VFX Townhall Recap and Links

Lee Stranahan’s Monday night VFX Townhall: The State of The Industry was a big success. Not in providing a solution, but in starting a discussion, and getting some of the issues out on the table. The talk itself was a panel with Chris deFaria, Scott Ross and Jeff Okun which was moderated by Lee and Jeff Heusser. The panelists may have re-stated the obvious to those listening who want some immediate action. But it also raised some ideas which need more exploration and consensus – about the need for more professionalism, business education and best practices throughout the fields of VFX, Animation and Motion Design. One of the main points that seems to be growing from all of this is that building a trade organization that can collectively represent the interests of the visual effects industry and negotiate with Hollywood studios is absolutely essential to the long-term health of everyone working in the field.

And another is that using the words union, labor and guild are very confusing for everyone. They’ve become loaded words – many of us have grown up in a time of declining unions and don’t truly understand their purpose or history.

It’s pretty difficult to give a quick recap of the entire session, so it’s probably best to listen to the actual 2-hr. panel right here.

There was also another informal follow-up session on Tuesday night (not sure if there’s a recording of that?) and an ad-hoc Visual Effects Panel run by the guys behind Down In Front Show, which you can find here.

Some of the reactions to the event are:
Jeff Heusser: VFX Town Hall – how did it go, what did it mean?

If you are looking for a villian in this quest for respect and fairness for the visual effects industry, you are wasting your time. On every level it seems we are our own worst enemy. Chris deFaria raised the issue of leverage. It could not be more clear that visual effects films drive the box office, we have the leverage, what we lack is an organized front to capitalize on that leverage. Hollywood runs on leverage and we are leaving that power unused.

Scott Squires: VFX Townhall Meeting Thoughts

As I recall Lee and Jeff suggested people not work at places that didn’t provide very good working environments or that didn’t treat their employees well. That sounds great but the reality is people are likely working at places like that precisely because they don’t have a choice. If there are jobs available at a place down the street you can change jobs. If there are no openings elsewhere or they’re half a world away then it may not be possible to quit or to not take a job, especially if you have a family and house. As individuals I would urge you to discuss the issue with the head of the company. Unfortunately this could get you labeled a troublemaker and increase the likely hood you’ll be laid off sooner and not rehired in the future. You could discuss with fellow employees but unless most of the employees opt to threaten to quit, your quitting a company will not change that companies practices. This is where a union would come in and I would urge those truly interested to take a real part in discussions and whatever is necessary to try to make it better for yourself and other artists. (I.e. sitting on the side complaining is the easiest thing but it’s also the least productive)

Lucas Martell: VFX Union Solution

I think the long hours are by far the biggest [problem] and can be solved with a relatively simple solution that EVERYONE can start doing right now: Step 1: Keep track of your hours per week and enter them here.

Frank Jonen: VFX Townhall Meeting #1 – Thoughts

Facility owners, grow a pair. What will the studios do, only produce rom-coms with crappy sky replacements and no digital makeup enhancements? You’re artists, business people, stop behaving like scared children. It’s not helping anyone!

UPDATE 04/02/10: Lee Stranahan: Open Letter To The VFX Industry

I’ve said that I believe that visual effects facilities need a trade group to represent them. I’ve also said that that I think visual effects artists need some sort of guild or other organizing body to protect their interest. I want to reiterate my beliefs and point out that nothing I’m about to say contradicts them in any way. So to everyone who works in the visual effects industry – you need to stop making excuses and start making movies.

Brian Tatosky: #vfxtownhall thoughts?

I think it’s going to require a great sticking of necks out, on a facility and an artist level, which no one is willing to make at this point. For example, getting places to stick to their labor laws. That’s a fundamental way to get fairer treatment for artists. Just by sticking to OT and workplace laws. But who’s sticking their necks out there to be the first to fight that battle against an employer? Some people do, and it’s an energy draining battle, with the definite risk of repercussions.

Lee Stranahan will also be hosting a talk tomorrowTODAY, Friday April 2nd at 9AM PST:
Price : A VFX Town Hall Special Event with special guest Todd Sattersten The audio, reading list and links for this talk is now here.

Another Townhall is also planned for late April specifically on Labor Issues. We’ll keep you posted.

And a good way to keep up with some of the back-and-forth about the issue is to search Twitter for the hashtag #vfxtownhall.