Friday, April 22, 2016

On Testing III

Veteran board artist Llyn Hunter continues the discussion about board tests at various Los Angeles animation studios. Everybody agrees the tests are too long, and too often don't lead to jobs, but what to do about it? ...

(Here are Parts I and Parts II) ...

There is no Defense for Requiring Unpaid Work

Response to About Testing and In Defense of Testing, April Peg Board 2016

By Llyn Hunter

First, concerning About Testing: “We have members …totally opposed…heavily in favor…” When there are two sides to an issue, it does not mean that there is equal support for both. I submit there are many more of our members who are taking these tests than giving them, and I know of few people who are happy about giving up their time and labor for no compensation or promise of a job.

That some members may be in favor of testing is not addressing the fact that contracted studios are handing out tests as an absolute requirement to be considered for some positions. In point two of the article, it was stated “You are not required to take a test,” yet several of the jobs posted with the union have the side line that candidates “MUST” take a test in order to be considered (i.e. Bento Box, April, Rick and Morty, March).

In response to the article, In Defense of Testing, the current problem with the tests is not about liking or not liking them. It is about unpaid work for the evaluation of a position.

When it is suggested that WE have the power to shape and control the tests, I suggest that currently this is completely wrong. Every test I have been given in the past two years has had a week turn around time. In that period I have presented at least 3 of 5 tests to the union (two were at the time nonunion shops). The Guild may or may not be able to do anything about the test, but usually they get back to me after I have completed it, and so has everyone else. By then, all the union can do is lodge a protest, and we who have taken the test are out of $500 to $2000 worth of our time.

When the article talks about needing a test to “seal the deal,” that might be understandable if the producers were narrowing the field down to three artists and then handing out the test to finalize a decision, but most of the tests are given out at the cattle call. As to the people looking at the tests. if they knew what they were looking for in the first place, there would not be so many tests handed out. Often there is no indication when applying for a position what kind of show is being produced, and applicants can’t even tailor the samples they send as good examples for the future show. Those supposedly looking at past work don’t appear to want to take the time to look at peoples web sites, they just want to see what each person can do with the current property that is on the table.

It is required by our contract that the tests be “a reasonable amount of work”, but what is reasonable? “Reasonable,” is an abstract term with no solid definition. None of the producers are giving tests that take less than three days to a week to complete, and once again the most unreasonable thing above all, is that we are all doing it for free. Thousands of dollars and days of wasted time that is of no expense to the show runners but are lost hours of our lives. The testers want something for nothing and we are giving it to them because we need the work.

This situation is not about insult; this is about theft and blackmail. It is about studios with advertisements that read, “Every candidate will be tested….” yet does not say how many candidates that might be, and there is no intention of compensating any one for their time or effort in the taking of this test. The abuse of testing is not going to stop because the union “asks” testing to be reasonable. If that worked the excessive tests would not exist let alone be increasing.

I would like to submit the following proposal for the union to adopt an official policy:


To establish an official guild policy, that when submitting materials for the consideration of a position at a contracted studio, no member of the Animation Guild, IATSE local 389, will consider any test given as “a reasonable amount of work” unless compensated monetarily for the work committed for that test. A “reasonable amount of work” shall be defined as that which is compensated by money.

In other words, the policy should be: no member will take a test unless they are paid to take a test.

Requests from the guild that such tests be given only when necessary or that they not be excessive has gone totally unheeded by the studios and the abuse has become excessive. These studios constantly ask for work to be done without the expectation of payment nor the assurance that if the test isadequate, an actual position will be provided to the prospective candidate. It is therefore requested that members of the guild no longer tolerate the inconsideration of guild member’s time, skill and accrued abilities. Should it be requested that a member of the guild take a test, that work will be considered unreasonable if there is no monetary compensation given for the work. By giving the definition of “a reasonable amount of work” as that which is monetarily compensated the specifics of Sideleter J can be established by policy.

Please join with myself and others, at the next union meeting May 31st (6:30 for pizza, 7:00 for start) to continue the discussion concerning the addition of this policy or other solution to the insidious problem of testing.


Paula S said...

A response to your response to my response to your comments at the last general membership meeting . . .
I am a member of The Animation Guild, just like you. All of the opinions I've expressed at general memberships meetings (when I can get a word in edgewise), on this blog or in the Pegboard are based on my own thoughts and experiences and I can only speak for myself, just like you.
Here's what my Pegboard article and blog post were based on -- my own experience:
I am the art director on a premise-driven comedy show at Cartoon Network, and I am responsible for creating the tests for design, clean up and color positions on my show. We hired most of our original staff artists based on personal experience with them or based on a portfolio review, but we did hand out a BG design test and a BG color test (which consisted of one drawing or painting based on a provided storyboard panel and show reference, and which should have taken no more than two hours to complete) to about six willing artists. We've had the same steady and talented crew throughout seven seasons and any time we've had to hire a freelancer or full-time artist since those early days it has always been based on personal experience or a portfolio review and a PAID test of freelance work that was subsequently used in the production of our show.
At the end of Season 7, we lost our character designer and were forced to find a replacement for this talented and reliable artist. We offered the job to someone based on a review of his portfolio and he turned our offer down. After that we decided to hand out a test to applicants who passed the portfolio review. I created a test that I thought could be completed in about two hours and it was given out to 12 artists who were offered or asked to take the test. It should be noted that several of these artists asked to take the test even after being informed that we had identified a strong candidate. The applicants with the two best tests were offered paid freelance work, and we eventually hired our original pick, who has shown that she understands the show's style and sensibility.
This is a true story. I am a Guild member and the hiring supervisor, and I created the test myself to be sure that it complied with the union's "reasonable test" policy. I reviewed portfolios and freelance work, along with our Show Runner (also a Guild member) and our Producer.
There ARE reasonable tests out there. They ARE created by our own Animation Guild members, like me and like our Show Runner, who created our storyboard test -- which consists of a maximum of ten pages of storyboard work (24 small rough/thumbnail drawings, 8 clean panels) and a few quick gag-writing exercises. It IS possible to work from inside the studios to change the way tests are given.
In my opinion, we're more likely to effect change by educating and empowering our own members to take control of the creation and distribution of the tests than by petulantly crossing our arms and refusing to see that we can control ourselves but we can't control the studios.

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