The VFX industry, as I know it, is not a 9-5 existence, quite often we work late to meet deadlines, or to take calls from state side clients. Also, when on shoots, VFX related shots often get shunted to the end of a day’s schedule as there is no requirement to pay VFX crew overtime, 60 hour weeks are fairly normal, 100 hour weeks are not unusual, especially not when you get close to the end of a project.
Insisting on shoe horning my job to fit a 9-5 time frame, resulted in frustrating compromises in, perhaps, predictable areas. For me, demanding to not work overtime led to a stagnation in pay and promotions, and limitations on the projects open to me. I justified the situation by telling myself that ‘I was just lucky to have a job…’. Gradually, and unwittingly, I fell into the trap of feeling so ‘grateful’ to still have a career that I accepted any role, on any terms offered to me, regardless whether I was actually suitable for it or not. This was not a good situation for me, or for my employer.
When I fell pregnant for the second time, I knew if I were to return to work in the Visual Effects industry after my maternity leave I would need to do so under different circumstances.
It’s easy to make things look neat in hindsight but what I’ve realised is that I was trying to to organise my life around the role as a VFX Producer, at the same time as trying to fit the role of VFX Producer into my life as a parent. As a result, both suffered.
During maternity leave number two, I took stock of my situation. I wrote lists of what I wanted to do, what I believed I could offer, how logistically that would work with childcare and, crucially, how much time I was willing to give.
Not going back to work was not an option really I considered. I love working, and I believe having interaction with other adults and responsibilities outside of the home, makes me a better parent. I decided the solution would be a part time job.
What followed were a few tumultuous and emotionally charged months when I fluctuated between thinking I had solved my dilemmas, to trying to come to terms with a growing sense of dread that perhaps the role I wanted did not exist. I thought my time in VFX had come to an end.
And then the call came. A former colleague had recommended me for a job, and his boss was calling to see if I was interested in a part time VFX Producers position at a boutique facility in Soho. The duties he described were not tied to a show and therefore left the role more flexible, and what he was looking for married up with the experience and expertise that I had. As I negotiated my contract I remained realistic about the commitment I was willing to make, and what I knew I could offer.
Two years on and I am still happily employed by the same facility. I like what I do and I like the people I work with but I am not grateful to have a job. We should not have to feel grateful.