Unpaid Journey Artists Update: Partially Paid

Over the last year, we have been following the story of the group of visual effects artists who worked on the film Journey to the Center of the Earth for Meteor Studios (see here and here). These artists were not paid for their months of work when Meteor Studios folded. Over the last year, the group was offered several low ball settlements which were subsequently rejected, but they have now voted to accept a 70% payment of what they are owed.

What follows after the jump is a communication between Dave Rand, the leader of the group, and the Canadian Commission des Normes du Travail. As Dave points out in his letter, this is a case that hopefully will be followed and remembered by all visual effects artists. We hope to do more about this story and some of the issues in coming months.

The forum thread at CG Society has been very active as well.

From: Martineau, Lucie
Subject: RE : another version ….sorry
To: “dave rand”
Date: Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 6:48 AM

Dear Mr. Rand,

To make sure that Commission des normes du travail and the administrators are both negociating with good faith, it was not good to talk with reporters about these negociations.

But don’t forget, the group gave to the Board the mandate to accept the offer. And the settlement is between the Board and the administrators, not with the employees.

So, please, just wait until you will receive your money and after, you will do what ever you want against them. Don’t forget also that Meteor doesn’t exist anymore … and, I repeat, the group have accepted the deal …

You know, you were lucky because the administrators have taken insurance. And it’s a good lesson: next time, when you will be hired by this kind of company, be sure the administrators have insurance for the payment of your salary…


Me Lucie Martineau
Commission des normes du travail
500, boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest, 24e étage
Montréal Qc H2Z 2A5
Téléphone : 514-864-1237 poste 560
Ligne sans frais : 1-888-501-1886 poste 560
Télécopieur: 514-864-0922


Dear Lucie, Sept 22, 2006

First of all I am delighted that we will be able to speak of this following the settlement as it is my experience that this is usually not the case in these types of “negotiations” and from your letter I see you must have negotiated this for us..THANKYOU! I do not agree with the amount but that was a group decision as the law in Canada only guarantees $2,000 dollars per employee.

I completely understand your point of view as you are a lawyer and the law dictates your stance as it should. I’m not sure what you as in individual may think of this but I do believe if you had been in our shoes during the robbery, and had to explain it to your mortgage banker, and your wife and children right before Christmas, you may have formed some very strong opinions about the situation and the laws surrounding it as most of us did.

What happened to us was a crime, followed by a cover up. I believe, and have been told by the former management of Meteor, that the actions were premeditated. The employees were used because the current law allows it and it was the cheaper route. I do not agree with that law and because it is legal for me to speak about it I took advantage of the leverage provided by every opportunity to get the story attached, as I, and most of our group believed, it needed to be told. Discovery and Evergreen had no problem whatsoever using the law to their advantage as well.

They also were able to keep it out of the press in the US because The Discovery Channel, being part of Discovery Communications (worth over 6 billion at the time) have a very influential advertising budget. So we needed to fight them on every front possible. We needed this to be tried in the court of public opinion, the same public they rely on for their lively hood.

I have not met an artist or other employee today who does not know about our case, the usual comment is that they can not believe it even happened, and is still going on. Since our story was told, artists are more inclined to walk off the job. The Animation Guild for all of North America has taken notice and are using our story to protect their members and future members from this abuse.

I believe this pressure actually helped our case as Discovery and Evergreen, like all crooks, would rather commit their crime under cover of night and not in broad daylight. Being a family network the word can not get out that they robbed families right before Christmas…so I had no problem facilitating the release of that fact in an honest and legal way.

As for some precedent regarding negotiations with talent and the press just google “writers strike negotiations and news coverage” there’s 241,000 pages of links. I believe one day you’ll see similar pages concerning fx artists as the single common thread that all top grossing films have for the last 17 yrs is stunning digital imagery.

I understand bankruptcy laws and their importance to the economy. I also understand those that abuse them, this was the latter. This was abuse. Had there been profits Discovery would have taken their cut for sure. We did not sign up to take part in their risk and believed their promise to pay. Meteor was always run like a family and that trust was abused also.

As for what you call the “lesson” I disagree completely, the only lesson from this is that when the paycheck stops, the work stops, that is the only leverage you have and the only time you’ll have it, as further demonstrated by our case. Since Canada only legally obligates employer to $2,000 and it may take years to get it, it’s best to leave immediately.

The rest of the talent in the entertainment world went through this decades ago and it is the sole reason strong unions were formed…they don’t care about insurances…their members walk when the money stops and the press does plenty of coverage both during the stirkes and during the negotiations.

In the wake of this and thanks to Eric’s efforts a website went up that got us organized or we would have been forced to accept the first offer. We were all spread around the globe making it very difficult to bring the group together in time without this tool. Discovery, Evergreen, and the Insurance Company were using the law to continue to exploit us but they were only stopped by our organization.

In closing I’d like to personally thank you for all your efforts on our behalf. I need to once again make it clear I will not sign any type of release or gag order that disallows me from speaking of this or the case in any way. I’d rather they keep all of my $12,000. To me it will be more satisfying to take part in making a change instead of going with the flow, to me it would be worth every penny.

Dave Rand

1 thought on “Unpaid <em>Journey</em> Artists Update: Partially Paid”

  1. Good on you Dave Rand and the people that have worked hard to get this story out there. It is terrible that such an occurrence took place. It used to happen in the 90’s at smaller facilities (boutique VFX places) but never large organizations such as Meteor. The only issue I have here is that it is not clear what the action was that prompted the closure and subsequent non payment to artists? Was it Discovery that didn’t pay or was it a mis management issue from Meteor’s side? I will do some research….
    Hopefully this will strengthen artists worldwide. It also reminds me of the mistake that VFX artists did when they had the option of joining the camera department union in the early 80’s. If they had, this would not have occurred.
    Sincerest luck, DC.

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