Is This Legal?

I hear that two very companies in London have an agreement not to hire each others staff whilst working on the same show. I’ve heard that this is happening not only in London, but across the pond, including the excellent VFXSoldier’s tweet that companies in the Bay Area “admit to colluding to prevent employees from switching jobs”

Firstly why would this happen? Well, lighters/animators/fx TDs may jump ship from company A to company B because company B are working on the better, nicer, cooler shots of the film and company A may be doing more mundane work.

Secondly, is this legal? Surely if someone did not get the job on the grounds of working for either company A or company B then it would be seen as discrimination?

Thoughts and opinions please!!

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I know that being a runner is a great way to get a foot in a door, but I feel for runners today. Not only is it an incredibly shit job, but I hear of some practices by some companies have left me shocked. I’m also unsure of the legality of some practices.

Having been one and having numerous colleagues that have been runners, I often wonder how much crap people will throw at you until you get a break. Especially today, where it seems runners are often overlooked and in favour of outside ‘talent’

I have two examples from friends in London based VFX houses: MPC and Framestore and, quite frankly sad.

We all know that runners aren’t paid much. At Framestore, it’s around £12,500 a year. Could someone explain to me how someone is mean to live on that much a year?? A bus ride is £1.20 a day, multiply that by 2 journeys a day for five days a week that’s £12 a week or £48 a month. What if the person has to take the train or tube? It’s about £90 a month for a monthly pass that covers only zones 1 and 2. What about lunches, rent and other bills?

Then the question, when do runners ever get time to train? What facilities are in place to train. I know at Framestore, such facilities have only come into place in the last year or so and they’re not exactly brilliant.

From what I remember, I didn’t get any opportunity where I was. I was lucky I had a solid knowledge of Shake and was working on a reel on the weekend. I got very lucky.

With the low pay and lack of opportunities, runners are grateful for the chance to do some work that doesn’t involve collecting mugs and being treated like something unpleasant that’s been trodden in. But, seriously guys, especially MPC and Framestore, don’t give your runners roles such as matchmovers, paint and roto and even junior compositors and not offer to pay them the same as a junior in that department. That is illegal.

One example is a Runner being promoted into paint and roto but only given a rise up to £15,000 a year not £19,000 like all other junior paint and roto artists were on. When he found this out, his boss suggested he should keep quiet and be greatful. Thankfully, he didn’t listen and brought the matter up with the HR department who claimed that was a total mistake and rectified the issue.

I’m not saying they done that on purpose, but it’s very convenient in my eyes.

It’s also shit practice to keep a runner on in a department for over six months and then bump them back down into running, yes, YOU Framestore are guilty of such practices.

Then, companies like Framestore will ‘test’ those who have been on courses like those offered at Escape. In one case, I heard some students were ushered into Framestore in the evening so they could complete these tests. These people will go infront of the line when new positions open up. This isn’t fair especially to the loyal runners.

I promise you, cleaning mugs, washing dishes, lifting heavy equipment or cans of film and being spoken down to as if a naughty child isn’t what people spent thousands on a degree for. So give them the chance first.

Forget people who have been to x university because of the name. The worst case I witnessed was a group of students brought into my department all from Bournemouth university. None of them could use Shake or Maya. Yet, some runners had more technical knowledge, but were passed over because they didn’t go to Bournemouth. I’ve heard Framestore do this as well. This is unacceptable.

It’s also shit practice (Framestore again are guilty) to promote runners only to let them go after 6 months. They can’t use any work they done for their showreels until the film is released around 8/9 months later (Sometimes longer). How are they meant to get work? On trust? The industry doesn’t work like that and you guys know it.

I feel for runners today. I got lucky most new people coming in won’t be. Unless they’ve been to Bournemouth or Escape, but why would they be runners?

Realistically, all juniors should come from runners positions. It gives that person a better knowledge of the company and the people working there. The company would also probably get a harder working employee from it that some checked shirt wearing idiot from Bournemouth.

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VFX Anon.


I’m VFX Anon. I’ll be posting anonymously my and others stories about life in the VFX industry.

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