Pensions and VFX

 

As a VFX worker, have you ever thought about what it will be like when you reach the age of 67? Will your pension be enough for you to live on? Will your health still allow you to work 70 hours a week to deliver the latest instalment of your grandchildren’s favourite superhero movie? And will it still be OK if you only get paid for 40 out of those 70 hours?

With a current average life expectancy in Western Europe of 84 years for females and 79 years for males, chances are that sooner or later we will have to answer those questions.

In the tables below, the Bectu VFX branch – i.e. ordinary VFX workers like you – have gathered and compared pension schemes from some of the major London VFX companies, based on the information provided to us by our colleagues who work at these companies. Let’s have a look:

(N.B. The real attraction of these contributions from yourself and your employers are that they are “tax-free” – it is a very efficient way to save for your old age).

Double Negative
Address 160 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QA
Number of employees 900-1000
Pension provider Scottish Widows
Enrollment Available after 3 months of service
Contribution structure (% of salary) From Oct. 2013: employee contribution 1%, employer contribution 1%.
From Oct. 2017: employee contribution 3%, employer contribution 2%.
From Oct. 2018: employee contribution 5%, employer contribution 3%.
Framestore
Address 19-23 Wells Street, London W1T 3PQ
Number of employees 700-800
Pension provider Scottish Widows
Enrollment Available twice annually.
Contribution structure (% of salary) Employees may pay any percentage they wish; Framestore matches the employee’s contribution up to the following limits:

0-1 years’ service: no employer contribution.
1-2 years’ service: employer matches employee contribution, capped at 1%.
2-3 years’ service: employer matches employee contribution, capped at 2%.
3-4 years’ service: employer matches employee contribution, capped at 3%.
4+ years’ service: employer matches employee contribution, capped at 4%.

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)
Address Hend House, 233 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EE
Number of employees 300-400
Pension provider Royal London
Enrollment Available after 3 months of service
Contribution structure (% of salary) Year 1: employer contribution 1%, employee contribution 1%.
Year 2: employer contribution 3%, employee contribution 3%.
Year 3 onwards: employer contribution 4%, employee contribution 5%.
The Moving Picture Company (MPC)
Address 127 Wardour Street, London W1F 0NL
Number of employees Approx. 700
Pension provider Aegon
Enrollment Available after 3 months of service
Contribution structure (% of salary) Until April 2018: employer contribution 1%, employee contribution 1%.
Until April 2019: employer contribution 2%, employee contribution 3%.
Beyond April 2019: employer contribution 3%, employee contribution 5%.

So, for example, let’s say you are a freelance VFX artist who gets hired by ILM on a 6-month PAYE contract. After 3 months of service you will be offered to join the company’s Royal London pension scheme. If you opt in, ILM will take 1% of your salary from your monthly payroll and match it with another 1%, all of which goes into the Royal London pension pot. Jolly good.
After 3 months of payments into your pension, your contract ends. ILM will stop making contributions into your fund, which becomes dormant.

You go job hunting again and you are lucky enough to land a 1-year contract at Framestore. During that time you will have the option to join the company’s Scottish Widows pension scheme, but unfortunately Framestore will not match any of your contributions into your pension pot.

When your contract at Framestore comes to an end, you are hired again by ILM, where – after 3 months of service – you will again be offered to start making contributions into the same Royal London pension scheme you joined a year and 3 months earlier, starting again from the lowest contribution level.

Chances are that by the time you reach your retirement age you will have collected at least half a dozen small pension funds from different providers. Every time you move home or your circumstances change you will have to notify each and every one of them. Until, when it’s finally time to retire, you are likely to receive a very small amount of money from a multitude of pension providers.

On top of that, there are a lot of three-month periods where you will not be earning any pension at all.

It’s finally worth noting that these levels of contributions are fairly close to being the bare legal minimum in most cases.

Bectu negotaties with employers in the TV and Film industries who offer contributions that are “matched” (i.e. employees and employers both contribute 5%) or even “better than matched” (i.e. a 1-for-2 scheme where employees contribute 4% and employers pay in 8%) with very high caps – often up to 10%.

We are in an age where state provision of welfare is falling and the expectation of private pension provision is rising. It’s time that VFX companies step up and care about the welfare of their employees.

What can the Bectu VFX branch do?

Quite a lot, actually. The union can push for London VFX companies to adopt the same pension provider, so that if you keep moving from one company to another on short term contracts you will cumulatively keep making payments into one single pension pot. The NEST scheme was set up with exactly this eventuality in mind. And if you return to a company after a few years you won’t have to start all over again from the lowest contribution level. Bectu can also push for a better pension deal in line with what other media companies are already offering.

These things are not impossible to get, and no they won’t kill the London VFX industry. But there is a catch. The Bectu VFX branch is a union of VFX workers, and as such is only as strong as the sum of its members. We have grown a lot in recent times, but even with the current membership numbers we are simply not strong enough to be able to challenge big VFX companies, which can happily keep offering their employees only the bare minimum of employee benefits. A tiny improvement in your pension provision would more than cover the cost of your union dues.

If we don’t stick together right now asking for a better pension deal, we will certainly be on our own when – after a lifetime of sitting down in dark rooms staring at computer screens – our health will fade and we will no longer be able to sustain the punishing working hours of a movie delivery schedule.

Joining Bectu is confidential and requires no political affiliation.

Happy 2017!

Posted in BECTU, Employment Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Fantastic Beasts but where to find Crew Credits?

 

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Fantastic Beasts but where to find Crew Credits?

Once again many hard working vfx workers were unfortunately excluded from the latest VFX blockbuster hit “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”  The film, in its third weekend, has dominated the box office for Warner Brothers and has earned a massive $608M globally. Yet that money is not enough to convince Warner Brothers to include all the names of those who worked to create a land of magic and creatures entirely in CG. One has to wonder what Warner Brothers would do without the talent that creates the beasts, magic and 1920s New York City that makes Harry Potter such a blockbuster hit. The franchise was even nominated 3 times for visual effects oscars (2004, 2010, 2011) and with awards season fast approaching it would be no surprise if the latest J.K. Rowling installment was up again for visual effects nominations.

Of the over 600 crew at lead vender Double Negative, less than half were credited. This is of course is after shoving all 277 credited names into a big block to fit as many people as possible on the roll. While we can applaud Double Negative intention to buy a Cinefex ad and include a full credit list, you have to wonder if the least a company could give for the blood, sweat and unpaid late nights that go into many films shouldn’t at least bare minimum include credits for all cast and crew. The news was similar for Cinesite’s crew with only around one-third in the credits. It’s not all bad news though, for the smaller team housed at visual effects company MILK, around 90% of crew received credits.

It’s just more proof that the majority of the hardworking crew, who spend many late nights to develop an amazing well earning blockbuster, don’t get the credit they deserve.
Posted in BECTU Tagged with: , ,

VFX Soldier Blog Highlights Sexism in VFX

A new guest post on the VFX Soldier blog takes a look at sexist discrimination in the visual effects workplace and the negative effects it’s having on women in the industry.

…one thing I have struggled with over the past few years, is a select number of people who have made me feel very unwelcome as I’ve progressed in my role. There are several notable times that I will never forget, in which I have been patronised in front of supervisors, had my ideas brushed off bluntly in meetings, been excluded from lunches, had handshakes rejected (yep, seriously), and even had one interviewer completely avoid eye contact with me. This may seem like a bit of antisocial behaviour from a few individuals, but it always sticks with you when you realise that the behaviour is aimed towards only YOU, whilst surrounded by a team of guys.

While the author does point out that she has worked with many who are supportive, she makes the case that there is a lot of unchecked sexism in the vfx workplace that people are still getting away with.

I have a few good female friends in the industry, and whenever the subject of “being a woman” has come up, I’m often met with sighs, eye rolling and similar stories, of being treated differently, even badly, compared to their male peers. Two of my dear friends last year left the industry for similar reasons; smart, hardworking, team playing women, who have been met with unfair behaviour from some colleagues.

Read the entire post at VFX Soldier here.

BECTU and the VFX Branch have always taken a strong stance against sexist discrimination in the workplace and support members when situations have arisen.

Have you or someone you know in the UK VFX industry experienced sexist behaviour from management or coworkers? Let us know in the comments below.

Posted in Uncategorized

Wanted: VFX Expert to teach at Birmingham City University

Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor Film Production Technology and Film Technology & Visual Effects

Salary Scale: £43,403 to £56,042

Within Birmingham City University’s School for Computing and Digital Technology, the Digital Media Technology Centre teaches BSc courses in Film Production Technology and Film Technology & Visual Effects. With growing numbers on these courses we are looking to recruit new staff at Senior Lecturer or Associate Professor level. We are particularly interested in people who have experience of developing and delivering technical and innovative solutions within the film and/or visual effects industries; ideally within areas such as cinematography, production workflows, digital pipelines, CGI modelling, simulated effects or compositing.

Essential:

  • Educated to BSc level in a related technical or computing field,
  • Industry experience including work on a portfolio of innovative industry projects and productions.

Desirable:

  • PhD in a related technical or computing field or equivalent,
  • MSc in a related technical or computing field or equivalent,
  • Experience of working in or managing industrial or academic research and development teams/projects,
  • History of publications in technical or academic journals and/or conferences,
  • Experience of teaching,
  • Member of a professional society representing a technical craft in the film or visual effects industry.

What they would need to do:

  • Play a leading role in the development and delivery of technical modules and industry relevant learning activities on our BSc film and visual effects courses.
  • Work within the internationally recognised DMT Lab research group, developing new areas of innovative research.
  • Develop industry links and partnership projects for our teaching and research.

Please see https://jobs.bcu.ac.uk/vacancies.aspx to apply. Closing date is 5 October 2016.

Posted in Employment

Sausage Party and Nitrogen – an open letter

To the VFX & CG-feature communities,

Many of you will have heard in the last week about working conditions on the recently-released “Sausage Party”. What started in the comments section on Cartoon Brew has now been reported by The Washington Post, The LA Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and many more besides. It’s sad to say, but stories of poor working conditions are becoming an embarrassingly regular occurrence in our industry. From the infamous MPC Variety article, to the Life of Pi Oscar debacle, time and again we’ve found our industry’s troubles in the spotlight. We’ve seen reports of a client saying “If I don’t put a visual effects shop out of business (on my movie), I’m not doing my job”. We’ve seen a facility exec tell an audience that if you don’t like long hours then you should get out. We’ve seen hundreds of VFX artists left off the credits of Star Trek Beyond. We’ve seen friends and colleagues forced to uproot their lives and move around the globe to chase tax-breaks and production whims. The question is this: when are things finally going to change?

The problems in our industry are well-known and well-documented. Whether because of over-promising to clients, underbidding to compete with tax breaks, creative mismanagement, inexperience or a simple lack of people, the result is always the same. Workers are pressured to meet impossible deadlines by regularly working late for little-to-no compensation during “crunch-time”. The “lucky ones” are rolled onto another project, where the whole sorry cycle repeats again and again until they burn out and leave. The “unlucky ones” are thanked for their hard work by being laid off. Many of us in this industry spend our lives jumping between companies and countries, trying to find a stable income and work-life-balance in a fickle industry that increasingly allows neither. And yet, our industry continues to cling to the antiquated and destructive motto that “we must deliver at all costs“.

However – things are changing. A process has started in London in the last 12 months which has given our industry a legitimate ray of hope. We launched a branch of BECTU for VFX workers in the UK, and gathered hundreds of members. We launched recognition bids at MPC and at Framestore, and we fought for representation for VFX workers at all the big London VFX studios. This has sent shockwaves through the industry. Our work is ongoing, and there’s still lots to do. However, we’ve started a process here, and we intend to see it through.

There are three groups of people we would like to address:

1. To the animators at Nitrogen. Congratulations to all of you on the release of Sausage Party. The film’s been a great success, and you should be very proud. We’re sorry to hear about the poor working conditions many of you experienced; that you encountered ‘intimidating staff into working past official studio hours, disciplinary measures utilizing fear tactics […] (such as threatening to terminate employment), implying that other departments are working overtime “voluntarily” as a reason to deny compensation’. We’re sorry to hear that some of you were threatened with blacklisting, or were denied credits for your hard work because you dared to ask for fair treatment. The fact that this happened on a CG feature – where your employer has even greater freedom over who to credit than a typical VFX vendor – makes things even worse.

To each one of you that stood up for fair treatment, by signing your petition or by speaking out to the press – a massive “well done” from all of us. It’s not easy to take a stand on working conditions in this industry (we know, we’ve been there!), and we hope that others will follow your lead. We feel – and we hope you agree – that this is a discussion that our entire industry should be having. You are not alone. The VFX branch of BECTU and its members have heard your story, and we stand with you. We hope that this is a turning point, and that management at Nitrogen listen to your concerns. But if not, you should know that you still have options. It absolutely doesn’t have to be this way. You’ve all experienced first-hand just how important it is that we have a voice in how we’re treated. This is exactly what a union is for. We know that our sister labour union in the US and Canada, the IATSE, would love to help you improve your working conditions. After all the coverage you’ve had in the press, we would eagerly encourage you to reach out to them. Nothing is impossible if you all speak to each other, talk about this, and get organised. It’s making a difference here in London, and it can make a difference for you too. Don’t let this chance to improve things go to waste. If there’s anything we can do to help, then please do get in touch.

2. To management at Nitrogen. We can’t imagine that it’s been an easy week for you. To see stories like this about your company after all the hard work on Sausage Party must be difficult. We’re not here to point fingers. We know that experiences vary by project and by team, and we don’t imagine that all of your employees are unhappy. However, judging by the number of people speaking out, there’s clearly a problem here – not just at Nitrogen, but across much of the industry. Nitrogen is not the first company to step on the giant landmine that is VFX working conditions; it is merely the latest.

It’s not in anyone’s interest – yours or ours – to see stories like this emerge every time a facility tries to talk proudly about its work after a tough project. We hope that you and other facility owners will agree that things cannot go on like this. We want to see public outpourings of anger like this and the MPC Variety article become a thing of the past. We’re sure that you do too.

Now is the time for facility owners to listen and to show leadership. Our industry is facing a crisis in working conditions, and to dismiss this outpouring from Nitrogen’s employees as the work of a disgruntled or opportunistic few would be a grave mistake. Hundreds have joined us here in the UK because there is a clear and widespread feeling in our industry that things cannot carry on the way they are. We – your workforce – don’t want a fight. We don’t want to cheat you out of money, or to make you uncompetitive. The vast majority of us just want a normal work-life balance and the chance to bring stories to life. We would love to work constructively with you to make this happen. However, we cannot do so if you bury your heads in the sand, deny the problem, or refuse to engage. We’ve spoken to many senior figures in this industry off-the-record, and we know that many of you share our frustrations in how this industry operates. We would challenge all facility owners in this industry to ask their employees to anonymously answer the following question: “What does this company do to protect me from mistreatment when a project goes wrong?”. If the answer is “nothing”, then it’s time to reach out to other facilities, and to talk about a shared solution. Without common industry-wide standards on issues like overtime, this industry will consume itself – and then we all lose.

3. To everyone working in VFX and CG features. We’ve talked to many hundreds of you now. Some of you are happy, but a great many more of you are not. We’ve heard your stories. The late nights, the weekends. The hundreds of hours of unpaid work. The missed holidays, the uncertainty of short-term contracts being extended week-by-week. The stress. The crunch-time. The fear of speaking out because of blacklisting. The trouble getting showreel material. The wage suppression. We’ve seen you share the stories, we’ve seen some of you even turn your profile pictures green. But unfortunately, sharing the stories isn’t enough. Things won’t change until we act.

Things started here in London when a group of us had enough, and decided to do something. We invited friends and colleagues out for lunch and coffee to discuss working conditions. We made chat groups, we shared ideas. We challenged each other to sign up, we set friendly challenges to see who could get the most colleagues to join. We made leaflets, we spoke out. We acted. And when we did, the facilities really sat up and took notice.

So what about you, dear reader? Have you joined a union? Have you talked to your friends and co-workers about joining a union? Because if not (and we hate to put it this way) – then you are currently part of the problem. Until we decide as a workforce that enough is enough, until we choose to establish a voice for ourselves, this steady drip-feed of horror stories is likely to continue. The facilities have had years to address these problems, but as we can see from the stream of stories like this one, their efforts to date have been sorely lacking. Crunch-time and insecurity remain rife within our industry. The next big story could be your next project. Ask yourself this: “Would I be prepared to stay in this industry and work at this level until I retire in my 60s?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to get off the fence and do something.

We would like to invite everyone around the world who’s read Nitrogen’s story and recognised these horror stories to join their local VFX union. We’ve started a process here in London. However, our recognition bids are only one piece of the puzzle. If you’re waiting for us to fix everything for you world-wide, then you’re in for a long wait. This is a big industry, and we can’t change the whole thing without you. We need to act together.

We’ve seen first-hand the improvements that happen at the workplace when workers get together in large numbers to declare “it’s time for a change“. We hope that you’ll get to see it too. There are unions and groups of people around the world that would love to help us finally improve the working conditions in our industry. The question is: will you let them?

Thank you for your time.

Kind regards,
VFX Union UK

Posted in Editorial Tagged with: , , , ,

No Credit? Star Trek’s Beyond leaves two-thirds of VFX Artists off end Credits.

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No Credit? Star Trek’s Beyond leaves two-thirds of VFX Artists off end Credits.

 It’s official. Star Trek’s opening weekend Box Office pulled in around $182 million coinciding with the franchise’s 50th anniversary. One of the heaviest Visual Effects films of the summer, it’s no surprise that the VFX community here in London pulled off awe inspiring visuals for this blockbuster, but artists expecting a bit of starlight and Hollywood spectacle are likely to be disappointed.  We’ve heard that two-thirds of the hardworking individuals for this film didn’t get the opportunity to see their name on the big screen. It is rumoured that Paramount originally only initially wanted to give 100 credits, and Double Negative, the lead VFX house on this, pegged them up to a little over 300 names to split between London, Vancouver, Singapore and Mumbai. For a team of nearly 900 artists, it’s just another notch on the growing divide felt between the treatment of the rest of Hollywood and the visual effects industry.
Double Negative’s valiant efforts still leave a crushing blow for the artists left out.  As one of the few non unionized Hollywood workforces we are often at the bottom of the credit list, almost tacked on as an afterthought, while assistants to the assistants and catering names come up ahead of us.  It is the power of the Hollywood unions that has ensured their members don’t get left out.
The union negotiations with Hollywood studios are the reason why other film industries get higher billing and a long credit list.Why are we being left out?  With digital reels, it would cost no extra money to add extra lines to include VFX crew in the credits. It’s another slap in the face, showing how under represented and under-appreciated we VFX artists are in a industry when it’s often OUR shots that brings in an audience and profits to Hollywood Studios.

 

 

Posted in BECTU Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Thursday VFX LunchMeet Today!

Lovely day for al fresco Thursday VFX LunchMeet! 1-2pm today, St Anne’s Churchyard, Wardour St.

Look for the green flag!

Posted in Uncategorized

VFX News

this is it!

THE  BIG VFX MEETING

7:00pm WEDNESDAY, 22ND JUNE

REGENT HALL, 275 OXFORD STREET, LONDON, W1C 2DJ

click here for more info


 

VFX Union members and non members alike are invited for an opportunity to hear about all our work over the past year, to discuss and to give feedback, and to have your say on where the VFX branch should focus its efforts next.

We’re in the middle of a Visual Effects Industry Revolution! Our membership has exploded by over 500% in the last year and we need you to keep pushing this amazing momentum forward. If you’re not a member, come along and find out what the visual effects union is all about! If you’re already a member, bring a friend or two!

We’ll be talking about all the work that the VFX Branch has done over the past year, and what the coming year might hold. There’ll be an opportunity for questions and feedback from the floor. This will be followed by a talk about the EU Referendum and the likely effects on the vfx industry in the case of a “leave” vote.

Non members can join the union on the night and there will be a special members only voting session at the end of the event to elect branch officers and decide our priorities for 2016-17. Sign up to attend here:

VFX Union Mass Meeting

Visual Effects News and Stories from Around the Web

Pressure on VFX firms to locate in tax havens

Ant-Man Visual effects firms are under continuing pressure from production companies and studios to locate in parts of the world that offer the best tax …

Oscars 2017: Which movies are contenders so far?

The consensus: “It is a lock for visual effects,” AwardsCircuit’s Davis says. “However, with science-fiction films coming out this year like Story of Your …

Afternoon Delight: ‘Every Best Visual Effects Winner. Ever.’

There aren’t any hot trending videos that are doing it for me at the moment, so I’ll pull out this one that I came across not long ago. If you’re a real film …

China’s First CGI Film: LORD It Looks Bad

In response to the barrage of online criticism, a visual effects technician from Original Force, the biggest animation production company in Asia — and …

SIGGRAPH 2016 Production Sessions To Host “Making Of” Hit Motion Pictures, Games, VR Films

Juried and curated content includes outstanding achievements in time-based art, scientific visualization, visual effects, games, real-time graphics, …

 

Posted in BECTU, News

VFX’s Annual General Meeting

The Most Important VFX Meeting of the Year!

  • It’s your time to decide. Come to our Annual General Meeting next Wednesday and hear about what BREXIT could mean for VFX.
  • Vote and decide on next year’s important issues and choose who represents you as committee members.
  • Most importantly help lead the discussion and become one of the committee members yourself!

All VFX employees welcome! All you have to do is sign-up HERE


To nominate yourself or another union member for the committee please email all nominations to Paul Evans <pevans@bectu.org.uk> by 5pm on June 19. All positions open for nominations and vote including: Branch Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Communications or just general committee member.

Posted in BECTU Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

VFX Union Mass Meeting – 22nd June!

MassMeeting

FREE ENTRY!

Regents Hall 275 Oxford Street W1C 2 DJ

7:00pm – Wednesday, 22nd June 2016

http://tinyurl.com/vfxagm2016 

VFX Union members and non members alike are invited for an opportunity to hear about all our work over the past year, to discuss and to give feedback, and to have your say on where the VFX branch should focus its efforts next.

We’re in the middle of a Visual Effects Industry Revolution! Our membership has exploded by over 500% in the last year and we need you to keep pushing this amazing momentum forward. If you’re not a member, come along and find out what the visual effects union is all about! If you’re already a member, bring a friend or two!

We’ll be talking about all the work that the VFX Branch has done over the past year, and what the coming year might hold. There’ll be an opportunity for questions and feedback from the floor. This will be followed by a talk about the EU Referendum and the likely effects on the vfx industry in the case of a “leave” vote.

Non members can join the union on the night and there will be a special members only voting session at the end of the event to elect branch officers and decide our priorities for 2016-17.

Please sign up to attend here:

VFX Union Mass Meeting

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Posted in BECTU