Marvel VFX Workers: It Feels Like a Conveyor Belt

"It really becomes like the McDonald's of content."

Image: Marvel

Last week, it was revealed that over 50 on-set VFX specialists from Marvel Studios petitioned to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the largest union in the US and Canada. Some of them have shared their experience working for the studio and talked about the conditions.

It looks like the workers are done dealing with crunch and not getting much out of it.

“These are companies which are making billions of dollars off of our work, so the reasonableness of our demands – asking just to be put on the same deal as the people working alongside of us and be given access to health care and a pension fund and the basic protections of work – we feel that this is one of the most reasonable demands that anyone's ever made,” Mark Patch, a VFX organizer for IATSE and a former coordinator on Disney+’s WandaVision, told IGN.

Image: Marvel

He also noted that when a 90-minute movie turns into a 10-hour feature, "you're doing 10 times the amount of work within the same, or even sometimes a shorter period of time." It ultimately leads to employees not seeing their families much and working weekends, and Disney+ only added to the struggle.

Gabrielle Levesque, who has worked on Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Captain America: Brave New World, compared the process to a conveyor belt and its projects the "McDonald's of content".

“What you're expected to do each day and how the shows are run, it definitely feels more like a conveyor belt nowadays than necessarily each project being given its own thought and time,” she says. “As opposed to now where it's like, ‘well, this is coming up and now we have to do this, and this is coming up, we have to do this.’ It really becomes like the McDonald's of content.”

Image: Marvel

Patch added that while making WandaVision, VFX artists were told to forget about days off "in the next three months until we deliver episode 10," even though they were already working 18-hour shifts. And yes, they get the same money no matter how long they work – 12, 18, or 24 hours.

And, as IGN pointed out, Disney's crazy race is not stopping any time soon, as it still has Phases 5 and 6, more Avatar sequels, Star Wars films, and TV shows lined up.

“I like the kind of problems we solve in this department, but if you make the job so difficult and so unsustainable, what do you expect us to do?” said Maggie Kraisamutr, an in-house artist who hasn't worked for Marvel but has a lot of experience at other big studios. “We want to save this job, so we're going to unionize. We're helping ourselves.”

Kraisamutr also remembered the time she worked alongside unionized specialists and she felt the difference.

“We're going to make VFX’s voice heard because it's been 50 years since now since the first Star Wars was made and the modern VFX industry was created,” Patch said. “Half a century is a long time to wait for health care and overtime.”

This fight for better conditions is happening amidst the writers' and actors' strikes. Postproduction VFX artists are also desperate for unions that can represent them and help secure stable pay.

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