Bad Visual Effects Business Practices
[ This posts covers specific bad business practices of visual effects companies.
If you're interested in the problems of the visual effects industry check these posts:
Separate post on Underbidding VFX
Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?
Employers beware: More independent contractor misclassification audits are expected
U.S. Cracks Down on ‘Contractors’ as a Tax Dodge
10 Tricks Employers Use To Cheat Workers Out Of Overtime
Too many layers of approvals
If a task requires approval by 5 different layers of managers, that's a problem. Each manager will have a different idea of the results required and will likely produce 5 different and conflicting notes or corrections. This just slows down the process and wastes time. Managers should be able to delegate and there should a limited number of layers for approval. Communication should be clear what the desired results are and artists need to be on the same basic page of what the client is interested in seeing.
Company not backing their employees
If the company proposes a supervisor or designer to a client they should be willing to back that person up to the client. If the company instantly withdraws the supervisor or replaces them at the slightest mention from the client then they have made a mistake. The faith in the client is shaken and they wonder if the company is trying to push the 'B team' on their project. After all if the company doesn't have faith in their proposed person, why should the client? And of course the person who was proposed now feels abandoned and let down by the company, even though they may be the perfect fit for the project. The company needs to make a proper evaluation ahead of time and back up their proposed person. There have been more than a few supervisors who left such a company and later achieved great success elsewhere simply because the company was too timid and small minded to see the potential.
Perfecting shots before submitting them
Some managers hold onto shots until they consider them to be perfect. Until everything is done, tweaked and presented as a final. The problem is the client needs to see works in progress in order to make creative decisions. More than a few sequences have been changed or dropped once they had been cut in. All the extra time spent polishing was wasted and now there is too little time to do the changes correctly. Management will have to know the level of completion the director is able to review and help guide them on what needs to be reviewed. (animation timing, composition, look, etc)
In the beginning of any show there will be a limited number of models and shots to review since most are in progress or yet to be started. With little to look at directors and managers will loop these few things over and over again, tweaking the details endlessly. This results in wasting a lot of artists time, too little time toward the end of the production and uneven quality in the shots. It's the last few shots that are rushed through that will stand out and that the audience will remember. All shots need to be reviewed in context and considered usable when it works in that context.
Update: For those interested in what a union can do: VFXUnion
Other posts worth checking out if you liked this:
VFX Service - The Big Picture
Pass me a nail
Using the nail
VES Bill of Rights - Now What?
Visual Effects Union, Take 2
Oh, the mess we're in!
Marty Shindler has some advice for companies (Marty worked at ILM and other VFX companies financial departments)