Thursday, May 31, 2012

10 Lies Employers Tell VFX Artists

Here’s a list of 10 lies employers tell vfx artists to keep them from forming a union. What’s most troubling is when artists buy into these arguments themselves. Check this list to see how many you’ve been told.  

  1. We’re Like Family HereDon’t let some 3rd party outsiders come in and ruin our cozy relationship. 
I know… don’t barf! 

The truth is… film production companies see vfx artists as red-headed step-children. Until you get represented you’ll always be negotiating from a position of weakness. There’s strength in numbers.  

  1. We’ll Close Our Doors! – The day you vote for a union we’ll be out of business. 
The truth is… it’s illegal to threaten to close down the company because the workers decided to have a union represent them.

  1. Your Job Will Be Shipped Overseas – We’ll ship all your jobs to a foreign country where workers don’t complain and they don’t have unions. 
The truth is… no one can do the job better than you can. You’re an artist! There are huge challenges for businesses in offshoring; illiteracy rates, language proficiency, cultural differences, political pressure, data security, etc. Many of the companies that tried it in the past have found it just doesn’t work. If studios want to be really efficient they need to encourage increased contact between vfx artists and directors not less.  

  1. You Will Be Negotiating From Zero – You will lose your present wage and benefits and start at nothing! Cause that’s how we roll. 
The truth is… when you negotiate a first contract the starting point will be the wages and benefits you currently receive and go up from there.  

  1. Give Us a Second Chance We’ll Change – We didn’t mean it. We thought you were satisfied making peanuts. If only we knew. Good thing you brought this to our attention.  Things are going to start to change around here real soon. Well not that soon, but eventually. Just wait. You’ll see. 
The truth is… nothing is going to change until vfx artists join together and demand improvements in wages and working conditions.  

  1. You Will Be Forced to Strike – We will replace you permanently when the union forces you to go on strike. 
The truth is... you and your coworkers will decide what actions to take to secure a contract. If the majority of workers don’t want to strike there will be no strike.  

  1. We Will Never Sign a Union Contract! – Even if you and your coworkers vote for a union we will stall throughout the whole bargaining process never reaching agreement. 
The truth is... both parties are required by law to bargain in good-faith and there are stiff penalties for undermining the process. They will sign.  

  1. You Get Nothing for Your Dues – The union only wants your money. They don’t care about you. They want to charge you huge sums of money to sponsor their lavish lifestyles.  
The truth is... the value in increased wages, fringe benefits and working conditions will far exceed any costs to you in the form of union dues.  You won’t pay any dues until after a first contract is secured. Organized labor has championed many of the improvements working people enjoy today such as the 40 hour work week, paid holidays, overtime pay, medical coverage, safety laws, etc. 

  1. The Union Will Mean Violence and Intimidation – You’re safe now but when the worker’s vote for a union there will be an increase in vandalism, violence and intimidation.      
The truth is... Most workers feel intimidated asking the boss for a raise. The purpose of collective bargaining is to be able to sit at the table as equals and arrive at an agreement in a calm manner. This is the opposite of violence.   

  1. We’ll Give You Special Treatment – We like you. You’re not like the others. You’ve got a bright future here. Once this union thing is resolved we’re going to make you a supervisor. Don’t mention this to anybody ok?  
          The truth is... you are not the only one being told this. Employers make lots of empty               promises. That’s why it’s so important for you and your coworkers to bargain collectively.
It’s in your best interest to have everything spelled out in a written contract.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Visual Effects Arsenal Reviewed


Watch this brief 1:07 sec review of the book The Visual Effects Arsenal: VFX Solutions for the Independent Filmmaker by Bill Byrne. This is a soft cover text book written by an instructor of visual effects. It's filled with tips for VFX artists and students alike.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review of VFX Artistry by Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz


Watch this brief review of the book VFX Artistry: A Visual Tour of How the Studios Create their Magic by Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review of Drawing


Watch this brief 1:31 mins video review of the book Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson by Tom Sito former president of America's largest animation union. Find out why I'm recommending this book to artists in the visual effects industry. .

Friday, May 11, 2012

10 Great Books on Personal Branding


10 Great Books on Personal Branding

“Temperence and labor are the two best physicians of man; labor sharpens the appetite, and temperance prevents from indulging to excess.”
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  1. The Brand Called You; The Ultimate Brand-Building and Business Development Handbook to Transform Anyone into an Indispensable Personal Brand by Peter Montoya

  1. The Brand You 50; Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself From an “Employee” into a Brand that Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion by Tom Peters

  1. You Are The Message; Getting What You Want by Being Who You Are by Roger Ailes

  1. Managing Brand You: Seven Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self by Jerry S. Wilson

  1. Branding Yourself Online; How to Use the Internet to Become a Celebrity or Expert in Your Field by Bob Baker

  1. Celebrity Branding You; A Revolutionary System for Entrapreneurs and Professionals to Become the Go-To Expert, Dominate Your Field and Eliminate the Competition by J.W. Dicks and Nick Nanton

  1. Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself by Eric Deckers and Kyle lacy

  1. You Are a Brand: How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success by Catherine Kaputa

  1. Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand by William Arruda and Kirten Dixson

  1. Being Me: A Guide to Branding Myself Everyday by Amira Shiraz

Branding and the Successful VFX Career



If you were a brand what would it tell employers, clients or potential customers? Would it say you are reliable, trustworthy, among the top in your industry? What would your coworkers say your brand represents? You might ask them.

In today’s economy where companies are focused entirely on the bottom line and profit margins are said to be razor thin we need to be careful not to send mixed messages. We need to be on guard not to tarnish the value of our own personal brands.

One important aspect of branding is how visible you appear online. Are you on the top rated social networks? How active are you? More and more employers are turning to the web to research applicants on one or more of the most popular search engines. Make sure to update your profile photo and take down any information that isn’t consistent with the brand you wish to project.

Here’s a list of websites potential employers in the visual effects industry might use to conduct a search:
  1. Google

  1. Facebook

  1. LinkedIn

  1. Twitter

  1. YouTube

  1. Internet Movie Database

  1. Visual Effects Society

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Networking for Career Success



“Seek those who find your road agreeable, your personality and mind stimulating, your philosophy acceptable, and your experiences helpful. Let those who do not, seek their own kind”
-          Jean Henri Fabre

One thing we all learn eventually is how much easier it can be to move forward when we have the willing support of those around us. No one succeeds in a vacuum. In the visual effects industry networking can make all the difference.  One simple comment or email to the right person can launch an avalanche of events in your favor. It’s time to move away from the feast or famine mentality. It’s time to make networking a habit.

Understand, there are people out there who genuinely want to help you succeed. They may be close friends, acquaintances, family members, coworkers or industry leaders. They might not even know who you are, but they probably know someone who does.

Let me give you an example; early in my career I mentioned to someone in a casual conversation my interest in stage lighting. That person said to me, “I have a friend that just got a job doing that.” I asked if he thought he could speak to his friend for me and find out how he got hired.  Next thing I know I get a call not from his friend but the owner of the company he worked for offering me a job at the same studio lighting company.  That led to a series of other related projects. These were amazing gigs!

"Yeah, but I don't want to do stage lighting!" 

Understood; the point is, people want to help you. If they see you have a desire to learn and passion for visual effects they will make the effort to put you in touch with the right people. The key is to get your name out there and let people know you are interested.

How do you do that?

There is no shortage of books on the subject of networking for professionals. Here’s a list of my favorites:

  1. Smart Networking; Attract a Following in Person and Online by Liz Lynch

  1. Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for business and Career Success by Anne Baber

  1. Social Networking for Career Success: Using Online Tools to Create a Personal Brand by Mirium Salpeter

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

  1. Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job by Orville Pierson

  1. Who’s Got Your Back; The Secret to Finding the 3 People Who Will Change Your Life by Keith Ferrazzi

  1. Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Under-Connected by Devora Zack

  1. I’m at a Networking Event, Now What? A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Any Networking Event by Sandy Jones-Kaminski

  1. Networking Awesomely: The Least You Need to Know by Colin Wright

  1. Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need by Harvey Mackay