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Author Topic: Memo from VEABC re: Further expansion of the VFX Union  (Read 10634 times)
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« on: February 28, 2009, 05:24:53 PM »

I had this email forwarded to me this morning though my Visual Effects Society membership.  Strangely not directly from Visual Effects Association of British Columbia, VEABC...  (Of which I have been a member since its inception.)

The relatively new phenomenon of Productions having in-house Visual Effects (VFX) teams has apparently empowered the local Film Union to expand its influence into the VFX industry.  A few years back we made history when Battlestar's in-house VFX team was the first of its kind to be absorbed into a Unionized film crew.  Now a new film being produced in Vancouver, Hole, has become the second occurrence of an in-house VFX team being under the union umbrella.

I would like to open up the topic of Unionization within the Visual Effects Industry for discussion.  

I realize this can be an emotional issue to some so let's keep the discussion clean and professional.


Dear Members,
 
The VFX department on the film "Hole" has been forced into the union.  All of the particulars of union membership are not available to us yet. Reportedly, everyone in the VFX department without "Supervisor" in their title is affected and pays $120 per month in some form of dues.  A source has informed us of the "response" to this union action saying:  
"The producer's said they had no choice." and ".everything else went down hill from there.  The producer said dealing with the Teamsters was like dealing with angels compared with whatever the name of the local the VFX people are in is."

A primary fear has been what the perception of doing Visual Effects work in BC, as the only VFX union in the world, will have on work continuing to come to our province.  The final outcome remains to be seen on this; however, initial steps by the union seem to justify our fears.
 
The VEA(BC) has had contact by artists who have expressed great frustration at a difficulty finding employment after being part of the Battlestar Galactica union group.  Technically it is illegal to not be hired because of union membership.  However, in an industry where jobs are attained by "merit" of reels, and resumes, it isn't too far fetched.  This is very real, though unverifiable, concern.
 
Our contacts at the CFTPA tell us the Canadian Producers are still in "collective bargaining" with the union and have not yet "agreed" to anything.
 
Your VEA(BC) is still investigating how best to become involved on this issue on your behalf. If any of you are involved with the project and concerned use your association.  It is what we are here for.  The more intuitive webpage is being designed but we have to make do with what our current resources provide so please send us your thoughts on this, or any issue or rumour, through the email: info@veabc.com

If you don't talk to us, we can't speak for you.
 
I have remind you all that there are only two days left before all unpaid memberships expire and will be removed from our lists and access to our information will cease.  For those of you who have not paid yet, don't be in the dark about what is happening to your industry.  Speak now, support your professional voice and pay your association membership fees today, or forever hold your piece.  $125 a year of $120 a month?
 
Your VEA(BC) will continue to speak as loudly as we can on this and every issue affecting our members.  Be well.
 
Sincerely,

Ivan Hayden
President,
Visual Effects Association of BC
www.veabc.com


« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 02:15:04 AM by Mark Benard » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2009, 07:05:55 PM »

This is a hot topic, but there are 2 sides to every coin.

1 side:
You could argue that workers working directly for a production should be subject to the same employment standards and entitlements of the rest of the workers on that production.  Rumour was that the Battlestar VFX team were subject to a lot of uncompensated overtime, which not only defies BC Labour Legislation, but also is out of accordance with the rest of the workers on the show.  Yes, it can be common to work long hours on a film set, hence the union contracts in place to ensure that the workers get fed and paid.  Why should this be different for in-house (i.e. hired directly by the production) VFX workers?

The other side:

Most private VFX companies will be against unionization.  BUT, if those private companies are working in accordance to the BC Labour Laws, there will be NO NEED for unionization of the workers.  Private companies should retain the right to hire whomever they please, not based on availability lists and heirarchy.  I firmly believe in the rights of a private company, being a private company owner. 

The complication arises when an in-house team is working on a show, and private companies are also working on that same show.  Wages may be different, but again, hours of work are subject to BC Labour Laws. 

You know what?  Artists come and go from various productions all the time.  Sometimes they get another job right away, sometimes they don't.  Maybe they aren't right for the job, maybe their skills were limited - who knows why any particular Battlestar artist didn't get the next job right away.  And weren't those artists permittees anyway? 

My understanding of IATSE is that you can't even join the union until you've been a Permittee and received Union Work Permits for specific productions.  You can't just be "unionized".  If you go through IATSE's website, there is no category for Visual Effects (VFX) nor are there descriptions of the qualifications needed for visual effects. 

Stay tuned for more...


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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2009, 09:32:56 PM »

Just a quick note on the Union thing, I just saw an ad in Playback magazine for IATSE 891 and they had a list of all of their craft categories... and it did include VFX / CGI.  Still not sure about the Permittee process, if anyone on this forum has had dealings with IATSE in Vancouver I'd like to hear how it works procedurally.

Gillian
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2011, 04:26:52 AM »

best way to learn what the film unions are is to read the contracts.

http://www.filmcontracts.net/contracts/list.php?category=30

That's essentially what the film unions do.  Over seers of Vancouver's on set contractors. The working agreement doesn't go  beyond what has been negotiated in their collective agreement.

The Office, For example IATSE 891's office.  is home base for collecting dues, shop stewards accounting. ETC.
IATSE 891 is a not-for-profit organization. All their records available for public viewing.   

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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2011, 04:44:51 PM »

I wonder how long it will be until the VFX Dept. at IATSE conforms to the rest of the IATSE departments, mandating the 90 day Permittee requirement and some amount of previous experience in order just to apply to the Union?   Is there a standard length of time needed or a certain amount of members required before this happens? 

I'll bet that recent film school grads volunteer as much as they can on independent shows, short films and so on in order to get a few credits on their resume so they can THEN apply for Permittee status and have the possibility of getting hired as an assistant on a union show.   But if a VFX artist tries to volunteer in order to develop their career they get accused of "working without pay" and it is deemed that they need protection from the union, the very union they won't be able to get into a few years from now unless they have credits and Permittee hours logged.

It seems very easy now to join, but once the regular union regulations come into play I think it will create a different playing field with heirarchies, international issues and expectations of security despite working performance. 


 

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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2011, 12:40:08 AM »

and this just in from Ivan Hayden, linked through to the VEABC forum:

http://www.veabc.ca/forum/index.php?topic=79.0

It is a good read, everyone. 
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2011, 10:07:20 PM »

I disagree with your assumption that a VFX union in Vancouver will but an end to free labour.  There are many companies and non union film projects in Vancouver that are not paying their workers.

Ask the artists at Exile VFX.  

Anyone is free to volunteer in order to develop your career in any way you want. If a employer or a Film project has  agreed to function under a contract that required payment for employment. then no. you can't work for free.

Given the opportunity most people would like get paid for their work.  
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 10:25:52 PM by Digital Dumpster » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2011, 10:23:01 PM »

We are all in favour of everybody getting paid for their work.  There could also be a need for an apprentice-style position in visual effects - this could benefit both the studios, who are on tight margins and in some cases trying to keep the doors open (speaking from personal experience) - and newer VFX artists who may be in a position to essentially carry on their studies but in a working environment.  I am hoping to integrate this into our program here at Lost Boys Learning in the next year.  I know quite a few successful VFX artists who interned with us at Lost Boys Studios a decade or so ago, and they all seem pretty happy about the experience. 

My post earlier was about if and when IATSE would start to require permittee status, hours logged on shows as a permittee, and also start to list other pre-requisites just to get in to the union, just like every other department.  It is all very "come hither" right now without any requirements, at least that I have seen, which makes this all the more confusing. 

Looking forward to feedback from the upcoming meeting on Sunday.  Unfortunately I will not be in Vancouver but will be following along on VFXVancouver Yahoo and VEA[BC]. 

Cheers,

Gillian
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2011, 01:49:20 AM »


RE: IATSE permittee status.  Anyone who wants to join, can.  IATSE has nothing to do with the hiring of artists.  I have very little experience but i joined no problem. But can i get hired? It's based on my demo reel i guess.

Hmmm, I don't think you can be in favor of everyone getting "paid" and be for apprentice-style positions. It's like
enjoying buffet style dinning but being against over eating.  ha ha

http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

thanks Digital Dumpster
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2011, 06:17:07 PM »

re: ''Anyone who wants to join, can."  In every other IATSE dept. if you want to join, you need training, credits, references and a certain number of permittee hours worked before you can even apply.  I am just wondering how long the free sign-up will last for VFX and when IATSE will start to define all of those minimums just to get in, and who will be defining them.  This is one of the big topics - there are so many jobs within the VFX pipeline, it really is not just one homogenous craft that can be defined with one set of parameters.


 
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2011, 06:30:15 PM »

I guess you could Phone them and ask them. One of the features of a labour union is for workers to have a say in their industry. The members work to create and tweak the guidelines of the union,  it's a bottom up  system. IF we as union members feel it beneficial to the well being of the industry to flood the work force with low paid un-skilled workers then than so be it.   Or, it may be possible to set up entry level systems to promote growth.  At this point allowing for studios to underbid each other, depend on cheap or free labour from students and total disregard for employment standards violations has not worked. This fact is illustrated every time an award winning studio goes bankrupt. Studios need to go (cost plus) artists win, studios win, productions win....
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2011, 06:33:07 PM »

" There are so many jobs within the VFX pipeline, it really is not just one homogenous craft"

Could you expand on this?  What would be the best case scenario do you think?
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2011, 03:25:21 AM »

Hi Digital Dumpster,

In regards to your request for expansion on jobs within the VFX Pipeline here's a link that only BEGINS to describe some of the positions.  This list should be considered a work in progress as VFX pipelines continue to evolve/expand/contract.  Just scratching the surface here!

http://www.vfxcommunity.com/index.php/topic,85.0.html

Cheers,

Mark
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2011, 11:46:36 AM »

I think that's a good topic to be discuss soon Smiley
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