Monday, August 15, 2016

Trouble in Vancouver?

From the Times:

... On the animation news website Cartoon Brew, several animators who identified themselves as members of the “Sausage Party” crew talked of unpaid overtime, poor working conditions and walkouts at Nitrogen, the Vancouver, Canada-based animation studio that made the film. ...

“The production cost were kept low because Greg would demand people work overtime for free,” said one Cartoon Brew commenter. “Over 30 animators left during the coarse [sic] of the production due to the stress and expectations.” ...

Nitrogen Studios Chief Executive Nicole Stinn disputed this account.

“These claims are without merit,” Stinn said in a statement. “Our production adhered to all overtime laws and regulations, as well as our contractual obligations with our artists.” ...

Me, I don't know if alleged animators' alleged claims have merit or not.

And I'm not versed in British Columbian labor regulations, so who knows?

What I do know is that animation contractors often low-ball their bids to land a project, then squeeze the crew to bring the production in on budget.

Is this what happened with Nitrogen and Sausage Party?

Naw. Sony probably went with the high bid because "quality" was their tippy-top priority, profits be damned.

This is what I wrote to Cartoon Brew when they asked for a statement:

Long, unpaid hours aren’t the norm in feature animation studios covered by labor contracts, but it happens often in low-budget grind shops. Sony is in Vancouver for two reasons: 1) the animation studios are non-union and often willing to offer a competitive (i.e. low) bid to get projects inside their walls, and 2) the Free Money that the provincial tax payers (bless their generous hearts) hand out to entertainment conglomerates is substantial.

The fact that the supervisors on “Sausage Party” [allegedly] demanded that animators hit their deadlines without overtime or additional compensation is a feature of these kinds of productions, not a bug. And a young crew, desperate to break into animation, will put up with the abuse and general horsesh*t because they are keen to hang onto their jobs (underpaid though they may be). The watchwords are “don’t rock the boat”; the goal is to just hang on until the show wraps. Understand that most staffers are in their twenties, and (sadly) a kind of Stockholm Syndrome develops.

[The allegation] that animators were denied screen credit because they didn’t toe the line would, if true, demonstrate an amazing level of petty vindictiveness. But it’s occurred before on animated projects and will likely rear its ugly head again. ...

Of course, maybe the production was above board as Ms. Stinn claims.

Maybe no threats, pressure or retribution went on.

And maybe this person commenting at CB is a troll:

This was my first job on a feature film, after watching it the other day I was very impressed how everything came together and how good it looked. Feeling super proud to be a part of this groundbreaking project.

The awe & excitment quickly turned sour after the credits had rolled with my name not showing up. I was on the animation team for just over a year, at the start of production, but had to seek employment elsewhere due to visa issues. Through emails towards the end of my contract, I felt I left on good terms with the studio.

Apparently not.

The people I worked with at Nitrogen were incredible. Some of the most friendly and down to earth folk I have ever met. It's a massive shame we weren't credited for all the hard work we put into this movie. I honestly can't understand the angle Nitrogen was going for and why you'd want to burn bridges with all this great talent after your first feature.

I've been at this union gig too long, because I've seen this sort of stuff go down many times before. At Klasky-Csupo. At Bluth-Sullivan. Even at union studios where a production supervisor got a teensy bit overbearing.

When low budgets collide with the crew's health and well-being, the people cobbling the movie together fourteen hours per day often lose. It's a reality as old as film-making.

More on the fun at Nitrogen here and here.


pappy d said...

It's illegal in California and it's illegal in BC.

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