However Tim Miller, creative director, Blur Studio, thinks it could be an excellent resource for both. “Having been on both side of that fence I know how hard it is to evaluate what’s fair and ‘industry standard’,” he says. “So many factors go into the equation-talent, region, job competition and benefits. Not to mention the life style related issues which of course are very different for artists than for a typical ‘wage earner’ type of job.”
Miller feels that establishing some baselines would improve the site. “Making it regional would be more useful,” he says. “Other useful links to that ‘regional issue’ might be salary calculators. For example, something like: ‘50k in Vancouver is the same as 65k in LA.’”
“I don’t feel threatened. It can benefit us as well as employees. People tend to find this shit out anyway. They have a sense of the industry in general. Or at least most do.”
Tim Miller, creative director, Blur Studio
John Lockwood, VFX Supervisor/Joint MD, Machine, was initially interested in the site. However he also sees room for improvement. “After looking at it in more detail the statistics didn’t seem to be entirely credible,” he says. “For example, the median wage for a lead compositor in GBP with 3-4 years experience is more than for one with 5-6 year experience. This is probably because there are not enough samples yet to be able to draw reasonable conclusions. It would be more useful if the wages were in days rather than hours.”
However Lockwood concedes that reliable information about wages is more a resource than a threat. “It’s always good to know how much other companies pay their artists,” he says.
Even then Jonathan Davies, Head Of 3D Production at The Moving Picture Company, worries about how reliable the data can be, given the varying job roles across the four industries covered. “Juniors at facilities sometimes refer to themselves outside the facility as seniors,” he says. “And some facilities will give their employees fancy titles just to keep them. I come across a lot of people who are called ‘TDs’ who have worked in the industry for a year. It gets confusing.”
Davies also points out that vfx is a creative industry and it’s harder for it to be regulated in the same way as a bureaucratic organisation, with strict salary levels.
Leigh van der Byl agrees. “Any broad regulation is not really possible, nor is it realistic in an industry like this,” she says. “While studios do tend to have some form of internal salary banding, it is nevertheless generally up to the artist to negotiate, and so many factors are taken into account here: the artist’s experience, the quality of their work, the location of the studio. Having said that, junior artists aren’t typically in a position to negotiate a lot of the time, but at the risk of sounding crass, they should take what is offered, provided it’s fair. Once they have more experience, they have more leverage to negotiate the salary they want.”
An edited version of this feature recently appeared in 3D World magazine