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Animation and visual effects studios in crisis

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar20,2024

Animation and visual effects studios in crisis

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The decline in film production following last year's Hollywood strikes decimated animation and visual effects studios.

  • Olivier Bachand (View profile)Olivier Bachand

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Nearly 3,400 of the approximately 8,000 workers in Quebec's animation and visual effects studios lost their jobs between 2022 and 2023. A direct consequence of the strikes that paralyzed Hollywood and led to a slowdown in production cinematographic.

The fall is brutal for artisans in this sector, which was in full growth until 2022, with a turnover exceeding one billion dollars in Montreal alone.

The production of films and TV series, which had reached peaks in Hollywood, was reduced to nothing overnight following the walkout of the writers and actors, who ;is spread over several months last year.

The animation and visual effects studios were able to hold on for a while with the projects that were already underway, but the order book quickly dwindled.

Many employees therefore saw their contracts expire without being renewed, while awaiting the finalization of new American productions.

Olivier Bachand's report

At Cinesite, for example, the Montreal branch had 200 workers last summer. And at the end of the year, there were only 100 of us left. We lost half the staff in six months, says operations manager Graham Peddie.

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ELSE ON NEWS: Joly wanted to soften the motion on arms sales to Israel, according to the NPD -sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV”>According to employees we were able to speak to, job cuts were also very significant at DNEG, a company which notably produced the visual effects for the Dune films. by Denis Villeneuve.

At the end of a contract, the ax fell on Laura's (*fictitious name) team, which consisted of around 80 people.

There are just three people who were on my team who stayed and who were put on other films, so that, that was a pretty incredible big break.

A quote from Laura*, a DNEG employee who does not want to reveal her identity for fear of reprisals

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Laura* saw many colleagues lose their jobs at the Montreal studio DNEG, before being fired herself.

According to the Cinema and of Quebec television, 42% of workers in the sector lost their jobs between 2022 and 2023, their number increasing from 8,037 to 4,663 in one year.

Montreal was particularly affected, since the metropolis is home to the vast majority of the province's forty animation and visual effects studios.

To add to the difficulties, the Legault government cut by 35% a tax credit applicable to the salaries of workers in this industry in its last budget, which could further undermine the financial situation of the studios.< /p>

This does not take into account the possibility of new strikes in Hollywood, since other unions in the film industry must renew their collective agreements.

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The slowdown in the industry has pushed DNEG not only to reduce its staff, but also to demand significant concessions from its workers so that they keep their jobs.

Among the options proposed: a salary cut of 20 to 25% or even working three days per week instead of five.

François Schneider, a creative supervisor who has worked at DNEG for six years, has chosen to work part-time. I didn't like the idea of ​​working at a discount. And as I realized that I was capable of living on 60% of my salary, obviously not with the same standard of living, I chose that option.

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François Schneider accepted to work part-time rather than full-time to keep your job at DNEG's Montreal studio.

After eight years in the industry as a project manager, Laura* opposed the studio's demands.

I decided, according to my values ​​and my convictions and what I do in industry, to refuse this pay cut. I was fired.

A quote from Laura*, a DNEG employee who does not want to reveal her identity for fear of reprisals

I was asked to change jobs #x27;idea, but I didn't want to be a slave to the film industry, continues the young woman. DNEG, which has 10 studios around the world, including three in Canada, declined our request for an interview to explain.

Scalded by their employer's demands, the company's workers decided to form a union, a first for a Montreal visual effects studio.

Their colleagues in Vancouver have also joined a union and those in Toronto are awaiting certification.

Workers at a dozen other Canadian studios could follow suit, according to the International Alliance of Stage, Theater and Cinema Employees (AIEST), which represents DNEG employees. p>

Workers from other visual effects companies have contacted us and we hope this is just the beginning, because& #x27;They deserve representation as much as all other workers on audiovisual productions, says the representative of the Canadian office of AIEST, Isabelle Lecompte.

AIEST also welcomed visual effects and animation teams from Disney and Marvel into its fold last fall in the United States.

Large-scale unionization could cause a small revolution in this sector where workers negotiate their contracts and wages on a piece-rate basis and where there is sometimes strong pressure to work hours additional when it comes time to finalize a project.

Laura* talks about difficult working conditions. Working non-stop for 24 hours, being paid with a $10 fast food lunch that you were given, I often slept in the office, very common , she says.

François Schneider thinks that the arrival of a union will be beneficial. In the end, I see that this will allow us to have an industry that is a little better organized overall, a little more egalitarian, and above all, it will restore the balance of power in relation to customers.

According to him, the major Hollywood studios will put less pressure on animation and visual effects studios to reduce costs if the latter are not. The entire industry is unionized, knowing that salaries are agreed.

But Graham Peddie, of Cinesite, believes that Hollywood will turn to lower-cost options if North American artisans unionize. We are seeing the emergence of studios elsewhere in the world, such as in India and South Asia, he says, fearing a relocation of jobs.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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