(Variety) The Visual Effects Society is morphing from milquetoast to militant.

The VES, founded as an honorary society, announced in an open letter Tuesday afternoon that it is changing its mission to focus on problem solving and advocacy for the visual effects industry.

The letter, titled “Visual Effects Society 2.0,” declares: “In the coming weeks and months, VES will shine a spotlight on the issues facing the artists, facilities and studios by way of editorial pieces in the trades and vfx blogs, virtual Town Hall meetings, a vfx Artists’ Bill of Rights and a vfx CEO’s Forum.”

The letter outlines the problems facing the visual effects biz, noting, “No one has stood up to lead the way on the business side of our business. No one has been able to speak out for unrepresented artists and facilities — or the craft as a whole — in any meaningful way.”

VES executive director Eric Roth told Variety, “We need to step up and be the voice for the visual effects side of the industry. As we move on, we will be speaking up in a much more proactive way.”

Chairman Jeffrey Okun emphasized that the org would be “non-partisan.”

“The purpose of all this is to bring the parties to the table for discussions that will yield a result,” said Okun. “While we represent the artists as an honorary society, we also represent facilities, because without them artists have nowhere to work, and studios, because without them faciilities have nowhere to work.”

Okun told Variety that while it’s clear the VES’s new stance would lead to it stepping on toes, “That’s not the intention. The intention is to bring the industry together.”

The open letter cites three problem areas for the vfx industry that the VES will address:

ncredits, where vfx artists are “often listed incompletely” and too low in the crawl;

nbenefits, observing “on a union show we are the only department that is not union and therefore not receiving the same benefits as everyone else on the set”;

nworking conditions, noting that freelancers often work in vfx shops for 70- to 100-hour weeks for weeks or months on end, while being paid as independent contractors.

The VES leadership has long felt that the vfx business needed a trade organization and some sort of union or guild to complement its own role as an honorary society. But every effort to organize either vfx artists or supervisors to date has failed, as have efforts to form a trade org. That has left the VES as the sole membership body representing the vast and growing visual effects industry worldwide.

“VES may not have the power of collective bargaining,” says the letter. “But we do have the power of a voice that’s 2,400 artists strong in 23 countries — and the VES Board of Directors has decided that now is the time to use it. We are the only viable organization that can speak to the needs and concerns of everyone involved in VFX to meet the challenges of a changing global industry and our place within it.”



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