Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ten Percenters To The Rescue?

Variety says:

Vfx pros could benefit from things collective bargaining might provide — health benefits, overtime, better working conditions. But a guild or union can’t address the problems bedevilling the companies those artists work for, or the industry as a whole. There’s one thing that can make these artist-driven companies into the stars they should be: Agents.

That’s right: Moneygrubbing, mendacious, self-interested agents — bless their tiny hearts — are just the thing to rescue the vfx industry. ...

With all due respect to the Mother of All Trade Papers, I disagree.

Agents are great (also useful) for the Chosen Few at the top of their profession. Folks that have a long, eye-popping resume and a list of suitors who want to hire them.

But those people are (face it) relatively few in number. Talents who have attained critical mass with their history of accomplishments can pretty much write their own tickets; agents can assist in boosting them along, but lift off and the resulting demand for their services has already occurred.

And CG workers who are closer to the bottom cannot 1) get an agent, or 2) when they do, the agent is ineffective in getting them work. And several artist have told me:

"Yeah, I had an agent. But the guy never got me work. And when I got my own work, he wanted a percentage ... and he didn't even negotiate anything."

In the boom times, good agents can goose the salaries of animation artists, no question. But in slack times they don't have much leverage and so add little value. (It's hard to get $3500 per week for your client when there are a dozen artists of equal talent ready to work for $2000 ... or $1700.)

"Slack" is the visual effects environment now.

What most CG artists need in 2013 is not an agent, but some entity that can help provide a livable base-line wage, health benefits, and a pension. Agents sometimes help with the first but hardly ever with the second two.

For those, a labor union is needed.


meyemind said...

Yes, but come on Steve, David Cohen's article was not suggesting agents at the artist level, but at the vendor level.

Another snippet from Guilds? Nah. Here’s Who the VFX Biz Needs:

If I were an agent repping a vfx company, here’s a one-side transcript of what the start of negotiations might sound like:

“Look, my client’s work is the anchor of your worldwide marketing campaign. They’re the real star of the movie.

“They’re not? Who is? Henry Cavill? Charlie Hunnam? Nice TV actors, but they’re not opening your movie. The only thing opening your
movie around the world is my client’s visual effects. We are making you millions. You need to pay accordingly. ~David S. Cohen

As to not mislead vfx professionals visiting this post...

AgNO3 said...

You don't think Bob Coleman is getting his clients work? He is to the detriment of more skilled workers. Putting whole crews into places.

Steve Hulett said...

Ultimately you need the vfx industry to be rationalized and organized on two levels:

Vendors have to stop cutting each other's throats by low-ball bidding clients' work.

Employees have to own portable health benefits, wage floors, and pensions.

Agents can tout companies all they like, but it's the talent INSIDE the companies that make vfx houses bankable. Not the name-plate.

I think we're going to see more mergers and down-sizing before the business stabilizes.

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