F/x artists reach agreement with owners

More than 100 visual effects artists who did work for Meteor Studios, a Montreal-based effects house that went bankrupt in late 2007, have reached an agreement with the owners to get at least some of the back pay owed them. Meteor was owned jointly by Evergreen Digital and Discovery Trademark Holding Co, each holding 50% of the equity.

The 130 artists accepted a deal to receive C$590,000 ($544,000), or 70% of the money they say they were owed. Meteor closed down shortly after completing work on the Montreal-shot “Journey to the Center of the Earth” in 2007, and the artists were missing pay for their work on that pic.

The artists’ case was being handled by the Quebec government’s Labor Standards commission, which had earlier elicited two offers from the Meteor owners. Those offers — for 45% and 63% of the missing wages — were each rejected by the Meteor Employees Union, which was set up to rep the workers following the closure.

The Meteor case has become a symbol of the shaky standing of the vfx industry and vfx artists in particular. Vfx artists have no union or guild, and no Hollywood union has consented to represent them. Meanwhile, some vfx studios are in such bad financial shape, with current income used to pay off past debts, that one analyst has called the entire business “a Ponzi scheme.”

Dave Rand, a former Meteor artist who led the charge to recover funds for his co-workers, told Daily Variety: “After promising to pay the 130 people that worked without a paycheck for three months to deliver ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ the Discovery Channel and Evergreen Films shafted everyone and their families right before Christmas. Now, two years later, they offer us 70% of that pay. I wonder what the cost to them would have been had we walked off the job instead.”

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