In a groundbreaking move, over 50 on-set Visual Effects (VFX) workers at Marvel have voted to unionize under the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). This monumental decision comes in response to an industry plagued by unsustainable working conditions despite its critical importance to the entertainment sector. Today, we delve into the voices of these workers and organizers as they shed light on the pressing need for change in the VFX world.
The Struggle of Unsustainability:
Marvel’s VFX workforce describes an industry grappling with overwhelming demand, a challenge exacerbated by the surge in VFX-heavy TV shows with extended runtimes. This shift has resulted in a staggering workload increase, where tasks comparable to a 90-minute film are being crammed into 10-hour features within the same, or even shorter, timeframes. Mark Patch, a VFX organizer who contributed to Disney’s WandaVision, emphasizes the strain: “You’re doing 10 times the amount of work within the same…period of time.”
Quality vs. Quantity:
As streaming platforms like Disney+ introduce an array of new content, VFX workers find themselves stretched to the limit. Alex Torres, a Marvel’s Runaways contributor, notes that the visual effects workforce is thinly spread, leading to production delays and a conveyor belt-like approach to projects. This transition has altered the artistic process, emphasizing speed over the careful consideration each project deserves. Gabrielle Levesque, who has worked on various Marvel projects, describes it as “the McDonald’s of content.”
The Toll on Wellbeing:
The strain on VFX workers’ wellbeing is evident as they recount tales of grueling schedules and burnout. The intensity of the workload often forces these professionals into 18-hour days, leaving them with little to no time off for months. The absence of sustainable work hours and overtime compensation has prompted a shortage of VFX artists globally, amplifying the urgency for change.
A Push for Unionization:
Driven by the desire for fair treatment and sustainability, Marvel’s VFX workers are seeking refuge under IATSE’s Basic Agreement. This comprehensive agreement covers critical aspects such as minimum wage, pension, health care, meal penalties, and turnaround protections. According to Mark Patch, without these protections, “our lives are ultimately unsustainable.” The unionization effort aims to amplify VFX workers’ voices and address long-standing issues that have persisted for half a century.
Parallel Movements in Hollywood:
Marvel’s VFX workers’ push for unionization coincides with larger industry movements, including strikes by the Writer’s Guild of America and the Screen Actor’s Guild. These workers consider themselves part of a broader movement, recognizing the need for collective action to bring about significant change. The unionization movement reflects a growing fire for reform that has erupted like a bomb within the VFX community.
The decision of Marvel’s VFX workers to unionize marks a historic turning point in the industry, shedding light on the unsustainable practices that have persisted for decades. These dedicated professionals, driven by passion and a desire for fair treatment, are paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable future in the realm of visual effects. As Hollywood witnesses a wave of unionization and calls for change, the impact on both the industry and the quality of content we enjoy is poised to be transformative.