Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Flatness of Wages

Earlier this week, I got a call from a veteran board artist who's looking for more work and asked about the salary range for storyboarders. I steered him to last August's Wage Survey at the website, and got this:

Artist: Hey, I know people who are getting more than the rates in here.

Me: Probably so. Not everybody responds. I've been to big studios and asked the high earners to supply wage data. they tell me, "Not on your life. We don't want people finding out what we make." So what do you do? ...

The artist is convinced that studios are colluding and suppressing wages. "I go from one studio to another, and the rates are exactly the same. Can't be a coincidence," he says.

"Probably not," I reply. "But we haven't proved it. We've aided and abetted different law firms with their cases, but those lawyers haven't proved it. Not to the satisfaction of a judge."

"They were time-barred. Didn't mean collusion's not going on."

My take: Studios are working hard to hold the line. If that means using newbies that cost less in wages but lots more in production time and production blowups, they go with the newbies. Even though it's often a dumb thing to do.

I also think there's a measure of salary coordination that's happening. The fact that a lot of people get paid within a tight band of rates when, at the same time, studios complain "We can't find qualified people!" is a curious, curious phenomenon, one that didn't happen in the nineties.

But it's one thing to think collusion/suppression, another to prove it in court.


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