I write this as the blaring strains of the final horn and Amazing Grace fade from memory. The three days felt like one as a constant stream of freelancers, students, and company management from around the world stopped by to ask about the benefits of working union. Some were surprised to hear that most of the folks listed in the credits that came before the VFX department in the latest summer blockbuster film they had worked on enjoyed healthcare and pension that travels with them from union job to union job. They were not aware that the rest of the crew had paid overtime provisions, turnaround guarantees, and were monetarily compensated if lunch was provided late. I was constantly reminded that the benefits and workplace protections that I take for granted when on set are foreign to many SIGGRAPH attendees.
Representatives and union members from The Cinematographer’s, Editor’s, Art Director’s and Animation Guild (from both the US and Canada) handed out more than 400 packets of information, VFX Soldier buttons, VFXunion magnets, and International Cinematographer’s and Art Director’s Guild Magazines. Business Agent Christian LeMay from Montreal (Camera Local 667) spoke French with visitors, we handed out Spanish language IATSE pamphlets to students from Mexico, VFX Director of Photography Mark Weingartner talked shop with other VFX Sups and DP’s, and Dusty Kelly from Local 891 and IA Rep Julia Neville fielded questions about VFX in Vancouver.
On the second day, I spoke with a mo-cap bodysuit-clad booth employee who stopped by to support us. She told me her husband was a VFX artist and she would love health insurance for their family and overtime pay when he was a stranger for weeks on end during crunch time.
The constant refrain was, “YES, please, we need this.”
“This” is employer-supplied healthcare, pension, standardized working conditions, a pay structure that accurately reflects long hours, and an advocate for when employees have issues with management.
“This” is a bit of sanity injected into the world-hopping, freelance lifestyle of the modern VFX worker.
If you and some of your co-workers would like to learn more, email us to find out how you can help bring union benefits to your company.
With a booth already secured, we’re looking forward to SIGGRAPH 2013 in Anaheim. Here in LA we’ll have some events this fall and winter. Follow us on Twitter to stay informed: @vfxunion.