Last week on #MoChat we talked about #vfxprotest and how that affects us in the motion design industry. It’s clear there are several similarities between the two industries (and even some cross-over), though at a seemingly smaller scale.

Several people were familiar with the issues facing VFX, though many didn’t know how bad it was until recently. Studios going bankrupt seem to be how most people started learning about it. Employment seems to be the main similarity facing a lot of people. If you’re working on someone else’s equipment, in their space, under their direction, you should be classified as an employee. Unpaid overtime is another issue, which is related to employment status, though not entirely. It can vary by state, but even if you are salaried, you might be entitled to overtime pay. (No, you are probably not exempt as a “computer specialist”.) Several people also cited lack of benefits.

Along the lines of pay/compensation, flat/fixed bids are also an issue. It’s up to the individual and/or company, but unless limitations of the bid are clearly laid out ahead of time, it can quickly become a runaway process. Limiting number of revisions and time, as well as clear communication seem to be the suggested remedies for this problem.

Communication in general is something that can help everyone in client situations. A lot of people are working direct for clients. Often times, the clients just aren’t that familiar (if at all) with the process of motion design/vfx/post. It’s up to us to educate them. In the long run, this could fix a lot of things.

There’s not much we can really do for our fellow VFX professionals directly. But we can continue to show them support. Just browse the transcript below. That’s a lot of green there.

 

Transcript:

Welcome to #MoChat everyone! Tonight we’ll be talking about #VFXprotest and how if affects the motion design industry.9:00 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : Welcome to #MoChat everyone! Tonight we’ll be talking about #VFXprotest and how if affects the motion design industry.9:01 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : Welcome to #MoChat everyone! Tonight we’ll be talking about #VFXprotest and how if affects the motion design industry.9:01 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

For those new to #MoChat, general details are here: http://t.co/Wy6Go0NP7j9:01 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Most important thing it to remember the #mochat hashtag. If you’re on http://t.co/JP3pAlqeDL it will add it for you automatically.9:01 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Also, if you wish to make something known anonymously, DM us or email mochat.com (This will be confidential.) #mochat9:02 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

To start things off, how long have you know about the problems facing the #VFX industry? #mochat9:03 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’ve known about general issues for quite some time, mostly through . Saw it come to a head at the oscars. #mochat9:05 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’ve been following the simmering for a while, mostly through VES and IATSE releases. #moChat9:05 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Did either have much to say after the Oscars other than “let’s sit down & talk”? #mochat9:06 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

frankly, I think it mirrors what the video game industry has been dealing with for some time. Rememeber “EA spouse”? #mochat9:06 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

And if you’re unfamiliar with #VFXprotest, read the hashtag. Lots of good links. #mochat9:07 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

That was a telling article. And a view/experience shared by many #VFX and motion design spouses, too. #mochat9:07 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

One of the first things I was aware of was the Meteor Films bankruptcy in 2008. Then Lee Stranahan’s Open Letter … #mochat9:08 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

(If you have them handy, feel free to share links you’ve read as well. #mochat)9:09 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

same here. Lee’s letter and from various friends working in VFX #mochat9:10 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

: See Also: http://t.co/Y6Lmsr0BRu for comprehensive coverage of this past weeks events.” #mochat9:10 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Not really. VES called for more subsides and IATSE put out the rally cry for union cards. #moChat9:11 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Some complaints in #vfxprotest are unpaid overtime, lack of benefits, worker misclassification… Have you experienced these? #mochat9:11 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Subsidies are also a problem in #VFX, but aren’t prevalent in the motion design industry since it’s mostly commercial. #mochat9:12 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

This is a good read- Site in general is good as well: http://t.co/822MOInMNQ #mochat9:12 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

: Yep. It’s here if anyone wants to track it back. http://t.co/MfBTfaRkKX#mochat9:13 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Fortunate in my freelance that I’ve been avoiding those… except misclassification. Though it was mutually beneficial. #mochat9:14 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

good evening all #mochat9:15 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

What exactly is the problem with subsidies? If a company like ILM set up a studio in australia, how would that effect the industry? #Mochat9:15 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Unpaid overtime is incredibly common. #mochat But it’s important to understand exempt and non-exempt status, too.9:16 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It unnaturally lowers expectations on prices for #VFX. #mochat9:16 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’ve always operated under a ‘work until it’s done’ mentality, with a flat rate I’ve been in trouble a LOT for it.. #mochat9:16 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

is it a matter of time before it gets bad for mograph? Seems there way more demand for it than VFX #mochat9:16 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

evening duder #mochat9:17 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

And that varies state-by-state, right? #mochat9:17 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

EA eventually had to go to court I think… I still see friends that work there (im on orlando) and they insist its changed #mochat9:17 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

MF long time no see 8) #mochat9:17 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

speaking generally now, my observation about game companies is that they have a manageable core team, then ramp up/down per project. #mochat9:18 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Yes and no, it all depends on whether or not you’re a contractor, agent, or full time employee. #moChat9:18 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It was pretty bad already when I had to stop working- I would say the ‘crowd sourcing’ thing was a big issue #mochat9:18 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

KCRW’s The Business did an excellent job of explaining how subsidies work and other #VFX problems #mochat http://t.co/EBbzT5ePLY9:19 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

i think vfx companies will follow suit… (even) smaller core teams. more contract work… [more] #mochat9:19 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

This is the closest I can find to our field. And it doesn’t match. http://t.co/tFqrEU18yF #mochat9:20 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’d say lack of overtime is a systemic problem throughout #motiondesign Contributes to budget problems and overwork #mochat9:20 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

mograph is no doubt next . Lately mograph has been moving more in the #vfx world #mochat9:20 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Fixed bids can also be a problem. Though they don’t tend to run away as much in motion design as #VFX. #mochat9:21 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

[cont’d] the small shops have to be smarter about business and talent… I don’t think unions are answer… #mochat9:22 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I think what separates mograph is smaller projects, though. #mochat9:22 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

That has nothing to do with us. Unless you are a manager, you should be non-exempt. #mochat9:22 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Unions are enticing, but unless something can be enacted world-wide, it would be counterproductive, I think. #mochat9:22 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It’s the skills/responsibilities tests that make it tricky. Is #moGraph/#VFX computer or art? Etc etc. #mochat9:23 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

give it time … Clients are always pushing for fixed prices #mochat9:23 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

That list is pretty specific. If you’re at a studio, you should be an employee, and non-exempt. #mochat9:23 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

primary studios (the big ones that are close to the editorial….) need to do deals that allow for cash flow and a cut of profits… #mochat9:24 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Gov’t subsidies reduce the budget. Studios then expect that price everywhere. #mochat9:24 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

agree. unions are bad for busniess…#mochat9:24 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

But they do seem to work in every other film job. It’s just that #VFX can be done outside the confines of hollywood. #mochat9:25 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Even if you’re there for two days. #mochat9:25 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I don’t think unions are bad. Just not the entire answer for #vfxprotest. #mochat9:26 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

unnatural because the gov’t is interfering in the free market. #mochat9:26 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Yep. If you’re in their space on their gear, the IRS would consider you an employee. #mochat9:26 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

but the large group jobs that have 3d, mograph, etc, clients like flat rates and it sucks #mochat9:26 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Has to do with employee / employer relationship. If someone is telling you what to do & how, you are their employee. #mochat9:26 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I have never SEEN a req or listing for a salaried, non-exempt position. In any industry. #moChat9:27 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

nothing like goin back to the client to beg for more cash and having them rip you apart #mochat9:27 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It shouldn’t be flat. It should be a range with clearly specified overages. #mochat9:27 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

We have to retrain clients. And get better contracts. #mochat9:28 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

and I agree the budgets for these should be flexible especially for revisions and OT #mochat9:28 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Now time to check in on #MoChat 😍9:28 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’m working on a fixed-bid project now. But limitations of that bid were clearly laid out. And I got 50% up front. #mochat9:29 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

“and get better contracts” you mean negotiate better…#mochat9:29 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

…we don’t get what we deserve, we get what we negotiate! #mochat9:30 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Point is, a lot of “contract” work is should actually be hourly-pay employee work. #mochat9:30 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

The Creep™ has already started. Flat bids and impossible deadlines are already a part of it. #moChat9:31 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Exactly. But clients need to see benefits for them in contracts. #mochat9:31 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Absolutely. #moChat9:31 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

i hate that the word contract begins with the word CON. #mochat9:31 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Then you tell the clients up front that the deadlines don’t work. #mochat9:31 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : i hate that the word contract begins with the word CON. #Mochat9:32 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

We’ve become too afraid of pushing back. #mochat9:32 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

mans got a point … Too bad I don’t negotiate my jobs 🙁 #mochat9:32 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Sometimes it’s as simple as adjusting expectations & clearly communicating why. #mochat9:33 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

My theory is that if every studio classified workers correctly and paid overtime, we’d have a lot better job management. #mochat9:33 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

again, comes down to us/small mograph houses having self respect. Everyone’s so afraid it seems #mochat9:33 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

If we had better job management on the studio side, we’d have better profits and healthier companies. #mochat9:33 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Unfortunately, ‘protract’ isn’t something good in our line of work either. #mochat9:33 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

And better expectations on what #VFX or design actually costs. #mochat9:34 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Sometimes it’s a case of take-this-job-to-pay-the-labour-overages-on-the-last-job. #moChat9:34 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Mograph studios aren’t live R&H or DD but they are constantly opening / closing. #mochat9:34 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

i’ve been using the same “agreement” for years… I modeled it off the graphic artist’s guild handbook…#mochat9:34 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

And we shouldn’t be. It’s often naivety, not maliciousness that leads to problems. That can be fixed. #mochat9:35 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Studios and freelancers alike are afraid of losing their clients. #mochat9:35 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I refuse flat bids. If no one does them then they don’t exist. But theres always some shmuck that does #mochat9:35 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

ABSOLUTELY. #mochat9:35 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

And that’s one of the other problems of #VFX. And a bad trap to fall into. #mochat9:35 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Eliminate flat rates/bids and you eliminate contract overages. #mochat9:37 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It doesn’t have to be flat-out rejection. But rather communicating limitations & managing expectations. #mochat9:37 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

flat bids you mean the same as a “flat rate”? #mochat9:37 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I <3 that idea. But unfortunately to get the work a lot of us accept crazy deadlines. (I have.) #mochat9:37 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : And better expectations on what #VFX or design actually costs. #mochat9:37 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Sometimes that happens. But when it does, communication needs to happen with the client. It often doesn’t. #mochat9:38 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

great contract and pricing resource: https://t.co/RLt1FOqjkj #mochat9:38 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Have any of you worked at a studio (not direct for client on flat-bid) where you’ve been denied overtime? #mochat9:39 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’m seeing a lot of green avatars. Does #vfxprotest resonate with Motion Designers? #mochat9:39 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I don’t do much freelance anymore. But I should pick that up. #mochat9:39 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : I’m seeing a lot of green avatars. Does #vfxprotest resonate with Motion Designers? #mochat9:40 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I think it absolutely does. We’re part of the same family. #mochat9:40 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : I’m seeing a lot of green avatars. Does #vfxprotest resonate with Motion Designers? #mochat9:40 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I think many of us.. no matter the job have been denied overtime. I’ve eaten hours before, #bittertaste #mochat9:40 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It does. A lot of similarities in our jobs. Just at different scales. #mochat9:40 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

i used a modified contract from there for my company.. got thru disney legal in 1 day!!! #mochat9:41 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Impressive! #mochat9:41 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

but its hard to bill for #vfx … You can’t anticipate changes, comments & revisions. Also good luck w/ change orders #mochat9:41 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’ve had that experience as a contractor and refused to work with that studio again. #mochat9:41 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Yup. I always minimize scope of work to account for any budget or schedule issues. That’s thing to change #mochat9:42 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I don’t claim to have all answers, but building in a set amount of revisions/COs would help. #mochat9:42 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

absolutely but then again I walk the fine line between #vfx and mograph artist #mochat9:42 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Mograph has come to encompass everything from traditional animation to high-end VFX. #mochat9:43 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

BEST thing I’ve ever learned for a contract: “Copyright contingent on payment in full. Use of any kind constitutes acceptance.” #mochat9:43 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

and this is where the model fails … The billing and bidding process is a nightmare … NO ONE HAS THE ANSWERS #mochat9:43 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Do you see the state of #VFX as a mirror ball of sorts into motion design? Or is that too far off? #mochat9:44 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Dave Rand keeps advocating a cost-plus model. Anyone use that? #mochat9:45 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I think it can get there, unfortunately. #mochat9:45 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

well like said #vfx and mograph artists share the same job requirements … The knowledge base is almost identical #mochat9:45 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

people have to be smarter about business. they don’t teach a business class at art school… #mochat9:45 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I think a lot of artists go freelance so that even if they do overtime, it’s on their own dime. Easier to say no or justify. #mochat9:46 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

That’s come up in a few other #mochat‘s as well. It should be a requirement. #mochat9:46 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

glad to share my contract if anyone wants it #mochat9:46 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : glad to share my contract if anyone wants it #mochat9:47 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

And I’m talking more about mograph and designers here as opposed to VFX artists. Obviously freelance VFX artists a different case #mochat9:47 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Oh yes please, I’d like to have a look at it.. #mochat9:47 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Isn’t nearly every VFX artist a freelancer? #mochat9:48 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I’d like to be able to take a look at it. #mochat9:48 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I think it’s a matter of time before we see some adverse effects #mochat9:49 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

basically you charge for all expenses plus a % for profit: http://t.co/J28o1CoamW instead of a fixed-bid #mochat9:49 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

let me dig it up… i will post link soon.. #mochat9:49 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

More great contract wisdom here: http://t.co/W7LERpOkq4 from #moChat #fuckYouPayMe9:50 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

// would love to see it #mochat9:50 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I feel that would be really hard to to in most mograph. #mochat9:50 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I certainly walked away from working with studios bc of the time pressures. Better to be independent. #mochat9:50 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

“Race to the Bottom” is a phrase that #VFXprotest has seen a lot lately. I see the #moGraph world driving the same car. #moChat9:51 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

out of curiosity, how many of you in studio & are in freelance (primarily?) #mochat9:52 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Advertising/agency/post in general is in a race to the bottom. #mochat9:52 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Argument is that we do custom “construction” and in most cases follow client orders to the T. We can make … #mochat9:52 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It’s a relatively new industry. Many newcomers see it as a quick & easy way to make $ & overlook many important issues going on. #mochat9:52 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

begins & ends with informing client how long something takes & being clear on expectations, tempering if need be #mochat9:52 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

… anything. At least that way labor costs and profit (covering overhead) are on client’s dime. #mochat9:53 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

It’s the “plus” part that’s hard. I mostly work on ads. Those don’t see profit. #mochat9:54 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I was in studios but on contract, not employed. #mochat9:54 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

same can be said for #VFX industry- most things involving tech are that way. #mochat9:55 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

sounds amazing … Now would it work in reality? #mochat9:55 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

definitely! Simple economics, really #mochat9:55 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : Advertising/agency/post in general is in a race to the bottom. #mochat9:55 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Same here- did you also find there always seemed to be a dangling carrot of better bids/income just over the horizon? #mochat9:57 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

#mochat I think it is easier to manage these problems when you are a freelancer having your own clients – trouble comes with studio work9:57 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

New-ish. Many companies have existed for 10+ years now, too. #mochat9:57 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Sometimes yes, but mostly not. I was lucky to work with really great people. #mochat9:57 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

hah, true enough.. #mochat9:57 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I would normally see that from the studio’s clients. #mochat9:57 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

In the last minutes of #mochat, do you have any words of encouragement for #vfxprotest?9:58 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Oh, on a side note- I would recommend everyone look into how the comic book industry has dealt/is dealing with this kind of thing #mochat9:59 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : #mochat I think it is easier to manage these problems when you are a freelancer having your own clients – trouble comes with studio work9:59 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Always just about to come in… right after this next project. #moChat9:59 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

there are many older industries that are still having issues with creator rights/artist pay/everything that we’re talking about #mochat10:00 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

MT : VFX sees much more feature demand. The momentum of American cinema is more deadly than anything we face. #mochat10:00 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Know that you have the support & encouragement of so many of us! #mochat10:01 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Yup, the leverage shifts. #mochat10:01 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Got a good overview? #mochat10:02 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : Know that you have the support & encouragement of so many of us! #mochat10:02 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

heh- yep.. we’re about to sign off on a great new thing.. just give us until next quarter.. #mochat10:02 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

That just about does it for tonight’s #mochat on #vfxprotest. Any last comments?10:02 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

YES! And Fuuuuuuuuuuu I’m late 🙁 #mochat10:02 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Literally just decided to join in on #mochat. And now it ends… Haha my life story…..10:03 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

I would note that Nickelodeon CG just organized and that is also a possibility for any motion design studio as well. #mochat10:03 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

http://t.co/olYqJwPgpH check out this one #mochat10:03 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Be the artists you want to be recognized as. The most powerful ammo for your cause is your own excellent work. #mochat10:04 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

: I build PSA’s. I’m thankful for the opportunity and hair loss, a beautiful end result and the next gig. #vfxprotest#mochat10:04 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Designers need to learn to say no. There are clients willing to pay fair. Know what your time is worth and stick to it. #mochat10:05 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

i will post a link to my sample agreement soon. watch the #mochat tag10:05 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Thanks for coming out everyone. Please keep this conversation going. It’s an important one. #mochat #vfxprotest10:05 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

As always, #GoMakeSomething… and hug a #VFX artist. #mochat #vfxprotest10:06 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

thanks again for hosting! I’m still getting used to the format- was good talking #mochat10:06 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

: Don’t let up, keep the pressure on and continue making noise. You are surrounded by supporters!” #mochat10:07 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

thanks! #mochat10:07 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : i will post a link to my sample agreement soon. watch the #mochat tag #woot thanks #mochat10:07 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

Wanted to share this w/ #mochat from “Our jobs will never be outsourced. We’re artists and clients need to interact with us.”10:07 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013

RT : As always, #GoMakeSomething… and hug a #VFX artist. #mochat #vfxprotest10:08 PM EST Mar 5th, 2013