Re: Brothers in Arms

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Posted by Dave on June 06, 1999 at 04:47:37:

In Reply to: Re: Brothers in Arms posted by McClenahan on June 05, 1999 at 16:41:20:

: Think of it in terms of secure, fulfilling jobs.

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

I agree but Iím of the mind that there is nothing secure in any market of the entertainment industry. Not music, live action or animation. Disney is the exception not the rule.

: Fulfillment comes from having fun and being paid fairly.

: Those are GOOD things!

Yes they are but if I spend 12 of the hours of my day sitting in an office , not eating properly, under fear of being fired if I donít produce like my fifty cents a day counterpart in some third world country Iím not sure that qualifies as fun. If I get told Iím greedy because I want a home like the average person yet Iím competing with people who sleep on floors and would do work for bits of food if necessary Iím not having fun. The question is also who determines what is *fair* ? Got any ideas ?

: 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.

I agree. To me, schools can give you the basics but developing anything you have is something only actual production time can give you.

: 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.

You should be congratulated for that alone. A tough feat given the climate.

: 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.

Send them off to do it. Why should they put up with doing something they donít enjoy. I have friends who took off for Japan because they really loved anime. I think they must enjoy doing what you offer them though or they wouldnít keep doing it.

: 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.

Actually ,that was me. I said it isnít possible to force someone to use American studios out of patriotism. To me, I think that business men should produce the shows they wish to produce. As you said, Beavis and Butthead is funny because of the writing and film making. The characters are funnier the worse they are drawn and require absolutely no real skill so itís not my cup of tea either. The question really is should the union bother with series work that requires that drawings be that bad. I mean, really, who cares. The idea of trying to fight to keep something that undemanding here is kind of silly. If they can make money peddling it, let them.

: 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!

All of us. You included. Studio owners like yourself have a lot to do with how things are set up as well. To me, the answer was always in taking talent where you could find it. The satelite studio. Relocating large numbers of artists leads to a lot of trouble which includes higher costs. Local groups like yourself , Character Builders, Ahh films , Yowza, Gamage, Bardel , Heart of Texas and at one time even myself have the advantage of being able to handle sudden floods of needed footage while being able to tap the talent pools larger firms spend tons trying to ship around. I had talented moms who had moved out of studio work but had time at home when the babies were asleep (these people can do in three hours what it takes a new key days to figure out, and better). Access to talent pools without overhead.

Sorry but you are definitely in the mix here.

: 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.

Yes, I know, uh , the experience. I like to think we tend to try and treat the individual though because I find it more common that the novice spends twelve to fourteen hours a day trying to meet the minimum. The people (in feature I know ) that can do that real churning on bonus have left more freaked out cleanup people than a drunk leaves beer bottles. The damage done tends to be done to the people who can least afford it). They do bad drawings , leave out arcs, dont stage it properly, leave all kinds of details out including secondary actions for others to finish. They not only get the bonus but get the praise. You seem pretty aware though so Iím sure you would be able to spot that kind of situation if it happened.

: 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!

And again we return to the very nature of the art. TV has different standards so Iím going to get a little playful here. Yes, if you veiw the work in our widget mode it all makes sense. If one man can produce more shoelaces on the line, he should be paid more. In my part of the feild we like to think that everyone approachs from their own unique abilty. Are their people that out produce others ? Yes. Those people are not necessarily paid more. It depends on their work. And god forbid, how good they are. Speed, if that is your only qualification is easy. Producing widgets, it could be easy to quantify the work that way.
The real point being that it requires you to use judgement if you cant calculate by just numbers. That is very hard to do with perfect fairness. The only thing I can say that it does better than bonus money is it recognizes the individuals worth to the production and not just footage as the deciding factor. TV work needs to hit exact budgets so that may not even matter. In that case the question of getting someone with ability may be a matter of luck.

: I'm not sure how you got the idea our animators are paid once a month.

????? Iím not sure what you are talking about.

: 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?

As I said, it nearly killed me. I paid per scene. Owch, my check writing hand. It twinges every once in a while when the memories return.

: 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.

Really ? You have to remember that the 10% (of the job I was speaking of ) that was held back from my pay on that job was NOT bonus or incentive or benifits, it was BLACKMAIL. The owner called it *his insurance people would stay*.

: As soon as our employees hit 500 hours accumulated work, they are paid that bonus.

At a 40 hour week that is 12.5 weeks (3 months) or more depending on how steady the work is.

: But you say we're holding it back!

No, but it could be considered that. If you could afford to pay it outright , why hold it back ?

: If any employer pays you a bonus, you would therefore resent it.

To me, yes. Pay me the fair footage rate. No more , no less. Where does the money come from ? Your pocket ? No, obviously you have it in the budget and is not a gift from above. If I start with you and you think Iím unmotivated enough to be needing incentive to do work I wouldnít be much of an animator (to me) . You claim that your survival is based on paying people to produce but seem to have to dangle carrots to get them to produce . Perhaps my idea of self discipline is different than yours and Iíve never needed those kinds of carrots to do my job efficiently. Fact is that paying a fair footage rate locks the budget just as solidly . Hey, Iíve done 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.

Umm, yeah but, they are starving. Eating dogs and things. Oh, you mean being paid a straight footage rate without bonus has made us fail as an industry? Interesting. I thought it was the ability to access cheaper labour pools but hey, you seem to know right. By the way, are you really training people to start a studio in India ? I read that on your website .

: As I read through your previous message, there just seems to be this pervasive tone of scoffing at budgets and deadlines

Really ? You mean I am to blame for animation going the way it has ? I thought I was only responsible for frostbite and hickeys. Well, you learn something new every day. You are reading things you WANT into what I say. I havenít said a damn thing about budgets OR deadlines beyond our discussion of general experiences in execution. I make deadlines , I hit budgets. Iíve been doing it for 20 years. I think you had better quote me here. Exactly what are you claiming I said about deadlines and budgets that you consider *scoffing*. Please quote exactly as thats quite the accusation.

:- which are more important than the quality of the animation we do! That's why Histeria was cancelled - WB was losing money on it!

Excuse me but Warners could lose money on a gushing oil well. Dont ever tell me how that company worked , I saw it from the inside . For example , on the Quest they kept four studios sitting waiting forever to start while the lot tried to decide on voices and storylines. They opened up a digital studio and then shut it down even when they were offered outside jobs. Facts are that if I EVER found a film or TV series that was screwed up by the just artists I would be incredibly shocked.
You and I both know that it isnít the artists moving too slow that blows the budget or deadline. Itís having to reboard the entire film while the crew waits, itís being given unfinished designs that dont work, late layouts, itís not watching the contiunuity and bad writing , directorial indecision or hiring huge micromanaging systems. In TV it all changed when the age of the new networks started and to cut costs they produced in house. Where can you sell a series now if you dont own your own network ? They pay even less for work done outside their doors. ITS NOT PROFITABLE TO PRODUCE YOUR OWN SERIES NOW BECAUSE OF THAT!!! You blaming MY attitude or anyones for that matter so silly . Even the unions ignorance back in the beginning of the producers plan to ship everything OS was purely a product of thinking of the time. It wasnít the only union to bee dumped into the cold water. You dont know me or what Iíve done. Itís a bit early in our love affair to start tossing dishes honey.

: And the deadlines are important.

Tuh ??? Yeah.

: When the audience tunes in to see a new show, they expect to see a new show!

Yeah, good doesnĎt enter in here anywhere right ? Babylon 5 but the audience stayed despite the shifting slots , missing deadlines switching networks . Hell it became a cult. That aside the only time Iíve EVER heard of a series missing a deadline was Gummie Bears. Funny huh ? Disney, you have to lovum. Oh, and I havenít missed any deadlines. I made all mine. You were saying ?

:That's the way it works! Don't FIGHT that fact, embrace it! Features really aren't any different, either, in the long run.

Hehehehehehe. That would be good, the audience deciding that they could chose what they pay for on TV. If series was pay like feature than the emphasis would sure as hell change from just getting done to seeing something worth seeing. Fact is they are nothing alike in motivation. We have to do something that is audience approved and if hitting the deadline was my only concern I would be unemployed. Trust me, I have done both and itís harder but in a different way..

: You must be SO jaded!

Hey I must. I mean, you said so. Heehhehehe. You know what, you are right. Iím pretty old and tired. Tired of the idea that there is only ONE solution. Or that I need to accept myths about how this should or shouldnít be. Animators have been making deadlines for generations now. Itís labor intensive work and despite we all continue and work still comes. Iíve heard about every arguement there is, seen every form of studio incarnation and drawn , oh a pretty number of pretty pictures. Still, I enjoy the whole thing. If I was as jaded as you suggest it would hardly be worth discussing.

: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.

Well, I mean that is the point. The entire idea was always that. To discuss. Maybe you arenĎt brilliant but who is ? Took me a long time to grasp that solid matter traveling at the speed of light becomes pure energy and that a black holes gravity warps time and bends light. Fact is, even YOU canít compete economically with OS work. Sorry but itís true. If you donít have something to sell that THEY dont, you are dead. As dead as any studio could be. Rather than you urging me to embrace the idea that deadline is god perhaps you should embrace that if we have nothing worth selling beyond the ability to hit a deadline it isnít even worth doing. I am not the block in production flow, I am Draino for that block.

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