Lee Stranahan’s open letter to James Cameron: Fairness for VFX Workers

Lee Stranahan’s open letter to James Cameron: Fairness for VFX Workers

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Well written and quite overdue. Seems like this problem has been very self-evident since before 2000 even.
However, it might be naive to expect the people at the top to suddenly start caring about those farther down the line. Look through American history, theres not many instances of that :/ One solution is to start educating artists on the nature of business. I’ve always thought its a bit weird you could graduate from Art Center, SCAD, Otis, MCAD, or any other top art school… without one single credit of business knowledge.


Agreed, Kurt. those are good schools to point at. None of them (to my knowledge) have “visual effects” curriculum specifically, yet many of those trained at those schools in illustration, design, and filmmaking are those who are up there a little higher up in the studios, influencing processes. Cameron is the wrong guy to be writing an open letter to, although I hear he’s a fabulously generous and nice person.

A question I’ve always had is, is this shift in respect/pay mostly to do with the price of software/hardware? I mean, a guy/girl who knew Softimage back in 1994 was priest class all the way. You had to run it on a high-priced machine, and there were no “free” copies floating around at all.

Unfortunately, I think it’s just going to be a case of, as the industry gets more and more populated, the one that does it better than most of the others will be the one in demand. What VFX people do is still very special, and still a commodity – just not as much as it used to be.

I apologize if this is old hat – just thought I’d spout a bit.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Addressing the letter to James Cameron is a bit of a gimmick, but it may get the issue noticed farther than solely in the VFX and animation communities. And yes, they are old issues, but they aren’t going away. In fact, they’re getting worse. Many of the problems facing workers in this industry are ones we are all familiar with: getting credit for work, being able to show that work in your own portfolio, working without contracts, benefits, overtime, freelance employees essentially having to pay companies to be employed, companies low-balling bids in order to win jobs, growing demands to do ever-more on productions with decreasing budgets.

Still, any attempt at forming a union or a guild will have to come from the artists themselves demanding it. Does it make more sense to form a new one, specifically for digital artists or to join an existing one, like The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE :

They have a list of studios with whom they have a relationship:

And Kurt, I’m sure you can graduate from Business school without one credit in Art, which is worse?


>And Kurt, I’m sure you can graduate from Business school without one credit >in Art, which is worse?

hah very funny wiseguy…. and sadly true. I just view it from the perspective that business schools are teaching their students to compete, maximize profit, and basically rip off anyone who doesn’t understand the finer points of biz negotiation…. and artists are too often an easy target. The least art schools can do is prep the kids on the realities of the marketplace.

And, not to bag on the Animation Guild or thier efforts, but I drove by that office (deep in the Valley) the other day while shopping for a used car. Lets just say they are not on the same playing field as say, the Directors or Writers Guild. They could use some help, or maybe a rebrand as the “VFX Guild”


amen to the letter, long over-due!

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