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VFX Solidarity: Is the Future of the Visual Effects Industry at Stake?

Wonder why all your production friends on Facebook have changed their profile pictures to a familiar shade of green? News of Rhythm & Hues Studios going bankrupt, the studio behind the recent Oscar-winning Life of Pi, has acted as a catalyst for awareness. A recent letter written by Phillip Broste has been making the rounds via outlets like VFX Solidarity International, stirring up the visual effects community in a call-to-action. More info and an interview with independent VFX artist Jeff Foster after the jump.

Instigated by this tweet from Scott Ross, Digital Domain founder and ILM’s General Manager, hundreds of VFX artists showed up to the Sunday Oscars with picket signs to protest:

I had a dream, 500 VFX artists near the Dolby (Kodak) theater on Oscar day waving signs that say ” I WANT A PIECE OF THE PI TOO”.
Scott Ross


Why? Here’s how it works:

When a large studio makes a film, the VFX houses bid for jobs, constantly undercutting the competition (other VFX houses). Budgets are locked and when it comes time to make the deadlines, the VFX workers are the ones who suffer, often working unpaid overtime with unsecured jobs, without healthcare, or waiting months to receive pay. There is no union in place to protect VFX workers from poor conditions, and state worker’s laws being broken seems to be the norm. On paper, the effects budgets for these films seem massive, so we assume they must be getting paid well — but in reality it’s a lot of overhead, not profit.

In turn, VFX companies can’t make profit and are going out of business, and artists essentially have to become migrant workers who have to follow the work, largely because of various government subsidies that are set up to attract work to different countries. The VFX community are largely against these subsidies, but finding a way to fight against them and survive at the same time is a struggle. VES, the Visual Effect Society, who has supported and called for expansion on the subsidies in the past, has released an open letter describing its role in this movement. The letter asks for an open congress of VFX artists from all around the world, and tax incentives for California. From fxguide:

The congress is the next major move from the VES, and the Society states “it is hoped that this effort will lead to a number of direct follow up actions that will gain consensus from visual effects artists everywhere.” The congress will be an online meetup of visual effects artists from around the world in various cities (the details are still to be worked out) during which ideas can be put forward and discussed openly and honestly.

Why solidarity? Rhythm & Hues filed for bankruptcy on February 11th, firing 250+ workers, yet are reported to be opening a new facility in Taiwan this month. The community is upset, and received salt in their wound when Bill Westenhofer (visual effects supervisor on Life of Pi) tried to bring up these issues at the Oscars and his speech was cut short — by the theme song from Jaws:

Some are pushing for solidarity to go on strike, others like Scott Ross are vying for a trade association or a guild. The discussion is ongoing, and there’s also a petition to the Obama administration to end the export of American VFX jobs.

I think part of the issue is that we generally see VFX artists as just a ton of names on a list at the end of a film, and not as individuals. Even the main decision-makers on a film crew (like the Director) don’t often have personal interactions with the VFX people, making it easier to marginalize their efforts and working conditions.

On the outskirts of the studio world, I recently spoke with Jeff Foster, an independent VFX Artist / Compositor, writer of the internationally published Greenscreen Handbook, and a regular writer at ProVideo Coalition.

Is a VFX Union something you would be interested in if it was successfully formed?

Unions aren’t necessarily the answer as that won’t stop studios from just sending everything overseas even more. It’s a mess but I think it’s too late – the toothpaste is already out of the tube. People are finding a new industry to work in because this one is totally drying up in the U.S. I’ve been seeing what’s been going on the last few years, I have friends who are directly affected because they are getting laid off. They win an Oscar and then they are getting the doors shut on them.

If joining a union would mean a promise of steady work on big productions, it might be something to consider. I’ve been invited to work on big productions, to work at Weta, Pixar, and I chose not to, mostly for family considerations, but also because you have to think about what you want in life, and I don’t want to be a number. And unless something steps in and saves the day for those working on big budget productions for big studios, I don’t see much of a future there. Smaller boutiques with little overhead will be the ones who survive.

What’s wrong with the current studio model, and what suffers because of it?

The people who are making money are all at the top. The studios can assign 80% of the budget of a film to post-production and visual effects. So when they go in to shoot the film, they will basically slop through it because everything can be added and fixed in post. If you’re the studio producing a film and you’re relying on a few hundred people with computers in a building to basically create the movie for you, you’re not going to take the same amount of time and care that say an independent filmmaker may take to really get the shots you want. People are getting tired of the mega studio VFX films, there’s a hunger for watching a great story unfold. They are tired of fast food, and they finally want some good organic food.

How does / will this affect independent filmmakers or VFX artists who are just starting out?

I suggest that people become more of a generalist, if you’re so niche oriented, then you’re going to be really limited down the line, especially since people are bypassing certain things now. For example, the Adobe Creative Suite offers so many tools that an independent now has access to, and if they apply them, then they aren’t going to be going out to post facilities for color grading, compositing, etc. The delivery system is changing too — not every film is going to theaters.

How do you support solidarity for visual effects artists?

It’s an awareness issue, just like any other cause. It certainly has momentum, and it’s good to start hearing people who are outside of my industry starting to take notice and say “Hey, I saw your profile picture and I had no idea about any of this!”

Are you a VFX worker? Join the discussion in the comments.



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • I’ve worked in the VFX industries for over ten years now and part of the reason I started my own company for film is precisely because of how I’ve been seeing the industry shift over the past decade. Everything you state in the article is correct and I would find it crazy scary to still be working in the industry right now.

    It says a lot when people like me, former vfx artists, prefer to change careers and start businesses and other things, than to stay working in what they brought them to the film industry in the first place.

    I love VFX and post-production, but fortunately, I also always did cinematography so at least I could shift gears and eventually establish my own business. I still hope I get to work in some visual effects projects every now and then, and animation too, so I’m crossing my fingers and hoping everything turns out OK in the end. I would gladly help establish a union or some other form of protection for the hundreds of artists who are always end up losing this game.

  • This interviewee seems very rational. So many people the bright green profile pictures don’t seem to have a clue what they’re trying to say. If the VFX industry can’t survive in the US because of subsidies in foreign countries than who is there to complain to? Not Hollywood, California or the US. It seems foolish for a citizen of the US to complain to Canada or India that their government’s choices is stealing work from another country, they want that. I’m not happy that companies are going out of business but I hardly think blaming Ang Lee or trying to police his Oscar speech is of any use. They should be thanking him for creating jobs when he did.

  • stanley k. on 03.3.13 @ 5:57PM

    Well the one good thing to come of all of this, we may get less cgi driven films. The industry may have to go back to a good script and character driven performances. no more jack the giant slayer….etc….
    did anyone think the life of pi “lion” looked real? once the vfx industry gets beyond video game looking effects we can demand more money. the old claymation effects industry is demanding more money as well

    • No matter how bad he may look, he’s a tiger, not a lion.

    • Ben Holden on 03.3.13 @ 6:24PM

      Yes, I thought the tiger looked incredibly real. Don’t think I’ve ever seen more a convincing CG character. I hope for better stories as well. Life of Pi was one of the better ones, and the artistry of the visual effects in that film played an essential role in its success as a story.

      The Avengers, on the other hand, was saccharine and brittle. A cavalcade of vfx porn with little weight, presence or texture. Generally speaking I like ILM and Joss Whedon but the amount of praise I hear The Avengers getting pisses me off a bit.

      I mentioned this in another post but no one replied so hopefully I can provoke someone this time : P

      • Hey! I actually thought Avengers had a pretty good story. I mean, it was well written in that it had few, maybe no, plot holes. And I think most movies do have plot holes! But character development… Not a whole lot, but a little bit. And thankfully, it does seem like iron man III & man of steel are going to be a lot more emotional and have more character development. I do think the hobbit had less of a story than The Lord of the rings. The Lord of the rings (in my opinion) is the epitome of vfx, epicness, emotion, and story. Hopefully the hobbit picks some of the emotion and story up the next two films. But then, the story isn’t as much of a “story” than it is the tale of an adventure. Lol but it is sad that vfx workers a loosing jobs, because so much of what they do is central to movies even with good stories. I really like Unstoppable because of the aspect of it that was tense, you never knew what would happen, and the effects in that are pretty crucial too! But I think the hobbit’s orks would have been better like they were (for the most part) in lotr – prosthetics. Lol

        • Avengers was as good at Transformers at best. A few CGI things running around and blowing up a city, with a story justifying the large amount of money spent.

      • Daniel Mimura on 03.10.13 @ 10:49PM

        Yeah, I thought The Avengers was pretty weak. It was so un-Whedonesque that I kept forgetting I was actually watching a Whedon helmed film. And the big finale…haven’t they learned yet that when your finale involves fighting off nameless CGI monsters, that anyone but comic book fanboys tune out? Where is the character? I care absolutely zero about anything going of from that point out because they aren’t even characters. This isn’t a slight on digital effects, but a slight on how they are used.

  • Clayton Arnall on 03.3.13 @ 6:03PM

    Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems like any other ‘tech’ industry. Like when a lot of programming jobs started getting outsourced in the early 2000s. Supply and demand. If there’s too many VFX artists for the work that exists, then wages and prices go down. No amount of unions or awareness is going to cause big companies to give contractors extra money as charity! If you don’t want to go out of business, quote reasonable prices that will make you a profit! If you can’t do that, change your business model or tailor your skills to a particular niche that can’t easily be found elsewhere.

    • +1

      Capitalism 101 – When two parties trade they must both agree to the terms. No party can possibly be screwed this way (unless by lack of foresight).

    • john jeffreys on 03.3.13 @ 8:33PM

      the bitter truth. too bad hollywood has a terrible entitlement complex.

  • Well, I was looking into VFX as a career. I am still in high school and I have tried my hand at everything from matte painting and 3d modeling to rotoscoping and camera tracking, I love doing it all. I might need to rethink.

    Like many others Freddie Wong got me into making videos and I love the idea of doing everything from sound to color correction with a tight knit group and at this point that does not look like such a crazy/bad idea any more.

    • You will not “love it all” when all you do day in day out is just pure roto work, heck, even animating hero characters of a big budget movie will turn from very frustrating to very unhealthy and dangerous when the deadline comes closer and you start doing 18 hour days…I have heard some horror stories from colleagues who started to get hallucinations or almost walked into traffic, not speaking of my own issues with physical and other problems…

    • I’m in a similar boat, I actually left public school at the start of junior year to go after VFX while homeschooling. Which by the way, rotoscoping is hell, I don’t like it, and it takes forever, but I love to see what I can get out of it. VFX is hard, really really hard, and I hate a bit of it, but I love computers, and I love film, and it’s the perfect way to start my career in film. Remember, Fwong did freelance VFX work before he made it with youtube.

      While what happening to the industry sucks, I’m still going for it, you just need to be smart. I hope I can get the cheap work out of the way while I’m still living with the parents.

  • “I suggest that people become more of a generalist”. I feel like this is the exact thing people should avoid. are we looking to be the “jack of all trades and master of none”? Maybe people will start doing this, but I don’t think its a good practice.

    • I think it’s an interesting distinction, or choice that depends on the individual. I understand the importance of specialists, we need them, but I find myself vacillating between the two outlooks. It seems today, for me at least, to be able to get work regularly I need to be able to work in multiple departments, and I enjoy getting experience from all angles. For example, this is my first post as a writer at NoFilmSchool, and I’m happy to be able to diversify, it’s all connected & it helps me stay in balance when working through multiple projects.

      I also know a lot of people who get stuck doing something they don’t love to do. Trying your hand at a good sample of jobs might help you find the thing you’ve been looking for, especially for people starting out.

    • I worked for a year as an unpaid intern at a production house, and at 26, that was too tough, considering I was newly married. The idea was that I was done with school, and wanted to get a foot up in industry by working as an intern. You would think that after a year you would get hired, or that by having that experience would help you get hire, but it didn’t. The production house I worked in had a small group of great guys, but the amount of work in our city was so small, that they couldn’t afford to hire, even if they wanted to.

      The problem is that most advertising agencies, or businesses in general don’t like paying for video work. They understand that they need it, and that it really helps their sells, but they continually push prices further down. A video that cost $20,000 in 2007 now is pushed down to $10,000. Th video takes the same amount of work to shoot, edit, ad do vfx, but businesses just don’t want to spend the money. They now see everybody having the ability as it is super easy to do.

      Hell, I’ve been told that this one client’s son has a dslr, and he thought he would just have his son shoot the commercial, which really surprised me, because that’s not all that we did. The editing, and motion graphic work we did on top of shooting is what made the commercial work, but this mindset that anybody can do it is preposterous. Those of us that went to school for this kind of work really resent it when people think of this work as easy.

      I don’t know, things are getting to where this type of work is extremely important, but not valued.

      • Oh yeah, meant to say that, one of the reasons I wasn’t hired is because I wasn’t a jack of all trades. My specialties lied in shooting, lighting, and editing. I wasn’t extremely great at vfx, but was learning, and keeping up the best I could. But, because I couldn’t do all three, I wasn’t valuable enough to be hired.

      • Not preposterous at all, Mason.

        The son with the DSLR will be able to produce a video. Will it be cheap? Yes.
        Will it look professional? No, probably far from it. However, if you don’t mind if your business comes off as amateurish, you’ll probably go for supercheap. Luckily, few businesses will want to look amateurish, so a professional product will always be in demand. However, because a DSLR with some great lenses, a home built editing workstation and a CS subscription can now be had for a few grand, your skills really need to shine. And you need to be fast!

      • Sure, prices have come down substantially over the years. But the other side is that the demand for video has gone up exponentially as well. So, if you’re able to produce smart, make it look like a million dollars, you can make a very reasonable living out there.

    • How I see it, best case scenario is that the artist is a mix of the two. A CG generalist and a Compositor specialist is a potent mix, you can get a lot of work that way and still hold your own.

  • Why not simply go into talks with the camera unions and bring visual effects in under that umbrella seeing that they are already established.

    • There have been a lot of talks with IATSE in the past but the consensus is that there hasn’t been a large enough initiative by either side. Maybe that will change…

  • I don’t think that unions are the answer. They can bring their own set of problems. For example… Do you want to get into current Hollywood union? Well, you better have family or close friends currently in it… they don’t like strangers or new competition. They’re basically invite only. Is that really what the film industry needs more of? What really needs to happen is the birth of another (or multiple) film industries in the US. Hollywood is a corrupt monopoly that has resulted from absolutely no competition whatsoever. They can do whatever the hell they want with virtually no consequences. Producers and executives are so blind to the world of VFX because they simply don’t know anything about the process. The careers of producers, and the like, are drenched in nepotism/networking and they rarely have to understand or “prove” anything. They never had to work their way up on a film set and don’t really know the crafts of film-making themselves. They get their jobs given to them by knowing the right people and then they basically told to repeat the same behavior that’s currently in practice. They just don’t know any other way, and there no room for innovation or trying new things because their jobs are at risk. We need people in these shot-calling positions that have actually done something besides sucking-up and schmoozing… it’s pretty simple. Making it happen however, is going to take a complete collapse of the current industry/model, or a collective shift of mind-set (which has about a 0% chance of happening).

  • I have a question: How are other American companies doing? Imageworks might be backed by Sony to an extent, but if their profit would vanish, so would Sony’s support. Digital Domain, ILM? Are they having troubles as well or are they just passing the bucket down to their ‘blue collars’ doing roto and other minor but time consuming work? Britain’s two biggest studios, The Mill and DNeg, have seen a rise in (award) attention, so have Germany-based Scanline and Pixomondo, probably also due to their international business model. But as far as I know, the big American companies have their subsidiaries in Asia as well. Is there a chance that Rhythm & Hues’ bancruptcy might at least partly hav happened because of a failure in their business model (I heard they were sort of the family enterprise amongst VFX vendors) or was their business model just about trying to do fair pay and that didn’t work out in the fierce competition they are facing?

    • sony (SPI) themselves acknowledged that they always work at a loss because they (to my knowledge) are working only on sony pictures. digital domain went through chapter 11 and was sold to an indian-chinese venture just recently, just after they burned some million US tax dollars. ilm didn`t generate profit until the 90ies, no idea how they`re doing now, having been sucked into the disney tentacle. pixomondo is a nightmare to work at, according to a colleague who left them after a frustrating project, having waited months for his money.

  • As a vfx artist myself, I worked on some big movies at some of the major vfx studios in 4 different countries. I can say few things;
    - In all the places I’ve worked on VFX artist are well paid, so it doesn’t make sense they are asking for more money.
    - You can make big leaps in your rate year after year. I used to hire juniors off school making 35k/year, 2 years later these guys were asking for 45- 50k. thats in US and Canada.
    - VFX artists start calling themselves “seniors”after 4 years working in the field :)
    - US vfx workers blame the industry for not having health care, they should blame the government for making it so expense, in Canada you have it for free, no matter the industry.
    - They are wrongly assuming subsidies are the big reason, the same subsidies are helping other places like Vancouver and Montreal among others which were pretty much dead 7 years ago.
    - YEs, I think vfx artists deserve more recognition.
    - In my POV this is a fairly new career and is been changing quite a lot in the last 10 years, it will settle at one point, but it wont get “better”, if you think about any position in the film industry, people tend to be always searching for the new contract, nobody is staff. Hence if you want to be a vfx artist you should know the perks you are getting before jumping in. A truck driver or a plane pilot know they wont be sleeping at home every night, a doctor knows he will be working long hours and sleeping at hospitals during few occasions, some will make good money some won’t.

    • You assume that getting hired means you’ll be working at that facility for more than a year. But this industry has been moving away from salary workers and towards freelance. Most VFX artists work job to job because they’re hired by a company for a project and then fired 6 months later when the project is over. Job security is a huge thing to worry about, not just the amount you make.

      I haven’t read anywhere that VFX artists make too little money. $45-50k a year sounds about right for the average worker. The problem is that they’re not working 8 hour days 5 days a week. Lots of people are working 14 hour days 6-7 days a week with no overtime. It’s not against the law because when they sign on for a job, they sign a contract saying they willing participate in this action. But what choice do they have, they need the money considering how hard it is to find a job nowadays?

      Yes, Vancouver and Montreal are profiting from film subsidies. But almost everywhere else is hurting from it. New Zealand offers a 40% subsidy for a film, the film packs up and moves there, and after they’re done New Zealand sees how much it cost them for the subsidy and promptly remove it. Now that they aren’t subsidizing, the film studio looks for the next best subsidy. Oh look, India is offering a 35% one! Lets pack up and move up there, rinse and repeat.

      Although Vancouver and Montreal are doing good, it’s because they have a constant subsidy going for VFX work. The problem outside of there is that other places have a temporary VFX subsidy and remove it right after the film is over. That causes the studio and the people to have to spend money to move around every 6 months chasing film subsidies.

    • I’d like to point out that Health Care in Canada isn’t free. It varies from province to province. In B.C. a big draw card for a job is whether or not they pay for your BC care card, if they don’t its aproximately $60 each month.
      Also while subsidies may or may not be the reason there is a lot of VFX work in Vancouver at the moment it is also the reason that Production is undergoing a crisis.

  • It’s Capitalism, Stupid!

    • This is not capitalism. You need to research economics a little more and stop using buzz-words like “capitalism” when you don’t understand the actual definitions of these words. The problems the VFX industry are facing are resulting from a LACK of competition and monopoly (on the studios end) and the RESTRICTION of markets for there services. This is NOT capitalism. It’s closer to Collectivism, or Corporate-Statism in reality. These are actually the mechanics of Socialism, not Capitalism. They need free-er markets, not more unions and regulation. The lack of competition (and free-market capitalism) is maybe the biggest problem facing the industry as a whole!

    • It works, it works, it works!!! Better dead than commie, yaaaay!!!

  • Well the industry is leaning towards contracts, so it’s not that you’ll be “fired” , your contract expires, its a bit different. Like I said, this is a long time reality for many professionals in the entertainment industry, actors and writers for example, with or without unions. You may think: well actors are well paid, well not really, probably 90% of them have to worry about bills and pick as many little contracts as they can.

    I’ve seen many artists rejecting long contracts or staff positions since they were getting lowballed, but thats the industry now, you can go safer and make less money or go contract and make more money, nothing new.

    Almost all the big studios pay overtime, at least all that I worked on. And yes, sometimes you work a LOT of hours, but some places you can do 40 hours a week for 1 year.

    Subsides is only hurting one place in this planet, California. It must be tough if you have a well established life there and now you have to travel to feed your family, but the only one that can try to make this better is their own government, it’s unfair to be blaming Canada or NZ for offering incentives to stir up their industry and therefore collect more taxes as a result.

    Again, there are a lot to finesse in the process in order to make it more profitable for your employers and therefore a bit more stable for the employee, think about that subsidies in Canada and NZ must be the only thing holding all the studios from moving to Asia already.

  • Ched Stevens on 03.4.13 @ 5:57AM
    Does Color Grading count as VFX?

  • Ched Stevens on 03.4.13 @ 5:58AM

  • I think a Union for VFX would help, but as the article states, studios would move overseas. If every VFX house insisted on a cut of the gross it would solve a lot of their problems, but again, the studio will spend elsewhere. In reality the VFX industry has all the power, but don’t know how to wield it, and are too busy chasing the next paycheck to learn. When the 2013 Oscar winner for cinematography is a most CG film… Come on. What really needs to happen is VFX groups need to come together and start their own studios. There is HUGE potential there.

    I remember a story about the Matrix films. Keanu Reaves gave his entire 15 million dollar paycheck for one of the films to the VFX crew. Why? He said “They’re the guys actually making the movie.”

    • “What really needs to happen is VFX groups need to come together and start their own studios. There is HUGE potential there.”

      +1 This is the best solution. It’s essentially firing your clients and coming up with your own projects. This model has actually worked well in the design realm as some studios have completely stopped taking in client work to focus on their own start up projects-and have actually done better.

      The one thing that still sticks out in my mind is distribution. Who is distributing their movies? Will they get the cold shoulder? Could they even hold weight at the box office and actually gross? If they can, this idea will completely revolutionize the entire Hollywood model.

      • Yes, this sounds like a great idea. Like I said before, unions are not the answer… and they create their own set of problems and make the industry that much more “exclusive” to a tight circle.

  • I blame the US artist, themselves they had everything but chose to do northing, an exampe is the average windows machine is far power than a mac for like God knows wen. But they neva chose to use windows, the mac has not been updated for lik 2 yrs ppl are still playing apple fanboy. The truth is all hollywood jobs would still go overseas, dats a fact. Do u knw dat with $100, 000 u can set up a badass postproduction studio, U could probably act a $100 million dollar film witrh $2million using freelancers artists and not so popular actors as long as they have good acting skills. Hollywood need to xpand not grow and its not xpanding. D indians are taking over well I still feel sorry for dem ppl with so much resources but have no idea how to use it.

  • I understand this is a filmmaking site but my view on this has nothing to do with this industry in particular. The whole system is evil, the way corporations work is wrong. What happen is just a snapshot on this particular industry, but it’s no different than any other industry. nNthing is going to change from one day to another and corporations are far too much more powerful than they should be. This is the system we support (by don’t creating oopposition to it) so I don’t think there’s much to complain.

  • this is just fucked

  • Working overseas works! Because of exchange rates its a smart move to go overseas. My main business is outsourcing and staffing now because its huge profit margins. It only cost $300 to get the same if not better production overseas than in the US which would cost me $1200. I’ll take the 300.

    I use to be in the VFX biz and have a few nice production under my belt but I’m mainly a business guy so I cut special deals to make it work in my favor but the average person worked like a prostitute and was treated as such. I’ve seen both worlds and it basically the same with most creative. Their ego wants the recognition so bad it opens them up for exploitation.

    From a business perspective you have to do whats most profitable, not what people consider honest, right, or ethical because thats all relative. The money is a fixed.

    I think the VFX community needs to re-evaluate how it operates because it takes incredible amounts of engineering and science to create even a simple drop of water but its almost impossible to explain how it was done to an average person so most VFX people have no way to communicate their value to the rest of the world.

    The Anime industry in Japan isn’t much different. The actual artists work like slaves for small pay and are forced to forgo quality for quantity. Same artist story around the world. And you can’t blame the businesses. Like I said, I outsource all the time because I like having money. If someone is willing to do a website for $100 when I use to do them for $300, now I keep $200 without doing any work and give the other guy in Asia $100 which translates to $400 in his currency so everyone is happy except the western web designer.

  • “What’s wrong with the current studio model, and what suffers because of it?
    The people who are making money are all at the top. ”

    Well isn’t that what’s always wrong, everywhere? … :)

  • It’s actually the US VFX industry being widely against any form of government subsidies. And forgetting, that other, non subsidiesed industries are moving across the globe as well. You can not call for cheap bananas, jeans and coffee and than complain that you local industries go down the drain – which is what’s happening to VFX.
    I lived in Australia, The Netherlands and Germany for many years.
    - All these countries got massiv subsidies for the film industry – as well as for all other sectors of arts and culture.
    - In all these countries there’s no culture pf private sponsorship and private funding for any sector of arts and culture and film is seen as part of the culture of a nation.
    - All these countries got a massive tax burden on their citizens, much higher than the tax you pay int he US. Plus a massive amount of payments for public social insurances such as unemployment or health insurance. And the citizens are more or less happily paying these high taxes, coz they get a lot of communal funding, goods and services in return: free education, free libraries, public healthcare, excellent city services and yes: arts, culture and film funding.
    It’s simply a different philosophy on how things should be paid. Will a society stick together and make possible what they in a joint effort think might be needed? Or will they choose to walk down the “no government interference – the market will fix itself”?
    In the US Keynesian economics used to be popular as well – before the 80ies that was. People did not live to bad than.
    Before you scream out loud: “Subsidies are evil!” please inform why they are give and have a look at the various methods how they are given (in all three countries I lived in you got to enter with a large bundel of proof of your artistic and/or cinematic plans – it’s not the same support the farming industry or coal mining companies get, it’s even given by a completely different body, who only deals with arts and culture).
    Oh and: China and India do not give subsidies but are due to cheap labour still beating many VFX bids.

  • Let me just say, I’ve been in the entertainment arts for about 20 years, as a musician, performer, filmmaker, visual artist, writer (and other stuff, too). And what I have discovered is this: those who conduct the “business” of entertainment (as in, non-creative, non-technical positions (producers, funders, lawyers, etc)) are absolute scum. These hyper-wealthy sociopaths would slit their own mothers’ throats for pennies, and smile at you while they do it. Seriously, they think nothing of trying to exploit as many people as possible for as little money as possible, while they take home the lion’s share of the monies involved–and these douches are, for the most part, already quite wealthy (many of them come from money to begin with, FYI-that’s how you get those jobs:being born rich and well-connected). So I’m not surprised about this development. It’s sad, and shameful, but until producers, et al, realize that they neither need nor deserve to get paid $50,000 to make a phone call to another rich jerk with gate-keeper power, or to make $2-10 million for a project to which they contributed nothing other than headaches and a toxic (and usually less-than-safe) work environment for the actual creatives and technicals, things will just continue to worsen for the hard working people who actually are responsible for the art we all enjoy consuming. Viva la Rev!

  • The vfx biz is very young and these are the unfortunate growing pains it has to go through until there’s some equilibrium. The architectural industry goes through these very cycles. It’s painful but unionizing is not the answer. Competing with lower global wages is our biggest challenge here in th U.S. It used to be we were so much better at this work but now the world has caught up. The cream will rise to the top and remain busy and there will be an unfortunate group that need to find alternative careers.

  • Before I say anything, I want you to know that I am on the VFX side, however, next time you want to complain about the financial difficulties these companies are going through, you may want to open your speech with that, so that you don’t get cut off because you are dragging on a speech. I don’t really think he was cut off because he was expressing concern about the financial difficulties since they started the music way before that. He just didn’t plan or time the speech properly.

  • I’m a developing Fx Artist in High School from Ca. From my perspective…I just see this entire industry as a big competition of the most passionate. High School teaches nada about the real industry stuff, just REALLY basic fundamentals I guess with art and business classes. I started video editing in the 8th grade, converted to basic 2D vfx sophomore year, then my junior year got into 3Ds max and all these other 3D software. All on my own.

    From what I’ve been told, this industry is very linear. If you’re good in your area, you’ll move up. And in my opinion, learning this stuff actually isn’t that hard. The internet today gives you access to everything you’d want to know, plus a whole ton more. I kinda want to know everything I possibly can, but not because I’m competing with my neighbor, but because I just want to. Creating things from thin air into video is pretty cool you know.

    I understand however that you have to compete to get a good spot in this industry to actually sustain yourself. I just think for early vfx artists like me, if they don’t know how this industry functions early on in order to prepare themselves, they’re pretty screwed unless they have rich parents to baby them till they figure it out. (A lot of film students have it like that, which I secretly hate).

    I’m lucky to have started early, but damn…it’s so intimidating that it doesn’t feel early enough.