Unpaid Artists


Journey 3D, FX Artists of Former Meteor Studios seeking $1 Million in Back Pay

   [i]JOURNEY 3D - Unpaid, Digital FX artists seek back pay of $1 million from Discovery Communications and Evergreen Films [/i]
   For Immediate Release
   HOLLYWOOD, Calif./EWORLDWIRE/July 9, 2008 --- When Journey To The Center Of The Earth Movie 3D, the blockbuster and ground-breaking 3-D stereoscopic film starring Brendan Fraser, is released Friday, July 11, a group of digital effects artists from former Meteor Studios who worked on the film will continue a half-year later to wonder where their paychecks are. 
  According to David Rand, special effects artists worked for Meteor Studios, a company established by Discovery Communications of Virginia (Discovery) (owners of the Discovery Channel) and Evergreen Films of Pacific Palisades (Evergreen). During October, November and December of 2007, artists worked without pay; some put in 100-hour weeks and stayed loyal to the project with the promise of pay as soon as the accounting glitch was fixed. Most of the artists who applied their talents to the creation of the film have families, and half are American freelance artists like Rand, whose hope for a bright Christmas was extinguished when all artists were laid off without pay in December upon delivery of the film. 
  Over $1 million is due from Discovery Communications of Virginia and Evergreen Films of Pacific Palisades.  
  Dave Rand's is particularly vocal about, what he calls an injustice, because accordding to Rand, he was asked to keep his crew working without pay."A million dollars is not money - money is what you take to the supermarket to buy some bananas. A million dollars is power, and it shows a company's true character. Being a family-oriented network, Meteor, Discovery and Evergreen should be ashamed of themselves." 
  Discovery and Evergreen initiated bankruptcy proceedings for the studio, formerly known as Meteor Studios of Montreal, leaving artists without jobs or back pay. The action extended damage to other studios with less than deep pockets; Canadian banks refused lines of credit or stopped existing ones. Rand says many artists had to leave Canada and seek work in other countries. 
  Rand also reports a new company has been formed at the former Meteor Studios' location named, "Lumiere VFX," and that former Meteor Studios' artists have reported being offered back pay to come on board at Lumiere. He has discovered many of the same management team are in place or have become partners in the new studio, and Rand states that several artists have commented on work to be done for the former owners, Discovery or Evergreen. "Although there are claims that Meteor's payroll was insured," said Rand, "this action - of hiring - may be interpreted by the insurance company as a reason not to pay. The payroll insurance company is believed to be fighting the claim." 
  The Meteor Studios' artists have up to this point contacted: 
  . The Governor General of Canada responded six months later with a form letter that did not answer any of the questions asked. 
  . The Labor Board of Canada has been unable to get any results to date and cannot help foreign artists who worked on the film. Statements have been made indicating that causing trouble for American companies is not in Canada's best interest. 
  . Brendan Fraser. Speaking with his manager's office has not produced a response from Brendan. 
  Rand suggests that examining the timeline of the FX industry reveals that FX artists are going through the same problems the rest of talent in the industry experienced decades ago. "This action (by Discovery and Evergreen) should receive the attention of the small animators unions and will hopefully see its ranks grow as it provides a perfect example for them," stated Rand. 
  While viewers might imagine Journey 3D without Fraser, "you cannot imagine it without FX. We are very important to the product - all top-grossing films now contain extensive effects work. However, we usually end up at the bottom of the credit list, if at all. Meteor studios did extensive work on the film 300, and not one of the artists received a credit. Now, not getting paid seems to have become the practice," added Rand. 
  Rand said one young writer with the Canadian Press reported on the story last week ([http://moncinema.cyberpresse.ca/nouvelles-et-critiques/nouvelles/nouvelle-cinema/4699-iVoyage-au-centre-de-la-Terre-3Di-coute-cher-aux-artisans-quebecois.html](http://moncinema.cyberpresse.ca/nouvelles-et-critiques/nouvelles/nouvelle-cinema/4699-iVoyage-au-centre-de-la-Terre-3Di-coute-cher-aux-artisans-quebecois.html)). 
  "We think this is news. Unlike the recent writers' strike where writers were looking for more money on the back-end, we just want to get paid for the work we performed. We have been looking for a writer with influence who has not lost the nerve to write for change to this valuable part of the film and television industry. 
  "We want the public to buy tickets and see the film because we are extremely proud of the FX work done on the film. It is a wonderful film exhibiting a new technology," concluded Rand.

Please email these reporters with your thoughts

Carolyn Giardina cgiardina@hollywoodreporter.com
Anabelle wrote the article posted here. You can translate it online with google if you do not speak french.


I’m shocked this has happened on such a prominent project. It sounds like the company management had this planned all along - I wish you all the best of luck in retrieving what is rightfully yours


Agreed. If this went as written by the OP, than this borders on criminal behavior. Especially when connected to Discovery. The parent company (Liberty Media Group) make billions of dollars each year. Doesn’t sound they would have to resort to these kind of practices.


Wow, just wow. I saw the movie two nights before its premiere, and I did not hear of this.

I’m very sorry to see this happening. I really hope you get what you deserve, fellow artists.


This is the kind of crap that makes me wish there was somekind of Union for the VFX world. Theres too much of this “Well, this is a job you want to do so put up or shut up” going on.

At the end of the day all vfx people are putting in hard work and long hours. At the moment you have little voice or method of standing up for yourselves. Trying to brush that off as “Cant take the heat, stay out of the kitchen” is just plain rediculous as not getting paid for work completed is unacceptable.

I hear there are organisations for other jobs in filmmaking such as camera operators, editors etc so why not VFX? The answer is because computer vfx is the youngest field in the filmmaking industry. Well, the time has come for it to grow up and take responsibilty for its workers and look after them.

Thats how I feel about it but whether such thing will happen I dont know. All I know is that I am a Union member in my day job and its protected my interests so far.


Sounds very much to what happened to Station X Studios


Added this thread to Digg. Let’s try to get the word out there.



This came up before when Meteor Studios shut down late last year:

Meteor Studios shut down

Too bad this mess is still going on.


Yeah, this happened before with Meteor Studios.

The studio should be blacklisted by all artists.


Interestingly, I just read that the director of this film is a former VFX person.


thank you all for your responses. We are trying hard to get the word out, especially while the film is runninng.

It’s important to note that we in no way are bashing the film Journey 3d. It’s a great movie and worth the ticket.

The only dissapointments are:

That key producers including Brendan Fraser have not made an effort to speak on this.

Major Entertainment publications like Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Playback have interviewed us but have yet to publish a piece. Editors seem think this is no longer news as stated in the press release. I know you feel differently.

The Canadian Government has done nothing, high governement officials and the labor board of Canada (Les Normes) have indicated that they “may” be able to help the local artists but the foreign freelancers are on their own. We did not even recieve our T-4’s needed to file tax returns. It seems the taxes taken out of our checks has been lost in the “mix”.

So it’s important to spread the word via our own FX community. I believe we need to at least develope a private forum for ourselves where we can freely report on how FX Houses treat their artists much like TRW reports on credit. Any help with this would be appreciated. It would be important to register and screen each member to make sure they are who they say they are. Anonymity would be helpful but the Webmaster needs to know they are who they say to keep it honest. This information should not be available to the public. This would give us some power over the conditions present today as Employers would have a hard time finding talent if they had a bad score.

Only then would our value be appreciated at the businness leve.

Dave Rand


Absolutely preposterous behaviour from the responsible managerial types over at Meteor / Discovery. Artists protect yourselfs! Don’t work a week without beeing paid. This industry seems to grow towards a direction of producers and managers abusing the hell out of their art and fx crew. The requests and deadlines seem to be getting more rediculous every day, but not getting paid at all, is beyond anything I’ve ever heard. Sue those bastards!


disgraceful behaviour and work ethics by these companies to those involved indeed :eek:


Yes - I would have to check my time lines but around 2000 - 2001 there was an exodus of jobs out of Los Angeles leaving many artists with extreme short notice and unpaid. A number of small VFX were closed and projects were moved outside the US. Some small boutique FX shops absorbed what remained in LA.

I’m surprised that it’s gone on this long - unless there have been other breaches that have gone unnoticed. It’s possible the incentives given studios were really good and it took a while before they exhausted their plunder.

Unions for VFX won’t change the situation one iota. This is an extremely competitive business with studios heads consistently low balling bids for projects under tighter time lines. All a union will do is take a studio out of the running for consideration. I would bet much of the work was done by allot freelancers/off site workers who wouldn’t be covered anyway. The best one can hope for is working for a very efficient shop that can fix into niche production. Even that is no guarentee.


Unions for VFX won’t change the situation one iota. This is an extremely competitive business with studios heads consistently low balling bids for projects under tighter time lines. All a union will do is take a studio out of the running for consideration. I would bet much of the work was done by allot freelancers/off site workers who wouldn’t be covered anyway. The best one can hope for is working for a very efficient shop that can fix into niche production. Even that is no guarentee.[/QUOTE]

There were no freelancers offsite, Meteor was the largest fx house in Eastern Canada, owned under the umbrella of a 6.4 billion dollar holding company, Discovery.

A Union would face some difficulties for sure. I agree with you on the competition comment, and would add that the entire film, television, and web based entertainemt is als VERY competitive.

Many fx houses are operating under business plans that are laughable to the rest of the business world. Equivalent to a house being drawn on a napkin and then bid on. The bidding process itself is flawed. Producers taking a cut for brining in a show vastly underbid, with no communication about process to the client, and no blueprint provided. This is a boiler room stock broker plan of action.

An analogy could be made to production. Imagine a director directing the actors from a cell phone with a bad connection. As in production, post production creativity is all a matter of taste…and that can be assigned to one individual, usually the director, yet the flow of feedback passes through the artist, his lead, the sequence lead, the vfx sup at the shop, the client, then the director and back down again. Reminds me of those Soprano characters that sit in lawn chairs collectiing a paycheck for just gettinng in the way.

Most production work is done on a cost plus model. This needs to be implemented in post production when the “creative process” is employed during the VFX phase. Everyone gets to the point when the money clock is ticking. Construction companies bid on buildings. No construction company that wanted to stay in business would build a structure with no blueprint that details every square foot yet we think this is valled for VFX somehow.

I’ve been asked to bid on shots with information like: The Hulk carries girl out into the rain, cg rain, cg trees, cg set. Hulk will be provided…how much?

I’ve been a three major VFX houses now that have fallen because of this. I come from the business world, was an artist as a kid, and returned 15 yrs ago to the art world. I feel like the kid in the crowd of the fairy tale “The Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes”.

There is plenty of competition, but also plenty of demand for digital content. I believe we need to at least begin by unionizing online to report abuse, bad business, and rotten tomatoe fx houses.

Or we can go down in history like the cast of Gilligan’s Island.

The time for change is at hand, unionized employees are always treated better in an capitalistic society. The United States itself was formed by a union. So don’t underestimate it’s power, importance, and necessity in a balanced economy.


what i dont understand is why are so many artist willing to work for free. A doctor, a plumber an electrician would not. why do artist?


That’s a good point. My answer would be out of love for the work and need to see it completed, maybe some plumbers get a kick out of installing a sink but seeing your work come to life on the big screen has a draw that is unique.

Also loyalty, however misguided to your team and to the show. It’s kind of leaving the front lines, you feel like your letting your friends down.

That is one reason to be united, all have to leave when payroll is missed. That takes a union.


Also, people “promise” you that, at the end of the project, you’ll get paid. Then they disappear.


Didn’t they get that promise in writing?


And they submit for bankrupcy, as history repeats itself and the Wheel turns.