Dear VFX Soldier

Posted: February 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

Dear VFX Soldier:

I will be out at the Art Galley in Vancouver today joining VFX artists who are rallying in support of bringing awareness to the working conditions for VFX artists.

But I have to question your recent post. So this protest is all about film subsidies in British Columbia? I thought it was about rising up in solidarity for workers who are given no dignity or respect and are left without a pension and a paycheque, no health plan no support services for themselves and their families, working on product that generates billions of box-office dollars for the Studios (Warner Bros., Sony, etc) worldwide?

Abolishing film subsidies or even the leveling of the subsidy playing field will not result in shorter work days, overtime pay, health and retirement benefits.

Your film subsidy talking points are exaggerated and grossly oversimplify a complex issue. You continue to disproportionally target British Columbia thereby stirring up cross border animosity. Not everyone wants to work in Southern California. Its a global business.

– US domestic box office is routinely outstripped by foreign box office numbers.

– The $437 million dollar figure is not what it seems. Production companies have up to 30 months to claim a tax credit. At which time they may be claimed at anytime during that period. This budget figure is a guestimate based on what was booked, not claimed, and projected claims. I suggest you call the Finance Ministry for the analysis of the figures. Its not black and white, which is why it doesn’t fit nicely into a soundbite.

– VFX workers are not at a 60% subsidy rate. Labour performed by nonresident VFX artists is not eligible. If you live in Toronto or LA and come to Vancouver to work on a project your salary is not tax creditable.

– A WTO challenge will do nothing about tax incentives stateside

– A WTO challenge will take years in the courts and untold dollars lining the pockets of lawyers all for an unforeseeable outcome, a risky gambit.

– Columbia Tristar is owned by a giant Japanese corporation.

But I digress.

What is doable today tomorrow and next month is taking control of what you want your job to look like. Do you want healthcare, do you want overtime pay, do you want an indexed raise, do you want a credit? The WTO will not give you these. Only you can take action and organize yourselves to demand through collective bargaining what every other motion picture production worker, artist, technician, craftsperson has, a collective agreement.

Have fun today but bear in mind the public cares more about you as a person getting screwed out of healthcare and proper pay and the expensive movie tickets than tax credits in Louisiana, New York, London, Australia and yes British Columbia.

Together We Are Stronger

  1. drew says:

    You guys would not have a vfx industy if your government did not bribe los angeles studios to bring there work up there. Its that simple. Why would anyone travel 2,000 miles to make a movie for no reason? Free money.

    Why dont u send your canadian movies down here so we can make them? Oh wait, there hardly arent any, the films all come from los angeles. …

    Hows bc film doing since you guys are haveing a subsidy war between provinces? Its dead, why? Because subsidies or ‘bribes’ destroy business for the workers and throw the whole system out of wack.

    Thanks for nothing canada. You couldnt make it in show biz so you had to steal ours. You couldn’t inovate or do things smarter or better, you just used government funded bribes.

    Wait till they tell u they are moving your vfx facility to Montreal, or china.
    We didnt ask you guys to come along, you barged in and stole our buissness. Shame on you.

  2. S says:

    Yes it’s true that foreign workers are not eligible for the tax credit, but are you aware that the Canadian VFX Studios are having foreign workers sign documents stating they are residents in order to make the tax credit qualifications?

    Canadian VFX facilities are exploiting their workers just as much as US companies and violating labor laws in BC as well.

    The subsidies are just one issue. I don’t see this as an attack against Canada. We as artists do need to stand up. We also want to stand up for the companies we work for. We are tired of seeing our companies at the mercy of the big studios trying to force them to undercut their costs and take work at a loss. The studios bully the companies into doing work for free and complain when a change request is going to change the initial costs. Sorry but that was not budgeted for. There is no reason you should get that for free, but the usually they do.

  3. Anise says:

    I think the issue is more complex than is being discussed in these comments. My husband and I are involved in the animation industry in Vancouver, and we are affected by the same subsidies that is parcelled out to VFX studios.

    There are a few things worth noting:

    1. American cultural and economic imperialism has destroyed the Canadian entertainment industry. This is not something that happened a few years ago, this has been the situation for decades. Our entire entertainment infrastructure is owned by foreign conglomerates operating “branch plants” in Canada, making the production of Canadian film and television almost impossible.
    So, without this infrastructure we have to turn to American companies to hire our skilled workers. We do this by offering them incentives to do it here, and to hire British Columbian residents rather than import foreign workers.

    2. I have never seen any of my foreign or non-resident colleagues sign a resident document illegally. The laws are very strict and penalties are stiff for companies that try to defraud the tax incentives. Last time I checked, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident can apply for British Columbia residency after six months of living in the province, and this can not apply for anyone here on a work visa, period. I have friends who have trouble getting jobs in Vancouver animation studios because of their non-resident status, because the incentive is to hire British Columbians in entertainment.

    3. I agree that these incentives are terrible for the Canadian entertainment industry and spend a lot of my time advocating for Canadian created content at both the Provincial and Federal level, but that is the arena for Canadians to look at and scrutinize, not Americans.

    Lastly, the problems we face in this industry are not created by tax incentives or the “outsourcing” of entertainment jobs to Canada (I laugh at the term “outsourcing” to Canada, because America owns our economy, our culture, our politics and our disposable income with no representation). Our problems are created by a industry machine that works to separate and disenfranchise artists for a profitable bottom line. Our solution is simple, but difficult. We need to organise, demand fair wages, payment for overtime and fair contracts. I know people seem to think that “union” is a dirty word, but all the people who are getting their share in the entertainment industry are unionized, it’s time that we were too.

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