The Beginning of a Long and Complex Battle

The long roller coaster ride of animation/VFX artists hit its last breathless peak in the Nineties when California studios and production companies – anxious to capitalize on the resurgence of animated features – resorted to raiding art schools for students and even their instructors; luring them with eye-popping salaries and serious perks.

As a result of those heady times, the number of college-level animation/VFX courses in the US and Canada exploded from under 20 to several hundred by 2000 and has since grown to many thousands of schools around the globe.

The animation and VFX industry faces many serious challenges today, but I submit the seismic force driving them all – and the reason the issues are so complex – is the economics of labor supply and demand.

Not even the most militant protester has proposed closing schools here or abroad or suggested photographers, DPs, programmers or architects be banned from jumping sideways into the animation/VFX stream.

The inevitable and painful process of attrition started several years ago with animation/VFX talent slowly moving into management or the client side, moving to related fields like interactive, going back to school or just moving on.

So what are the options now?

Is it time to unionize? Is a union possible? Excellent questions. I found this article on Hollywood unions insightful, originally published in The Nation in 1938.

Are tax credits saving or killing the animation/VFX industry? Excellent question. You can start your own search for answers with these two knowledgable, eloquent, pro-active and opposing views: Post New York Alliance vs VFX Soldier

Is a strike the only way to change things? Another excellent question and one that VFX Law proposed in this tweet of Feb 25:

I had a dream, there was a website with a green background and countdown timer to the biggest #vfx walkout the world has ever seen #vfxunion

I personally know many good people on both sides of these arguments so I’m absolutely certain the answers are not simple. I’m also certain any change will require research, as well as face to face discussion and debate to have any chance of succeeding.

To jump start that process Stash will devote three panels at the COLLIDER Digital Production Conference in New York this June to the most pressing issues facing the VFX and animation industry.

Email me with the specific topics you’d like those panels to discuss and who should be on them.

Thanks in advance.

Stephen Price
Stash Magazine

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