With lots of attention on the current writer’s and actor’s unions striking for better working conditions and better pay, other divisions within the film industry are also looking to get a better deal from the studios. Marvel’s visual effects teams have come under lots of scrutiny in the past few years, as Marvel Studios has drastically increased the number of projects it’s been making for theatrical and Disney+. This has led to lots of discussion about how the Visual Effects crews working on major blockbuster films have been pushed to their limits, resulting in working lots of overtime and often being underpaid.
This is why the Visual Effects Crews at Marvel Studios have filed for a unionization election with the National Labor Relations Board, Monday. This move signals a major shift in an industry that has largely remained non-union since VFX was pioneered during the production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s. A supermajority of Marvel’s more than 50-worker crew had signed authorization cards indicating they wished to be represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
This marks the first time VFX professionals have joined together to demand the same rights and protections as their unionized colleagues in the film industry.
Mark Patch, VFX Organizer for IATSE, said in a statement:
“For almost half a century, workers in the visual effects industry have been denied the same protections and benefits their coworkers and crewmates have relied upon since the beginning of the Hollywood film industry. This is a historic first step for VFX workers coming together with a collective voice demanding respect for the work we do.”
While positions like Production Designers/Art Directors, Camera Operators, Sound, Editors, Hair and Makeup Artists, Costumes / Wardrobe, Script Supervisors, Grips, Lighting, Props, and Paint, among others, have historically been represented by IATSE in motion picture and television, workers in VFX classifications historically have not.
Bella Huffman, VFX Coordinator, added:
“Turnaround times don’t apply to us, protected hours don’t apply to us, and pay equity doesn’t apply to us. Visual Effects must become a sustainable and safe department for everyone who’s suffered far too long and for all newcomers who need to know they won’t be exploited.”
IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb added:
“We are witnessing an unprecedented wave of solidarity that’s breaking down old barriers in the industry and proving we’re all in this fight together. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Entertainment workers everywhere are sticking up for each other’s rights, that’s what our movement is all about. I congratulate these workers on taking this important step and using their collective voice.”
Disney executives, including CEO Bob Iger and Marvel Studios President, have recently spoken out about how they will be pulling back on the amount of Marvel shows and films it is making for numerous reasons such as trying to save money, but also as superhero and franchise fatigue has begun to set in. But the push to create so many shows and films has pushed the Visual Effect crew to come together to ensure they are protected in the future.
What do you think of the Visual Effects crews forming a union? Let us know on social media!