Visual effects (VFX) artists are banding together to petition the industry to let them work from home amid the COVID-19 outbreak. These artists, who often sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) with their company stipulating they can’t work from home due to privacy and safety concerns around projects, are now signing an online petition calling on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to let them work remotely.
Since its launch three days ago, the petition has amassed more than 6,000 signatures from artists worldwide, asking the MPAA—an advocate for the global film, TV and streaming industry representing major studios, including Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. Paramount and Sony Pictures Entertainment—to change its IP protection measures so employees don’t need to go into studios to work.
Compared to animators, who can produce an entire animated series for a company, VFX artists are usually focused on adding digital effects to live-action scenes, often during post-production on projects that companies don’t want to be worked on outside of a secure office environment. Vancouver-based artist Mario Rokicki, a color supervisor at Double Negative, launched the petition to support these workers who are in increased danger of contracting the virus if they remain in their offices, he says in the petition.
“Unfortunately VFX Studios around the globe that work on projects for the Hollywood studios and streaming companies are prevented from providing remote working solutions to their staff,” writes Rokicki. “With often overcrowded facilities and artists that sit elbow to elbow pushing long hour days with overtime puts not only me, but also my loved ones at risk of catching the virus. The NDAs that are forced on VFX Studios put artists and [staff in] peril.”
Double Negative, which states on its website that artists can’t take work home with them, has not yet responded to a request for comment from Kidscreen. Several other VFX studios have also not responded to a request for comment at press time.
Major studios are starting to respond to the crisis: DreamWorks reduced the number of people in its offices and barred visitors; Nickelodeon and Disney‘s TV animation teams moved to work remotely, while WarnerMedia, Sony Pictures and Amazon are all encouraging employees to work from home.
Smaller companies are starting to make the change as well, with London-based VFX house Jellyfish Pictures (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, pictured) having all of its artists work remotely starting next week, according to a spokesperson.
To handle the change, Jellyfish sent 50 of its artists home each day so that the IT team could work with them to iron out any issues, the spokesperson adds. One of the challenges to making the switch was in making sure the artists all had enough internet bandwidth, and the company provided resources to those who needed stronger connections. Jellyfish is also in talks with content protection firm Trusted Partner Network to make sure its projects are safe, and its security isn’t compromised by the move, says the spokesperson.
“Jellyfish Pictures is in the privileged position of having invested the past five years in virtual technologies, with all five of our studios being completely virtual,” the spokesperson says. “We are now in a position where all employees will be working remotely.”