If you can dream it, you can do it. -Walt Disney
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I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. -Howard Zinn
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What's most important in animation is the emotions and the ideas being portrayed. -Ralph Bakshi
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Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.
My name is Steve Kaplan and I am the Labor Organizer for The Animation Guild, Local 839, IATSE. I took this position in June of this year and left a freelance career as a visual effects artist.
I've heard a bit and read a bit more about the previous discussions about the Guild on these forums. I know that our president, Kevin Koch, frequented these boards a while back.
I would like to make myself available to anyone who has questions regarding the Guild, its practices, policies and procedures. Please post a reply here and ask anything that's on your mind. I will do my best to answer your questions and quickly and accurately as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you!
everyone does it to meet deadlines, but no one says anything for fear of losing their jobs.
So where does the union fit into this?
And let's not play dumb because it happens at every studio and it's been going on for decades. Exceptions being places like dreamworks where it's rather kush there, but that's feature they have more time, naturally.
Holidays that aren't really holidays.
So holidays are the perks of working at a union studio, but let's not kid ourselves, they aren't really holidays if the schedules stay rigid. If you have something due on a friday and you have a monday off, then it's not really a holiday is it? It's more like, well you don't have to come into work today but you're still gonna have to cram a day's worth of work into a 4 day work week. What is the union doing about this obvious flaw?
Hello Sorryguyz! Thanks for your questions.
It happens .. and it happens a lot. We have language in our contract (which you can read at this link http://www.animationguild.org/_Contract/contract_pdf/2009_2012CBA.pdf which specifically talks about how many hours in a day an employee can work before overtime kicks in (page 17-18). If an employee works over the eight hours in a day, its state law that the employee be compensated for that extra time. If an employer asks that the extra time be worked and overtime is not paid, we file a grievance for the unpaid overtime. We have done this on numerous occasions and have gotten artists monies that weren't originally paid to them.
As you stated, some employees work the extra time and do not report it. Some feel its their duty to work until the task is done or to put in extra time to get ahead. Eventually, the artist either grows tired of their altruism or does the math and realizes how much extra money they could have gotten. We are made aware of the overtime worked and we begin the grievance process.
If the artist tells us about the overtime, but isn't willing to be named on a grievance, there is nothing we can do. Steve Hulett discusses this in his blog post at this link http://animationguildblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/quick-education-about-union-grievances.html
In summary, without the employee testimony or equivalent, an arbitrator will not be able to grant a financial award. Without naming an injured party, TAG would be able to grieve "willy-nilly" and get financial awards without proper evidence.
I'm lost on the flaw here. Schedules are schedules and holidays are holidays. If the work load dictates working on a holiday, there is language in the contract that covers payment.
Open this link http://www.animationguild.org/_Contract/contract_pdf/2009_2012CBA.pdf and follow along.
Page 21, Article 6, paragraph A, last sentence: Every employee shall receive straight time pay for each unworked holiday; double time shall be paid for all work done on said holidays.
Same page, paragraph C: Said holidays shall be counted as eight (8) hours of work in computing the forty (40) hour week.
So, using your example, if you come to work on a tuesday since monday was a holiday, you are still being paid for a five day week and legally are considered to have worked forty hours. If you have to "cram in an extra day", you will have to put in an extra eight hours and will get overtime. Which leads back to your first question.
There are plenty of productions (union) where it is virtually impossible to meet the demands/requirements of the job as well as the deadlines if you are doing a purely 40 hr work week. Storyboarding is a major culprit but there are other jobs. It's not anything new and it's been going on forever. Maybe the union should look into regulating production schedules and look out for the artists. Approve what REALLY can be done in 4-6 weeks. etc.
the problem with having to file a grievance is that you also voluntarily risk your reputation. you become the martyr and you will be replaced, well because they don't want people to mess up their assembly line. And they will find the next young kid fresh out of college who is willing to put in the free time to prove him/herself...or the parent who has kids to feed...the guy behind on his house payments, etc. we all know the same old story.
Before, storyboarding used to be scrawls on paper, now it has combined layout, directing and many other things all into one job. these are added jobs. Character designers are no longer just designing and doing turnarounds they are doing "special poses" for boards overseas. Another form of layout. This is additional work to these jobs that were once only specifically just doing one or two things. This of course has been going on for a long time, and a lot more responsibility has been dropped on pre-production since that is what 90% of the animation in the states, in los angeles is.
I see a lot of depressed artists who work in fear.
The holiday flaw is that when they write the schedules for shows they never account or adjust the schedule for a holiday. A holiday plopped inside a 2 week deadline turns that into 1 week and 4 days if you decide to "enjoy" that holiday. Again the increasingly tight scheduling that large studios approve that artists must work under while a union that has no control of said schedules. or do they. or do they even care?
The Guild telling a studio how to schedule their time? Legally, that would be incredibly hard to to. We represent the artists and their interests. We can't walk in and start to tell a business how to run itself.
I can't deny that is a popular feeling. I also can't say I blame people for feeling that way. But, think of the alternative. You become the guy who management knows will take the abuse and do the work because you won't "rock the boat". You go from studio to studio and everyone knows you're the good little employee. Or, you can take a stand against it like VFX Soldier did. Check out his story at this link:http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/fear-and-respect-the-day-i-took-a-stand/
The story may not be an absolute parallel, but the idea is the same: artists are the ones with the leverage. Taking a stand can be a scary thing, but when you realize that you have the leverage, and that you're standing up for yourself and your ethical and legal rights, it becomes easier.
That is correct. We have no way to control how a studio schedules its work-time. Contractually, it is not something we can enforce. As I mentioned earlier, it would be difficult to get into a contract that a studio would have to get its schedule approved by us before hiring and getting started on a production. What we do have written into the contract are wage scales and overtime stipulations. We can and have enforced those obligations and are proud to do so.
Finally, what we have absolutely no control over is an artists fear. We can not act on an artists behalf without their consent. If someone wants to be abused, we have to sit idly by and tell them they have the option not to be.
First I like to say that anecdotal link that Steve left was silly and has nothing to do with anything other then one dude got the balls to stand up to someone AFTER they had another option that would take of them....how many people have those other options in the midst of abuse? I've stood up for myself when I had nothing. When all I had was the door to hit me on the ass on the way out. Do that and maybe I'm listening. This story was easy. you got something better so you decided to move on...thats not ballsy. Thats the way it is.
If thats what we think is standing ones ground then we're in trouble.
AND, the "obvious" perception of that anecdote is that dude is only helping himself.
The idea of the Union is to help the community.
But I will agree with Steve that it is up to the individual to make change...and if thats the case, why do we currently need the union? I know at one point it helped with wages and what not, but now....as Miss Jackson would say "What have you done for me lately"...or them, not me. I don't depend on the Union and quite frankly resent having to pay dues to work in this town based off my own talent and self worth, while never receiving any help from said Union.
The union can't help people doing 7 days worth of work in one? Why not? Isn't that the artists and their interests? Interested in not being a slave that is.
Besides cool insurance benefits I really don't see the point in this Union...or this current idea of what the Union is there for.
Maybe, legally, you need to change the concept of the Union...here's the part where we repeat ourselves over and over again, Steve. Since your new here and all. We have to go over all the same stuff we've said before. Time to adapt. thats our point. you can read from the Union hand book and the laws of what makes a Union, but the fact is you guys need to change to the interests and needs of the Artist.
the industry is not the same as when the union actually might of done something. We have to change and so do you.
But really, me, personally. I don't count on it at all. Never had. I'd like to see a better place for those who are not brave enough to stick up for themselves. Who join Unions thinking thats what they do...but I know, as long as Unions and their invisible people who make these laws that everyone else has to follow or not have a job, are in control and people let them have control then it won't happen.
So I make my own path. Where, the union is actually a huge obstacle for me to design the life I want...its not a problem, but it is an obstacle.
So thats about as far as I can participate in this game because I think what you have to offer is limited considering that the president had nothing either.
maybe the real reason why a lot of people still don't know exactly what a union does is because Actions speak louder then statutes.
What VFX Soldier did is what I did and what I thought every artist would do who was interested in keeping themselves employed and paying rent. He sought a better deal, while employed, and used the offer he received to better his current situation.
I am not trying to belittle your achievements or those of anyone who stands when they're against the wall. Its an "all in" move and its to be respected.
The point of the story was to relate that the artist is the one with the leverage. If you're being mistreated, inside or out of a Guild facility, its up to you to do something about it. You are the artist with the experience and time in their seat. Will they laugh at you and get a "newbie" to sit down and do you work? Possibly. Will you be known as someone who stood up for yourself and refused to be abused? Absolutely.
If it happens in a Guild facility, you certainly have more options than if it doesn't.
The idea of the Guild is to help the community? Please explain this.
We still "help with wages". We enforce our contract which has many artist-friendly stipulations. If you haven't read it yet, its available at this link: http://www.animationguild.org/_Contract/contract_pdf/2009_2012CBA.pdf We help to bring to the artist a collective voice when it comes to dealing with employers during contract negotiations. Membership also brings the health and pension benefits.
I've looked at your bio page http://www.artbysnakebite.com/bio.htmland don't see a facility that is or was a signatory facility. When did you pay dues?
How would you have us help in that situation? Let's assume the facility is signatory to the Guild, they've hired artists and now asked them to work all 24 hours in a day. What would you want the Guild to do?
Apologies for the repetition Snake. I appreciate it.
I find that an interesting statement due to the nature of this local and any local under the IATSE. We *are* our membership. As I've stated before, we can not act unless its with the permission and instigation of the membership. If change is what is necessary, I agree, it has to come from the artists. As with any organization of this type, its the membership that needs to instigate the change. Do there need to be new articles to our constitution? Bring it up in a meeting. Does the contract we have with Studio XYZ not include something that is the cause of much problem? Tell us about it and we'll draft a side letter and get it ratified. I talk to artists all the time about Guild organization (seeing as that's what I do now). I reach out to my friends and former colleagues and everyone agrees that having the protection of a contract like ours is great, having a collective voice is powerful and the health and pension benefits are an obvious and welcome perk. But, ask one of them to make that stand, and the fear of standing for ones self arises and everyone becomes willing to bear the burden of the flaws once again.
the point of the story was if you get something better take it. I don't see how that story illustrates how artists have the leverage. It only suggests that if you have something else then you can tell people how you really feel.
The story would support your leverage theory if he told them he was leaving for unfair treatment without having a back up job and then turned the situation around. ya know? not everyone gets another option and usually have to take the abuse or loose everything.
I don't stand my ground when I'm against the wall. That statement is belittling. I stand my ground when it's necessary. Sometimes I eat s*** too if I need the flow. But general, to a fault, I tell people how I feel before I feel like I have no position to say anything....and believe me, having a rep for speaking your mind is not necessarily a good thing for future jobs in this town, thats just happy talk.. I do it for my soul, but the rep, nah, not so good. They usually hire the newbie.
I agree its up to you to do something...but if thats the case why do we need a union?
And how does the Union show support of those who speak their mind and stand their ground? Well, we spoke our mind and they took our link off their website...so much for support.
As far as the Union helping the community, you don't think its designed to do this? please explain.
I pay my dues everyday. for 18 years. BTW that bio of mine is four years old..but point is, I turn down Union jobs. thats why you don't see much of them in my resume...but check the cred and check the work, I pay my dues.... Ask my lawyer, she don't get why I don't like Union gigs, because I don't like the shake down of having to pay to work in this town. Between state, federal, city and all the other taxes I don't think I should have to pay anyone for protection, so to speak. Its a shake down IM not so HO.
So you're saying that if a union shop asked people to work 24 hours a day unless they wanted to get fired the union doesn't know what to do about that?
I've experienced how the Union reacts when you have an issue and I've heard plenty of first hand accounts about how the Union treats people with reasonable problems so I know enough to know thats just happy talk.
at the end of the day I will ultimately TOTALLY 100 percent agree with you that its up to the individuals...but again, it don't matter because the Union holds the monopoly and no matter what the Union gets their cut....
But how does the Union pay its dues to us?
Steve, I think it would be helpful if we got some background info on you. How long have you been in the industry? What do you do? Animator? Where have you worked before? What is your position in the Guild? How long have you been with the Guild? Do you have a website or blog? Do you draw? Do you have samples of your work available for others to see? etc
I took the point of the story differently. Solider had something lined up which spurred the move. But, had Soldier walked in and initiated the conversation without having a backup, my guess is it would have gone quite similarly.
You are certainly right by saying you have to do what needs to be done in order to get paid. I would never fault an artist for taking a crappy deal if it meant the difference between a warm bed and being homeless. But, the point still remains. The artist has the power. Their work sells the tickets. What Soldier had was leverage. That's the key.
Collective action has advantages that are rooted in the economics of scale. The voice of one is strong, the voice of many is stronger. Organizing and acting as a unit will always level the distribution of power in the decision-making process in the workplace. Does it have to happen under a union flag? It helps, but its not absolutely necessary. In the case of Animation and VFX, with the resources of the IA behind the Guild, we act much stronger than a society. But, organization is always strong, no matter what form it takes.
Respectfully, I posed the question to you. Can you provide an example of what you meant by the Guild helping the community? Its a broad statement and I'm seeking clarity.
Your art, from what I've seen, shows skill and talent. What I was saying was when had you paid dues to the Guild. You answered my question in your response. You avoid union signatory facilities because of the initiation fee and dues. Understood.
Second time you wrote this. Not sure what you mean.
That's not exactly what I said. We were using an example that there was seven days of work to be done in one. I then asked what you would want the Guild to do. I then created a scenario that said a Guild signatory facility hired a crew, then during work, asked the crew to work all 24 hours in the day. There are stipulations in the contract that state the costs involved. If someone was fired for not working over and above what is contractually agreed upon, we would certainly have cause to file a grievance.
You've mentioned the dues in this manner a few times. Just to make sure you're aware, members pay two charges to the Guild during their membership. Dues which range between $69 and about $100/quarter, depending on your job classification and the initiation fee which is two weeks of the wage minimum for a job classification (which ends up being in between $1700 and $3300 typically). The initiation fee is not due entirely up front. Our office manager will work with the member to pay it off over the course of months. Typically, the Guild waives initiation fees for artists in facilities that have just come under the Guild's contract.
This is the only money that goes to the Guild. Its used to keep the lights on, the printers full of ink, the telephones ringing, the lawyer fees as well as paying the salaries of the Guild employees. Whatever is left is saved.
I started doing vfx work here in Burbank back in 1999. A high school friend got me playing with Lightwave and I was hooked. I was a 3d generalist and compositor. My last job was with a small in-house team on Sorcerer's Apprentice. I believe I'm listed as working for Method Studios in the credits, which is not correct. We worked out of a trailer just outside the back of the Bruckheimer editorial facility in Santa Monica.
I maintained this website for my work http://www.stevenjkaplan.com/. The reel is extremely old and the resume does not reflect a stint at Ring of Fire between July 2009 and November 2009 where I worked on Imagination Movers and a McDonalds commercial as a compositor and the time on Sorcerer's. My drawing skills are horrible. I enjoyed 3d modeling and was best with hard surface objects (meaning, anything not character). I really enjoyed animating as well.
I took the job with the Guild in June of this year. My title is Labor Organizer.
Always an issue is that there are too many rules, too many complex rules and not nearly enough enforcement.
If I know that I can keep breaking a rule without penalty or consequence (the only consequence is that I get rich), I will keep breaking it--and this attitude, especially with post-house supervisors, seems to be pervasive.
I believe it will take an extraordinary event that will have far-reaching implications before artists stop unduly suffering from this race to the bottom mentality that these effects houses are having. I'm hoping the Guild can somehow be one of the catalyst, not even the key catalyst, just a catalyst for this much-needed change.
Steve, glad to see another artist who's as challenged in actually drawing figures as I am! Like quite a few artists I know, I'm much better at compositing, texture design and modeling (3D Max) than I am at doing the same with fine ink and a sheet of premium art paper!
So is it artists have leverage if they have another job or they have leverage period? AN was built around the idea that the artists have the true power. going on 12 years supporting this vision. So yeah, we know. I'm just saying your example is not what you say. So a dude got a better job and told the current employer he wants to be treated better...you say it would probably happen the same way even if the said artist didn't have a back up...maybe, but thats not your example...and by experience I totally disagree. they would hire the newbie or the person who is willing to take the abuse.
Also, I made s simple statement. Not a broad one. A simple one. Are you saying the Union is not here to help the community? Why do you need examples? Tis a fairly simple concept. Help or don't help community. Which one do you think the Union is designed to do? Being confused about the proposed question or needing examples only makes it sound like they don't. to me at least.
I avoid union gigs because of the shake down. The idea that I have to pay to work is lost on me since I still don't know what the Union did to get me that work. I have no problem paying for things I use.
I'm sorry you dont know what a shake down is, maybe you need to look into it. "IM not so HO" means in my not so humble opinion.
I appreciate the break down of how the Union spends its money. I bet a bunch of that savings went to the new building...too bad it didn't pay for new attitudes about the dynamics of the industry.
Like I said, its a broad question. Its also self-evident. But, for the sake of discussion .. I'll bite. Yes, the Guild is here to help.
Gotcha. That was my question.
Huzzah EAllen! I've always been enamored with people with the talent to draw. Modeling has always been fun. But, I could never get with 3D Max. I cut my teeth on Lightwave and could never jive with the Discreet UI.
If you haven't yet, get an eval copy of Luxology's Modo. It is, hands down, the best modeling software available. Its amazing.
Worked with Modo a few times, but not for lack of wanting--I drifted to ZBrush.
Modo gets a lot of praise, for some very good reasons, and I intend to incorporate Modo into my workflow in the near future. Out of habit, I keep coming back to Maya and Max (and even Maxon products) for my design and animation needs.
Not meaning to go off topic or anything, but I like elaborating on these topics from time to time . . . back to our regularly scheduled programming . . .
See, that wasn't so hard. THe idea is the guild is here to help the community. I said it simply because it was a simple point.