Avengers Infinity War wins the box office with spectacular visual effects!
Even though you couldn’t have missed the hype, Avengers Infinity War is out to take over the world’s box offices. In just it’s first weekend opening it earned an estimated $630m (£457m) worldwide and it made over $1.5 billion globally in just 18 total days of release, becoming one of the top worldwide releases of all time. With its stunning $75M opening in China yesterday, it seems there’s no stopping this visual effects juggernaut!
As with any Marvel movie, it would be have been an awkward green screened film without help from VFX on virtually every shot. The list of of VFX studios around the world who worked on it is many, as are the credits of the artists who worked on it (at least the ones who got included!) Framestore, ILM, DNeg, and Cinesite were a great part of the vendors based in London, once again showcasing this town’s creative muscle.
Kudos to all the VFX peeps for their hard and amazing work!
Why is it that women in VFX with equal qualifications, skills and experience are paid less than men?
After last summer’s BBC report sparked an uproar on gender pay gap there has be a new surge on finding out what really is the gap. But that’s the BBC, surely the Visual Effects Industry is nothing like that, right?!
Unfortunately that is not the case. These are the official reports:
“Women’s mean* hourly rate is 19.8% lower than men’s when comparing mean hourly rates, women earn 80p for every £1 that men earn. Women’s median** hourly rate is 22.8% lower than men’s when comparing median hourly rates, women earn 77p for every £1 that men earn.”
“Women’s mean hourly rate is 14% lower than men’s when comparing mean hourly rates, women earn 86p for every £1 that men earn. Women’s median hourly rate is 16.4% lower than men’s when comparing median hourly rates, women earn 84p for every £1 that men earn.”
Industrial Light & Magic
“Women’s mean hourly rate is 25.5% lower than men’s when comparing mean hourly rates, women earn 74p for every £1 that men earn. Women’s median hourly rate is 29.2% lower than men’s when comparing median hourly rates, women earn 71p for every £1 that men earn.”
Moving Picture Company
“Women’s mean hourly rate is 23.8% lower than men’s when comparing mean hourly rates, women earn 76p for every £1 that men earn. Women’s median hourly rate is 28.3% lower than men’s when comparing median hourly rates, women earn 72p for every £1 that men earn.”
These were the large VFX companies in the UK that provided the data (all companies in the UK with 250 employees or more are required by law to provide gender pay gap data) – smaller studios were not required by law to provide this data. In their reports, each of the four companies above – except ILM – made pledges of bridging the gap by taking different steps such us diversity promotion and supporting women – yet none of them addressed the real issue – why are women in VFX getting paid less than men?
After all these reports and pledges, will companies act on that and start paying their female staff equally? Will they address the underlying problems in VFX that make this disparity possible? We will have to wait until the next report for hard evidence of their intentions. In the meantime, it is time to face up to facts in the visual effects industry and for us all to keep up the pressure for facilities to do something about their gender pay gap problem. BECTU, the VFX Union is committed to equality in the workplace. By joining the union you can support this cause and help make the VFX industry a stronger and more ethical industry.
Can the UK VFX facilities come up with an “inclusion rider” of their own? The VFX Union wants to see men and women paid equally based on their skills and experience and not their gender. By organising together, we can make this happen!
*The mean hourly rate is the average hourly wage across the entire organization so the mean gender pay gap is a measure of the difference
between women’s mean hourly wage and men’s mean hourly wage.
**The median hourly rate is calculated by ranking all employees from the highest paid to the lowest paid,
and taking the hourly wage of the person in the middle; so the median gender pay gap is the difference
between women’s median hourly wage (the middle paid woman) and men’s median hourly wage (the middle paid man).
*** “An “inclusion rider” is a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in their contract that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity. ” (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/mar/05/what-is-an-inclusion-rider-frances-mcdormand-oscars-2018)
The vfxAssemble campaign finished on 10th November and we’d like to give a big shout out to all those who took part in it. Thanks to all of you out there who believed in it!
Also, a very special thanks to everyone in the VFX branch committee, our VFX branch chair Joe Pavlo, and the BECTU Branch rep Paul Evans and everyone else who worked on vfxAssemble for their tireless efforts to make our industry a better place for every one of us.
While we didn’t reach 50% membership at any of the four big London VFX facilities: (Double Negative, Framestore, ILM and MPC), hundreds and hundreds of you did believe in a better vfx industry and did sign up for vfxAssemble.
What Have We Achieved?
Because of all of you, vfxAssemble has started conversations and raised awareness and we are now a stronger VFX union than before. The VFX branch of BECTU is now the biggest and most active visual effects union anywhere in the world!
Building a movement isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly takes a lot of work. We’re hoping that a whole bunch of you that got inspired by the vfxAssemble campaign will join the union now and become active in helping to grow this movement.
Even when the progress is in small steps, it’s plain for all to see that what we are doing is moving things forward, changing attitudes and changing our industry for the better. One movement at a time, one campaign at a time, we are creating a space for the VFX union.
What we who have joined the union envisage in the not too distant future is an industry where VFX workers don’t have to lead unsociable and unhealthy lives. Where women working in the industry are not victims of geek sexism and an equal voice and equal pay isn’t left to chance. Where a juniors pay doesn’t average out to below the living wage because of unlimited unpaid overtime. Where film credits are guaranteed for those who work on the visual effects. Where more experienced artists do not have to fear being singled out and blacklisted for wanting a better and fairer industry. Where vfx workers can feel confident that their skills and experience are valued by the London visual effects industry. Where they can all feel that the industry they work for is also working for them.
We Want To Hear From You
The revolutionary vfxAssemble crowdsourcing model for union recruitment has been a huge leap forward for unionisation in our industry. We think the idea that people can pledge to join the union without signing up until enough of their colleagues pledge to join too is a brilliant strategy and we are going to keep working at it and refining it until we are successful. The light bulb is a great idea In fact, it’s become symbolic of all great ideas, but Thomas Edison made a lot of light bulbs that didn’t work before he got it right. We’re going to keep working at this until we get it right too! Help us make it even better next time around by taking the survey.
We don’t know how long it will take but full unionisation of visual effects is inevitable. The truth is, in the short time that the VFX union has been active we have seen marked improvements in the workplace and the London VFX industry has never been busier. There’s no need to fear unionisation. We are already making things better and it will be only be a matter of time before VFX workers across London collectively choose to assemble a majority to take our industry to the next level and help make it better and stronger for everyone.
Until then, and beyond, it’s never too late to sign up!
Will London VFX workers be able to take their destiny into their own hands?
Soon we will find out. Tonight is the deadline to sign up for vfxAssemble.com
If we succeed, you can rest assured that at least 50% of your colleagues at Industrial Light & Magic, Double Negative, Framestore and MPC will be fellow union members.
This would mark the beginning of a new era for London VFX. Together, we would have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix the many problems that afflict our industry. We would be able to look after each other and help out fellow colleagues who are less fortunate than us.
If we fail, companies bosses across Soho will cheer, as they will be able to continue doing business without taking the wellbeing of their workforce into account.
This will mean more one-week notice periods, more bare minimum redundancy pay, more juniors earning below the national minimum wage when you factor in overtime, more seven-figure earnings for managing directors and CEOs, more shutting down of departments in the pursuit of cheaper labour. More of the same.
Most of us VFX workers are on short term contracts. We all have rent or mortgages to pay. Some of us have families to support. Our fears of being exposed as union members and singled out are legitimate and real. Our fears of being unable to find employment or watch helpless as all the work moves to cheaper labour markets are understandable. But it won’t be by turning a blind eye to these problems, or keeping to oneselves, that we will have a chance to fix them.
This morning, I paid a visit to the HQ of Warner Bros UK to deliver a petition to Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara challenging major motion picture companies who don’t give a film credit to VFX artists that work on their films. You can see a video of this here. Alongside me was a movie star who has left a transformative impression on the modern film industry. You can see him prancing around behind me in the pic (below).
At the time of writing, over 6100 people have signed this petition about this issue. The workers that are refused a credit often work 70, 80, even 90 hours a week, and if they’re doing it here in London, they often don’t even get paid overtime for doing so.
These workers are essential to the success of the modern motion picture industry – today, every major success is drenched in VFX. It’s an odd situation for them to be in.
They don’t get a credit, but almost everyone else does, mainly because every other part of the industry is unionised in one way or another. Hang around until the lights go up at the end next time you’re at the cinema and you will see that the rest of the crew get a credit. The reason that VFX Artists don’t is because this sector isn’t seen as unionised – they work for companies that will give their rights away to win the work.
vfxAssemble is a way to realise the vfx union we’ve always wanted. Here’s how it works: You pledge to join the union, but you pay nothing and no one’s membership is made active unless we achieve over 50% of the vfx workforce by the deadline. It’s a sort of Kickstarter/crowdsourcing thing. It’s anonymous, it’s risk free and we will only charge you if we are successful in achieving our numbers.