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Flocking to Greener Pastures turning Brown?

I work in the business we call show. For many years I've been doing computer graphic special effects. And I've wanted out for many years. Don't get me wrong — if you have to have a job it's a great one to have. I get paid well, I work with very intelligent and creative people, I can dress as down as I like, I don't have to pee in cups, I get to use my brain to its fullest, and I work on some of the sexiest projects imaginable seen by countless millions of people.

But it's almost a cliché that those who have been in this industry a long time clamor to leave. The hours can be grueling. For instance, I've been wanting to blog all week but work's been prohibitively consuming. In the past I turned down a job to work on Matrix 2 & 3 because the starting hours were 12 hours a day, six days a week; it was only a couple of weeks after what would have been my start date that the schedule became 14+ hours a day, seven days a week — for over two and half months! I would have missed my then 2 year old son's entire summer, and I was not willing to do that.

My longest work week was 109 hours, including a stretch of 65 straight hours. The pressure to deliver by (sometimes arbitrary) deadlines can be intense: eg, final renders for The Matrix were still being computed shortly before the final release cut was due for printing, and it was an insane week trying to complete the shots in time; when they finally finished they had to be hand delivered by flying the visual effects supervisor to Hollywood who ran into editorial with scarcely minutes to spare. This is more common that it ought to be. And because the CG industry is not unionized (except for ILM, which even there doesn't really mean squat anymore) employers often get away with shit they should never get away with, like demanding 50 hour week minimums and not paying overtime.

Though I like what I do a great deal I want more time for myself and my family. I had actually left the industry after my last job, and it was only because a great opportunity to finally get to Canada came along that I gladly returned to it. (I would have done almost anything to get to Canada. And — wonder of wonders! — Canada puts artists such as myself on the shortlist of most-desirable immigrants! Imagine that — a country actively recruiting an artsy-fartsy intellectual type such as myself! I was diamond-laned through immigration and handed a work permit on a silver platter. And it has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life!)

As it turns out the entertainment industry is coming back to life in Toronto, so it's a good time to be here. It was recently announced that Toronto will be the home of a giant film studio (pending approval from the city board), which is good news for the city, and for the Canadian entertainment industry.

I'm still a newbie at Canadian politics, and I haven't been following the upcoming election closely, so I can't speak with any authority concerning it. My impression is that Harper and the Conversatives are kissing cousins to Murkan Republicans, and I know a lot of people are really worried that should they assume a majority we'll be following Murka down the fascist toilet. I suppose people are justifiably pissed at Martin and the Liberals, but as someone at work said "You don't sign up with the devil just because God made a few mistakes." (I take this with pounds of salt, but I think there's some merit to the general thrust of his argument.)

From a purely selfish point of view it would totally suck to go to the trouble of returning to an industry I left in order to leave Murka to find greener pastures in some other country, only to have the herbicidal poison-cloud blow over the border and turn the pastures as brown as the shirts worn by the crop dusters. Of particular concern, at least to the entertainment industry here, are the plans Harper has for gutting the CRTC — Canada's version of the BBC — and converting Canada's airwaves to the privatized corporate propaganda system so favored by the FCC. It seems that Harper is bent on making the perception of Canada as Murka's 51st State a reality. Xymphora, as usual, has a solid take on it all.

The reason for this reflection is due to an email I received from Jon Husband at Wirearchy about a comment left at The Whiskey Bar:

Here's the scary part: many of my friends in "The Industry" want out too --- no joke -- people are planning their escape routes. So if Bush is re-selected you will see a massive talent drain in the entertainment industry, which is probably a good thing because the US entertainment industry lately is styfling. (sorry, awful speller)

Also, many who work in entertainment are here on special visas -- anyone see that report today that says that after July 16 the US govt. will force people holding a bunch of different visa classifications to leave the country and re-apply when their visa expires?

This is going to ensure that whatever entertainment we get down here will be about 1/8 as much fun.

How much worse is it going to get? And what are the words to "O Canada?"

I had a duty to myself and my family to leave Sparta. Not that Canada is Athens — though with what I expect to be an influx of Murkan artists and intellectuals over the coming few years it could become a kind of early 21st century bohemian enclave, much as New York and San Francisco became when artists and intellectuals fled the Nazis. It would be sadly ironic — no, it would be immensely tragic — should so many people come here, as I did myself, only to find themselves back where they started.