Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Craft Meeting #5 -- Animation Directors, Animation Checkers

Last night the fifth and final craft meeting took place in TAG's meeting hall. There was a good turnout of animation directors and checkers, and the first order of business was a veteran animation director's concerns about today's L.A. cartoon industry:

... Being referred to as "sheet timers" has had, from producers, an ill effect on us: 1) knowledge and respect for the work that we actually do. 2) The salary/ wages that we are paid reflective of that lack of knowledge.

Our job title should have always been "Animation Director," since that is what we actually do. We do not and have never TIMED X-SHEETS! What we DO is DIRECT the animation by Slugging (which is actually the portion of our work that should be called "timing.") We then Direct the animation action ( characters, effects, camera moves ) by scribing them onto X-Sheets; this is Animation Direction NOT Sheet Timing.

I don't know what other studios are doing this but, Warners, Hasbro and Marvel have taken the slugging portion away from us.
We are now given an animatic that we did not slug, with X-Sheets already "read" based on that animatic. We are then required to "make- it-work. That means as we are filling out the sheets, Directing the animation, we are, at the same time, slugging.

Unless we are fortunate enough to be "on staff" at a Union Contract Studio, earning a reasonable wage, we are, instead, picking up freelance work. That freelance work, as I believe you know, in reference to the amount of footage one is given/handed, varies. This is understood. The problem is that we are still being paid the same $3.00 per foot average for the past, what?... 25-30 YEARS!!!

On another serious note: For the first time in my career ( since 1977 ) I was ineligible for continued MPHW coverage due to the increase from 300 hours to 400 hours in a given qualifying period. With my banked hours applied, I fell short by 52 hours. Had this new 400 hour increase not be instituted, I would still have my wonderful MPHW coverage. ...

I explained that

* Seven years ago during IA-AMPTP negotiations, the Animation Guild's position was that the 300 hour contribution requirement should be maintained, but the IA decided to go to 400 hours instead of adding premium payments. (Note: Premiums for MPIPHP Health coverage were introduced in the last contract negotiation.)

* The title "Sheet Timer" was negotiated in the 1970s. And I detest the classification title.

* Footage rates can be eliminated through a disavowal in the next contract negotiation, since they're not in the guild contract but something that the studios conjured out of thin air. ...

There was a lengthy discussion about footage rates, and whether they helped or hurt animation directors. I said that eliminating footage rates would probably raise freelance wages by a small amount and increase the number of contribution hours into the Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Plan. There were advocates for retaining footage rates, but more attendees appeared to be in favor of eliminating them and being paid the daily or weekly rate.

There were complaints about schedules, particularly freelance employees receiving 400 or 500 feet of work on Friday and being told "it needed to be in" by Monday.

There was a spirited back-and-forth about the use of animatics. And how animatics cut into timing directors' work. And how (in some cases) animatics eliminate timing directors' work altogether (and how studios often don't like the end-result of no timing, and then set about repairing the work by hiring ... animation directors). But whether or not animatics are useful and needed in the production process, it was generally conceded that studios like animatics, and they won't be going away.

SUMMARY OF SURVEYS

Median Timing Director Wage: $2198

Comments:

Schedules are most often too short -- pre-production pieces (board, design, etc.) are generally incomplete/inadequate -- mising info. -- little to no notes -- lack of informed people to answer questions!

Biggest issues working under TAG/IA contract: we wnat more money, more resonable schedules, and more job security.

Biggest issue under contract: Producers' wide discretion in firing.

Biggest issue: Raise footage rate and lower hourly rate used to convert footage to hours.

We need a footage minimum rate in the contract, subject to 2% increases.

Footage rates suck.

Freelance timing rate is unattractive to anyone talented enough to hire. Overtime is sometimes needed but never authorized.

Biggest issue: Footage rate should be $5 per foot with a 2% increase each year.

The time scheduled isn't really adequate but I make it work ...

The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, then continued another twenty minutes as people broke into small groups and continued talking.

Find a summary of all other craft meetings here.

2 comments:

Adam Kuhlman said...

I agree with all the conclusions .. its been along time with no changes.

Llyn Hunter said...

I really appreciate all the efforts the union and the participants have put into these craft meetings. My main area of interest is storyboards but we are all interconnected and it has been nice to be able to read everyone's concerns. It is a shame that those who manage us for the most part seem to have no real idea how we bring "animation" to life. Too often I suspect they think that computers are brains rather than the tools of those of us with the brains.

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