Are you worth it?

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I'm going to go out on a limb and say, maybe. Unfortunately, the worth of an individual can be characteristically divided into several parts. Are you just starting your career? Are you almost done with it? Are you a staff artist? Freelance? Where do you live?

Over the years there's been a lot of talk about unionization, wage equality, the worth of an artist, and likewise, the worth of your health as one. Back in the day when I started VFXWages four years ago, I wanted to help equalize the payout for both artists and companies alike. It was a heady topic, a lot of people predicted I would fail. Of course, there were no unions that would take VFX. There was talk, but everyone can talk (Hey, remember VES 2.0?). There hasn't been true actual commitment to a cause similar to VFXWages. Why do I keep harping on this failed task? Well, because it was actually useful, and it could have made inroads into equality among artists irregardless of where they were in the world. Why did it fail? Well, several reasons, the biggest being time, and the second being money, neither of which I had sufficient quantity of.. All this talk about unions, they have the cash, they have the manpower, why haven't they created something like VFXWages? Does it go against their code of conduct? Seriously, I don't know. They have the people in their current union, they can poll their members, and they could technically pull it off. It wouldn't just help artists, it could have helped companies. Hell, the Animation Guild just recently posted off of Twitter that disclosing your wage wasn't illegal. I told everyone that when I started! The Anim Guild also polls it's members about wages, which is great.

I've heard countless stories from friends around the world at their respective companies regal me stories of junior employees earning 80-90% of what they make as seniors. This won't be able to sustain itself.  As an employer, would I rather hire a senior freelancer at $50/hr with 10+ years experience, or a junior at $40 with three years?  Who do you think will be better at the job? The economics of this industry trouble me. You can only get paid so much for doing the same job. Either you move on to a company that will pay you more (which has happened and is continuing to happen), ou increase your skillset and actually do more, or decide to chase the subsidy and job around the world, which many of my friends have done. On that note, if I was a good artist, and I charged the going rate for an artist of my experience level, I would be VERY competitive. I would continually be hired at my rate, and it would increase based on my experience.

This is not a US versus Canada versus India versus China problem. This is an internal problem. Students, don't bill $50/hr when you're not worth it. You might be able to get it now, but that gravy train will eventually come to an end. Be prepared. There is a level of hubris in the industry right now, with everyone taking advantage of the company. "Oh, I'm only here for this one show, I'm gonna milk it for all it's worth". The next year, that company is gone, and now you have to work at half that rate in town.

Companies may come and go, but your reputation and the price you put on it stay forever.


Hello Aruna,

Thanks for your mention. You contradicted yourself a bit by stating that the union doesn't do anything like VFX Wages, yet the Animation Guild holds an annual wage survey of our members. Currently, we're the local that houses the most vfx artists in our ranks. Our wage survey is open to all members .. Active, Honorable Withdrawal, Suspended, etc. If you've ever been a member, you can submit your information (

The IATSE is attempting to get vfx artists interested bringing unionization to the visual effects industry. The IATSE is ready to charter a new local for visual effects artists and workers. That local would be the one to maintain a website like the one you started.

Steve Kaplan
Organizer - The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE

Thanks Steve, I did mention the Animation Guild in the last sentence of the second paragraph, and I completely like that you're still doing that.. I wish (like many others, I'm sure) that it was greater than just members of the Anim Guild, but I can understand why. We'll see if anyone in VFX will pick up the torch.

Well, now that you mention it, could you get in touch with me regarding the vfxwages site? I've got some operational questions.

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This page contains a single entry by Aruna published on August 15, 2012 6:17 PM.

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