U.K. Screen Association Cries Foul Over Visual Effects Industry Petition

The trade association for U.K.-based VFX companies is asking BECTU to revise its VFX Working Time Charter.

The U.K. Screen Association -- which represents UK-based visual effects companies --  issued a letter of complaint to the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) in response to survey data published as part of its VFX Working Time Charter. It is asking the Union to withdraw and correct the Charter.

The Charter petitions U.K. Screen member companies to maintain employers standards, saying that "for too many, working in the VFX industry can be a draining experience, with long, unpredictable hours and insecure contracts." It calls on association members to support voluntary and paid overtime, statutory rights to daily and weekly rest breaks, the right to representation and related conditions.

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U.K. Screen's complaints are centered around what it claims is “rewording of survey questions in the reported output and the Union's inability to identify the source of respondents.”

In a letter to general secretary Gerry Morrissey, U.K. Screen CEO Sarah Mackey wrote, “Your survey contains no identifier questions and was promoted and distributed via a global social media site. As a result you can have no firm evidence as the source of your respondents, whether they are of UK or ex-UK origin, and whether they work in film, television, commercials, corporate or games VFX. Despite this you present the data as if it relates to the UK sector and, more specifically, to film VFX houses.”

She wrote:

--“In presenting your outputs the three original questions have been reworded, hence ‘Do you know VFX artists who have left the industry due to insecurity and/or workloads’ is reported as ‘77% of people know someone who has recently left the industry because they couldn’t keep up with the workloads, overtime and poor working conditions.’ ”

--“‘Have you ever been pressured by managers or supervisors to work longer hours for free?’ is reported as ‘81% of people have felt pressured or bullied into working overtime for free on films.’”

--‘How difficult do you think it is for people with children or caring responsibilities to make a successful career in VFX?’ is transposed into ‘83% of people said it was difficult or very difficult to raise a family while working in VFX’.‘

Said Mackey: “Although I understand that BECTU needs to grow its membership it should not do so at the expense of fairness and accuracy. This kind of messaging can be very damaging the UK film industry and the VFX sector.”

The conditions under which visual effects artists work has been a contentious subject in Hollywood and around the world, and has been the subject of many meetings, rallys and other initiatives this past year. A rally is being planned to take place Oscar Sunday on Hollywood Blvd.; a rally was also held on that day a year ago.

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA