Breaking: Breakout Indie Hit ‘The Amazing Digital Circus’ Is Getting 9 More Episodes
Avatar: The Way of Water Avatar: The Way of Water

A group of 83 vfx workers at James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, best known for working on the Avatar films, have filed a request with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a vote to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

The Lightstorm workers are the first U.S. vendor-side vfx artists to formally file a unionization election request with the NLRB.

According to a release from IATSE, the workers’ primary concerns are affordable healthcare, sustainable benefits, and a living wage. The group includes workers across the company’s vfx departments, including stage, environments, render, post vis, sequence, turn over, and kabuki.

Lightstorm lead asset technical director Christopher Cornejo explained why he wants to be part of a union:

In March of 2023, I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. It’s a disease that I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life, filled with doctor’s visits and medications. Despite all of this, I’ve been fortunate enough to remain in good health and work in a career I care about so much. However, many people in this industry and even within this studio are not so lucky, as none of this is cheap. My goal with unionizing here is to give all of us access to affordable healthcare, benefits, and a livable wage so that we continue to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally while working in one of the most fun and rewarding fields on the planet.

Kabuki lead Jennifer Anaya added:

We often hear studios compare themselves to “family,” and when you work for years on a project like the Avatar sequels, your coworkers begin to feel just as close. Every one of my coworkers has dedicated so much time, creativity, and passion to make these films a reality. So, when you see them struggling to cover their health premiums, or being overworked because they took on multiple roles, or are just scraping by on their wages… you cannot keep silent. We, as vfx workers, are not replaceable and deserve to be protected. We can do better, united together.

Avatar: The Way of Water was released by Disney on December 16, 2022, and went on to make $2.3 billion at the box office.

Regardless of what happens with the Lightstorm workers’ unionization efforts, the majority of vfx artists working on the Avatar films will remain non-unionized. New Zealand’s Weta FX is the primary vfx studio for the films, and its workers don’t belong to a union.

IATSE has seen a significant influx in vfx workers looking to unionize this year. The Lighthouse employees join in-house vfx workers at Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures and employees at DNEG Vancouver in seeking union representation.

According to IATSE International president Matthew D. Loeb:

We stand at the cusp of a new era in the vfx industry. An era where every worker is valued, where their contributions are acknowledged, and their rights fiercely protected. This moment is a beacon for the entire industry.

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.

Latest News from Cartoon Brew