Family Time?

I read a piece on Michelle Raimo Kouyate, President of Production for Sony Pictures Animation on womenworking.com. She speaks of her passion for work and the benefit of a work/life balance in making her even better at her job. This post is not meant to criticize Michelle. In fact I applaud her for maintaining a work/life balance. The point is that we who work on films at Sony Pictures Imageworks for SPA or otherwise should strive for and deserve no less.

How often do you cancel on cherished moments with your children or significant other for another impossible deadline set by people most of us will never meet? Many who have seen the changes in the last 15+ years in our industry can attest to ever lengthening crunch time on projects. Some argue that we should move on to other careers if we don’t want to work endlessly to the detriment of our health and family. I fully believe that executives at Sony should enjoy life outside work, with their families. I think it is important for all of us to enrich our lives outside of work. Often we don’t get that opportunity as VFX artists.

Every twice unfinaled shot, every understaffed, underbid, over delayed project keeps us from watching our children grow and keeps us from precious moments with our loved ones. Does it really need to be that way? If the President of Production can have such a balance, can we not, as compassionate human beings who love the work we do, and love our families, come to a more equitable solution, where projects can be planned at least well enough to keep from going into crunch for a year at a time? I don’t know about you, but when my job forces me to miss out on a year of my daughter’s life or more, I think it’s plain wrong. How can I make a film for children and not spend any time with my own?

Besides this, how do I care for my family without health insurance, sick days or vacation days while working mandatory twelve hour days, six days a week for months on end? Is the value of my children or even myself less than others? I pose these questions, hoping to encourage discussion from people in all positions to think of the entire team involved in making these wonderful films and how it is vital for us to seek balance in work and life in order to continue doing the best work possible. For this to happen, we need the help of our production teams, executives, clients and our fellow workers.

I think we can work towards all of these goals, by organizing. It takes all of our efforts to make this happen. The leverage of collective bargaining can be used to work towards more reasonable safe guards against some of the most commonly recurring problems of poor planning that cause us to work endless hours. This is not a guarantee. It depends on the participation of SPI employees, who send in filled out rep cards and let the Union know what is important to them right away. You can keep waiting another decade to see if anyone will come and magically save the industry, or take a few minutes to fill out a rep card and start a dialogue where you can have a voice in making a difference.

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