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This was originally an entry on VFXWages in January of 2010.. I've since uploaded it here, since it may get more relevant views. Some of this is specific to the former site, but the message is the same.
concerned for our own welfare. By looking into developing countries, we can anticipate where they might be going, and as a result, see what changes we can possibly make to compete.
Competition comes in many forms, but the predominant one that most of us are familiar with is the local competition. It's seldom that we up and move to entirely different countries, but when we do, we are competing with the local talent, which have a number of advantages over us.
1) Familiar and established relationship with companies
2) Solid base of operations
3) Understands local hourly and salary rates, and what to charge
4) Knows the local standard of living, what is necessary to live and get by
5) Work visas and permits unnecessary for employment
Some of these advantages will remain local advantages. Others, however, we can sway into our favor. One such way is understanding the rates of the region you are in. Through our wages system, you can specify which regions of the world you'd like to focus on. This is one small step in realizing your foreign worth. The much bigger step is settling on a price, not so much as just what you're worth, but also what you are capable of. Years of experience are generally the best way to determine what one can do in a production environment.
Many artists that start in the creative industries have no clue what they should be paid. This can have huge ramifications down the line, both on the employee and employer side. Employers can hire very junior artists for next to nothing, while said employee may work extremely hard to impress the employer for the next big thing. Established employees or contractors can do this very same thing, by charging more, delivering less quality work, or taking advantage of the employer by working longer hours to get a job done and billing more.
In reality, all these things happen frequently. What we aim to do here is help you, the artist, try and find the most appropriate rate for your professional years of experience and talent. The graphs that you see are culled from a plethora of artists, all professionals. As each year of experience increases, so does the hourly rate. You can use this information to tailor your job searches and interviews to the specific region and company. Keep in mind that asking for too high a rate may be detrimental to your career if you cannot deliver on the project. You may be able to bill for a large hourly contract rate now, but down the line, especially in this economy, employers are looking at how the talent can deliver more for less. If you are an established artist, it is much easier to ask for the same rate or more at a familiar company. If you're not an established artist, be prepared to hone and show off your skills in production, as that will be where your talent truly shines, and the rate you've asked for returns dividends for the employer. Professionals with years of experience know what their worth is, and can budget and deliver on time accordingly, while beginners are often not familiar with what it takes to complete a shot, and may spend more time working with it to achieve the correct result.
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.
Well, I don't even know where to start on this.. It's been quite a while since my last posting, and all sorts of stuff have been happening. I was on a little indie project called The Avengers, which came out last weekend and made $207 million. I had high hopes with Whedon directing, and I was no disappointed. Not too shabby. We'll see what it will do this weekend against some new weekend competition.
Some other big news was that IATSE was actually starting to follow through with organizing VFX. Head to VFXsoldier's site to read more, and there's always the Twitter option. I'm on Twitter as well, but I've been much less vocal than some of my other brethren in the industry, as I'm tied to Digital Domain, and don't talk much about the subject in general. There are other places to get union information, and this site doesn't have much to do with it. Instead, I try to still give you insight into the work that I'm doing and what it means to work as an artist in this industry.
Tupac at Coachella was a huge hit, and it showed that DD still has some chops in making jaws drop. There are other great things happening in the pipe, but I will have to share them later in the year! Because of Tupac, DDMG has rebounded, and is now at $7.79 as of today. You can see the spike, and I attribute it to the performance at Coachella.
After The Avengers I was tasked with helping out the team with G.I. Joe for a little while and then with Jack The Giant Killer (we're listed in IMDB as a vendor). While the movie has been pushed almost a year to March 2013 I will most likely not be on it for the remainder of this year.
Today is a short update, but there will more frequent updates in the near future!
As many of you are aware, Vancouver is having a wonderful boom for VFX jobs. This benefit is three-fold. Companies get cheaper labor (theoretically), artists get cooler films to work on, and students get a foot in the door. However, the reality is anything but.
I love Vancouver. I lived up there for six years, and I felt at home. Great weather (aside from the rain), easy access to outdoor amenities, and it was just a really great place for an international city that is still in North America, and easily accessible by Californian VFX artists. Making a decision to move up north is not a small feat, especially in this rough and tumble world of the quick buck, cheap labor, and inadequate contracts. Here's one reason to think twice.
Insane. The source for this is the NY Times, link located here. Why is this important? Well, thinking of where to live, and how much it will cost can significantly impact your quality of life. For families, it can be very tough to up and move, even to someplace within a couple hours flight.
Demographia, a property-affordability survey published by Illinois-based consultant Wendell Cox, estimates that median real-estate prices in Vancouver are 9.5 times median household income. Only Hong Kong and Sydney are less affordable by that measure. (New York comes in at 5.1.)
The Canadian Real Estate Association says the average house price in Canada in April was C$372,544, up 8% from last year. In Vancouver, it was more than twice that, at C$815,252, up 21% from a year ago.
Far more insidious is the impact housing unaffordability is having on employers and the broader economy.You hear stories of smart, young people leaving for jobs elsewhere. At the same time smart, young people from elsewhere aren't coming here for jobs. The price of real estate and cost of living are too high, while pay is simply too low relative to other parts of the country. Business in Vancouver, a local newsweekly, delves into the dilemma in its latest issue with the story "Home truths hurt talent search."