Today is International Privacy Data Day, and in light of the Sony cyberattack and a number of inquiries from concerned artists I thought revitalizing the blog with some information on personal privacy protection regulation in BC today would be relevant.

In Canada, all provinces are covered by the federal act, Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Canada), PIPEDA or their own version if they have one.

In British Columbia your work personal privacy data falls under the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), enacted in 2004. The regulations govern private sector companies and not-for-profit associations (including unions) on how they collect, use, and disclose your personal data.

The act defines personal information as: personal information about an individual that is collected, used, disclosed solely for the purposes reasonably required to establish, manage or terminate an employment relationship between the organization and that individual, but does not include personal information that is not about an individual’s employment.

-PIPA gives you the right to know why your data is being collected, used, and stored.

-PIPA requires your employer to tell you how your information is being used and to whom it has been disclosed.

-PIPA requires your employer to have personal information policies. Here’s an example of the iatse 891 policy

Your employer should inform you on who is responsible for handling privacy issues at your work, so that if you believe you privacy rights are being violated you can bring it to their attention. However if you are not satisfied with their response, you can contact the Office and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC. To review the matter:
(250) 387-5629

In these days of increasing cyber attacks, stories of salary sharing between non related organizations, etc. it’s advisable to be informed on your rights to privacy and how your information is being stored and used.

For more information you can check out the Guide to The Personal Information Protection Act .

VFX Town Hall on IATSE - Vancouver Edition

The PAL Studio Theatre is easily accessible by public transit. Skytrain or Canada line to Granville/Vancouver City Centre and hop bus #246, #247, #250, #251, #254 running along Georgia to West Vancouver on the northeast corner outside Pacific Centre Mall stop #61031. Get off at Cardero Street bus stop.

Pay parking is available, cheapest options are noted on the map.

Doors open at 6.30, the local industry panel starts at 7pm

In order to ensure the theatre is not over capacity please RSVP:

Image  —  Posted: June 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

VFX Town Hall on IATSE - Vancouver Edition

Image  —  Posted: June 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

In light of the latest news of artists going unpaid at New Breed I thought it would be a good idea to reblog this post. It’s about how we at IATSE 891 help protect the artists and technicians when a company defaults on payroll.


Reading about the Lumiere VFX artists going unpaid yet again, I found myself reflecting on how my union and the IATSE has dealt with delinquent employers, yes the movie business has many stories of unpaid bills! It brought to mind an experience with one such delinquent employer when I was the local’s business agent in 2004.

An independent production, they are always independents, (the Studio/AMPTP productions pay their bills), had rolled into town during a quieter period of activity and began prepping a “cops and robbers” movie, with box office actors attached. Everything was going smoothly.

Or so it seemed, until one Thursday afternoon after shooting had commenced, we started hearing from the crew that they had not received their paycheques. The Master Collective Agreement stipulates workers’ are to be paid weekly on Thursday and the paycheques are to ready and available by 4.00pm. Phone calls were made and assurances…

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Top Ten Questions to Ask the VFX/Animation Recruiter

The Vancouver Animation/VFX Steering Committee has been meeting regularly for the past several months advising on issues, helping guide the campaign. They review the experiences artists are reporting. Recently an artist complaint about holiday pay begged the question “what are you asking the recruiter when you they call you?”

Every job is different, but you can improve your contract by asking the right questions and getting the answers before signing.

The Steering Committee has come up with a list of their top 10 questions they ask when considering their next job.

 (Questions regarding Foreign Workers are not included they will require a separate posting).

  1. WAGES

What are they offering you on an hourly rate?

You need to be able to break down your day rate or weekly rate into an hourly as this is the number used to determine your overtime rate. Too often an artist will be told “We just work 8 hours a day”, when in fact good record keeping will show the opposite, that the artist is regularly working more than 8 hours a day. Hourly rates are uncomplicated and preferred.


How many hours per day do I work before being paid overtime? What is the rate that my overtime will be paid at? If I work on a statutory holiday what rate will I be paid?

Watch out for the Recruiter that asks: “What are your salary expectations?” or “What is your current salary?” before you’ve had a chance to ask the detailed questions on OT etc.; information you need to calculate what rate you are willing to take.

A good tactic is to “answer a question with a question”. For example: “What’s your current salary for this position?”, or “Could I just ask a few more details that I can use to guide my salary expectations for this offer?” or “My rate is negotiable, it depends on the needs of the show”. This usually steers the conversation to answering your questions before returning to the money.

     3.    VACATION PAY

Is the 4% vacation pay included in my rate?

Vacation pay is not used to determine your overtime rate of pay. If it is included multiply your hourly by 0.9615 to get an idea of your true hourly rate.


Does the company have a benefit package? How do I qualify?  Can I get a breakdown of what is included? When will benefits kick in? What is the cost to me, per person, per family?


Do you pay sick days?


What is your demo reel policy?

As a modeler you will need to show prospective employers your turn-tables, a compositor their breakdowns. Yet most companies will not give you the needed elements of exactly what they in turn want to see when they interview. Find out how to get samples of your work.  Do you get them as soon as the movie is released in the theatre? On DVD?  Online? Do you need to provide the media or will the company send you a hi-res QT files?

Most artists NEVER ask this important question. It is your calling card for your next job.


What is my role in the daily work-flow? How do I fit in with my assigned shot? Who do I report to?

  1. TERM

When is my start date? When is my end date?

Being hired on staff is rare these days. Make sure you are clear on the length of your contract. How much notice does the company give you if you’re laid off before your end date? How much notice will you be given if it is extended? How much notice are you required to give to terminate your contract? 


How long is the probationary period?


When does the pay period begin? How often is it, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly?

Don’t forget to ask when you can expect your first pay cheque if the start date of the job falls in the middle of a pay period.


How often do you provide a performance review? Is there a formal policy in place for advancement and pay increases?

  1. Have you seen my IMDB page?

Just kidding!

Signing a contract that clearly lays out the terms and conditions of your employment will go a long way to diffusing misunderstandings or those pesky payroll problems that can arise during the course of your work. Of course if the company doesn’t pay you (a la New Breed) or declares bankruptcy (Digital Domain, Rhythm & Hues) that’s another kettle of fish! At least you’ll have a contract to show the judge what you are owed.

Many of these questions are unnecessary when you have a union. The collective agreement provides the minimum terms, benefits and working conditions that you will be employed under.  However. even with a union, you still have the ability to negotiate your own personal contract with better rates based on your experience and demo reel. You just can’t undercut the union contract.

The first step to getting that union contract in place is signing a rep-card:









Aside  —  Posted: June 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Today marks one week since the inaugural meeting of the Vancouver VFX/Animation steering committee. The committee comprised of senior artists who work for 4 major companies located in Vancouver will remain anonymous at this time.  The meeting was very productive with a lot to go over on next steps of unionizing. The artists are united in their resolve to bring change for the betterment of everyone working in the industry. As the scope of their work expands, the committee will also expand to add additional members.

One of the items discussed was a “Q and A” post, questions from artists to the artists on the committee. The committee has started the ball rolling:

VFX/Animation Steering Committee Q & A:

Could you lay out in simple terms the longer-term strategy for signing rep cards?

Signing a rep card is the best thing we can do right now to improve our working conditions. The more that sign up, the better our chances. Rep cards are valid for 90 days once you sign up.

1. When you start a new job, sign a card.

2. If you’re still there after 90 days, sign again (don’t worry you’ll be sent a   reminder).

3. If you work somewhere else, sign again. (you might have 2 cards going at once, 1 from your old place still valid for 90 days and 1 from your new place now– that’s cool, just keep signing)

4. Go back to step 1

The best way to is to keep signing cards every 90 days and when you start a new job.

How does the union help me if I am already at a shop that treats me well?

 If you feel well treated today that’s great. But you have to fight to keep it that way. Right now, without a union, your employer sets the terms and conditions of your employment. They can change it all tomorrow if they feel like it. We’ve all seen good places get taken over with “management”. Or good places that go bust and suddenly stop your paychecks. With a union you have the protections of the negotiated contract and the benefit of legal advocacy. You will have a voice.

Don’t make the same mistake of waiting till things get real bad to act. By then it’s too late.

What would the union be able to do regarding the misclassification of artists as IT technicians and the effects of that on OT policy, etc., if any?

Did you know by B.C labour law you should be getting 1.5x after 8hrs!

How do companies get around this? By misclassifying you as IT technicians.

In a unionized shop where artists are working under a collective agreement with overtime calculated after 8 hours. The high technology clause of Employment Standards Act does not apply. Even if you are defined as a high tech professional you will still be in the bargaining unit and get overtime after 8.

How much is the total cost exactly when signing up?


Sign a rep card = $0

Until there is proper collective agreement in place, there are no dues collected.

In addition the initiation fees (usually $450) for organizing purposes are being 100 % waived.

When do I first start to pay dues and how often after that?

Only upon a successful first collective agreement are membership dues collected.

They are $320/year.

(Full payment prior to March 31 gets 10% discount, $288)

Can I cancel my membership if I want?

Yes, you can resign membership or take an honourable withdrawal which allows you to come back into membership at a later date.

What happens if I work at one union shop then go to one that isn’t? Do my union benefits or membership end?

As long as your membership dues are paid up, you remain a member regardless of where you are. You bank hours into your health benefits plan and they continue as long as there are hours in your bank. If these run out you may be able to self-pay to maintain coverage for a period of up to a year.

What happens if I return back to work at the union shop again? Do I have to sign up all over again?

If you have maintained your membership you do not need to rejoin, you are still a member. If you have taken an honourable withdrawal you would reinstate your membership.

What if I leave the country and then come back after a while? Do I have to sign up again?

Same as last question response.

If a facility organizes successfully with say for e.g. 60% of VFX artists voting for union representation, what happens to the other 40% of the people? Are they left “outside” or do they have to sign up afterward’s to benefit from results of any negotiations.

Yes they need to sign up.In a union shop members work before non-members.

Also to receive the benefits of the health and retirement plans you have to a member. In some instances, non-union artists may be “permitted” to work provided certain union requirements have been met.

What are the common scare tactics or “tricks” we might expect early on from employers that are against us organizing?

There are many tactics that a manager or supervisor may use to discourage you from joining a union. Some of these are:

Facility hires a new personnel director, who talks about “making changes” for the positive in the workplace, “we want to hear from you about any concerns and we will try to help you, it will take some time but we are listening, we’re all in this together”.

Suddenly they start paying proper overtime after 8 hours and improve conditions temporarily. “Management has decided that they want to treat you better.”

At this point they hope the interest in the union fades off and then they go back to their old ways again.

Management says the industry is highly competitive with low profit margins we simply can’t afford a union contract because we want to keep as many of you employed as possible. A union contract is a product of its time and the parties who are negotiating, it’s in everyone’s interest to keep the industry working.

Management will refer to the union in the third party, “big unions”, “union bosses” and misrepresent the union as not being in your best interests. “What do they know about VFX? They are just a technicians union.”

Jobs will be off-shored to China or India. And they can do this now too.


Got a question about unionizing for the Steering Committee? Email in confidence to 







You have the power to help!

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have a special request to ask of you today. I have been talking to VFX professionals, artists, and animators who are not regular users of twitter or Facebook. Some don’t even have a twitter account. This means that our message to unite vfx workers to get vfx power is being bypassed or lost in voluminous social media posts and tweets. We need to use as many forms of communication as possible to reach everyone.

So here is how you can help today, tomorrow, all week long. It simple. Just take a moment on your breaks or after work to direct message or email a colleague no matter where they reside or work. Ask them if they know about the campaign. They may have questions and are reluctant to ask ‘out loud’ and you can help. Send the link to the page that Senior VFX artist Dave Rand coordinated. Send the 3.14 pi video that shows a way to get respect and dignity, achieve health and retirement benefits.  And be sure to remind your colleagues to do the same, direct message and email their friends about the campaign. You can help build the movement for vfxpower today!

#vfxunite +#vfxunion = #vfxpower


IATSE Local 891 will be at the grand opening of CG Masters School of 3D Animation and Visual Effects, March 9, 10am – 4pm. The grand opening ceremony is at 11am followed by mini-classes, presentations, refreshments, door prizes and industry contacts.

We will have a table with representatives on hand to answer your questions about who we are, what we do, and how you can join.

The school is easily accessed by public transit on SkyTrain.

From Vancouver:

Get off at the New Westminster Station, walk out of the gate and turn left.  You’ll be in front of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.  The academy is 4 doors to the left. 

From Surrey or Burnaby/Coquitlam:

Get off at the New Westminster Station, take the escalator down, cross to the other side and take the escalator up.  Look up for Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory and the academy is 4 doors to the left.


Park underground at #800 – 888 Carnarvon Street.  It’s a mall built around the New Westminster Skytrain at 8th street & Carnarvon.  Take escalators or elevator up to the platform level (P6).  Look up for Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory, the academy is 4 doors to the left.

Looking forward to meeting you.

Be The Change, Break The Cycle

Posted: February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

Kudos to all the artists and supporters who made it out to the rally on Sunday in the cold rain of Vancouver and the clear skies of Los Angeles. It was a tremendous display of solidarity; vfx artists caring for one another to better their working lives.

The question now is have you reached the tipping point? Or was this a one off and everyone has gone back to work toiling away creating awesome shots, still no security or benefits, no dignity or respect. Are you going to let the cycle repeat itself? Because it will.

As I met with artists on Sunday, I heard comments like:

The studios and shops need to appreciate us.

My company treats me really good I don’t need a union.

It’s not the companies fault it’s the broken business model.

If I join the union I will lose my job.

The artists at Rhythm and Hues didn’t have a union but they still lost their jobs. I bet they aren’t feeling too appreciated now that they are owed their pay checks. It wasn’t their fault they worked for a “broken business model”. What would their situation look like right now if they had lost their job in a unionized shop?

This is how it works for US IATSE members who lose their job when a company or production folds.

It’s similar in Canada, different laws, but overall it’s the portability of benefits and the security of having the union at your back so you don’t have to fight alone for what is owed you. It’s about dignity and respect.

We all need to put food on the table, a roof over our heads, take the kids to daycare, none of this is free. Organized people = organized power aka leverage.

Now ask yourself do you want to be the change that breaks the cycle? You marched on Sunday with your colleagues, have you talked to your co-workers today? How are they feeling? How are your colleagues across town doing? Maybe you weren’t able to get to the rally, that doesn’t stop you from reaching out, getting together to talk to one and another about being the change to break the cycle.

Together We Are Stronger = #vfxunite = #vfxunion

For artists in Canada:


IATSE Local 891

Dusty Kelly



IATSE Local 667

Christian Lemay



Julia Neville


For artists in USA


Vanessa Holtgrewe


The Animation Guild

Steve Kaplan


Posted: February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

How to form an inside committee, isn’t it time?


Hopelessness, futility, and apathy can be combated through strategic organizing. No one union leader or organizer can wave a magic wand and unionize a workplace. The YOUnion is YOU, VFX artists and technicians, who have come together to improve your working lives and professions. You believe collective action will empower you to better
your socioeconomic conditions, you also believe that it will better broader society now and for the future. You know that this will be hard work but you are committed to your cause and shared values.

The union is the united voice of the workers at each workplace. You, the artists and technicians are the YOUnion. You own your campaign and the union you are building. We, IATSE Local 891, are here to help you achieve your vision. We cannot make promises or guarantees however we can assist your cause to have your voice heard through…

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