UPDATE: Sept 22, 2009
According to Dave Rand, the case is now closed. The Canadian Labor Board has now negotiated payment of 70% of what was owed to the artists of the former Meteor Studios. The story remains open, Dave writes “The only lesson from this is that when the paycheck stops, the work stops, that is the only leverage you have and the only time you’ll have it.”
Original story below.
Recently, after pressure from the Canadian Government, the artists involved were offered 45% of the pay without overtime or interest by Discovery Channel and Evergreen Films to settle out of court. They voted unanimously not to accept the offer. They and the Canadian Labor Board are continuing to seek legal recourse to get the money they are owed.
The brief recap: Meteor Studios in Montreal, owned by Discovery Channel subsidiary Evergreen Films was finishing visual effects work on Journey To the Center of The Earth 3D in late 2007. Artists who were then finishing the film agreed to stay working on the film without pay while an accounting glitch was fixed. Meteor Studios was declared bankrupt shortly after wrapping the film, but the artists were never paid their back pay.
Dave Rand, who was a freelance FX Lead on the film at Meteor, had this to say: “After bankruptcy and failing to keep the promise to pay the artists, the studio reopened under a new name, Lumiere, with new investors who were formerly bidding to buy the shop earlier in the year. They made every attempt to “distance” themselves from Meteor Studios by saying, “We have nothing to do with Meteor Studios.” However they had the same key artists, same key management, same location, same pipeline, same software, same hardware, same demo reel, same posters on the wall, same lawyers, and the same bank. Their first clients were the former owners of Meteor. Lumiere has recently dumped the former Meteor management in efforts to continue to distance themselves.”
In October of 2008, another Montreal company, DamnFx went out of business in much the same manner.
According to Playback Online, which reported on this in July of 2008:
The situation has all the earmarks of a growing industry trend in which post shops desperate for work are underbidding for jobs and then can’t meet payroll. It also calls into question FX artists’ ability to protect themselves in such an instance.
Journey to The Center of The Earth 3D was one of 7 finalists for the Oscar in VFX, has grossed over $240,861,516 in worldwide sales, and has a sequel now planned while 100 artists and staff are still owed over 1 million dollars in back pay.
This story has been virtually ignored by the mainstream press, including Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Tonight, but we’ll continue to follow it and hope to have some good news soon.
Thanks to Tommy for reminding us.