Re: Brothers in Arms

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Posted by McClenahan on June 05, 1999 at 16:41:20:

In Reply to: Re: Brothers in Arms posted by Dave on June 03, 1999 at 02:15:09:

Think of it in terms of secure, fulfilling jobs.

Security comes when you have a marketable skill in a strong industry.

Fulfillment comes from having fun and being paid fairly.

Those are GOOD things!

As far as having a marketable skill goes, this requires individual commitment to improve your craft. This CAN come from school, but the most meaningful lessons are learned on the job.

A strong industry is out of our hands - but NOT TOTALLY. Plenty of animation is being done, but everybody told me you couldn't have Americans ANIMATING them. We could do models, ex-sheets, storyboards, BG designs ... but not the production itself. I didn't believe them. I had worked in a country (Australia) with a similar cost of living, and animators THERE were doing it. Why couldn't we? I haven't figured out the answer yet, because we're doing it. The industry has been strong enough, and we have been committed enough, for StarToons to survive for 10 years. Doing what others said couldn't be done in America. My proposal is this: we (the collective body of animators in this country) could help make the industry stronger.

Fun means different things to different people. In the end, we can steer ourselves to jobs we consider fun - if the industry is strong. For instance, I laugh at Beavis & Butthead, but I would never want to animate on it. It wouldn't be fulfilling to me. Nor would I want to work on Anime-type shows - but I have guys on staff who would kill to work on that! They PUT UP with doing the wacky stuff, but their dream is to work on Godzilla or X-Men or something like that.

The union tries to be sure you guys are being paid fairly. But the suggestion has been made that while they protect animators who are hired by studios, they cannot force businessmen to USE those studios. And businessmen, whose "art" is turning a profit, are looking to sidestep the union wherever possible.

So there you have the ingredients. The industry is in flux. All that means is there are more opportunities. The suits there have mishandled it, but they have done it because they are so alienated from the answer, namely you guys!

So given that the suits and the artists need to come together (and they DO, guys, they DO), and given that the suits, in their ignorance are unlikely to see you guys as a source of answers, you need to go to THEM with answers. Or animation will die here, my friend, it will die.

Dave, bonus pay WORKS for the productive animator. Some animators have always been content to turn out less. In Sydney there was a guy who would goof off four days a week and get absolutely NOTHING done ... and then come Friday, the pencil shavings would be flying, and before he left there would be 10 or 15 feet left in the director's tray.

But somehow the productive animator should feel OK about getting the same pay as one who does half the work. I don't see it. Any system that supports that simply discourages people from producing!

I'm not sure how you got the idea our animators are paid once a month. We're paid every other week. We used to pay every week, but it was killing the office manager to have to do payroll every week. That's a lot of work, you know?

I am amazed at your statement that "Personally I'm not quite sold on any job that holds back part of my pay (I would consider the extra week to be more than incentive, more like part of my overall pay)." In fact, I am flabberghasted. As soon as our employees hit 500 hours accumulated work, they are paid that bonus. But you say we're holding it back! If any employer pays you a bonus, you would therefore resent it. This is why our work, eventually ALL of our work, is shifting to countries where people are thrilled to have work, especially work they love.

As I read through your previous message, there just seems to be this pervasive tone of scoffing at budgets and deadlines - which are more important than the quality of the animation we do! That's why Histeria was cancelled - WB was losing money on it! And the deadlines are important. When the audience tunes in to see a new show, they expect to see a new show! That's the way it works! Don't FIGHT that fact, embrace it! Features really aren't any different, either, in the long run.

You must be SO jaded! But I know I haven't experienced everything you've been through. I need to believe that there are answers - and until I'm proved wrong, I'll continue here ... with an eye toward animation quality, as well as viable business solutions. Small, isolated, independent studios won't be able to do it alone, but if need be they must keep trying. And I'm not a brilliant man - maybe the Union will come up with something that works. They have nothing to lose at this point, and access to far more animators' minds.

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