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Cosmo Ray

Motion Graphics Artists Union

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From Variety on just one example of the VFX studios to bite the dust thanks to workers rights and high standards and all the other problems that beset high-end studios.

 

While Technicolor would not confirm the number of layoffs likely to result from the closing, Asylum's McGuinness had to face about 100 employees who not only lost their jobs but are likely to go unpaid for their final week of work.

"Right now we're just trying to figure out everything as best we can and leave with some type of integrity and some type of grace," said McGuinness regretfully. "In my wildest dreams I never meant to hurt anyone with the closing of Asylum."

Company has gone into bankruptcy and its assets will be liquidated.

McGuinness, an emigre from Australia, founded Asylum in 1999. "I came here thinking that this was the be-all and end-all, that this is where the best of the best come together to create excellence," he said.

His company was a highly regarded mid-sized vfx studio. It's recent credits included "Unstoppable" and "The Next Three Days." McGuinness said the company was busy with commercials and features up until the moment he closed the doors.

McGuinness declined to name those projects and said his clients were unwinding their involvement with Asylum.

"We need to move on with some type of honor," he said. "We did not damage any job that we were working on."

In Asylum's final days, McGuinness said, he was approached by larger companies that wanted to absorb Asylum, but he ultimately declined.

"I was so overwhelmed with the aspect of the bigger guys coming in and restructuring my company, I felt that was too sad for me to handle," he said. "I felt that at the end of the day, it was better to let the artists make their choices and go where they need to go."

 

If we artists in the West get human rights, shorter hours and fairer pay and health insurance, I fear that the exponential rise of outsourcing projects to Asian studios will mean lower human rights for those workers. This process is akin to gentrification it seems - as far as the displacement of the smaller studios seems to reflect - and the losers here are the studios who don't have Asian counterparts, the start-ups and the little guys, but most of all, those expendables at the bottom of the food chain, wherever in the world that is.

 

If we love our jobs (and I find it rare to meet someone who doesn't at least have a grain of perverse obsession over the minutae of this job) we shouldn't complain, right? It's an Indian proverb, so I'm told, "Work a job you love, never work a day", so surely we should employ 500 Indians in Delhi for the same cost as a Manhattan shop employing 50 people? I'm so tempted to start ranting about capitalism and wearing a beret right now. Comrades, who will join us in defiance?

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Bad clients are going to exist whatever, just pass them onto the next sucker and move on if you feel like they're trying to push you around.

 

On the other hand, there are plenty of decent but misguided producers who try to budget and plan to a realistic schedule, but are basing their quotes on bad information from artists who grossly underestimate how long it will take to do the job. Which is where I normally come unstuck.

 

But I didn't get into this work to sit around watching clocks tick - a decade of 9-5 work has cured me of that forever. Since starting freelance I've done 'easy' 35 hour weeks on some jobs that felt like I was climbing Everest in lead boots. And 70 hour weeks for other jobs and came out the other side skipping. Unions are for shelf-stackers, burger-flippers and road-diggers, where the employer is getting value solely from the time you are there doing a job. I'm not being paid for 'functioning' at a desk for 10hours, I'm being paid for the product of that time.

 

Speaking of which...

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HYYeah, people seem to be forgetting that no matter how shit the hours we do stuff that is actually enjoyable for the most part. Imagine looking at spreadsheets all day instead.

 

I mean when im doing a project I work 24hrs 7 days a week on it. Im always thinking about it, planning, problem solving. That being said I try to limit actual physical work time in front of software to 4 to 6 hrs a day. Otherwise you just get into unproductive territory, start making mistakes, loosing focus and so on.

 

Re: outsourcing. Cant outsource efficiently unless you are well organized. So nothing much to fear.

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HYYeah, people seem to be forgetting that no matter how shit the hours we do stuff that is actually enjoyable for the most part. Imagine looking at spreadsheets all day instead.

 

This is the exact mentality that is leading to people being taken advantage of and restricting our industry to grow. Just because our chosen profession is fun does that mean we should have to make sacrifices within the rest of our lives and with our families just to be successful. We do have a fun job but it took a lot of work for us all to get there and regardless of if we are working on a project with naked girls jumping on jello with dragons and wizards we are skilled workers and should be taken seriously and should be compensated accordingly. I'm not saying every graduate of an AI school should be making 50K+ right out of the gate but we need to all realize the value in the skills we offer. To often people are to scared to stand up to a shop and accept a lower rate which in turn forces them to make sacrifices on what really matters, their families.

Edited by Novus4D

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I LOVED the 60 hour work weeks (and weekends) when I was young and hungry. I was learning a lot and oblivious to the idea of "workers rights". I was staying late, eating their food, drinking their beer, playing video games, and doing kick ass work that I loved. I never thought of overtime or staying late as a bad thing. It was just another opportunity to learn by experience and be pushed to my limits. I was like an apprentice in Edison's Laboratory.

 

I don't think that a union, blog article, or forum post could have convinced me back then that hard work was bad for me or the industry. I wanted to be there. I was having fun, learning my craft from heros and there wasn't much else I would rather be doing. Money and free time was very very secondary.

 

Not sure I have an answer to the problem, really. Just wanted to share my experience. But, like many jobs that a lot of people want and like, pay trends down and hours trend up. Sure, you can demand something different for yourself, but you better be much MUCH better then the next young kid ready to live all day at the studio.

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