Endless Crunch

One of the areas many of us in the VFX industry have a hard time with is endless crunch. Bad production decisions tend to affect our lives the most. Thanks to California labor laws, at least here in California we are paid overtime at Sony, but once we are on a project, there’s nothing we can do to reduce hours when our employers demand that we work 6 or even 7 days a week, doing 12+ hr days with no end in sight.

As this is legal, in cases of being overworked indefinitely, we really need a way to make it prohibitive for companies to get away with indecision and poor planning that causes 8 month, 1 to even 2 year crunches to be the norm on projects. I hear people all around me coming off grueling projects, with previously approved vacations being forced to go directly into their next mismanaged, heavy overtime project. Companies operate in a state of panic, because there are no checks on this.
In addition to healthcare, savings plans, sick days etc, we really need help with this. Some people really do want to work long hours to earn as much as they can, but most people wish there was a way to make it prohibitive to have such long crunch time for a company so that they would be forced to hire more people or make better decisions up front. Once a show hits crunch these days, it rarely goes back down. Quota is set impossibly high and though contracts may be at will, how much choice do we have? Do we quit and forever close doors to a company that gets good projects and can employ many people or do we forego our health and lives?
These are some core issues. It makes for fertile ground to plant the seeds for unionization. Certainly this endless cycle must make you want for some kind of change in your favor? Talk to a Union rep. Ask the tough questions. Tell them what you want, then fill out a rep card and send it in so they can give it their best shot to negotiate a contract that we would want to sign with Imageworks.
The balance between the rights of workers and the needs of business is essential to creating sustainable practices. Burning out reduces the quality or work, increases costs and destroys a highly committed and skilled work force. So long as we think we are easily replaceable and unworthy of a voice, we will be. What do you think about endless crunch? What would you like to see happen?
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2 Responses to Endless Crunch

  1. Dave Rand says:

    The losses from this practice are so great for the studio, to us it’s clear, the emperor is not wearing any clothes. We become a un-enchanted marble in a funnel spinning wildly as it approaches the tiny escape at the bottom. One or both of two practices cause this, both if your creating content for others, one if it’s a studio creating content for itself…. those two variables are fixed bidding and creative hierarchies.

    It’s all a matter of taste and until the director directs the digital set with the same focus he had on the practical set the aimless waist piles up. This means being in the same breathing space as the artists walking among them, talking to them. This happens naturally on the practical set because everyone is getting paid by the second.

    Seeing everything, commenting on everything. Making decisions, keeping you from going past version 5. Directors have great imaginations actually…they don’t need to be fed their dailies from the black box.

    Unions don’t change this by themselves but when eyes begin to look upward for answers instead at the bottom of the totem pole, change happens from the lofty places where it needs to happen and everyone benefits and especially that bottom line….

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