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Monday, August 22, 2011

VES 2.0 feedback requested

The VES 2.0 group  (Visual Effects Society)  continues to meet and explore options for the vfx industry.

I'd like to once again ask all vfx artists and companies to submit their thoughts, ideas, solutions and concerns to the VES Leadership group.  Email VES Leadership group You don't have to be a member to submit. You can also post in the comments here or email me directly. **

If you're in the vfx industry you do really owe it to yourself and your future to submit your thoughts. Now is the time, not 6 months from now.

Please consider reading the links on the right side under VFX INDUSTRY - STATE OF THE INDUSTRY heading if you haven't already.  I posted these to try to provide information and different perspectives of some of the issues.  Pass Me That Nail covers some of the key problems with the vfx industry. Using the Nail covers some of the VES 2.0 issues.

I also urge vfx artists to become informed and try to make open minded and balanced decisions and comments. It's easy to repeat the same phrases and become narrow minded, especially under the circumstances. Also keep in mind incentives will not last forever anywhere. Don't assume smooth sailing where you're currently working to last your lifetime. What you perceive as only a US problem could be your problem in the next year or two.

For more info: Visual Effects Society
VES 2.0 Letter to VFX Industry

From Shoot magazine report on VES 2.0


[**Update: Please check out the comments below (you may have to click on the comments link.
I'm listing a few of the types of things to consider in your note and included a few questions from the IA (snippets from the comments)

What are the problems people are facing? You may have some issues I haven't touched on or you may have a totally different priority.

How would you like to see the vfx industry structured?

What should the vfx companies be doing differently to make it better for the workers?

What should the studios be doing to make it better for the workers?

What about the studio and vfx company relationships?

People writing in should mention their views on the IA and why.

What's their views on a vfx trade organization?

From the IA:
"..we continue to seek out some direction as to the type of organization the rank and file really want?
One integrated visual effects organization?
An independent guild?
Affiliation with several different IATSE locals (matching job-skills) such as camera, editorial, animation, or art directors?
We could charter a guild and have it function as a separate entity, benefitting from the experience and strength of the International, and, where appropriate, adopting the Major Studios Basic Agreement. We just need some direction from the affected parties."]



There's also a relatively new take on this which is to focus on management.

While I agree that improving management would help I don't see it being the all in one solution.
Some vfx companies are managed better than others but I don't expect to cut the required time in half or another 20% in profits simply by improved management. Many vfx companies are already reasonably run and while there's room for improvement it's unlikely to be huge. The variables from directors and studios tend to be larger than these gains. Likewise don't assume just because a company is more efficient that it will make more money (it may just get more work) or that benefits, wages and working conditions will improve for employees. The trickle down theory doesn't work. Most general US companies are making 20% more in profits the last couple of years but continue to reduce their workforce and reduce employee benefits. Those added profits go to the executives and shareholders, not the people being more efficient.

What we'll need is improvements/changes to the 3 key parts of this issue (Studios, vfx companies and vfx workers) to get a balance that works and is sustainable.

[Please click on Comments link below if comments aren't automatically shown in your browser]

25 comments:

  1. The vfx industry is plagued by many problems such as inadequate business model, top heavy concentration of power over purse strings and creative control, lack of industry standards, the bidding process itself and finally the exploitative attitudes of Hollywood studios and VFX production companies towards their employees.

    I am a vfx artist and want to comment specifically to VES' pledge to not abandon the rank and file of vfx workers who *manufacture* the pixels that make it to the screen in various fantastic and mind boggling forms. I do not pretend to have solutions to solve all the problems the industry faces. Whoever believes that restructuring the business model will automatically improve the lot of vfx artists is as wrong as those who still believe in benefits of trickle down effect.

    As a vfx worker myself, I know what WE need as workers and employees and I'd like to focus on that: we need fair pay, adequate health benefits, paid vacation and pensions.That is achievable through increased bargaining power. Bargaining power is attainable if we stop negotiating individually and negotiate as a group, as a class, as a collective joined by the same needs and interests. I speak of a vfx union which would be just one more in the film industry which is already a Unionized Industry at large - most every film craft - except us.

    Now to my main point a and a direct suggestion to VES, as solicited by Scott: Instead of trying to reinvent a wheel and find mechanisms that would allow VES to improve the lot of vfx rank and file workers (VES as a professional Association cannot operate on workers' behalf like a Union can) - TEAM UP for Chrissake! Find a Film Industry Union to collaborate with. IATSE for one would be more than willing to take the burden of caring for vfx rank and file off your hands.
    Facilitate their work in organizing the production companies, encourage and enlighten VFX company owners on benefits of a unionized work force. VFX owners and Union and VES - Union relationships do not have to be adversarial - they can be collaborative.

    VES is equipped to handle every other problem in the biz. By delegating the welfare and well-being of workers to a Union like IATSE it frees its time and resources to deal with issues like industry standardization, vfx promotion, lobbying politicians and focusing on improving the bidding process and business model before it is too late.

    Here I said it, fully well realizing that many will regard this suggestion as naive. I am well aware of the dynamics of all players in the business, including the relationship between VES and Unions,as well as the role and goals each set for themselves. Nevertheless there is lots and lots of common ground and common interests which when acknowledged could bring about a collaboration which would help thousands of people affected by the dysfunction of the vfx biz.

    Without further ado, VES - meet IATSE. IATSE - meet VES. And f*cking get the ball rolling already. Enough meetings, summits, theoretical debates, idle talk we've had for over a year now- it is time to act.

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  2. Thanks for the feedback. The VES posted the original notice from the IATSE regarding a vfx union. The VES also help to facilitate a few meetings of vfx companies to see about having a trade organization. The VES isn't trying to block the union from organizing nor is it trying to take the place of the union. So far the union has been slow going so the VES has stepped in to do what it can to help.

    As noted the VES is global and not all vfx workers are in the VES so there's not a 1:1 match of potential union members and VES members.

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  3. Yeah Scott, I appreciate your response - but it points to business as usual attitude which I fully expected.
    1.Posting an IATSE organizing notice on VES site - is the extent of IA-VES collaboration there'll ever be, I get it.
    2.Facilitating meetings of vfx companies re. Trade Organization - nice and dandy but does not address the needs of vfx workers. Anyone can see that by looking it up in good old Wikipedia.
    3."The VES isn't trying to block the union from organizing nor is it trying to take the place of the union" - realpolitik speak at its best. Nice! My comment meant to encourage VES to break with precisely that old, recalcitrant attitude.
    4. "So far the union has been slow going so the VES has stepped in to do what it can to help" - you mean divert public attention from the flailing IA effort towards empty promises of VES which we know it cannot keep because it isn't empowered or frankly willing to to represent the interests of vfx rank and file.
    5. There isn't a 1:1 match of potential union members to VES members - and there needn't be. That is after all how VES presented itself in its public manifesto a few months back. It was addressed to "VFX Artists and the Entertainment Industry at Large" and wasn't restricted or classified by affiliation. You only bring it up as another one in your 5 point wall of excuses as to why collaboration of VES with the IA - CAN'T POSSIBLY EVER HAPPEN.

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  4. This is my personal blog. I'm on the board of directors of the VES and I'm actually part of the Leadership group trying to come up with solutions. But I can't speak for the VES here about things in the works.

    1. Actually the VES have been in talks with the IA about all of this. Where it will go I couldn't say. Personally I've met with Jimmy a couple of times, went to one of his picnics, and saw the IA people before he was involved. All in an effort to get information and to point out what they need to do if they're really interested. Including notes on their site and this site.

    2. VFX companies meetings - To solve these problems we're going to have to do work on all sides of this tripod. We're trying to crack this nut from any angle that makes sense.

    3. The IA needs to present clear information and sell that. The VES will do what it can to help but we can't do their job for them.

    4. Many VES members voiced their request that the VES get involved. It wasn't in the overall mandate nor is it any way to divert attention away from other groups or resources.

    5. The hope is that any changes being made will cover all vfx workers. Not just VES members and not just US workers.

    The first step is everyone has to understand there are problems. There's a lot of denial at all levels in the industry. Certainly I get some heat from workers and companies in the UK for even bringing up the issue of tax incentives. We have to be clear on what those problems are and try to solve them as best we can. Obviously different areas have different problems.

    That's why I'm asking for all vfx workers and companies to get involved. At the very least send in an email to the VES. If everyone in vfx has apathy as the IA said, then the VES will be hard pressed to accomplish anything.

    What are the problems people are facing? You may have some issues I haven't touched on or you may have a totally different priority.

    How would you like to see it structured?

    What should the vfx companies be doing differently to make it better for the workers?

    What should the studios be doing to make it better for the workers?

    What about the studio and vfx company relationships?

    People writing in should mention their views on the IA and why.

    What's their views on a vfx trade organization?

    There's certainly a lot of things to cover and I'm hoping most of the vfx workers will respond in some way but it seems to be pushing a rock up a hill simply to get people to take 5-10 minutes to write up an email and submit it. And you can be sure there will be a number that didn't get involved later say "What? I didn't want that?" or "Why didn't they do more?"

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  5. What VFX + Motion Graphic Design workers need:

    Compliance with Federal and State Labor laws regarding:
    Proper classification as W2 workers
    Paid Overtime

    AND

    Portable Retirement and Health Benefits

    AND

    Standardization of credits
    Use of all work for their portfolio

    A yearly salary survey

    An organization that fights spec work and unpaid pitches

    Thanks,
    Bran

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  6. Speaking for the IA, we continue to seek out some direction as to the type of organization the rank and file really want? One integrated visual effects organization? An independent guild? Affiliation with several different IATSE locals (matching job-skills) such as camera, editorial, animation, or art directors? We could charter a guild and have it function as a separate entity, benefitting from the experience and strength of the International, and, where appropriate, adopting the Major Studios Basic Agreement. We just need some direction from the affected parties. And we'll certainly address Scott's questions. One at a time.
    Let's keep up this discussion!!!
    Jimmy

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  7. Unionizing in the US is useless at this point. Healthcare, pensions? These are the least of our problems right now. There will be no major vfx industry in the US in about 5 years.

    The vfx industry is follow exactly what happened to the traditional animation studios. It's all getting outsourced. I've been in the industry for over 15 years and I expect to be out of a job in the US in about 2 years, probably sooner.

    The idea of forming a union is too late. Back in the 1990s was the time to do it. It is irrelevant now.

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  8. Hey anonymous!! Last time I checked the traditional animation industry was booming here in LA. And while Rome burns, and work gets outsourced, you guys continue to fall for the sucker line that your thriving employer can't afford to pay you for time worked, for overtime, and provide you with benefits. meanwhile he picks up his new Maseratti at the dealership. wake up and smell the coffee. and the money. there's plenty right here in LA.
    Jimmy Goodman

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  9. It's not 100% about costs. If that were the case then 100% of the work would already be going to China or whichever country is cheaper this week. There's a quality level (which a number of countries are getting better a)t and there's the communication and perspective, which is problematic on many projects.

    The various incentives will be changing, maybe sooner than some expect. Right now the cost of doing work outside is more expensive in a number of countries (if it weren't for incentives)

    In terms of the US there's Pixar, Dreamworks and other 3D animation studios. ILM and DD among others have been keeping reasonably busy. The bigger, better vfx houses already provide health care insurance. Why not leverage that and make it more universal so you can switch from company to company as projects change? There may be no additional costs - that's up to the company and the union.

    I'm not in the 2D animation industry so correct me if I'm wrong but Disney was still doing 2D here. Even for shows that are sent overseas they still have the key artists and storyboard artists here in the US and the work done elsewhere is primarily the inbetweening and the ink/paint style work? I also think there's a bit of a difference between kid television cartoons and large feature films with vfx, at least I hope there's a difference.

    For those who are doom and gloom and packing it all up in the next 2 years, when do things get bad enough to leave? If you have no healthcare or other benefits that most other people have and you have no continuous full time work as most other people have, just how far are you willing to let them push you down in wages and unpaid overtime before you leave? You'ver already rolled over on healthcare and other benefits. If that's the case then assume wage cuts are coming. Are you going to try to help find a solution or would you prefer to just let it happen and move on to digging ditches?

    Should all of this happened earlier? Yes, but we're here now so people are going to have to work out solutions or be faced with the exact thing in the future with whatever consequences may come.

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  10. To IA4thefuture,

    Traditional animation is NOT thriving in LA. It's a far cry from what it used to be. Most of it is now outsourced to S. Korea.

    I get overtime, health, vacation, etc. I've been lucky enough to have been offered a staff position at every company I ever freelanced at. I make a very nice living.

    I've moved up in rank enough to be someone who has worked on bids and guess what? VFX houses in LA bid to outsource. They don't even try to keep work in the US anymore.

    It's now standard practice for most big US companies to outsource roto, painting, tracking, and anim.

    VFX houses DON'T make much money. Unless they own IP like ILM, their profit margins are razor thin.

    Want to know why most vfx artist don't support the idea of a union? Because IATSE doesn't seem to understand what's going on in the vfx industy. Your post just proves it.

    What has IA done about runaway productions? Hmmm...not much. Any chance they've gotten Federal tax incentives passed to rival Australia or the EU. That'd be a no.

    Vfx artists are worried about just getting a job at this point. Healthcare and a pension are irrelevant if there are no longer jobs.


    To Scott Squires,

    Disney does not have a large traditional animation department anymore. Yes, there are some key artists, but that's a handful not the hundreds they used to have.

    No, the big vfx houses are NOT doing that well. DD is shrinking it's LA presence. RH is constantly threatened with layoffs or closure, outsourcing a lot of their work to India has saved them. Sony has mass layoffs after every show. Disney and Dreamworks just had a mass layoff.

    Yes, it'd be great to have healthcare outside of work, that's why the VES started getting that together. Not sure how a pension would even fit into the picture at this point.

    I think the vfx community would be better off going with something along the lines of SAG rather than IATSE.

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  11. Anonymous, just out of curiosity both IATSE and SAG are both Hollywood unions. Both are members of AFL-CIO and abide by NLRB. What makes you say that SAG is better than IATSE?

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  12. To Rolling Red,

    This is a huge oversimplification, but SAG not as subdivided as IATSE and has tried to at least tried to have global rules. IATSE is much more fracture and I don't think that's a good thing for our industry, especially since many of the artist work in different roles.

    Honestly, I don't think either are the answer. They have both been pretty much ineffective in keep work in the US, which is my main issue. I really don't see the point of pursuing the union issue when the unemployment issue is of greater concern.

    The US simply cannot compete with the tax incentives from other countries. Something is seriously wrong when it is cheaper to do post in London than LA. Studios are looking to only work with vfx houses overseas or that have branches overseas. They are not interested in staying in the US.

    VFX houses don't make much of a profit and if they try and get more money the Studios just pull the bid out from them and look else where. Until the US Federal Government get's off their collect asses and starts give 40% tax credits like Australia, the industry will pretty much continue to die in the US.

    Right now, the only hope we have is the number of films being made. Once the overseas houses fill up the Studios won't have a choice but to come back. However that's not a really good position to be in.

    So, yeah, does it suck that everyone doesn't have healthcare, absolutely. Would it be great if everyone got OT? Yes. Unfortunately, as soon as that's adding into the bid, the Studio doors slam shut, they hop a plane and go to India where people work pennies on the dollar.

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  13. Anonymous, I've read a bit about Hollywood Unions since it surfaced as a possibility for vfx artists, much good about SAG and much bad about IATSE sadly.That aside, IATSE is the only one stepping forward to organize us. There was a shorted lived bid by IBEW but by AFL-CIO command unions are compelled to collaborate rather than compete, although there certainly were historical incidents in the past where overt and even aggressive competition between unions IBEW and IATSE specifically existed. I bet that behind closed doors we were "handed over" to the IA. Dreaming of SAG is futile.

    VFX Houses are known for whining about poor profits yet they do nothing to shake up the Big Five for fair pay for all the unending shot revisions and changes and rotoing out on-set bad decisions and mistakes that the Hollywood Studios demand gratis. That attitude and a flat fee business model are part of the problem. Instead the employers squeeze their work force which is asked to produce more for less in half the time in order to scrape by.
    This ain't right.

    All the profit is concentrated in grubby Hollywood hands. VES certainly has a role to play in working to change the mentality of VFX Production Houses and steer them towards a business model that will allow them to be more profitable.

    You my dear friend, have fallen a victim to the most basic fear mongering tactic Employers have been using since the very first union came to be. It is a sad sight when people are cowed to submission and inaction out of fear. My sympathies.

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  14. I work here in Los Angeles in a very senior position, and I concur with the previous anonymous poster...

    It's not just LA. All of California film production has suffered a great deal from these runaway productions. It has nothing to do with the federal government. There are great incentives in other states. NY was just used for the latest MIB series, and Louisiana keeps popping up on the map of places to go. There are many states offering subsidies now.

    Here is my thought on this: We got greedy.

    During boom times artist rates went up and up. I now make more money than most doctors. I know plenty of others who do just as well. We are the most expensive part of production on most films. While single individuals may get larger paychecks- the director, producer, lead actor, a massive amount of money goes to VFX.

    We are too expensive. I make, on average, 5 to 10 times more than other Americans. Why?! It just happened that way over time, I didn't ever expect to be doing this well as an employee of another company. I am well beyond my own expectations.

    Canadian VFX companies pay less. So do the Soho shops in London. Same in Australia and New Zealand. Artists there make less. Eventually when India and china can compete, we will really be fighting for work.

    We need to get cheaper, somehow, in order to survive. There is no other way. Unionizing will do nothing to fix this. So what if you are in a union with great benefits, you may not even have a job to go to. So many of my friends are unemployed right now. I'm lucky to have a job here at all, and I know it.

    If you think that this industry is going to somehow fix itself you are wrong. Did anyone think that the banks would fail or the housing market would collapse, the dollar would be deflated, or that the US would be downgraded? No. Our arrogance and sense of entitlement will cost us dearly if we don't start thinking outside the box.

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  15. To the other Anynoymous who's making insane amounts of money as a senior artist:
    a) - A major problem with your analysis is that you generalize your own privileged situation to all LA/California. If you're at one extreme of a the Bell Curve - you should ask yourself what's the median and speak to that. I assure you it ain't all that.
    b) - You are absolutely right that cut backs of benefits and jobs are coming. We are yet to see the worst effects of this economic crisis. Vfx is not immune to any of that. As runaway productions are taking their toll - what are we doing? We sit and watch and complain, and maybe write a comment on a blog about how hopeless things are. We are rolling over, walking away, leaving to follow jobs or try to make a living in another sector. It's going to get worse. UNITED WE STAND - divided we fall.

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  16. To Rolling Red,

    I'm the first Anonymous, I'll call myself AnonA. Just toanswer the SAG issue with you, I never said anything about joining SAG, just we need to be in something like SAG and not IATSE.

    Second, don't start with personal attacks, not cool. I assure you I am not scared of being unemployed. As I mentioned, I'm in a pretty senior position. I have no issues with get a new job anywhere, I usually getting several offers a year from various houses. I just am telling what
    the state of the industry is. While it might might make you feel more secure that I falling prey to fear mongering from the big scary Studios, it's jut not true.

    I'll say it once again, the Studios are leaving the US for cheaper places. They DON'T care about the vfx industry. We call all walk off the jobs and go on strike together and it WOULD NOT make a bit o difference. I don't know how much clearer I can be for you.

    Florida, Louisianna, and few other states are trying help by giving incentives, but in the long run even they will fall unless something massively shifts in how the US deals with incentives on a federal level.

    I agree with the second Anonymous poster that overall, the salaries are high. However, I will answer the whole why some people make more than doctors. The higher the level, the more hours you work. You tend to have to pay people a lot of money for them to give up big chunks of their lives. No time for a family, social life, and can't do much planning since our work schedules are all over the plac. Plus, most of the top work is highly skilled and you can't easily replace top people.

    As I stated again and again, the Studios aren't interested in keeping the work in the US. You can make all the demands for healthcare and pensions you want, but it matters little if you don't have a project to work on. You might not like what I'm sayin, but don't shoot the messanger.

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  17. Regarding VES offering health care, I looked at it when they first announced that and it was A) not guaranteed issue B) more expensive than what I was paying for Cobra or HIPPA. No clue if any of that has changed.

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  18. Potential large change being investigated. I'm not involved in this group.

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  19. For those following the too much pay comments I created another post.
    Post related to VFX Wages issue

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  20. The Media & Entertainment industry has reached the maturity phase and now face different type of new challenges and changes; it's part of the evolution in the economy. This industry is now at the stagnation point. The barrier of entry is at it's all time low, the number of competitors/vendors have exploded during the past years, prices has fallen and the net income of the companies is at the limit between making and losing money. The solution needs to come from a different perspective both from the vendors and the clients awarding and requesting the work. The M&E industry is not like other industries, the business process is filled with artistic requests and this production process now needs creativity management. Creativity management his inspired by the Scientific management theory, also called Taylorism created by Frederick W. Taylor, but it's been adapted to the creative skills and business goals.

    Today, the M&E business sector is facing new technologies that have expand creative boundaries, helping build distribution channels and businesses in this dynamic sector. Creativity management is now a must in most companies of the film and TV industry to be able to continue generating profits. Increasing globalisation on one hand offers new opportunities for service-related companies to attract a bigger market, but on the other hand, the raises the competition from other regions of the world diminish the chance of building bigger ROI for the shareholders. Both production companies and providers of production services, like visual effects studios, have to apply this new management approaches to stay competitive. The current lack of business process management methods, is due to the domain-specific particularities, including the high degree of creativity and flexibility.

    The approach is centred around the importance of gaining efficiency and performance from improving the business process and production pipeline. This philosophy is focused around the importance of implementing management decision that requires deep knowledge of the production pipeline and project management skills. Flat fees can no longer be requested and enforced by the clients/studios while limiting the chances of approving change orders. The creative request need to match the budget awarded.... Creativity management will help the vendors to limit the risks of this flexible and unpredictable creative process.

    David Adam
    http://www.talkmgmt.com

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  21. According to Wikipedia under Scientific management:

    "Although scientific management as a distinct theory or school of thought was obsolete by the 1930s, most of its themes are still important parts of industrial engineering and management today.
    ...
    Taylor observed that some workers were more talented than others, and that even smart ones were often unmotivated. He observed that most workers who are forced to perform repetitive tasks tend to work at the slowest rate that goes unpunished. This slow rate of work has been observed in many industries in many countries
    ....
    This reflects the idea that workers have a vested interest in their own well-being, and do not benefit from working above the defined rate of work when it will not increase their remuneration. "
    ...

    So can we compress what you wrote and turn it into something more tangible? Sure, vfx management can be improved but where's the real change?

    How do the vfx companies get the studio to buy into the non-bid approach? Who helps control the director or studio from making changes? You can be as efficient as possible but if everyday changes are being made that cause more work in a shorter time, how idoes improved management solve that problem?

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  22. The real challenge is to come up with a new bidding structure (and agreement to replace the current flat fee) between the studios and the vendors that define clear boundaries and fixes a scope on the work to be performed to match the reality of a creative, flexible and experimental environment. The assumption that the Scientific management theory can lead the workers to focus more on their own interest and well-being and that they don't benefit from working above the define rate is true, but not in the current technological environment that can be implement to keep the staff up-to-date on the current production challenges.

    The past years, many economic fields have proven that keeping the workers in the dark can increase the chances of implementing bad behaviors in the work to be performed and the direct involvement of the artist in the art he's currently creating can provide efficiency in the business process.

    The concepts of creativity management is a must. The Taylor theory is currently implement in the pipeline by breaking down the work into smaller tasks (modeling, texture, rigging, etc.) and allocating the work to artists in the pipeline. The challenge is to transform the pipeline into a collaborative environment where the managers will get quick and direct feedback from the artists to justify asap the request for additional change orders to its clients.

    The managers can no longer continue to provide free changes or different versions and free experimentation in creativity to gain the satisfaction of their clients. Free changes provide a reduction in the number of conflicts, but it drowns the chance for the vendors to make a profit. The studios will never fall into going back to billable efforts/hours because they already had a nice taste of the advantages of flat fees to lower the risks of their productions: the studios will never buy the non-bid approach; but...

    The management needs to get closer in real-time with the artists and this collaboration can only be obtained with an effective project management and collaborative platform. The managers and the supervisors needs to have in a mouse click access to all the justifications to control the directors or the studios from making changes or charging for these changes. The artists need to provide in details their work effort, the problems they're facing, the schedule and other project management information. The lack of implication of the artists to provide these critical information can create dramatic consequences for the vendors (vfx facilities).

    The collaboration and the implication of the managers, the artists, team leaders and supervisors is a must in order to achieve this goal. The film and television business process creates so much information and data; applying the creativity management theory is the best way to key the studios on a tight leash. Today, it's a team effort to apply those change orders and raise the net income of the company; it's no longer just in the hands of the managers. Everybody needs to collaborate and manage creativity.

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  23. Anonymous, facts you nicely presented :

    (a) VFX houses in LA bid to outsource 
    This is true. Think of all the companies who have opened an office in Vancouver or elsewhere around the globe to get better ROI (tax credits or cheap labor)

    (b)They don't even try to keep work in the US anymore
    Yes they do, executives, top rank company officers, etc.

    (c) VFX houses DON'T make much money. Unless they own IP like ILM
    Yes, it's a fact of life, it's a consequence of the economic stagnation of this industry

    (d) What has IA done about runaway productions?
    Nothing, the California and US government is crumbling under deep debts. It's not very politically wize to finance a business sector that generating large profits (studios) when you can't even buckle your budget.

    (e) the big vfx houses are NOT doing that well
    This is not only true for US facilities, it's also true for CAN, UK and other vfx facility. The profits are no longer there because of the industry economic phase (stagnation)

    (f) VFX Houses are known for whining about poor profits
    True

    You've also pinpoint the root of the problem that create the current situation:

    ''they do nothing to shake up the Big Five for fair pay for all the unending shot revisions and changes and rotoing out on-set bad decisions and mistakes that the Hollywood Studios demand gratis. That attitude and a flat fee business model are part of the problem. Instead the employers squeeze their work force which is asked to produce more for less in half the time in order to scrape by.
    This ain't right.''

    Proposed solutions

    I don't think a union will solve the cash-flow problem of the vfx facilities, only the increase of the profit margin will generate money to pay the workers over-time. The root of the problem can only come from a change in the way VFX shots are being bid and charged. If the facility continue to charge a flat fee, the studio will continue to gain from the current business model and employees will continue to pay the price.

    I recommend the workers to join hands with the vfx facilities. They need to work together, change the relationship between the workers and the managers: your all on the same boat, a sinking boat. ''The managers can no longer continue to provide free changes or different versions and free experimentation in creativity to gain the satisfaction of their clients.'': The facilities needs arcs and arrows to justify the change orders and stop this insane unending shots revisions.

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  24. hello Scott, here's my hastily written comment. i squeezed this between a hard day at work and my commute home. which means I'm probably at a bar.

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  25. Here's Alba's post broken in 2 to fit in the comments area.


    What are the problems people are facing? You may have some issues I haven’t touched on or you may have a totally different priority.

    I’m gonna save this for last, so scroll to the bottom of my comment to read my answer.


    How would you like to see the vfx industry structured?

    More structure wouldn’t hurt. Titles with real job descriptions/classifications. Setting standards at least would give Clients some assurances.


    What should the vfx companies be doing differently to make it better for the workers?

    • Not bid manpower on the assumption that everyone will work 20 hours on a flat rate that’s just bad producing.
    • Enforce Change Orders and Overages.
    • Don’t be the low-baller in the triple-bid. Nobody wins and the vfx talent will resent you.


    What should the studios be doing to make it better for the workers?

    Respect and understand our craft. It’s not just post-production anymore. While many of us are not doing heavy lifting or breaking a sweat, “real work” is being done, even in an air-conditioned room with headphones on, surrounded by your stupid action figures.


    What about the studio and vfx company relationships?

    They could be better, I question the relationship(s) between the studio’s VFX executives and vendors and why work/budgets ends up at certain shops and not the other. Especially when tentpole movies come out and a majority of the vfx is not stellar.


    People writing in should mention their views on the IA and why.

    IA hasn’t impressed me in their efforts to organize VFX. They seem out of touch completely. Thehttp://ia4thefuture.blogspot.com website is mostly useless, uninspiring, passive with no real mission statement. The whole “help me help you” act is nonsense, the IA has experience in organizing, they should be pro-active, cite experience, how it can apply or be adapted to the VFX industry and present options. Not ask a bunch of people who aren’t organized for feedback.

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