Bohemian Rhapsody VFX workers owed thousands as Halo VFX goes into administration

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

No More Sitting on the Fencer

Visual Effects… We love what we do. We work long hours putting in hundreds, even thousands of extra hours of unpaid overtime year after year. We are hired on short term contracts with no job security, never knowing for sure where we’ll be working next year (let alone next month!). We are treated like a disposable resource, dropped – without a thought to loyalty – the instant a project finishes when we should be seen as talented and experienced professionals who add value to the facility and are worth retaining. We are the professionals who make the billion dollar blockbusters possible! Our sick pay, pensions, training and other benefits are a disorganised mess because facilities either can’t or won’t invest more than the bare legal minimum in their workforce – and yet, we all still consider ourselves lucky to be working on these cool projects!

Well, it’s true. We are lucky. We do wonderful work that we all love. Not everybody loves their jobs out there in the “real world”, but I’ve never met a single visual effects artist who doesn’t get immense joy from their creative process and I don’t know any who do not take great pride in their work. The truth is, most of us can’t wait to get back in to work on a Monday. We really love what we do – and because of that, we allow ourselves to get exploited.

There is no ignoring the fact that the rest of the film industry is heavily unionised. Why can’t visual effects be unionised too? To all of you who are already members of the VFX Union, bravo! You get it! You love what you do, but you know there is much still to be done to make visual effects a stronger and more ethical industry. Well done you!

For those of you sitting on the fence or even those who are actually against unionisation, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Things are good and getting better for other unionised branches of the film industry. Ask any writer, actor, cinematographer, director, producer – all of them are union members and they all value what unions do for them. None would tell you they think the unions are bad for the film industry.

Meanwhile back in the non-union sector of the film industry, things are not getting better for either the visual effects artists or the vfx facilities. There are ups and downs, good years and bad years but in general, things are getting a bit worse over time for everyone. We are all in a race to the bottom that only an organised workforce can fix. No one can fix this on their own. We need to join together and unionise for the good of our industry now and to ensure its future prosperity.

Join the VFX Union today at bectu.org.uk/join

Anthony Wonsoff

In Memoriam

Anthony Wonsoff

25 March 1970 – 20 June 2018

Anthony Wonsoff, talented visual effects artist and veteran of the London film industry whose career spanned three decades passed away peacefully in the early hours of Wed 20th June after a year long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 48 years old.

Over his long and distinguished career, he was a practical model maker, a painter, a producer, a vfx supervisor, a compositor and a digital matte artist working in both production and post production.

Anthony was a dedicated and valuable member of the vfx branch committee for the union. When we were casting around for a name for an innovative unionisation campaign, it was Anthony’s brilliant suggestion of “vfxAssemble” that was used (and will be used again). Although he had taken time away from the committee since his diagnosis, Ant insisted on being kept in the committees communication loop and was always there chiming in and cheering the vfx union on from the sidelines till the very end.

People who knew Anthony will remember him not just for his remarkable creativity and experience but also for his good nature, his intelligence and his legendary dry sense of humour.

The London VFX community has lost both a great talent and a truly unique human being. Anthony Wonsoff was well respected and well loved by all who had the pleasure to work with him and he will be missed enormously by us all.

A page for the Pancreatic Cancer Action charity has been set up on behalf of Anthony here if you would like to show some love and honour his memory with a donation.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/flossie-rey

The VFX Union offers balance and stability

Any workplace is a relationship between employer and employees.

As in any relationship, there has to be a balance. If one party has all the power and holds all the cards, the relationship is unhealthy.

The only way to achieve this balance is through unionisation. A union gives the workforce a seat at the table and the ability to have a say in decisions that affect them. It doesn’t always have to be adversarial and is more often than not productive for both sides but, without a union pushing for workers rights, every single decision management makes – no matter how good their intentions – is always going to lean in favour of the company.

Sometimes it leans a lot, sometimes it’s almost imperceptible but it always leans in one direction, eroding away quietly over time. That is just reality. The unions are there to help push back against this bias and keep things balanced.

Unionisation results in a positive impact for both the workforce and the industry. Unions are not perfect and just having a union doesn’t magically fix everything, but the alternative would be to have no say in the matter. To just accept whatever is decided without consultation while we watch our rights, benefits and wages erode away over time?

All workers rights, benefits and protections throughout history have always come from the unions. Things like a 40 hour week, child labour laws, health and safety, pensions, paid holidays, maternity, etc… none of it was offered up voluntarily by the companies. It had to be fought for and won by unions.

None of the rights, benefits and regulations we have today can be taken for granted. They must be defended and unions are the only way to do this. Without a union in place, workers rights and benefits will slowly erode away over time.

In a heavily unionised industry like film where virtually every department has a strong union in place, it’s appalling that visual effects is being excluded from union recognition when vfx are arguably the primary force driving the gigantic box office successes that make the film industry so phenomenally successful.

Visual effects IS the film industry. There is no film industry without vfx. It’s time we got the same kind of say in our branch of the film and television industry that other unionised branches get.

Visual effects deserves to be unionised just like the rest of the film industry.

As the saying goes: “If you haven’t got a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu”

Join the VFX Union at BECTU today.