Saturday, October 22, 2011

Women in Animation Panel

Last night, Women in Animation held a panel discussion about unions and independent animation creators/entrepreneurs in the biz. Craig Miller, Tom Sito, Steve Hulett and Charles Zembillas were on the panel, moderated by WIA President Linda Miller. Here's my take on the proceedings ...

Tom S. outlined the history of unions in Cartoonland, from the Fleischer days to the present. Craig Miller described how the Writers Guild of America came to represent animation writers in the 1990s, and Yours Truly provided information about contract negotiations, organizing non-union houses, and what the Animation Guild has worked to accomplish over the past twenty years. Charles Z. talked about independent operators in animation, how he came to form Animation Nation in 1999, and how TAG blog comments should be moderated.

There were lots of comments and questions from the audience. Midway, the proceedings briefly devolved into a taunting and yelling match, but order soon prevailed and the panel discussion/Q & A went on. Some of the main points:

* The Hollywood unions' residual system began in the early sixties; the DGA, SAG, and WGA receive residuals as "mail box" money -- that is, checks to individual filmmakers. The IA receives residual as a moneystream into its pension and health plans. (The Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Plan.)

* The first animated television show created under a WGA contract was Craig Miller's Pocket Dragon Adventures. Organizing Pocket Dragons helped spur organizing by the WGA of The Simpsons.

* There are today more avenues for artists to get into the cartoon business, separate and apart from the Big Studios. Independent animated shorts and features can be show-cased on You Tube and other internet sites, and can be monetized through internet ads. However, the revenue derived from that source isn't high.

* Entertainment unions are often helped by their Big Names and Key Players during organizing strikes and contract negotiations. They often make a crucial difference between success and failure. (The WGA's show-runners were very important in the WGA strike 0f 2007-2008.)

* Unions are constrained by Federal Labor Laws and Regulations. For instance, they can't represent a group of employees who are already covered by another collective bargaining agreement.

* The militancy of Film Roman employees was a key reason the Animation Guild successfully organized the studio in 2004.

The meeting ended at 10:15. Hopefully attendees brought away a bit of new knowledge at the end of the whole thing.

As always, feel free to comment. But understand if comments get overly rude or abusive, blog administrators will take the comments down.


Anonymous said...


Pete said...

I didn't attend, but for those who did:

Is it fair to surmise (as from past example) that Zembillas added nothing substantive to the discussion, but merely aired his laundry list of personal grievances (website links and such)?

Also, I'm curious as to who the participants were in the aforementioned "yelling and taunting," and over what issue?

Steve Hulett said...

A number of people: Beverly Hills tattoo artist. Mr. Sito. Other audience members.

The kerfluffle didn't last long. But it wasn't nice.

Anonymous said...

Tattoo artist?

I'm assuming that was AN cohort "Snakebite."

Anonymous said...

Lie with dogs and you get fleas.

Don't agree to any more "discussions" with the AN folks. It solves nothing.

Anonymous said...

I went hoping to learn some information and tips about surviving as an independent animator in this crazy business. No such luck.

Note to WIA: next time you have a panel that advertises an 'independent animator' as a participant, please get an actual independent animator who can speak with real knowledge of that sector of our industry.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading AN's board years ago. It was then the only place a fair number of industry people posted,one reason being Cartoon Brew didnt have a comments option. But it devolved into weird personal grudge matches against other people, places and things, and the ramblings & threats(and they really were) of the site's owner towards anyone who seemed to cross him got to be such that the secondhand embarrassment was just too much. .

All that is by way of saying I can think of no good reason why any group would want such a person as part of a serious panel discussion.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment above - I never visit AN anymore.

but then again, this blog is turning into a similar thing. I think it's become a joke among industry professionals.

Anonymous said...

Cartoon Brew is getting precariously close to AN's status with all of Amid's obvious prejudices and adulation of all things ugly.

Steve Hulett said...

I thought there was useful information presented at the WIA forum.

I was asked by WIA to be a panelist, and I accepted. I didn't know who else was going to be on the panel. It was Women in Animation's gathering, not TAG's.

I was pleased to participate.

big bad balloon said...

This was doomed from the start.

WIA should have done a better job at finding relevant, current working independent animators to contrast TAG.

Zembo and his little henchmen have been a joke for years and keep spiraling down. Cartoon Brew is a far cry from what AN has become. CB is an open forum who's leaders are actually actively working on projects with respectable studios. I don't always agree with Amid and Jerry but they consistently bring refreshing animation info and help keep the animation spirit alive.

All in all, poor planning by WIA and really a waste of the Guilds time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Balloon.

What was this night supposed to accomplish besides give Charles another platform to complain at?

He's always spouting out the problems but where are his solutions? REAL solutions? Not just "oh we'll build another union". Ok. Then shut up and do it.

If he spent half the energy building something instead of tearing people down he could have made 3 unions by now.

Get a grip or get lost.

Anonymous said...

Besides a fluff piece for Pixar what project is Amid working on and for which studio? Amid is just as shitty as Charles. Jerry on the other hand is a class act.

big bad balloon said...

Amid is as opinionated as Zembo but his contribution of posting fresh(and not so fresh) animation from around the world is always welcome.

I've had words with Amid more than once but I can still be inspired by the work he posts from animators. Jerry is a stud and also has inspiring things to share.

Zembo has tantrums. No thanks.

If a musician inspires me with their music and helps me grow wtf do I care about their personality flaws?

Louis said...

In a rambling post on AN, the tattoo guy (aka "Snakebite") admits that he was just a troll, looking to provoke an angry confrontation.

He admits that he's never been in the animation industry (comic books aren't animation), hates unions ideologically, doesn't actually care whether the union "reforms" because he doesn't join unions anyway, and was only there to start trouble on behalf of his longtime companion Zembillas.

Anonymous said...

I would bet that 95% of employed animators quietly work at their desk and dont go anywhere near AN or TAG blog.

Steve Hulett said...

From stats, we get about 400-600 TAG members checking in once to three times a week.

Anonymous said...

That's probably 10-20 people checking 4-6 times a week, wouldnt you reckon?


Steve Hulett said...

I donno. You're here, aren't you?

All I know is what

A) I get from people during daily studio visits.

B) What the sitemeter there at the bottom says.

Anonymous said...

I easily check 4-6 times a week, so, yes.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Beck IS a stud.

Anonymous said...

I like Amid, and love his passion. I do not always agree with him, and agree with most that his inhuman adulation of john krisfalucci borders on psychotic--especially after the awful mess of that Simpson's opening (wow--that was REALLY bad!). But he can always argue his point very clearly. Unlike zemboze.

Anonymous said...

From my regular conversations with people at both union and non-union studios, what gets posted here quickly gets read and talked about. Sitemeter isn't going to show me as a TAG member, since I'm not browsing on the company network, but I know from how quickly info posted here gets spread about that this is the go-to site for industry professionals.

And when I ask about AN, it used to be "Oh, I never read that anymore. It's a crazy waste of time." Now the response generally is "What's Animation Nation?"

From a happening place, to despised, to unknown. That is the very definition of failure.

Anonymous said...

I love watching chuck go crazy emailing posts to himself about how angry he is he's not respected by anyone. I'll tell you, I worry about his mental state.

TotalD said...

Amid has opinion differences on animation but he and Cartoon Brew are NOTHING like the other site. Not at all, he loves animation and it shows, in fact he would have made a great addition to the speakers. I would have been interested to hear his thoughts. I have no idea why the "other person" was included at all given their openly stated desire o see the union destroyed.

In fact there are tons of speakers I would love to have heard but, I knew it would devolve. Why was that person even invited ? I have no idea as they dont represent anyone. I will never understand .

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