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Halo VFX Bankrupt with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Visual Effects Artists Still Unpaid

Media and entertainment trade union BECTU calls for new industry code of practice to better protect freelance workers when companies go into administration.

Visual effects workers have been unpaid “thousands of pounds” after working tirelessly on recent films including multiple Oscar-winning feature Bohemian Rhapsody, according to a recent press release issued by the U.K.’s Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union, which represents VFX freelancers.

The news release notes that despite recent news from the British Film Institute that the VFX industry contributed £1 billion to the U.K. economy, freelance visual effects artists have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after visual effects company Halo VFX Limited went bust. Halo was one of seven companies providing visual effects for the film, which were led by Oscar-winning VFX house DNEG.

The BECTU union is currently handing cases totaling more than £53,000, (US$70,323) owed to four of its members following the collapse of Halo VFX, which provided visual effects work on high-budget productions including Curfew, Bohemian Rhapsody and A Discovery of Witches.

In yet another example of the problems facing the VFX industry in paying its staff, BECTU is pursuing the unpaid fees and demanding answers from company directors about how they will compensate members for the failure to pay them. The union is also calling for a new industry code of practice to better protect freelance workers when companies go into administration.

“I’ve never had a situation where individual BECTU members have been hit this badly and it is not something we can’t just shrug our shoulders and move on from,” commented BECTU assistant national secretary Paul Evans, who has been working with London production freelance members for seven years. “This is a hugely profitable industry and the productions that our members worked on were successful. It’s not acceptable for VFX artists who have contributed to the success of multi-million pound features to be the ones to carry risk and to go unpaid for their hard work and talent.”

BECTU is seeking a meeting with company directors and is writing to union members to advise them against accepting work without guarantees of weekly pay.

“Our industry is unsustainable if directors can, effectively, establish an arm of one company, trade unsuccessfully and then leave workers to carry the can. If the industry can’t come up with a way of protecting workers from this kind of catastrophe, we will have to invest in some publicity to warn people against working for any VFX or Post Production company as a limited company, or in any status that doesn’t ensure that they have full employment rights,” Evans added.

“The incentives are all wrong in VFX,” he continued. “A lot of the risks end up on the shoulders of freelance workers who have to cushion the industry by accepting long periods of unpaid overtime work and working-hours that are very sub-optimal in terms of creativity and productivity. It’s an industry that drives talented people out.”

Source: Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.