We recently posted a short op-ed piece that sparked a good deal of comments. In sharing this news, Motionographer was a bit late to the game; many other blogs that deal more consistently with industry news had already posted it. But the consensus on our team was that we should add our voice to the chorus.
Many of the comments on the post contained good points from several different angles. To my delight, not everyone agreed. References were cited, civility was maintained and I was shown new perspectives on the issue.
Things came off the tracks a bit with this suggestion, though:
“Here is another thought, how about Motionographer pay attention to studios with good practices and ignore studios that incur in abuse?”
After reading through some of the ensuing comments, I realized it might be helpful to explain why this suggestion is completely untenable. For those of you who instantly rallied behind this comment, please put down your pitchforks and shovels for a minute and listen carefully: This is for you.
Motionographer is an all-volunteer organization run by people with full-time jobs in the animation, visual effects and commercial production industries. We run this site after hours and for free.
We simply don’t have enough time to investigate every claim that some company has done something wrong. We barely have enough time to make posts every day. Case in point: I’m writing this post when I should be working. It takes a huge chunk of time just to put a few words down, much less follow up on long threads of emails to see just how “bad” or “good” a company is being.
We’re doing our best. That might not be enough, but it’s all we’ve got.
The Need for Investigation
For those of you (and I hope there aren’t many) who don’t understand why we would need time to investigate claims, please understand this: Despite your personal experience with a company, we can’t simply take every negative claim at face value. Call us crazy, but we subscribe to the “innocent until proven guilty” school of thought. That means, when possible, we like to hear both sides of a story, trying to figure out what really happened.
Usually, it’s impossible to know exactly what transpired. Most reports of employer misconduct are mired in a web of circumstances that are difficult to reconstruct without the aid of a full forensics team led by David Caruso.
Other times, an individual’s experience with a company can be traced to one bad employee or one bad encounter. Should an entire studio — which could include hundreds of innocent people who have little to no control over the organization — be blacklisted because of one bad employee?
(Hint: The answer is no.)
Even if we did blacklist a company, we would then need to follow up to see if they’d changed their ways and could be “re-admitted” to the site. More time, more resources.
Which Good? Which Bad?
All of this begs a more fundamental question: On what grounds would a company be blacklisted? Legal? Those standards vary from state to state and country to country. Ethical? Fine, but whose ethical guidelines are we using? There aren’t any universally agreed up standards that I know of.
Or should we just defer to the original commenter mentioned above. Perhaps he is the ultimate judge on all things “good” and “bad”? I suspect even he wouldn’t agree with that.
If we started blacklisting sites, it would be irresponsible of us to share any work that we hadn’t already vetted. What if, for example, we accidentally posted a project from a new studio in Argentina that hadn’t paid one of its freelancers? We would by hypocrites!
So, following that logic, we’d need to investigate each and every studio and individual before posting them. If we didn’t, we’d be prejudicing against larger companies that are more open to public exposure and privileging smaller companies that fly under the radar, even though they are just as capable of wrong-doing.
Clearly, that’s a Pandora’s box left closed.
Shades of Gray
Despite personal convictions otherwise, the lines of right and wrong are very rarely clear. Just read through the myriad opposing viewpoints in the comments on the Digital Domain post. Any reasonable person must concede that issues worth debating are muddled with complexity rendered in endless shades of gray. If the issue was black and white, there would be no debate.
Put another way: Had Digital Domain been grinding up babies and using their meat to fuel its workforce, I think we could all safely agree that would be very bad. But it’s never that simple.
What Motionographer Tries to Do
We try to keep things pure. There are slip-ups. There are mistakes. And goodness knows tons of great work slips by our radar. But all of us put our hearts and souls into this project, because we believe in the value of sharing and discussing great work.
No contributor is allowed to post a project that he worked on or is affiliated with. It must be submitted for review just like any other project. And since we all work at competing companies, this turns out to be a pretty good system.
And for those cynical detractors out there: Yes, I work for a company that gets posted on Motionographer. But I haven’t always. Including this site’s predecessor, I’ve been working on Motionographer for about eight years now, in spite of misdirected hostility and bevies of ignorant remarks from people who only understand things from one perspective: their own.
What Motionographer Will Do
We’re in the (long and expensive) process of establishing the Motionographer Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity officially recognized by the IRS.
The Motionographer Foundation has many aims. In addition to revamping Motionographer.com, we will continue producing F5; build more community and educational resources; and hopefully set up entities to aid freelancers, artists and studios survive and thrive in this industry.
But we’re not there yet.
In the meantime, we will focus on doing what this site has always done: Sharing and discussing work that we like. When possible, we’ll post news about related issues in hopes that they will spark conversations that can effect change. At this point, anything more simply isn’t possible.
Editor-in-chief and founder of Motionographer.com