Veteran visual effects artist Dave Rand appears to have started an industry-wide conversation with his open letter criticizing IATSE’s slow pace to unionize the vfx industry.
CG supervisor Joe Harkins, who works with Santa Monica-based vfx house Uncharted Territory, responded to Rand’s April 10 letter in his own missive to Variety and other media outlets April 19.
Where Rand and others insist union representation for vfx artists is essential, Harkins dismisses the idea, saying the visual effects industry needs to be protected from itself and not from the studios or its own employers.
Though Rand levied harsh complaints against IATSE, he thinks union representation will help secure critical benefits, including health insurance and retirement funds.
Harkins acknowledges in his letter that not all vfx workers now have such benefits, but he writes that a union could never work for the visual effects industry’s business model. “Our industry is international, and includes thousands of artists spread throughout the world. To come together, as one, with a common voice, would be near impossible.”
Rand argues the industry needs unionization precisely so workers travelling abroad can expect fair, prompt payment.
Harkins says that in lieu of a union, vfx artists need to brand themselves better to remain competitive, though he acknowledges that many are earning “whatever they can negotiate for themselves,” regardless of how cleverly they might advertise their services.
He argues the vfx industry created the paradigm in which it works, and that only the industry itself can solve these problems.