from the news section at BECTU

https://www.bectu.org.uk/news/2933

26 February 2019

 

VFX workers have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after working tirelessly on recent films including multiple Oscar winning film Bohemian Rhapsody.

Despite recent news from the BFI that the VFX industry contributed £1BN to the UK economy, freelance visual effects artists have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after a VFX firm went bust.

BECTU union, which represents VFX freelancers, is currently handing cases totalling more than £53,000, owing to four of its members following the collapse of Halo VFX Limited, which provided visual effects work on high-budget productions including Curfew, Bohemian Rhapsody and A Discovery of Witches.

In yet another example of the problems facing the VFX industry in paying its staff, BECTU is pursuing the unpaid fees and demanding answers from company directors about how they will compensate members for the failure to pay them. The union is also calling for a new industry code of practice to better protect freelance workers when companies go into administration.

BECTU Assistant National Secretary, Paul Evans, has been working with London production freelance members for seven years.

He said: “I’ve never had a situation where individual BECTU members have been hit this badly and it is not something we can’t just shrug our shoulders and move on from.

“This is a hugely profitable industry and the productions that our members worked on were successful. It’s not acceptable for VFX artists who have contributed to the success of multi-million pound features to be the ones to carry risk and to go unpaid for their hard work and talent.”

BECTU is seeking a meeting with company directors and is writing to union members to advise them against accepting work without guarantees of weekly pay.

Evans added: “Our industry is unsustainable if directors can, effectively, establish an arm of one company, trade unsuccessfully and then leave workers to carry the can. If the industry can’t come up with a way of protecting workers from this kind of catastrophe, we will have to invest in some publicity to warn people against working for any VFX or Post Production company as a limited company, or in any status that doesn’t ensure that they have full employment rights.”

“The incentives are all wrong in VFX. A lot of the risks end up on the shoulders of freelance workers who have to cushion the industry by accepting long periods of unpaid overtime work and working-hours that are very sub-optimal in terms of creativity and productivity. It’s an industry that drives talented people out.”

https://www.bectu.org.uk/news/2933

  • Kalene

    Wtf is up with the ending? I’m insulted as a women who works in vfx. ” The gender ratio is particularly male-heavy because women often can’t stay in an industry that expects almost unlimited unpaid overtime as short notice.”. Are you kidding me? I’ve been doing this for 12 years. None of my lady parts make this any harder for me than my male counterparts. The overtime sucks for any human being. The gender gap is a much bigger discussion. Perhaps talk to some of us about it to find the real causes.

    • Dstinct

      It has nothing to do with your lady parts and everything to do with the stereotypical role you are expected to fill in a family. A woman is more likely to be responsible for going home to her second job of taking care of the kids and family, so sticking around work is harder. Doesn’t make it right. If you have no kids or a spouse willing to pick up the slack, that may make it easier for you, but in my studio that’s not the case for the majority of women. When overtime kicks in, its mostly guys sticking around late.

      • Kalene

        A stereotypical role that involves childbirth or or the expectation that a woman will get pregnant and have kids has everything to do with Lady parts(stereotypes about women??) Sounds like you are a bit jealous that the women who you do work with get a better life/work balance and you feel you deserve that too. You do. Start asking for it. Stop pretending you are better by working insane hours with no pay. Stereotypes can be hurtful and won’t improve things. Women in my experience have been doing equal work. Few have families but the ones that do still make it work. It’s no reason not to hire a woman. Nevertheless…that line at the end should have been omitted from the article…it’s really off topic from what the article was about and this is a more complex discussion.

        • Ashwin

          Kalene you are unnecessarily defensive. It does not sound to me like distinct meant that men worked harder than women. Its the same and its not work life balance when you have to leave your day job and then go work at your home with your kids.. No one has real work life balance in this economy. Men nor women.
          The point is that in the narrow scope of an “office” men do end up working late because they aren’t “traditionally expected” to strike a “work/homework” balance. It isn’t good nor bad. Its just fact.

          • Kalene

            I dont see women leaving the industry because they are expected to do overtime and can’t. What I do see is men buying into these stereotypes and not hiring them and not promoting them just because of some
            really old idea of a women’s place in the home. Or even stereotypes that women just aren’t as technically proficient as men. Women have been facing inequality in engineering and science. You think it’s because they need to go home to their families? Or an idea that they are just going to get pregnant and aren’t worth investing in? I’m so lucky I never worked in an office that just felt like it should do nothing but accept these stereotypes as a fact of life and that they should keep perpetuating them because then I just wouldn’t have a job. I’ve done so much overtime in my career I find it pretty insulting that you think it’s just a fact that men are expected to stay later than women. I have never seen this in my 12 years experience. Overtime is sad for all of us and I’ve certainly been in the trenches of OT just as much as any man. Production has never asked more or less of me than my coworkers. There have been no expectations other than my own. Perhaps what you think is fact is maybe just a stereotype you have about women? Or a stereotype about what is expected of men in the workplace and at home? How harmful in history have stereotypes been about race or class? Most have been proven wrong, we challenge them and move forward. I’m going to challenge you to rethink this idea that your stereotype is a fact or that that is normal and if it is why accept it? It’s a very broad generalization you are making and doesn’t encompass my experience with some extremely talented and dedicated women who sacrifice just as much as men to be here. You could fix the problem or make it worse. I’m just not going to sit by while the writer perpetuates harmful stereotypes that just make things worse.

          • ash

            There you go with the lectures..
            Let me break it down from the studio owners perspective.. My cofounder is a woman. We own the company 50/50 and make hiring decisions together. We are on the lookout for production staff and design staff. We haven’t shown any prejudice in our job blasts and frankly our network is made of more women than men at the level that we want to hire. Here is what we see when we call ourselves an “agency” which they confuse to be an “ad agency” (it’s a new kind of company and we are still defining ourselves)
            Design: Overwhelmingly female applicants
            Production: Overwhelmingly female applicants
            As soon as we change “agency” to “films and vfx agency”
            Design: An equal split
            Production: Overwhelmingly male applicants
            Read what you want from this. But I believe in numbers. Females just don’t want to take on a stressful job and I don’t blame them.
            As soon as we look for “marketing/bd roles” it again turns to overwhelmingly female applicants. Its client relations and men don’t seem to like the ambiguity of the role as much as women do.

            I don’t much care about opinions or preconceived notions. I have a feeling most company owners and hiring managers don’t care about the gender while hiring. What you are railing against is the “observation” that is made after noticing a trend. And it’s childish.

            I truly also don’t care much about what you personally do in terms of OT compared to men. It’s a statistical game and you are one in a million much like all of us. Hiring choices are not made by looking at gender today except maybe still at the “partner” level in old school firms, but it’s also not “wrong” to point out the trend that is eventually observed. Your engineering and sciences example is nonsense. Sorry about that. Here’s why.
            Norway is an example of a country where the experiment of “equal opportunity” was run properly and what was observed clearly is that it increased the gap between men’s choices and women’s choices in careers (thats what happens when people’s nature is given a free reign). Fewer women were seen joining the Stem fields while fewer men were seen becoming nurses and vice a versa. I know feminists love to think everyone is the same, but sorry, that’s not the case. The two genders (at large) produce different career choices and inclinations. We don’t need to talk about exceptions. We are just talking about observable and verifiable trends. One can easily say “despite of the natural trend, we shouldn’t base our hiring practices on the trend” and that would be perfectly fine. A prejudiced person is not going to start hiring correctly just because you won an online argument anyways.
            And you know what, it’s not bad. It’s ok to “not” want to do OT and be inclined towards family. Men “relatively, at large, biologically” do tend to think about that less which “does” make it “relatively” easier for them to tear themselves away from home. Over generations this effect will change naturally but today as it stands “at large” it hasn’t. And it’s not fun and games. It’s not a medal of honor that “most” men can do that so “relatively” easily than “most” women. It’s a billion years of evolution and you can’t get over it overnight because a bunch of university kids started picketing outside your windows and bashing people online.

            I believe you really need to look beyond the feminist agenda websites and study numbers to see the real story. You do not need to deny “Facts” to make your point. Your point about hiring practices holds merit on its own without attacking statistics and science, which ironically makes you less convincing.

          • ash

            “I find it pretty insulting that you think it’s just a fact that men are expected to stay later than women. I have never seen this in my 12 years experience. ”

            Seriously? You find that insulting? I don’t know why. I’ve been a coordinator, producer, had a female boss, and seen female bosses and male bosses “expect” this. Which you seem to call insulting for some reason.
            When there is a last minute task that just came up and in a team filled with both men and women one person needs to stay on 3 hours longer to complete it and “there is no way out of it due to a client deadline”. Any good management team will have the decency to “not” ask a female employee to stay back at an ungodly hour when there are men in the team who can be requested. And men will volunteer in such cases. It takes a whole different level of insane to get offended by that. At the same time cribbing for “Chivalry” to be back.

          • Kalene

            Thanks for the lecture.of course you would describe someone who has issue with being treated differently based on sex as insane..that’s very telling…but you have it wrong. Stereotypes aren’t facts. They are biases. Our personal experiences are different. I’m just saying I’ve seen both men and women leaving this industry because OT is hard. I don’t see the need for the original writer to separate this out to be a specifically female issue. Also when I talk to female colleagues about the gender gap and inequality in the workplace I’ve never heard it come up as an issue because there are so many other reasons. OT and getting burned out is a human issue. I’ve seen more men leave the industry because of this because well there are just a lot of men currently. Where I’m from there are a lot of studios that are quite a bit more balanced. In the end I expect a good management team to know their artists and know when to or not to push for OT based on their human needs. Your saying they are basing their decision on whether or not the artist is female. What if she’s single and fine with doing OT? What if this is her chosen career and she’s here to work? You are just generalizing way too much. I hope people see and treat me as an artist and co-worker. (No chivalry needed. Sounds like you have some issues with other women).

          • Kalene

            Also why are you putting words into my mouth like you think I’m a insane feminist? Again you are stereotyping me and thinking you know what I’ll say? How would you feel if I started calling you an incel? I can disagree with you and have my own opinion. I accept you have yours . Let’s leave it at that.

          • ash

            “I dont see women leaving the industry because they are expected to do overtime and can’t. What I do see is men buying into these stereotypes and not hiring them and not promoting them just because of some ”
            I have personally seen a lot of women (great artists and production staff) shift industries altogether. Much fewer men. Again – differing experiences don’t matter, but more importantly that’s not a good metric to make either of our points anyways. Most people stay stuck in their miserable careers across all industries because of the amount of time spent mastering it otherwise goes to waste amongst many other factors.

          • Accipiter

            Holy cow…where’s the “equality” with women in garbage people’s roles?
            How about more women in scrubbing the disgusting clogged drains of businesses as sludge cleaners?
            How about more women in roofing?
            More women in salt mining?

            I think you need to stop buying into these “inequality” careers with engineering and science. Those are the glamour jobs.
            How about pushing equality in more male strong careers that actually matter? Oh…that’s right…you’d have to actually get dirty.

          • Kalene

            Wow. People like you exist. Well. I think your comment speaks wonderfully to your ignorance and stupidity. Do you know anything about history? I could throw a bunch of statistics here but I doubt you would have the capacity to understand. You are a troll and a waste of time. Looks like your mom had the shittiest job of all wiping your bum throwing out your garbage raising an ungrateful shit who hates women? How’s your garbage job going? Does it pay well? Do you feel like women and people of other races will steal all the jobs from you? You sound very insecure.

          • ash

            I dont understand why her comments and my reply to it were deleted. I was just about to tear into some of the insane misinterpretations she made of my comments yet again. Well anyways.. That’s the ways of people who feel they are being victimised but also loathe anyone pointing out that they are being victimised. Have your cake and eat it too.

        • Dstinct

          I’m perfectly fine with my work life balance. Neither my partner nor I want kids, and the money I make allows us to travel all over the world during down times at the studio. I do agree that there needs to better balance for everyone, but there is nothing the studios can really do to fight back against the production studios. They are too large and you can’t risk being blacklisted, so when they say they need a shot turned around in 48 hours, its all hands on deck.

  • WaffleToaster

    Don’t the people taking these jobs see that there is something very risky and wrong when you’re not getting paid regularly?

    • ash

      Hmm you talk like there are other choices that they haven’t discovered.

      • WaffleToaster

        I simply think that everyone has some blame in this whole mess. Movie companies offer deals that are not okay working conditions for a company, then if one says no their neighbor says they will do it for even cheaper, then a third one comes along for an even lower price and the movie companies think “hey, if this is the standard rate why should we ever change it?”. Then before we know it another company goes under due to the bad deal, not having talked about overtime and reshoot corrections beforehand and so on. We all get mad at those darn studio’s for doing this to us, put up a green avatar like it matters and a year later we are at this exact same crossroad again. The studio is okay with the way things are and even though the VFX companies cry outrage they still don’t stand united in dealing with these things.

  • Kelly Myers

    We had a studio in London try and pull this on us in late 2017. We got paid by using the nuclear option. We went to the network and then the production company who hired the studio immediately came back to us who “didn’t know this happened” and we got paid. Work for hire rules worked in favor here. You own your work until paid for in full. If the VFX shop didn’t pay you but they sold your work on wards, the people who are in possession of your property are in violation of about a half a dozen copyright and IP laws just about anywhere in the world. In our case the network, although without being aware of this, aired our VFX work. Copyright work. As in our copyright. Know the law, kick as and reach for the “football”. Use the nuclear option.
    (And stop using Autodesk based pipelines. That’s what is fucking up the industry to a large extent.)

    • ash

      That was probably a case where they had the money but didn’t want to pay you guys. Most studios that don’t pay is because they eventually run out of enough money. If that was the case with your company, all you accomplished was get your money out at the expense of someone else down the line who will not be paid at a time the company goes bankrupt.

      I believe the problem being highlighted here isn’t about vfx companies not “Wanting” to pay but vfx companies loosing so much money on projects due to the industry conditions that they have no choice but to not pay employees.

  • Kelly Myers

    oh and btw, this would never have happened with the lightforms.cc VFX/CG artists residuals system working with Waves Platform blockchain technology.