If you work in Visual Effects in the UK (and especially at DNeg, ILM, MPC and Framestore), it’s likely you saw green people on the way in to work today. You’re not just seeing things from working or playing too much, they really were there! Their mission was to pass out flyers and raise awareness for a new union organizing effort called VFX Assemble!
Yes, we know, there have been a lot of attempts at this. IATSE in the US announced it’s intent to organize VFX artists almost 7 years ago. Every few years since, IATSE and/or BECTU (UK’s media and entertainment trade union) have offered help, held frequent meetings… but there is never any forward motion. What makes this new effort different?
A New Hope
The stumbling block to organizing VFX is that no one wants to go first or be alone. This is not unusual in union organizing history. BECTU hopes to have found a way past this by offering a Kickstarter style approach – the cost is £10 a month but you don’t pay until 51% of your company joins.
What do we Want?
What are the goals of this effort? Pretty much the same things labor has asked for in every organizing effort in history.
It is important to look to history in any organizing effort because you are not the first or last one to go through the process. In Tom Sito’s great book Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson he discusses organizing Fletcher Animation in the late 30’s:
“The animators and higher-paid creative artists felt themselves superior to the lower-echelon inbetweeners, opaquers, and checkers. The discussion about unionizing broke into camps based on job title. Whenever an employer wished to sabotage union members’ solidarity, he only needed to separate the animators and storymen from the “backend” artists. Sixty years later the animation guild still fields complaints from animators, writers, and CGI folks who want an exclusive organization. Fragmenting the workers’ interests has always played right into the hands of the bosses.”
Sound familiar? A bit more:
“The Fleischer strike was the first major labor strike in animation history. It demonstrated all the tactics and problems that would dominate labor-management conflicts in animation for the next sixty years: employee anger over working conditions but apathy about joining organizations to do anything about the conditions; suspicion of outside labor organizations; artists’ denial of basic business realities; employers trying to stay friends with their staff while acting tough behind the workers’ backs; official rhetoric about “free choice” masking strong-arm tactics; intimidation of workers; flouting of government laws and oversight; gestures calculated to pit artists against artists; and stonewalling negotiations tions while waiting for the artists and their families to starve. All these things occur with depressing regularity in studios up to the present day, whether cartoons are done with pencils or pixels.”
Learn more / Get Involved
VFX Assemble has a great website that explains this new effort. As they say, “it only takes 5 minutes”.
For more detail visit: vfxAssemble.com
We've been a free service since 1999 and now rely on the generous contributions of readers like you. If you'd like to help support our work, please join the hundreds of others and become an fxinsider member.