2023 has been a union-heavy year, and in the case of Disney, it’s seen the formation of entirely new unions. VFX artists at both Marvel Studios and Disney overall successfully unionized this year, in what some referred to as a “hot labor summer.” Turns out, it’s more of a hot labor year, because the team behind James Cameron’s Avatar movies are aiming to make it three for three.
Earlier in the week, 83 artists at Lightstorm Entertainment filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote to unionize with IATSE (the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees). As noted by IATSE in the press release, Lightstorm’s artists are the first vendor-side team of VFX workers to file with the NLRB. The unionizations at Marvel and Disney were both specifically cited as reasons for this new union, along with last month’s successful unionization at Canadian VFX studio Double Negative. At time of writing, an election date hasn’t been set.
Speaking to IATSE, Lightstorm’s postvis coordinator Patrick DeVaney explained that VFX departments have been “long overdue” in unionizing when the practice is common in every other part of film. And with the stories of overworked VFX artists in the past year, they deserve “the benefits, more equitable pay, and respect that those other departments have earned for themselves through collective bargaining.”
Continued environment artist Summer Benton, “Coming together as the Avatar family, we aim to achieve improvements that will help us be able to maintain our highest quality of work in a more sustainable work and keep bringing awe and inspiration to our leadership and to VFX productions everywhere.”
“We stand at the cusp of a new era in the VFX industry,” added IATSE president Matthew D. Loeb. “An era where every worker is valued, where their contributions are acknowledged, and their rights fiercely protected. This moment is a beacon for the entire industry.”
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