Friday, April 26, 2013

Entertainment Biz Swells a Bit

The industry claws its way back in L.A.

... The film, television and music industries in Los Angeles County generated 131,600 jobs in March, up 7.9% from February and 12.6% from the same month a year ago. ...

The increased film production activity, Kleinhenz said, offset job losses at some studios, including DreamWorks Animation, which announced in February it was laying off 350 employees. El Segundo-based visual effects studio Rhythm & Hues also laid off more than 200 workers in February. ...

March's jobs total was the highest level in L.A.'s entertainment sector since late 2008, noted Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the LAEDC. ... The job gains in entertainment helped lower L.A.'s overall unemployment rate in February to 10.3%, compared with 11.6% in February 2012. The private sector in February added 99,000 jobs. ...

In point of fact, animation unemployment levels aren't as horrible as the press says they are.

The DreamWorks Animation layoffs, which commenced last month, have gone forward in slow motion. While many have departed, many are still being paid by the studios.

There were three categories of laid off DWA employees: Those that exited with 30 days pay, those that received two months salary, and (lastly) individuals with longer term Personal Service Contracts who were separated from service but will be paid salaries over four ... or eight ... or twelve months. (These folks have not shown up as "unemployed" because they're still on the DreamWorks Animation payroll, even though they no longer work on campus.)

Added to which, a number of DreamWorkers have found employment at Walt Disney Animation Studios, where work continues to ramp up on Frozen, and Big Hero Six waits in the wings. This might explain why, over the past half year, the Animation Guild's membership has dropped by only six active members.

And there is still considerable employment at non-signator studios. Sony Pictures Imageworks has 300 employees laboring in Culver City ... and another 400 in Vancouver. Production work on The Smurfs is ongoing; when that wraps, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Deux will be in production with pedal to the proverbial metal. (It has to be moving briskly, since the picture has a Fall release date.)

Los Angeles-based animation might not be in full flower, but it's a considerable distance from being the full-bore disaster that the trade press and Los Angeles Times make it out to be.


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