Do you talk about compensation with your coworkers?

I know its an awkward conversation, but, do you talk about your compensation with your coworkers? If not, you should. In the United States you are federally protected and explicitly allowed to discuss your compensation with your coworkers. If you are a freelancer, you should absolutely be discussing wages with your fellow freelancers.

Here’s an example. I heard a story recently where two artists working in the same room for the same company on the same project and only one of the artists was making OT. Why? Because each artist had been booked by a different scheduling team. That overtime was likely worth tens of thousands of dollars. All because one artist was booked through a New York scheduler and the other was booked by a California scheduler?

Money GIF


I can in no way understand agreeing to no overtime pay. For f*** sake, you’re basically saying that you’re willing to just work infinite hours in any given day. If there’s no financial hit to the person writing the checks, why wouldn’t they just have you stay late every night and get 11 hours instead of 8, 14 instead of 10? No offense and no shame to the person you’re talking about, but it’s detrimental not only to them but to everyone else in regards to keeping this bullshit normalized.

I know this is normal in the UK, but it doesn’t make it any less stupid. Yes, the sun never sets on your empire, but you should probably get some sleep from time to time, no matter where the sun is.


There’s no British Empire. Only the Daily Mail believes there is and constantly gets upset that things are falling apart.

However, that belief might reflect 52% of the country in 2016. I wonder what they might think now when jingoism does not fill the shelves of the local supermarket or light the fire at night.

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quite bizarrely, a large number of them seem to want to stick with their ludicrous decision whatever the consequences…and many if those actually believe Liz Truss is the right choice to lead the country (wasn’t an “Elizabeth Truss” a mature ladies undergarment from the 1973 Miss Mary of Sweden catalogue?)


So do you guys talk about compensation or not? :slight_smile:

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Here as staff in Germany it is more a big taboo and we mostly only exchange these infos with ‘good buddy’ coworkers after some beers


I do.

It’s a bit awkward at first and I feel like most people are still hesitant to do it, but it’s important. Pay varies wildly, with little reason.


How would you go about talking about it? What are some tips and tricks that work for you?

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When I was a staffer at MPC back in the day I think it was in the contract that you couldn’t discuss pay. They also asked everyone to opt out of the EU working time directive “or come and see the MD”.
I went freelance and doubled my salary.


I’m rather inelegant about it, usually just stating what I’m making on a given job into a conversation when relevant. It is clunky for the most part, and it’s not all that common that others share what they’re making back. I think we’re still conditioned to avoid sharing and I don’t press people on it. Comfort levels and all.

But I hope my blurting it out in conversation helps others be more comfortable and get more money.

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Better Off Dead Cash GIF by moodman

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I’d argue that it’s not normal in the UK to work unlimited hours anymore, I feel that ensuring you have a contract that limits working hours and outlines an overtime rate is imperative. Perhaps 15 years ago when Flame Artists earned the same as a city banker, things were different.
I am happy to wear it if I am allowed to quote the work and give an overall budget for a project - again to an extent. If something crops up outside the quote then renegotiation is perfectly justifiable.

Remember that as a flame (VFX) artist you have generally had at least 10 years of technical experience as well as client relationships etc. It’s a highly skilled, niche job. Never undersell yourself!


Well said on that last paragraph Angus.

Flame artists are a rare combination of attributes. They are in varying parts: technical nerd, creative artist and CRM diplomats. Some stronger in certain areas than others but all Flame artists utilise these skills on every job. I’d also suggest that many Flame artists have significantly more than ten years experience! :slight_smile:

This is what the client is, or should value and be paying for.

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After 13 years at a major studio here is my take. This is all purely speculative and mostly anecdotal so if I’m wrong or mistaken then please take me out to pasture. Getting this kind of information out of anyone is like milking a pig but is still incredibly important for the benefit and wellness of our craft. Most importantly, unless we talk about it it will not get better for any of us.

There’s a very good reason the UK based studios are always quite a bit larger than their U.S. outposts. Ever since the Harry Potter productions and the UK based tax subsidies dried up in the mid 2000s and the film studios sought cheaper locations, there’s been an influx of high quality but underpaid vfx talent in the UK. You see evidence of this if you look at the Flame Artist Anonymous Wage Survey. Flame Artists in the UK seem to be earning about half of what their U.S. counterparts are earning. Low UK wages mean their home UK-based studios are almost always huge in comparison to their U.S. sites. On average, they are between 2-5 times the headcount of US sites. They can lean on the scale and scope of the U.S. economy….all $22 trillion of it compared to the U.K.s “paltry” $3 trillion…to drive business and support sales yet use their cheap UK-based labor to offset costs. If I had to guess then for every 1 worker in the U.S., there’s probably 3 in the UK and probably 15-20 in India. And for those reasons, most of the big studios are mandating that between 30 and 40% of their work be fully executed overseas.

At this scale, it’s an image manufacturing business. And manufacturing images for television commercials is a messy and expensive business of labor. At least with film it can be a bit more streamlined at scale. Therefore, their only choice is to scoop up as much staff as they can to control wages. For example, in the mid 2000’s I’d get wage increases averaging 10-15% year over year. That stopped around 2016 or so, with not only myself being affected, but members of my team, coworkers in other departments, and other studios were averaging raises in the 2-4% area, if any were received at all.

The result is a mass exodus of career employees at these major studios with 10-30 years experience which has never been seen before. And with that exodus comes to largest reshuffle of wages at the big studios this market has likely ever seen. Blacksmith, Parliament, Preymaker, Rascal, Traffik, Untold, Mayda…and the several more studios I can’t recall at the moment, are all post MPC/Mill/Framestore studios to which artists flock. New adventures with old friends, it seems.

So why are the big studios so hostile? They can’t afford not to be. With profit margins likely in the low to middle single digits, pretty soon you’d make more money by parking your cash in a bond fund somewhere instead of all the grey hair the “craft” of visual effects provides. So they scale up with staff, traditionally underpay them 20-40%, and refuse to pay overtime and weekend rates to contractors. The staffers get hosed time and time again until hey break. And the saga continues. The freelancers swoop in and charge them a premium…possibly a 10-30% surcharge. And they pay it. And the cycle continues.

If you are looking for great places to work, they are out there. There are plenty of small and nimble studios owned and operated by incredible visual effects artists that are not only trying hard, but they are kind too. They charge their clients for overtime, weekend work, and holiday work. And they do their darndest to make sure you get to clock out and leave your desk on time. And if you don’t they pay 1.5x after 8, and double after 10 hours. Sure, our business gets messy and sometimes stuff hits the fan and we need to swoop in and save the day. But its a lot easier to smile and suck it up when you make more in overtime from that all nighter then you used to make in a week at your staff job.