Runners

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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7 Responses to Runners

  1. vfx student says:

    I can’t agree with this completely. In some cases, yes, runners may be more knowledgeable than students. However, what about all the students that are actually talented and went through the school route to try to get into the industry? Some people actually went to the schools that you mentioned because they know of the relationship between the school and the studio, and are taking that route instead of being a runner.

    • vfxanon says:

      Oh I agree. What about the runners that went to those schools too?

      I’m not entirely putting any blame on Bournemouth! There are other schools with relationships with large VFX houses. That was just one example. There are runners that went to such places and are still being overlooked in favour of those graduating. That’s not fair.

      I believe if you’re a grad, you should be a runner for at least 6 months. Sounds harsh, but that’s my opinion. Runners then move up into Matchmoving (if 3D route) or Paint and Roto if 2D.

      Thanks for your comments.

      • vfx student says:

        I know runners that couldn’t get anywhere and went to Bournemouth to try to get in the door. It’s not fair for the runners, but you can’t take it out on the graduates. There are a lot of graduates that are extremely talented and knowledgeable about the pipeline, etc. and can get the work done very well. It would be unfair to those people to be runners.

        Sad as it can be, runners will always be overlooked because of the politics of the industry. But graduates shouldn’t be blamed just because of that.

  2. S.L says:

    going to bournemouth is like being a runner for a year!
    it’s a very intense course and there’s no break
    people who come from there has worked hard and don’t deserved to be pointed out like that – but what you said about the runner’s condition is still true
    but it’s not becasue of Bournemouth! it’s just these studios taking advantage of them and that’s not gonna change unless the runners stand up for themselves.

    • vfxanon says:

      I’m not entirely putting any blame on Bournemouth! There are other schools with relationships with large VFX houses. That was just one example. There are runners that went to such places and are still being overlooked in favour of those graduating. That’s not fair.

      I believe if you’re a grad, you should be a runner for at least 6 months. Sounds harsh, but that’s my opinion. Runners then move up into Matchmoving (if 3D route) or Paint and Roto if 2D.

      Thanks for your comments.

  3. vfxsoldier says:

    Nice to see a perspective of things in the UK!

    I think whether you are a vfx student out of school, runner, wrangler, etc, your first gig you are screwed because you don’t have leverage.

    Do I think it’s wrong? For the artist yes, which is why I think a guild should be established to promote a minimum starting salary so we don’t keep undercutting each other.

    In the meantime, I suggest that a new artist try to get on a film that will be released soon. That way you can put it on your reel and try to move to the next facility. Facilities rarely reward artists with big raises for staying with them unless they are show-stoppers.

    Soldier On.

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