Visual Effects Society Issues Bill of Rights to Combat Downward Spiral

by Bill Desowitz
September 22, 2011 5:11 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood
Despite the fact that VFX and animated films rule the box office every year, the Visual Effects Society, representing 2,400 members in 23 countries, wants to foster change related to deteriorating quality of life issues for individuals, while leveling the playing field for facilities.

The first salvo was an open letter by the VES addressing the downward spiral of working conditions and benefits for visual effects artists and dwindling profit margins for facilities around the globe. On Wednesday came a more formal Bill of Rights as a call to action, which was unanimously approved by the VES board of directors. VES exec director Eric Roth stated:

Thompson on Hollywood
"In the VES Open Letter, we said it was time to step up as the voice of the visual effects industry by talking to all parties regarding their concerns. At this time we have engaged in a vigorous dialog with key stakeholders at all levels and believe our Bill of Rights lays out the vital concerns of each segment of the industry. Our next step is to focus on bringing all parties together to seek solutions...We have taken significant steps to make this a collaborative process throughout the industry...The VES is committed to working with its members as well as facilities, unions, guilds, studios and leaders of the entertainment industry to find meaningful, realizable remedies to the concerns we have raised."

For artists and practitioners, the VES advocates:

"a clear understanding of the work he/she is being hired to perform, including knowing what they are being paid per hour, per week or per job, as well as the duration of the assignment, with strict adherence to all local labor laws and tax codes regarding overtime, sick time, vacation time, working conditions, safety, and other aspects of a professional work environment…"

Additionally, the VES calls for the right to:

"negotiate a modification in the terms of employment should the realities of the position change in any material way, or decline work that is outside the terms of the employment agreement; quality health care coverage no matter where in the world he/she may be working..."

Meanwhile, facilities should be entitled to a:

"clear and reasonable deal memo with the artists and practitioners for hire delineating the scope of thework, the schedule from commencement to completion, and the agreed upon price; a clear and reasonable contract, signed before their work begins, with the producers or studio hiring the facility, delineating the scope of work, production schedule and payment schedule; expect to make a fair and reasonable profit for work performed; and retain ownership of their intellectual property and proprietary tools…"

And a studio should have:

"a clear and reasonable contract delineating the scope of the work, the schedule from commencement to completion of the project, and the payment schedule based on the agreed upon price; be informed in a timely manner before incurring any excess charges, delays or problems with work for which it has contracted; shorten or lengthen a schedule as long as they are willing to compensate facilities; change direction on any aspect of the show in question, as long as it fairly compensates facilities and artists and makes the necessary contractual and time accommodations, on any changes that affect them…"

The goal is to foster:

"more meaningful discussion that will unfold over the months ahead. Each geographic community that is involved in the crafting of visual effects has different needs. VES's goal is to play the role of catalyst to bring together all the participants in the entertainment industry who interact with visual effects."

The first opportunity to address the Bill of Rights will be at the third annual VES Production Summit ("Trending the Global Marketplace: You Are Here") Oct. 1 at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, where VFX practitioners will discuss how to stay current "with ever changing technologies, and rethinking production schedules and distribution channels."

The VES Bill of Rights can be accessed here.

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