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Old 09-12-2012, 01:34 PM   #1
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Cost of Living and the CG artist:Tell us your opinion.

This is a topic that has come up in the Digital Domain thread,
and I think it deserves its own discussion.

The gist of thr argument is:

The living always gets you.


The sad thing is that CG studios tend to be located in some of the most expensive places on this earth.
Places like London, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles are not know for a cheap quality of life. And if you want a family you are really screwed.

The Digital Domain Florida studio offered a lot of people the opportunity to move their families to a nice place, with a lower cost of living.



It has created some very good opinions on this topic:
Some of the best ones can be read here:

WyattHarris
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showpos...2&postcount=257
japetus3D
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showpos...1&postcount=263

cookepuss
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showpos...9&postcount=260
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showpos...0&postcount=265
Leigh
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showpos...4&postcount=290
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Old 09-12-2012, 02:40 PM   #2
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Three years ago I got a job offer at DreamWorks Animation in Redwood City. However, the salary was the same as my current salary I was making in Texas - in other words a big cut in pay. I looked at places to rent and the general cost of living based on several online calculators, etc. and just couldn't see how I could make it work. I told them the salary amount I would need in order to make it work, but in return they suggested that my wife could work to make up the difference. That was not an option since I still have 4 kids at home and my wife and I don't want them to come home from school to an empty house. So, we just couldn't make it work.

Two years later I got a job in Dallas at Reel FX. It was still a big cut in pay from my previous job, but I feel a lot safer about it compared to up rooting and moving off to California - didn't need to buy a new house, kids can stay in the same school, and of course the lower cost of living, etc. I think that, all things being equal, it is easier to have a lower salary in a low cost of living area than to have a high salary in a high cost of living area. Something about seeing lots of money coming in and then going out to pay bills and ending up with little or nothing at the end of the month would just make me think that I was doing something wrong. It would be easier to buy but just as hard to afford all the unnecessary things that eat at the budget (e.g "I make $200,000 a year, why shouldn't I get that new iPad for a measly $500").

I hope Tradition Studios can reopen as an animation studio so there are options for people in the industry in the US, but outside of California. In the meantime, Reel FX is hiring for those interested . . .
 
Old 09-12-2012, 02:48 PM   #3
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It strikes me quite odd that CG type work doesn't migrate to centres with a lower cost of living. There is not a lot, but some of that type of work here where I live, but you can't rely on it to keep you busy, so I tend to do a lot of print design and e-learning type work. I work out of a facility called Alberta Film Studios that has a full indoor film studio, but most of the time it sits empty and the building management uses it for auctions.

There are also tax credits available through the local provincial government for film production, but it doesn't stimulate much activity ... and yet we are about an hour flight from Vancouver. Over the years, production has been sliding mostly because of merging broadcasters.

Cost of housing here is about half of what it is in Vancouver, although rents are comparable.

But I do live quite comfortably within the realm I operate, and rarely do I have to punch in hours beyond my daily schedule.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:07 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertoOrtiz
Places like London, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles are not know for a cheap quality of life. And if you want a family you are really screwed.


Well no, not really. I know loads of people in this biz who have kids - the perception that artists working in VFX* can't have families (I see this mentioned quite often) is total and utter bollocks. Yeah, London, Vancouver, NY, LA, SF, etc are not the cheapest places to live, but neither is CG a poorly paid field. Au contraire, it's actually a relatively well paid field. These cities are all full of young families, many (probably most, actually) of whom work in fields that pay a hell of a lot less than CG does, and they're managing, aren't they?

People need to stop acting like victims and blaming everyone else for their finances, when so many people are broke because they squandered their cash on crap. Want to have kids? Then you're going to have to make sacrifices somewhere, and that's true regardless of what field you work in.

Let's stop acting like CG artists are scratching a living. This victim game is getting a little tiresome.

* I'm talking about VFX specifically since it's the field I work in myself and therefore have personal experience of.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:11 PM   #5
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Everyone should have enough contacts to switch gears in a different direction with a few phone calls and a few days of running around to get things in order. Especially if you've worked in non-Cg related fields before that in some capacity. That means you have doors you can open if things get dire in the art department.

Dont put all your eggs into one basket.
 
Old 09-12-2012, 03:20 PM   #6
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I agree with Leigh- I doubt that CG is alone in these issues. I imagine working as normal office worker will pay slightly less and face the same challenges living in a city. Plus they don't get to work in a field that enthuses them.

In general, if you're anything below senior artist, you're best bet is to share accommodation or live with your partner. Costs for an apartment with two bedrooms are generally only 20% more than a single bedroom apartment so you can save a huge amount on rent by sharing.

For me the high cost of living in London is worth the great lifestyle you can have here. That is worth much more to me than saving 200 a month in rent by living elsewhere.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:24 PM   #7
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Cost of living and the availability of work are interconnected. There's currently a natural gas rush in North Dakota, for example, and the sudden influx of workers has made renting a trailer in a rural trailer park just as expensive as your average one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Although it's tempting to move out of the expensive city to work at a studio in smaller town in Florida or Ohio, I'm afraid that I'd find myself stranded without options if the studio went bust.

I recently went through a bit of unemployment in New York when the studio I was working for shut down its VFX department. Although it sucked, there are plenty of studios in the city and I was freelancing semi-regularly within a couple months. It's expensive to live here, but as long as you stay within your means, the rewards outweigh the risks.
 
Old 09-12-2012, 03:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JKrause
but as long as you stay within your means, the rewards outweigh the risks.


The problem is that people don't want to be responsible and live within their means. Our consumer-driven culture obsesses over the accumulation of unnecessary crap, running up credit card debts and having everything now. And then everyone plays the blame game when they realise they're up to their eyeballs in debt - blame the bankers, the government, the employers, basically everyone except themselves. It's ridiculous. People need to take personal responsibility over their finances and live only with what they can afford if they don't want to end up with problems.

Working in an unpredictable and unstable field like VFX means I've always been careful to save money every month when I'm working in case of a problem. I'm currently in the biggest gap between jobs that I've ever had but I'm managing because I was financially prepared. I also recently moved out of London to Hertfordshire and now have a much nicer place for a lot less money in a lovely town, and my commute is only 15 minutes longer than it used to be when I lived in Maida Vale. You don't need to live in the center of these expensive cities - in fact, you often have a better quality of life if you move out (my new apartment is amazing; a spacious two bedroom, two bathroom top floor apartment right alongside a river with loads of trees and swans and ducks - and it's really cheap compared to where I used to live, plus it's much nicer).

It doesnt mean you have to life a shitty boring life though. I can afford to regularly travel abroad (I just got back from a week in Germany and France; I generally have quite a few trips abroad every year) and indulge in a relatively expensive hobby (photography), but I manage all of this because I'm careful with my finances and don't run up debts. Everyone that knows me knows I'm a roaring socialite too, but instead of hitting expensive pubs and pissing away my money on increasingly expensive booze, I choose reasonably priced spots and don't go out every single night. Even when you're stashing away money for a rainy day, living in a small town, and cutting down on frivolous expenditure, you can still have a really good life. it's not hard to live responsibly - the problem is that people just want everything and they want it all now. And then when it comes time to pay up all that money they spent which they didn't actually have, they blame everyone else.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leigh
Well no, not really. I know loads of people in this biz who have kids - the perception that artists working in VFX* can't have families (I see this mentioned quite often) is total and utter bollocks. Yeah, London, Vancouver, NY, LA, SF, etc are not the cheapest places to live, but neither is CG a poorly paid field. Au contraire, it's actually a relatively well paid field. These cities are all full of young families, many (probably most, actually) of whom work in fields that pay a hell of a lot less than CG does, and they're managing, aren't they?

People need to stop acting like victims and blaming everyone else for their finances, when so many people are broke because they squandered their cash on crap. Want to have kids? Then you're going to have to make sacrifices somewhere, and that's true regardless of what field you work in.

Let's stop acting like CG artists are scratching a living. This victim game is getting a little tiresome.

* I'm talking about VFX specifically since it's the field I work in myself and therefore have personal experience of.


I think that's oversimplifying a bit though.

My wife and I are actually in the process of getting rid of all our debt so that we CAN move somewhere that will most likely have a higher cost of living. We'll be pretty much debt free by the time we move, but I'm still going to be most likely taking a cut in salary for a starting position and looking at a 30% or more increase in rent as well as other increased cost of living expenses.

That doesn't mean it's not possible, but it's also not realistic to act like it doesn't have any impact on a family's finances. A few years down the line, when I'm able to command a higher rate, it'll be a much more comfortable proposition.

I do agree that the same financial burdens apply to other fields, but you don't have to move to LA or London to be a teacher or an IT guy.
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Old 09-12-2012, 04:32 PM   #10
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"For me the high cost of living in London is worth the great lifestyle you can have here"

Interesting how our perceptions differ about a great lifestyle. I would not live in a large city nor megalopolis. I visit when I have to (or want to).

Compare living in a large city to a different lifestyle. What if you lived on a 2.5 acre tract of land with lots of woods and your neighbors have 2.5 to 5 acre tracts with no public road. You live on a cul-de-sac street with hardly any traffic. You cannot see another house from your backyard (only woods, hills, and a river). You can go out at night at actually see the wonders of the heavens. Light pollution is so bad in cities that you could never view the heavens even with a telescope (yet imagine seeing all the stars of the Little Dipper and much more from your backyard with just your eyes).

At any give point you can walk outside, and depending on time of day, see deer, wild turkey, red fox, coyote, eagles (they are making a comeback and fly over from their cliff perches), squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, racoons, possum, numerous species of birds (have you ever seen a hummingbird nest "for real?"), beaver, and more. Can you step outside and take a long hike through woods and never see another person. Can you imagine knowing all your neighbors by name and can walk up the street and everyone says hello. You can step outside and watch the deer eat apples from the trees or the nuts that drop from trees.

Move that house and property to California and it costs at least ten times as much or more and the traffic is one hundred times as much (and there is no comparing air quality), and the wildlife is gone. You can always travel to a city to see a ballgame, zoo, art museum, or whatever else that you want to do. The cost of traveling added on top the lower cost of living is still a lot less than living is a big city. You can travel and be fishing, boating, hunting, or other numerable outdoor activities within 10 to 30 minutes.

There are other "great lifesytles" and so many wonderful things that you can do that are free or cost little. Is this heaven? No it's Iowa (or South Dakota . . .).
 
Old 09-12-2012, 04:44 PM   #11
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Some situations are really messed up--My boss lived in San Fransisco and was looking at getting a house, something like $800,000 and that was a pretty small house and he was actually considering it was OK

But then in this area, near Dallas, you can get a much better house for way less.


I don't really see why studios limit themselves to the popular areas, I guess in a less popular area an artist would have a hard time finding a new job if they had to without as many studios. But then a studio is going to make the same amount of profit no matter where they were working. If they worked in a lower cost of living area they could lower their costs which would make it easier for a studio to keep running.
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Old 09-12-2012, 04:54 PM   #12
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I don't really see why studios limit themselves to the popular areas, I guess in a less popular area an artist would have a hard time finding a new job if they had to without as many studios. But then a studio is going to make the same amount of profit no matter where they were working. If they worked in a lower cost of living area they could lower their costs which would make it easier for a studio to keep running.


In the case of VFX, studios are located near the clients, which means LA, London, etc.
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Old 09-12-2012, 05:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leigh
Let's stop acting like CG artists are scratching a living. This victim game is getting a little tiresome.


I like reading about how CG artists are just scraping by, then imagining all the teachers and retail workers that I know.

Boy, they must be starving every night and living out of cardboard boxes.

Wait a sec... none of them are. Because they didn't have kids, or buy cars and houses.

In the other thread someone implied that more money just brings more bills. You... don't have to spend all your money, you know? You can save some of it.
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Old 09-12-2012, 05:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leigh
Well no, not really. I know loads of people in this biz who have kids - the perception that artists working in VFX* can't have families (I see this mentioned quite often) is total and utter bollocks. Yeah, London, Vancouver, NY, LA, SF, etc are not the cheapest places to live, but neither is CG a poorly paid field. Au contraire, it's actually a relatively well paid field. These cities are all full of young families, many (probably most, actually) of whom work in fields that pay a hell of a lot less than CG does, and they're managing, aren't they?

People need to stop acting like victims and blaming everyone else for their finances, when so many people are broke because they squandered their cash on crap. Want to have kids? Then you're going to have to make sacrifices somewhere, and that's true regardless of what field you work in.

Let's stop acting like CG artists are scratching a living. This victim game is getting a little tiresome.

* I'm talking about VFX specifically since it's the field I work in myself and therefore have personal experience of.


It's nice to hear this kind of thing. As someone trying to get into the industry I've wondered about the grim picture painted in allot of these threads - you can't have a family/partner, work for minimum wage, living in a 5ft square room and having to wearing 10 layers of clothing to keep warm in winter. Your posts on these topics come across as the voice of reason in what often feels like a pool of push overs who will accept being abused and can't speak up for themselves (I'm talking generally, not specifically here).
 
Old 09-12-2012, 06:08 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankIowa
There are other "great lifesytles" and so many wonderful things that you can do that are free or cost little. Is this heaven? No it's Iowa (or South Dakota . . .).


That actually sounds awesome, I grew up in a small town and lots of my friends lived in places like that. Sure would be nice.
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