Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Stop Motion

A fine trade journal profiles the work and life of a stop-motion animator:

... For puppet suprvisor Caroline Kasteleic, workdays [on the feature Anomalisa] often began at 8:30 AM and lasted 10 hours or more, and were filled with “frantic walkie-talkie calls about puppets breaking,” she says. Her responsibilities as puppet supervisor included figuring out, in meticulous fashion, the puppet needs of the project—scene by scene—assembling the final puppets (hair, wardrobe), and negotiating with all the various departments to meet the day’s goals. The crew consisted of 10 to 20 people depending on the stage of production. “At one point we had about 20 stages running at once,” Kastelic says. ...

[S]top-motion is one of the most intensive crafts of all, and comes with its own unique set of problems. “With a lot things, materials just take time to dry,” says Kastelic. “There’s nothing you can do if something takes two hours to set, so a lot of times you stay late and get all the things you can done, and then get back here. It feels like you never left.” ...

Actually it sounds a lot like other forms of animation. Where people stay late. Or sleep under their desks. Or come in Saturdays and Sundays.

Federal regs have long said that "animators" are non-exempt from overtime rules, meaning that somebody who is animating has got to be compensated for overtime.

Of course, in the real world that often doesn't happen. People stay late on their own volition or because of peer pressure, and the company takes the stance of "hear no evil, see no evil." And how often are labor regulations enforced anyway?

I've talked to a number of stop-motion animators over the years, and most are passionate about the craft and love what they do. And almost all of them are over-worked and underpaid.

That's true of a lot of stop motion studios in Los Angeles and elsewhere. LAIKA appears to treat staff pretty well, and on some features the working conditions aren't bad, but television work offers low wages and long hours. As an L.A.-based stop-motion animator said a few months back: "We'd do better working at Starbucks!"

This holiday season, here's to the artists who are enthusiastic about their art. All of them, every one, deserve better than the pay and working conditions at Starbucks.


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