The survey would be useless if it wasn't normalized to 40 hours per week. If people cannot see that there is no fundamental difference between a studio that pays $1600/wk for a 40 hour week, and another studio that brags about paying $2200/wk, and also expects 50 full hours of work per week, then that's a problem we as an industry need to address.

I think part of the problem is that a lot of youngsters just starting in the business are happy to spend ALL their time at the studio, and for them their hourly rate may not be so important, since they're working like indentured servants and not claiming OT. For them, the total weekly rate is all that matters. But they don't realize they're destroying the very industry they want to have a long term career in.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and the sky is falling too. You may think everyone in the industry is brand new and work free overtime, but that's far from the truth.

Anyway, the main issue to me is, everyone, and I mean everyone who is on a 45 hour week, charges the full 45 hours, regardless if they were in the building for 40 or the full 45. The checks every week are always, without fail, for 45. If the work is getting done, the studio doesnt care this is all about saving money during crunch.

So while the 40 hour week is reflected in the survey (and I get why), it's still not very helpful since it doesn't reflect ACTUAL, real world take home pay, which, when I'm using the survey for negotiations, is the only important thing.

Anonymous said...

A good example of that is during studio "down time" the extra 5 hours is still approved.

Anonymous said...

Of course, often during that "down time" people are given partial pay in exchange for not coming in, or are asked to take unpaid leave. Should that be factored in, too. Of course not.

Anonymous said...

Those are exceptions to the rule (sounds more like layoffs or unpaid leave) But always-approved overtime is not an exception to the rule. It's the rule.

Anonymous said...

No, they aren't layoffs at all. They are either unpaid leave, or partially paid leave. The point is, if you want to count prepaid OT in base salary, you should also count in the fact of life at some of the studios that do prepaid OT. And, since there are definitely people who do not get prepaid OT, as has been repeatedly pointed out, the statement that "always approved overtime is not an exception, it's the rule" is false and misleading.

Anonymous said...

I'd like hard facts about who does and who doesnt do 45 hour weeks at Disney.

Because the management has never ever said anything about it other than "everyone is on 45 hour weeks"

Disney doesnt do unpaid leave, by the way. Dreamworks and Pixar do, from what I've heard

Anonymous said...

"always approved overtime is not an exception, it's the rule" is false and misleading.

You know what? Whatever. I'm a CG animator (not at a union studio) but I use the TAG wage survey all the time to follow trends and to use it as leverage when negotiating wages. What I care about is ACTUAL pay. If Disney or Dreamworks pay 2500 a week for animators (for 45 or 50 hours of work), but the wage reported is only 1900 or something, that does ME a disservice by bringing the median down.

Maybe that information should be included in another column, but it SHOULD be included. And to discourage getting this information out by calling it false or misleading is encouraging low wages.

So frankly, fuck you.

Anonymous said...

Not only are you revealing yourself to be rude, but also a lousy negotiator. The survey reveals the going HOURLY rates. If someone offers you a weekly rate, and you don't inquire how many hours a week that salary relates to, then you're setting yourself up to be used. There are plenty of places that will offer a decent weekly rate, and then once you start working make it clear that they expect 12 hour days, or more. If you took that job without getting a firm idea of the work schedule, you're being a chump.

And do these non-union jobs pay pension and health? Do they contribute to unemployment benefits, and pay social security and medicare taxes? Because if they don't, then you're really comparing apples to oranges when you compare non-union salaries to union salaries.

Bottom line is that there is no practical way to get this level of detail and information into a survey. The current system, detailing pay for a 40-hour work week, is clear and straightforward. It might be worth considering adding the additional info of prepaid OT and health/pension benefits, but only if it doesn't make the survey so complicated that people stop filling it out.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, what studios only have 40 hour workweeks anymore? I remember when Sony made a splash with the 45-hour workweeks, and everyone spazzed at the time. Now it's standard.

And it's interesting how the schedules have followed suit to accommodate for that "built-in" overtime by becoming shorter and shorter so that making deadlines becomes more and more difficult with a 40-hour week. Artists are idiots.

Steve Hulett said...

Again. We ask for wages on a 40-hour workweek.

If you make $2000 per 40-hour workweek, you earn $50 per hour. (Simple, no?)

If you then build in five hours of pre-paid overtime, you get $2,375 per week ... on the new 45-hour workweek. ($2000 plus 5 x 1.5 x $50 = $2,375)

Clear, yes? But our base-line is still 40 hours/ $50 per hour.

Steve Hulett said...

So. Our assumption is that the data we receive on the survey forms is based on a 40-hour week.

If somebody messes that up, we have no way of knowing, folks. ("Garbage in, garbage out," as the old saying goes.)

We do our best to collate and check. But the way to view the survey data is as markers about what's going on in the industry marketplace. (Accurate down to a gnat's ass? Probably not. But numbers have stayed pretty consistent year to year. They are as accurate as the data allows them to be.)

Anonymous said...

@ anon 10:12AM

A weekly pay isn't going to do you any good if you don't know how many hours the person is putting in. Figure out how many hours you're working and do the math dumbass.

Anonymous said...

It is so infuriating talking to people who don't understand averages. Listen, if you're combining data sets with different variables into one average, the average will be off.

Think of it this way, if you have an interview with DreamWorks and want to go in with a number in mind and the only data you have is the wage survey, first thing you'd do is determine the average hourly rate (by dividing the wage survey's weekly reported average by 40) and then add the time and a half of an additional 10 OT hours, right? But the problem is, that weekly average reported by the wage survey includes rates reported by people who work standard 40 hour weeks, therefore that data is going to skew the average higher. It becomes inaccurate and the number you've calculated does NOT reflect the average salary of a dreamworks employee (or any union employee for that matter) And if you want to follow trends, it's also useless because if you have a higher or lower rate of return from Disney or Dreamworks for a particular year, it will appear as though wages have risen or fallen, when really it's just artificial

Look, you can be all smug and say do the math dumbass, but I HAVE done the math, and have a very firm grasp of the flaw in the wage survey. You're only thinking about it from a surface standpoint, and not about how the combination of variables skews the average. In order to be useful, the wage survey should report rates and categorize them for 45 or 50 hour weeks. THAT, or simply report weekly rates, and caveat them by stating some weekly rates reflect 45 or 50 hour standard weeks.

I hate to say it, but I'm completely right here, and the math backs my side of the argument.

Anonymous said...

It seems the only true way for the survey to be of any practical use to someone that would like to use it to negotiate at a particular studio (like anyone can negotiate these days - most of us have to just take what we're offered)is to break it down by studio and indicate how many hours the average is for.
Of course not everyone will be negotiating with the big studios and there might not be enough info to get an average for many of them, but that can't make the survey much more useless than it is now.
It would be much more useful if the survey would say that the average at Dreamworks for a 50 hour week salary is X as opposed to trying to figure out the math which may or may not be offset by some other studio which pays better than the one you're applying at.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty easy to screw up these averages. For example: one TV director making 6k a week has completely skewed that entire average and made that useless to use as a negotiating tool - and that's assuming it wasn't a lie to begin with.
Does anyone check to see if an outrageous claim is even accurate? If not wouldn't it be easy to skew these averages anyway you want? What's to stop someone wanting to keep wages down to put a really low figure into the mix...?

Anonymous said...

Someone lying about their wage is a different problem altogether, and has nothing to do with the fundamental flaw of trying to average data with inconsistent variables.

However, if they are not lying, and they are actually really highly paid, that's actually good data to have, and is beneficial to the wage survey, and the average.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anybody is saying that the baseline, 40-hour rate is not useful. But many of us would like to see what the actual weekly guaranteed take home pay looks like. Saying "do the math" isn't very helpful, because we don't know what everyone's weekly guaranteed hours are.

For example, I work in a department with a mixture of people working 45 and 50 hour guarantees. However, this is at a studio with more of a "soft" policy, and people rarely work 50 hours a week, regardless of their guarantee. If I see the 40 hour average and it is similar to mine, I might think "great, I'm making the going rate." However, it might be that most people with that 40 hour average are on 50 hour guarantees, and I'm on a 45 hour guarantee, which means that in reality I'm actually making almost 16% less than the 50 hour people, *for the same amount of work*.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. But I'm also saying the 40 hour number isnt useful.

Here's an easy way to look at it. Let's pretend that we have 3 artists, A, B, and C. They each make 2000 a week at their respective studios. Artist A works a 40 hour week, artist B works a 45, and artist C a 50. When they report their wages to Steve, Steve converts those weekly salaries to 2000, 1684, and 1454.4, respectively to compensate for the 40 hour work week. He then averages those, and gets 1712.8 per week, per artist for 40 hours of work.

And you know what? That's correct! That IS what those artists make for 40 hours of work.

BUT the point is, it's also USELESS. The whole point of a survey is to spread and take advantage of knowledge. Artist A now thinks, damn, I'm above the average. And if artist C wants to know what his co-workers are averaging, he cant. What Mr. "Do the Math Dumbass" suggested above is to take 1712.8, divide it by 40 to get an hourly rate (42.82) and calculate a weekly salary of time and a half. Know what that number is?

$2355.10 So now Artist C has a misinformed view of average wages in his studio. It's IMPOSSIBLE to get an accurate average when it's done this way.

And this example is for people making the same weekly amount, and an even distribution of respondents (in this case, 3). Now imagine if 75 Dreamworks artists responded, 100 Disney, and 30 of the rest. Now the numbers are completely, utterly useless.

yahweh said...

Unfortunately 10:47 is completely right. The only way for this to be useful as a negotiating tool is to have it broken down by studio and by 40.45.50 hour work weeks.
Without the info of which studio the info is from I have no idea what i can expect their going rate to be. I
If I walk into Disney with only the knowledge of what an animator makes at DW and demand that rate I will probably be SOL and they'll move onto the next candidate.

When all the studios were competing with one another or were all paying around the same rates (for the same number of hours) this survey was invaluable. Now not so much.
Now it's just a mildly interesting way of viewing the the industry and probably is a better tool for the union then for anyone actually trying to negotiate.

Anonymous said...

@Anon, 10:47:
No, really, do the maths. You're taking 3 datapoints and make somewhat of a point there... only you deal with hundreds of datapoints in the real survey and eliminate a lot of the extremes. That's statistics for you.

Studios have different policies when it comes to guaranteed OT... some allow you to go home after 8, some require you to stay. For your own sake, you need to assume in negotiations that you actually have to WORK the time you agree to. So then we're back to the hourly rate, which is the only thing that counts.

You seem to not care about how much time you put in to make some arbitrary weekly number X. I value my free time and would like to be compensated appropriately for each hour I sit at my desk... not have my hourly rate artificially deflated by 10 hours of OT that are thrown in the mix (which seems to be what the above two posters advocate).

I don't know why you get so worked up over this anyway - no one forces you to use the survey if your way of conducting your own business doesn't go in line with the method of reporting. The survey is a nice tool, but even before I ever knew of it, it wasn't hard to get a general idea of the rates out there just by talking to people.

Anonymous said...


You still dont get it. Sorry. This isnt about free time. This about how averages work and even if you have millions of data points with this system, the survey is fundamentally flawed, as previous explained. The average will always be wrong, even with the extremes eliminated. This is due to the variables being inconsistent.

Clearly you dont understand.

Go back to drawing.

Anonymous said...

Guy, cut the crap. I'm really trying to understand your point since you seem to feverishly follow this thread... so you are either a troll or must really think you have a point.

Your example up there with the 3 guys making $2000 is correct. Their hourly wage is widely spread between $50 and $36.36 with the average being $42.82. The guy at the bottom notices that he's $6.50 off of the average... boom, good to know.

What variables are inconsistent?? Do you think the guy slaving away at 50 hours a week has no knowledge about who has lower guarantees and how many hours they are - and can extrapolate from that? People do talk to each other very easily, y'know.

The only point you have is that it would be interesting to know which studio offers what guarantees, and how much of that is "free money" b/c of soft OT-policy. That would fragment the wage survey to a point where it becomes useless, though.

Gonna go back to my C++ now. So don't play that "clueless artist"-card on me ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey, someone told me to "do the math, dumbass," and so I was giving tit for tat.

Anyway. The inconsistencies are lumping OT studios and non OT studios into the same group, and not knowing what percentage of which are represented. The average will then be so off, that it wont be useful, as noted above. (useful meaning, what do I, as a union employee, make compared to the average?) There's simply NO WAY of determining that.

I'll look at that number, and I'll have no clue what it means. It might mean a lot of Dreamworks employees responded, or it might mean I'm paid really well in comparison to the average. I might be shocked and think I'm underpaid if a ton of Stars employees (who work 40 hour weeks if Im not mistaken) respond. All are 100% valid based on whatever number is reported. The number, frankly, doesnt matter. Thus, the wage survey is useless.

Yes, I agree the employees at Dreamworks are well aware that it sucks to work 50 hours to get their full paycheck. But thats not what my complaint is. My complaint is that the wage survey DOES NOT INFORM Dreamworks employees (and every other studio employee) where they fall into the average of their particular discipline.

Anonymous said...

Quick follow-up:

The guy at the bottom notices that he's $6.50 off of the average... boom, good to know.

This is incorrect. There is no way of knowing where he falls in the average because those numbers are determined by a mixed bag of OT and non OT studios. It screws up the average.

Anonymous said...

To clarify:

It screws up the average.

Because when he looks at the number, he has no way of knowing how that number was determined. Maybe it was determined by 90% Stars respondents. In that case, he's going to look woefully underpaid. If it was determined by 90% Dreamworks respondents, he's probably going to think, oh, okay, I'm in the ballpark.

But since he doesnt know how it was determined, he'll never know, and the number wont mean jack.

Anonymous said...

Wouldnt it be so much easier to just report the average weekly salaries (regardless of 40, 45 or 55 hours worked) and just caveat it by saying its a mix of all three?

Then, if you work at Dreamworks or Disney, you can think "oh, okay, this is where I am in the average, but I have to work 45 or 50 hours to attain that."

Simple. Done. Why isnt it that way?

But at least you'll know where you are.

Anonymous said...

*slap hand to face*

why not add in the CEOs salaries as well then.

It's pretty clear that this survey is not doing what it used to do and needs a good rethink.

Anonymous said...

Why does the wage survey (or the guild contract, for that matter) give numbers as "weekly" rates, when what they really mean is "hourly rate x 40"? Is it for historical reasons? It might be more clear if hourly numbers were given instead, considering the variation in hours per week.

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