Anyone in the industry can tell you, profit margins for visual effects companies are razor thin. Companies go under all the time. You may have had the unfortunate experience of working for one of these here-today-gone-tomorrow houses. Hopefully you were able to collect all money owed, but this is not always the case.
Competition between Companies
Companies are being encouraged to take their work out-of-state or overseas to increase their competitiveness. VFX artist’s; because they are not represented and often don’t think of themselves as employee’s per se settle for being classified as; temps, independent contractors, 1099ers or permalancers a term used to describe permanent employees cloaked as freelancers. This is a recipe for a disastrous career. Add to this the over 250 job titles used to describe visual effects workers and you can see that the ship is heading for the rocks, but that’s just the start.
Studio Gate Keepers
Now throw in this toxic soup an ingredient of entitlement on behalf of the major studios. They’ve run roughshod over VFX companies for years. There’s not a company around that can afford a bad reputation with a major studio and the studio heads know it! Alienate just one of the six studios and you lose 15% of your opportunities in the future. It’s a small club and so a bad reputation with one studio could kill your chances with the others.
So what have the studios done? They’ve created the perfect situation for themselves; some would call it a monopoly. Now add the best negotiators in the business and put them in position of gate keeper and make VFX Company’s deal with this person.
Hey! There are only six of us! You plan on doing more films in the future right? XYZ Company does this for us! Why can’t you? Lower your bid, throw in extras, make changes faster, do the impossible! Otherwise, we can’t promise you’ll get that next film even if you are the lowest bidder! Sound familiar?
Who ends up paying for this in the long-run? The VFX worker pays in the form of lower wages and benefits, longer hours and those all too common freebees.