Claiming that “the entire visual effects industry now operates on race-to-the bottom conditions,” IATSE president Matt Loeb has extended “an open invitation to all members of the VFX community to offer assistance.” The offer comes in the wake of this month’s bankruptcy of ARC Productions in Toronto, and allegations that Nitrogen Studios didn’t pay overtime to animators on Sony’s recent release Sausage Party, which was shot in British Columbia.
The union says it has offered to work with former ARC employees “to help them with paperwork required by the government to claim a portion of unpaid wages,” and with the former employees of ARC and Nitrogen by “arranging a meeting with our legal counsel to determine if there is a process by which we can move forward.”
“Visual effects workers are in an untenable situation, and something’s gotta give,” Loeb said in a statement posted on the union’s website. “IATSE does not want to see this situation continue to go unchecked, so we urge those in the VFX community to contact us for support and assistance. These workers deserve better.”
The union says it’s been “working closely with VFX artists for years, many of whom have relayed stories of unnecessary hardship and unfair treatment in the workplace. Many VFX artists have voiced an interest in union representation, but due to a number of factors they have expressed — including the temporary nature of their work and its portability – standing up and uniting has been challenging.”
IATSE says it’s “familiar with the situation and is encouraging these workers to reach out and begin the conversation.”
The union is a bit late to the Sausage Party dispute, however, as Unifor Local 2000, a union representing media workers in British Columbia, recently filed a complaint with the B.C. Ministry of Labor’s Employment Standards Branch on behalf of the animators.
Nitrogen said the claims are without merit. “Our production adhered to all overtime laws and regulations, as well as our contractual obligations with our artists.”
Arc Productions, the studio behind the Thomas & Friends animated kids’ show, shut down its operations August 2. “We regret to inform you that Arc is experiencing significant financial difficulties and a liquidity crisis,” CEO Tom Murray wrote in a letter to his staff. “Despite the very best efforts of management to find a solution to this financial emergency, we have not been able to resolve this matter with our lender.”
Arc was formerly Starz Animation until it was bought by a group of Canadian investors in 2011.