- Advocacy, Community
Visual Effects Society Steps Up and Takes On Hollywood Over Benefits, Working Conditions and Credits
When the director gets back from location and sees a microphone-in-picture or a lighting case not supposed to be there, you have a problem. That’s when you go looking for a VFX artist. That same VFX artist can also let a bald guy grow an afro or make aliens fly across the screen. According to the Visual Effects Society (VES), if you are a VFX Artist, you probably don’t have ready access to healthcare, vision or a pension plan. Your working conditions are intense: since you’re probably a freelancer, and not covered by collective bargaining, “you may be forced to work 70 – 100 hour weeks or months on end in order to meet a delivery date.” Of course, being an Independent Contractor and means you’d also “have to file a 1099 – and then pay the employer's share of the tax contribution.” And the kicker, your credit is “frequently listed incompletely and below where we should be in the crawl.” In an open letter to Hollywood that was picked up by the Hollywood Reporter, the Visual Effects Society has taken Hollywood to task over benefits, working conditions and credits. In the letter signed by Executive Director, Eric Roth, the VES states that “As good as we are at creating and manipulating amazing and ground breaking images, VFX professionals have done a terrible job of marketing ourselves to the business side of the industry. In short, no one has been able to harness the collective power of our efforts, talents, and passions into a strong, unified voice representing the industry as a whole.” Therefore, it should not surprise anyone that “the state of the visual effects industry is unsettled. Artists and visual effects companies are working longer hours for less income, delivering more amazing VFX under ever diminishing schedules, carrying larger financial burdens while others are profiting greatly from our work.” Since the VES is an honorary society, they do not have the power of collective bargaining but with 2,400 artists in 23 countries they do have a strong voice within the industry. The letter raised the question of whether the VFX community needs either a union or a trade organization. Though the VES didn’t take a direct stand, they did say they planned to “shine a spotlight on the issues facing the artists, facilities and studios by way of editorial pieces in the trades and VFX blogs, virtual Town Hall meetings, a VFX Artists' Bill of Rights and a VFX CEO's Forum. There are solutions and we will find them.” The complete letter can be found here.