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VES director slams exploitation of VFX artists

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 | Posted by Jim Thacker

VFX artists are being screwed by the system, according to Visual Effects Society executive director Eric Roth.

In a strongly worded open letter to the industry, released yesterday, Roth writes: “Artists and visual effects companies are working longer hours for less income … carrying larger financial burdens while others are profiting greatly from our work.”

“The work we do helps a lot of people make a lot of money, but it’s not being shared on an equal basis, nor is the respect that’s due us.”

Putting polemic into practice
In the past, the VES has been criticised for lacking the economic clout to back up its good intentions: a point Roth tacitly addresses.

“VES may not have the power of collective bargaining, but we do have the power of a voice that’s 2,400 artists strong in 23 countries – and the VES Board of Directors has decided that now is the time to use it.”

“The time to step up has arrived. VES 2.0 is here and ready to lead.”

Given the nature of the letter – more op ed piece than strategy document – there is less on what form that leadership will take, although Roth mentions “virtual town hall meetings, a VFX artists’ Bill of Rights and a VFX CEOs’ forum”.

Changing the system from within?
Reactions to the letter from campaigning groups have been positive. Crusading blog VFX Soldier welcomed the announcement, writing: “A huge debt of gratitude has to be given to Jeff Okun, Eric Roth, and the VES members. They could have easily continued supporting the status quo but chose to finally do something about it.”

However, it is over a year since Lee Stranahan’s very similar open letter to James Cameron, during which time conditions in the industry have changed little.

Whether the VES can capitalise on its insider status – as VFX Soldier points out, many of its board members are studio executives and CEOs – to bring about real change remains to be seen.

If it can, the next few months look likely to be a very interesting time in the visual effects industry.

Read Eric Roth’s full open letter

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  • Thomas

    Good thoughts, but totally naive. Why should the studios change their strategy when they profit from it? It’s a success story for the producers. As long as there are qualified people who work for pocket-money there will be exploitation and this is not just a problem in the VFX industry. You can find this problem in any industry. I guess many people have asked themselves why so many renowned studios had to shut down in the past months. The answer is simply that VFX finally became an industry. The only difference is that employees in this business are driven by passion and this makes them exploitable. Another reason is that there are so many competitors and they all want a piece of the cake. When services became comparable you have to lower your prices to be competitive.

    Just have a look at a movie’s credits and you know immediately where VFX artists stand: at the very end of the production chain. Even electricians and set runners are credited before the people who actually made a movie an event.

    All in all I don’t think that there will be a fundamental change in the (near) future. Even if it gets a little better then this will only be a temporary effect, but nothing that will really last.

  • Bill Payer

    Welcome to Capitalism ! The ONLY way this will change is through UNIONS. Why hasn’t the VFX society helped organize a union ??? They are as much to blame as the industry which constitutes it’s members.

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