Below are excerpts from an article, the full text of which can be found here: http://m.broadcastnow.co.uk/5073081.article
In the article, addressing an investigation into poor VFX working conditions,
The Mill chief creative officer Pat Joseph said that although the nature of the work – particularly commercials – called for long hours, ‘the pay is fairly good and the work is absolutely fantastic’.
Senior figures from the VFX sector have dismissed union concerns over working conditions – with the co-founder of The Mill suggesting that disgruntled staff should leave the industry.
Joseph said: “You will always have disgruntled people who feel they have to work long hours, but quite honestly, they should get out of it. We don’t make up the schedules and the budgets for the projects. We live within a commercial environment.”
Pardon me if this sounds disingenuous coming from someone who stands to gain from working people to death.
The fact is that nearly all digital media artists are forced to work long hours that have a serious, cumulative effect on their family and health. These artists have to work long hours mainly due to a false culture of crisis created by the industry; the belief that “that’s just how things are in this industry” so that’s how we do it. One would expect a little leadership from those at the top in a strategic move to limit or remove the damaging hours many digital media artists are forced to work at the expense of their families and health. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the remark “disgruntled people who feel they have to work long hours”. VFX artists are given a choice: Work the overtime hours we demand or you’re fired. Minimizing the issue with a remark like “some disgruntled employees” is further evidence that digital media employees need better protection against bad management. Is that protection a union? I don’t know. A union is a double-edged sword, one must be cautious. But there is a real problem and dismissing it like that will only make matters worse.
I do agree with his statement, however, that good digital artists dissatisfied with poor working conditions should quit. Don’t quit the industry just quit working at that shop. There are more and more studios who take their team’s health and life balance seriously. Go work there. There is plenty of work out there in the world for skilled artists and TDs including many interesting opportunities abroad. If it is the culture of your company to abuse you, just quit. Studios who don’t value employee health will crash and burn. There’s a shortage of good VFX artists. The power is in the hands of the “disgruntled employees”. Well run studios who demand a work-life balance will get the very best artists and TDs.
I recently ran into a past student who got her first job working for a studio that thinks it’s OK to burn out artists. I remember the first day she went to her job, excited at this opportunity, vibrant, energized and ready for this new adventure. When I saw her again eight months later, she was pale, shaking, exhausted, confused and wondering what she had gotten herself into. Unfortunately she picked one of the studios run with low pay and stupid hours. She said to me “Remember all those things you taught us never to do in production? If you took a list of all those things and based a company on it, that would be the place I am working now.” When I hear some executive refer to this smart, cheerful, hard-working and motivated person as merely a disgruntled employee who should quit, it makes me…quite annoyed.
Let’s look at Pat Joseph’s remark “we don’t make up the schedules and budgets for the projects.”
Imagine a business where the executives of a company have no say in what they get paid or how they choose to schedule their crews on project. Really? Over my 16 years in production we have always controlled what we agreed to in the contract, including the budget and the schedule. We then set about creating our detailed crew schedules to fit within the budget, often using creative means to limit or remove overtime very successfully. How, again, is a production executive not responsible for budget or schedule? So let’s paraphrase.
1. Despite the fact that an investigation was launched due to massive unrest in the VFX industry, there is no problem, just some disgruntled employees.
2. Even if there is a problem, they should just quit.
3. OK there is a problem, but it’s not our fault, we have no say over our budget or schedule.
Nonsense. Time to wake up, Pat Joseph. Disgruntled employees are a real problem. You are welcome to dismiss the problem with words as much as you like, but that’s just sticking your head in the sand. A change is happening now and you can either be a part of it or be swept aside by it. Words cannot hold back the tide.
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