When COVID-19 sent workers scrambling to cobble together home offices and parents rushing to set up home classrooms and day cares, the compounded impact on working parents quickly became a topic of national conversation. But, TAG’s FAM Committee has been listening to members’ stories and advocating for parental support in the workforce long before the pandemic.
Each family’s story is different because each family is different. For National Parents’ Day, a group of parents discuss the challenges they’ve faced and the support they’ve received while working in the animation industry.
Rochelle Perry discovered a need that wasn’t being met before she and Patrick Coy had their daughter CeCe. “My friends all made getting pregnant look so easy as they seemed to pop babies out whenever they tried,” Perry says. While she and Coy passed all the tests that indicated they should easily be able to have a child naturally, this did not happen. “We were getting older, and I lost track of the number of times I cried myself to sleep.”
A former TAG member who is now Associate Producer of The Fungies! at Cartoon Network, Perry underwent IVF. Her corporate health plan helped cover the cost—making parenthood possible for Perry and Coy. For Guild members currently struggling to conceive, the path to parenthood can feel more like a maze; IVF coverage varies between MPI Health Plan carriers and is not yet universally accessible.
Assisted Reproductive Care (including IVF) is just one of the areas where the FAM Committee is working to effect change. This is a change that would not only benefit TAG members; it would improve conditions for all IATSE Locals participating in our collectively bargained health plans. This is why it’s important for Locals to join forces and to share stories.
A member of IATSE Local 700 and an editor on SpongeBob SquarePants, Estrella Capin had baby Ellie with Kim Capin at the end of 2019. When the pandemic hit, it was “possible to be home and spend tons more time with [Ellie] than we ever dreamed possible,” she says. “Being present for those first milestones is something we’ll always appreciate.” Under typical circumstances, Capin would have already returned to work on-site at Nickelodeon Animation Studio, and would have missed many of those milestones in exchange for job security. The pandemic has made clear the benefits of working from home, flexible schedules, and family leave.
Paid Family and Medical Leave is another area of focus for the FAM Committee—a benefit that ensures parents don’t have to choose between their children and their jobs, and one that keeps talented individuals in the animation workforce. PFML has both short- and long-term benefits. It improves diversity, equity, and inclusion at work and family wellness overall.
Bonding time isn’t just needed after a child is born, as numerous TAG parents can attest. Mario and Laura D’Anna went through foster care to adopt their two daughters, Rebecca and (most recently) Hazel. A director at Bento Box Entertainment, D’Anna says, “The hardest part about fostering and working in the Industry is managing a consistent schedule on the animation side of things while dealing with the radically unpredictable and regulation heavy side of the foster care system.”
Like Capin, D’Anna found much to appreciate about working from home during the pandemic. “It has given both Laura and myself the opportunity to know Hazel better and be there for both kids as much as possible.” But he adds, “I never could have done it without Laura.”
Fawn Veerasunthorn, Ryan Green, and their daughter Kina can relate. “I wouldn’t [have been] able to finish Raya last year without Ryan flexing his ultimate dad powers,” says Veerasunthorn, who was Head of Story on Raya and the Last Dragon. Green, who is a director at Walt Disney Animation Studios, agrees. “Luckily Fawn and I have been able to zig while the other is zagging enough to make it work,” he says.
Not all parents have a partner to help carry the load, which is another reason family leave and flexible work arrangements are essential. Writer, story editor, and creator Kevin Kramer is raising sons Myles and Jack on his own, and if a family issue arises, he should be able to address it without jeopardizing his job.
Enabling parents to spend quality time with their kids can also bolster the animation industry. As Kramer says, “I even love talking shop with Myles and Jack–sometimes referring to them as ‘my own personal focus group,’ bouncing ideas around with them for inspiration.”
“The world needs art,” concludes Green, “but the world also needs parents to be present in the lives of their children. A studio that offers an opportunity for both will, ultimately, draw and retain experienced artists who are ready to enrich their lives [and their work] with parenthood.”—Kristin Donner & Kim Fay
(1) TAG members can explore IVF discounts through Kaiser (https://www.mpiphp.org/assets/files/yourbenefits/health/SPD_Active_2019.pdf) and Anthem – WINFertility (https://www.winfertility.com/anthem-special-offers/.) To join the discussion on assisted reproductive care and expanding MPI Health Plan benefits, contact the FAM Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2) A Resolution to Research Health Insurance Inclusive of Assisted Reproductive Care was drafted by members of the FAM Committee and presented by the delegates representing The Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839 to the 2019 District 2 Convention, where it passed with full support.
(3) In 2018, Guild members advocated for our first-ever Parental Leave policy: Master Agreement, Article 27; a Resolution to Research Job-Protected, Paid Family Leave for Inclusion in the IATSE Collective Bargaining Agreements was drafted by members of the FAM Committee and presented by the delegates representing The Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839 to the 2020 District 2 Convention, where it passed with full support.
(4) New America Foundation 2017 “Paid Family Leave: How Much Time is Enough” https://www.newamerica.org/better-life-lab/policy-papers/paid-family-leave/; Boston Consulting Group 2017 “Why Paid Family Leave is Good for Business”