Monday, July 25, 2011

Technological Change

For as long as I can remember, the West Coast Studio Local agreements and the Videotape Supplement, have provided that the Producer is entitled to make technological changes, subject only to an obligation to notify the IATSE and to negotiate applicable rates and conditions for the workers affected by those changes. Over the course of introduction of the computer programs which allow for the creation for Visual Effects (affecting the work of Special Effects workers such as pyrotechnics experts, Story Board Artists, and Cinematographers), at no time have the studios ever given the required notice. Now, when asked, they respond by claiming that the work has "always" been considered outside the scope of the agreement.
We've come a very long way from the Lew Wasserman era of the 1970's, when studio chieftains acknowledged that the production of motion pictures was work within the jurisdiction of the IATSE. As a former studio attorney, and one lucky enough to count Lew Wasserman as a former client, I am deeply saddened by this turn of events.
It will take the collective efforts of Visual Effects Supervisors to join together to reverse this trend. The IATSE would be prepared to establish and support a separate "guild" consisting solely of these Visual Effects Supervisors if that's what it takes to get them covered by a union contract. It is shocking that they, working on the set alongside of the cinematographer and the camera crew, are the only ones not given the respect they so richly deserve. It's time for those Supervisors to speak up and be heard. They could lead an entire visual effects community towards a better set of working conditions, with no exacerbation of the runaway production we so often hear about.


  1. Why would this require a separate guild of just vfx supervisors? It seems like if there is a real vfx guild it should include all of those working in vfx, including vfx supervisors.

    If it's just working within the confines of existing locals then it's best for the camera guild to man up. They already cover a number of supervisors and internal literature to members uses the term vfx supervisor. Unfortunately they don't use this specific title in their contracts. So the studios don't acknowledge it. and of course the guild feigns to be powerless. If the camera guild can start new titles such DIT, then they should be able to handle vfx supervisors just like they did in the pre-digital days of visual effects.

  2. Scott is absolutely correct, as usual.

    I'd add that waiting for the 600 to "man up" and lead in this way is a good way to grow old, and possibly bitter. In my time (the '90s) at 659 and 600, the business agents, some executive board members, and the members tried mightily to get leadership of the local and IA to step up and advocate programs to include digital job descriptions and titles in negotiations and new contracts. We were always either fobbed off with meaningless assurances or told in no uncertain terms to stay out of "Union Politics" that we knew nothing about.

    I hope that things in IA and the Guild have changed for the better 15 years on. But it's up to the leadership to prove it. So far, Not a very impressive showing.