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).
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?
- SICK DAYS
Do you pay sick days?
- DEMO REELS
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.
- WORK FLOW
What is my role in the daily work-flow? How do I fit in with my assigned shot? Who do I report to?
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?
- PROBATIONARY PERIOD
How long is the probationary period?
- PAY 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.
- PERFORMANCE REVIEW
How often do you provide a performance review? Is there a formal policy in place for advancement and pay increases?
- Have you seen my IMDB page?
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: