In an instant after the birth of SAG-AFTRA, it seems as if the Disney+ series WandaVision has become the root cause of everything. From unaware use of AI among the background actors to the unionization of VFX workers to combat the unfair practices among the Marvel regime. The tale begins when Mark Patch joined WandaVision as a visual effects coordinator. He thought it was a fantastic chance. He had been out of work owing to the epidemic for four months by November 2020. According to Patch, producing Marvel’s first scripted series for Disney+, which stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, was like producing a 10-hour film in half the time. While the crew enjoyed their midday meals, he worked 16-hour stints, skipping breaks and spending his lunch hour looking over set and costume designs. After barely eight days, Patch gave up.
Patch’s experience coincides with the unfavorable working circumstances that other visual effects artists have encountered when working on Marvel projects. “It was ‘live at work,’” Patch stated. “From the second we woke up in the morning until midnight.”
Visual effects crews at Marvel Studios decided to unionize on August 7 and said they wanted the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) to represent them in reaction to a lack of pay equity, protected hours, and fair turnaround times. A supermajority of more than 50 Marvel visual effects crew members, or 80% of Marvel employees who were on the payroll a week before the petition, signed authorization cards stating that they would be eager to join the union’s representation. A vote to substantiate the union would have taken place on 21 August with September 11 as its deadline.
It is a fact that without Patch and other visual artists, the Marvel cosmos would cease to exist. “We’ve seen [that] the lack of guardrails and protections has created an environment where the employer has unlimited control of our whole lives,” said Patch, who is now a permanent IATSE visual effects organizer.