Labor Series Part Two: The Animation Guild

In this fxpodcast we speak with Steve Hulett, Business Representative for the The Animation Guild Local 839 IATSE. This is part of an ongoing series discussing the issues involved in labor laws, treatment of workers and general respect for visual effects in the industry.

08Aug/labor-TAG/TagLogoWe had a tremendous response to the podcast we did about insane schedules in the film industry and often conversations turned to unions and guilds. The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, has been around since 1952 and has contracts with many studios like Dreamworks, Sony Pictures Animation, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Brothers Animation and many more. They represent animators, storyboard artists, writers and about 35% of their membership works in CGI. Steve Hulett is the business representative and joins us to explain what they do.

At this point you might think that you will hear a rant on the benefits of unions… but I think you will be surprised. While Steve is obviously very proud of what they do and how they help their members, the interview shows Steve to be very direct and brings up many of the same issues that keep coming up when the topic of working conditions in visual effects are discussed.

Visual effects for feature films tends to utilize a lot of freelance workers, this often means that things like health care, pension and 401k are left to the individual. Steve explains what the Guild does in these areas.

copyright Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE. Artists: Ronnie Del Carmen and Mike Ploog Colorist: Narry Khang.

A few quotes from the interview:

“…it’s my belief that a lot of visual effects houses basically ignore federal and state labor law and don’t pay overtime for a lot of the job positions that they have…”

“…a lot of people in the non-union CGI world tend to sidestep, they just look at the weekly check, they don’t look at the number of hours they work to earn the money in the weekly check.”

“I don’t believe in fair or unfair, I believe in leverage. If you have the leverage to get what you want, you’ll get it.”

“Overtime is basically something that was put into place not so much so that an individual crew member would make a lot of money in a given week, overtime was originally setup so that there would be a financial incentive not to overwork people.”

“The first thing that anybody that’s working in the industry should do is know what their legal rights are, under law. Know what the labor regs say, know what the company should be doing.”

“How many visual effects artists do you know who gobble a sandwich at their desk and go right on working? They’re violating the labor reg.”

“How many visual effects houses do you know say to their top guys “uh, keep it to yourself what you’re making”… it’s against the law.”

We should point out that the purpose of us doing this series of labor podcasts is not to suggest any specific agenda, rather we think artists and companies should be informed about all the issues surrounding what is such an important subject. We had many questions after the original insane schedule podcast and this series is a result of seeking answers and feeling that while there is a lot of discussion among artists informally about these issues, perhaps we could help broaden that discussion.

The Animation Guild web site

The TAG Blog a great resource where Steve and Kevin Koch (TAG President) post frequently, and it has an RSS feed.

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