This blog is dedicated to rethinking the broken VFX business model from the ground up. It is dedicated to empowering artists across the globe and exploring the potential of a future generation of vfx, animation and film studios that are cooperatively owned and democratically run by the artists and workers. Where the artists, engineers, and creators are not merely a tool for the financial gain of anonymous shareholders and a wealthy & powerful few, but are instead participants and beneficiaries of their collective successes.
WHAT IS A WORKER’S SELF DIRECTED ENTERPRISE?
Contrary to popular misconception, a worker’s self directed enterprise (WSDE) or worker cooperative is not an inherently structure-less, chaotic, anarchic collection of individuals who are all involved in the minutia of every decision from what kind of cleaning supplies to buy to what file format to use. It is not synonymous with a flat organization. It is also not synonymous with various food or education cooperatives.
A worker-cooperative in film may not, on the surface, look all that different from the companies you’re already familiar with from Pixar to Disney to Lucasfilm. They may have managers, visual effects supervisors, producers, directors, a board, and yes – even a President or CEO. What makes a worker-cooperative different is that the company is not owned by an individual or by anonymous shareholders: it is owned and directed democratically by the workers who act in their mutual-self-interest. If your company produces a profitable product, the people who created that product are the ones who profit. Voting power is not weighted in favor of one individual, but rather every worker-owner has an equal vote.
It is important to note, again, this does not mean every worker has to vote on when to replenish office supplies. Just being a worker-owner doesn’t mean you need to know how to run a company. People with those skill sets would be placed democratically in those roles.
It is also important to emphasize, once more, the term “worker” does not imply only a specific type of worker, such as an animator, artist or writer. “Worker” in this case implies every individual required to create the product, and for animation that might include writers, accountants, managers, directors, supervisors, coordinators, producers, and various types of artists.
But on the big decisions, like how to distribute the profit when you have a streak of successful movies, or how to react to a series of financial failures, you will have a say. No individual can decide to lay you off or send your job to another city. If the workers believe the company can survive hard times by temporarily moving half of the company to part-time or temporarily lowering the salaries of their executives, or conversely that they could increase value by pursuing some new form of entertainment or model of distribution, these things are all within the power of a group of people with an equal voice who are all acting for their mutual best-interest.
It is worth mentioning that this is not a new or untested business model. It has worked for hundreds of thousands of workers in hundreds of companies large and small across the world. We have many examples to look to for what does and doesn’t work and room to discuss how those principles could be applied to our industry.
WHAT ROLE THIS BLOG WILL PLAY
This blog is a seed of an idea for you to do with as you will.
Over the course of the coming months, this blog will dive into the details of WSDE’s/workers cooperatives, what we know and don’t know about them, what we don’t, and it will examine news and issues in the industry through this prism and share various ideas on how they could radically reshape our industry and the lives of the artists who work in it.
The primary purpose of this blog is not to convince you to join my animation cooperative, but rather to play a role in facilitating a conversation yet to be had and empowering the community of artists and engineers who might be interested in new ideas for building a healthier, more stable, equitable, democratic animation industry.
Maybe you’re already sold, maybe you’ve already arrived at these conclusions independently and are ready to start planning. If that’s you and you’d like to connect with other like-minds, reach out to me here.