Checking Out of Hotel Transylvania

So if you’re working on Hotel Transylvania, you will be losing your job soon. We’ve heard about all the big things being bid on, none of that is going to materialize in the next 6 weeks. You need to prepare for the familiar dance vfx workers do at the end of shows:

File for unemployment

Make a mad rush to see doctors and dentists before your healthcare expires on your last day (Keep in mind we are lucky compared to many others in vfx, we actually get the option of healthcare)

Since most people can’t actually afford COBRA, cross your fingers and hope you or your loved ones don’t get sick.

Don’t bother trying to get health insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. (pregnancy counts as a pre-existing condition)

If/When you do get a job somewhere else, you’ll get to change doctors again and start all over explaining any long term health problems to a new doctor who accepts whatever insurance plan you’ll be on.

We encourage you to call the SPE Benefits Connection Service Center at 1 (866) 941-4SPE and ask them for your exact COBRA costs. These are the numbers we got from calling:

Sony Kaiser HMO – $725 + $45 Dental + $9 VSP per month

no children/single:

Sony Aetna or Anthem PPO – about $1100 per month

no children/married:

Sony Aetna or Anthem PPO – about $1300 per month

1+ child/married:

Sony Aetna or Anthem PPO – about $1600 per month

Looking forward to going through this again for Cloudy 2?

If Imageworks were union like Sony Pictures Animation, you would have 6 months of health coverage when you got layed off, plus you could draw from your bank of hours to extend that coverage for up to another year at no cost to you.

How many of us get perpetually hired for short gigs here and never cross the magic threshold of 6 months for a retirement account? Under a union you would also have had contributions made to your pension for retirement, instead of the $0 you got in the 401k you can’t participate in.

But wait, you’re staff, you don’t have to worry about layoffs right? You really think you’ll be working here forever? Really?

These are the benefits SPA already gets, funded from the residuals of the movies you made for them.


Update 6/18/2012:

25 Responses to Checking Out of Hotel Transylvania

  1. N says:

    Moving all production to Vancouver will help. You will never lose healthcare coverage and there are plenty of other studios to work at if you decide to leave SPI.

    • skaplan839 says:

      Really? Have you thought about the logistics of being moved to Vancouver and working up there? Your comment sounds a bit naive. You’ll have plenty to worry about. Your healthcare doesn’t start immediately, taxes are insane, cost of living is much higher and your wages will be lower (because of the exchange rate or bad negotiating skills).

      Here’s some good reading (be sure to go through the comments):

    • 839spi says:

      I will get right on it. Sell house at a loss, take children out of their school, leave all friends, tuck in ailing parents, and do all of that for a <2% pay bump. Then do the same drill again 5 months from now when I get layed off from smurfs2. Sounds like a plan! Where do I sign up?

      • N says:

        I actually left Vancouver 5 years ago and have moved a few times since. I have a wife and two kids. I would much rather return to Vancouver where I KNOW I have healthcare coverage for my family and dozens of studios to work at then bounce around California or Europe.

      • N says:

        PS. I’m an artist, current income is around $104k (both in US and CAD, exchange is on PAR). Pay rates I’ve seen in Vancouver have been competitive. Owning a home in Vancouver is prohibitively expensive but rental rates haven’t gone up. It’s only expensive if you have to own.

      • 839spi says:

        If you can pull it off, more power to you. There are opportunities all over the world for people that can be extremely mobile.

  2. ugh says:

    If they tell you that work is steady in Vancouver. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM! They told a lot of people in Van who came all over from Europe and LA. Most people on Hotel T are forced to go on “hiatus” or “leave of absence”, which means no pay, yet still “employed” by SPI. We get to keep the extended benefits: oh woopdie doo. As if I need dental and eye exams every month. Moral here in SPI vancouver isn’t low….it’s non-existent. If one is still pressured to move to Vancouver, then you only need to talk or write to the over one hundred bitter artists to give the low down.

    • 839spi says:

      Mr. or Ms. ugh- we would love to hear from some of those 100 bitter artists. Have them drop us an email. We’re sure we have much in common.

  3. OEM says:

    Having been a long term Vancouver CG artist I can tell you the reputation of Sony here is greatly diminished from where it was two years ago.

    The manner in which layoffs and rehiring was exercised between Smurfs and Hotel Transylvania left many artists bewildered and others pissed off.

    Sony is now known as Vancouver’s “hire-and-fire” house and nobody looks to them for stability or honesty. I think it would be a different story had they not made grand statements about the amount of continuing work in the pipe to so many which relocated to work there and then laid them off with no offers for the future.

    Even those moving on to Smurfs 2 and Cloudy 2 are rumoured to have a long lay off in between projects with no pay and instead are given hand outs on how to apply for unemployment. Apparently, they are being told they are still Sony employees and are simply on hiatus and must inform management if they take other work.

    The legalities of such a move are unclear. One would need to seek legal advice if that situation weren’t so absent of class and courtesy that it would make most simply walk away.

    I think Sony could be a great place to work but it seems that they are doing everything in their power to make it a shit-awful sweat shop. I can’t help but think that their hire-and-fire tactics will reap a talent base which is never building on previous success. Where artists never grow but instead are simply replaced with others which will have to be trained up and take what they learn elsewhere. Starting from scratch with a crew made up of unknowns seems like a very foolish business model to me and one would think, a tactic left to start up studios with no other choice.

  4. Anon says:

    If you intend to accept an offer from Sony, just understand they have no longterm plan to keep you. Sure, if they have work you might be good, but Sony has a track record of 5 or 6 month gaps. If you think for even a second that they will float you for those months, you are 100% wrong. Vancouver is perhaps THE most expensive city in North America. Even if you have healthcare covered, the OT money won’t cover your costs between gigs. You simply need to approach the job in a selfish way. Look out for yourself, get the best shots you can for your reel, and move on.

    There are a lot of great people working at Sony, but the problem is many of their supervisors aren’t great people. And even if there are managers trying to look out for your best interests, they are continually handcuffed by upper management. It’s a shame….

  5. joe says:

    I’m working on that turd above right now. There are some good and smart people here, but they are surrounded by clueless dipshits making the decisions. People around me are desperate to step on each other to try and be a lead. There’s a lot of talent , but its sad how mismanaged it is. You’re basically treated as disposable. There’s a sense of desperation in the air, no one knows what and who will be moved to Vancouver. It sounds like they have continued the same games up north too. Seems like this place will crash and burn under its own weight.

  6. Eric Rosenthal says:

    I’m rolling out of the Hotel T FX department next week. Overall, Sony is a good place to work, and aside from juggling my release date I’ve been treated pretty well.

    That being said I strongly recommend anyone who is on the fence about the Union to fill out the card. The Union Health insurance is amazing (this is common knowledge, ask anyone who’s had it). When I started at Sony I declined their health insurance since I didn’t want to have to change my crappy Kaiser policy.

    I did try the Dental Insurance at Sony. The problem with it is the Dental is with Aetna’s DMO. And EVERY Aetna dentist I googled within 5 miles of my house had terrible reviews. If you don’t believe me google Western Dental Santa Monica on Yelp, they are Aetna’s defaut dentist and have nothing but one star reviews.
    Bad dental work is scary!

    By the way Vanessa, if you’re reading this, Hi!


  7. anon2 says:

    I’m actually a TAG 839 member on honorary withdrawal. I declined Sony’s healthcare, and am using my TAG benefits while working for Imageworks. At first I thought it was sort of gaming the system, but it’s actually really convenient. This trick works well as long as you get out of Sony and back to a union house in 6 months.

    • skaplan839 says:

      Or longer. Depending on how long you worked your union job, and when you left in relation to your eligibility track, you could have more than a year before you’re out of the MPI plan. Feel free to contact me or MPI to find out.

      MPI: 818-769-0007


  8. I Love Pizza says:

    The Aetna HMO is terrible. The PPO wasn’t too bad, but it seem they like to hire everyone for just under 6 months so they don’t get access to the PPO, 401k, or paid sick days.

    Which, of course, everyone at spi would get, were we union.

  9. tooMuchCoffee says:

    My offer was for 5 months and 3 weeks, coincidentally just shy of the 6 months needed for participating in the benefits package. I’ll probably end up being extended by a few weeks, but that won’t count for qualifying. I worked on a 3 month show right before this one, so now I’m 9 months in, and still no benefits besides HMO.

    • TheCrusher says:

      Seems like this is their M.O. with the bulk of the production team on every show. Which also means we get to do 10-12 hour days from the very beginning of the contract to make up for the compressed time frame. At least it’s paid OT…

      If SPI goes union, would it affect production timelines at all? Any limits on OT? (Getting home at 9-10pm for 5 months sucks).

  10. Vancouver career fair attendee says:

    Regarding SPI Vancouver, I remember during the week of the last layoffs of MIB3 and the beginning of the layoffs of Spider Man, the morale-crushing facilities manager was setting up a booth at the Vancouver VFX Career fair. He had the audacity to ask all of us to volunteer and help out at the booth! So we were supposed to help the company that lied to us about long term work, laying us off, and recruit our cheaper replacements? I remember going to the career fair and seeing so many VFS students and Sony artists all looking for work, I was livid yet pitying Sony at the same time.

    When they asked us to help at the booth, it was the ultimate indicator how clueless and cold they are, and Sony is completely void of any business ethics. It is sad that so many artists now want their own shows to fail. These feelings are ever so more prevalent now.

  11. Billyshakes1492 says:

    VFX artists need to stand together as a group to voice our needs..dont let the studios/vfx houses divide us.. vfx houses have their own issue against the studios… if you cant own a home at 104k a year something is wrong in the world..

  12. OutOfTheHotel says:

    Truly a shame that the studio didn’t even get to have a vote before the MiB, Spiderman, and Hotel Transylvania crews were let go. To the people still there, don’t give up hope! Keep on trucking and sign your rep cards! There more you do this VFX-Job-Hunting dance the more you realize there is NO good reason not to go union. Same to the folks in Vancouver!

    Hope to see you guys back there soon.

  13. Fred Flintstone says:

    Pardon my french, vfx artists are pussies. And for now, I happen to be one of them. This plane called the vfx (and animation) industry is crashing, and I’m jumping out. You will have 3 stages to it; denial, anger, and acceptance. Just move on to acceptance and get out of this industry before you dig too large of a grave. Maya and various skills relating to vfx is garbage, and the credits you manage to earn (if you even get any) are on a project you have no ownership artistically. Stop making others money, and use your paycheck money to fund your way out. All we can hope for is a brain drain on the industry, and then we might be able to watch the companies fall apart slowly.

    • Eric Rosenthal says:

      I’m glad someone else said it – us VFX artists absolutely can be a bunch of pussies – I learned this 2 years ago when Motion Theory brought in the payroll company MBO partners to skim 4 % off our paychecks and everyone happily bent over and took the reaming. The sad irony is we work on stories about underdogs standing up to powerful evil forces but when confronted with a similar situation in real life we back down.
      (I managed to get myself “fired” from MBO which still amuses me 🙂 )

      However I do enjoy the work and the people in this industry and don’t agree with your plane crashing analogy.

      • 839spi says:

        The 1099/EOR scam is something so many people are not aware of. Artists who’ve worked primarily for large places are hit by surprise when they work on a commercial or at a facility that uses yurcor/MBO for payroll.

  14. […] portability of the health insurance or else you end up paying huge penalties when unemployed. SPIUnion has a very good piece on this. Check out the costs for COBRA. If you don’t know what that is […]

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