By Sweep 22 Comments
Over the last few days there has been a lot of turbulence in the VFX industry. Those of you who watched the Oscars might have been aware of the protest taking place on the street outside, where almost 500 VFX artists had gathered to protest the conditions in which many VFX artists are expected to work. To add insult to injury, the film Life Of Pi won the academy award for best VFX while the studio responsible for the work, Rhythm And Hues, files for bankruptcy and hundreds of artists lose their jobs. When the representatives stand to claim their awards, their speech is cut short and their mic unplugged as soon as they mention their studio, the Jaws theme played obnoxiously over their cries of protest. They had not exceeded the time limit they were allowed for their speech, and the presenters, Seth McFarlane included, can be seen clearly baffled by the whole scenario.
The issue here is one of subsidies; VFX soldier explains them far better than I could ever hope to:
"The problems are further compounded by countries that hope to generate economic activity by offering subsidies that essentially pay studios to have the vfx work done there. Vfx facilities are now becoming “rent seekers” where they move from country to country, state to state to take advantage of free government money. This has led many vfx artists to become permanent nomads where some are forced to leave their partners and newborn children to find temporary work in the far reaches of the world. I know of senior colleagues who purchased homes with a false sense of job security only to end up being laid off months later and forced to foreclose when they could only find work in another country.
In an attempt slash costs the vfx facilities have eliminated benefits such as sick days, health insurance, and retirement accounts. Many are forced to work under illegal conditions with unpaid overtime and 1099 tax statuses where we are responsible for paying the employer’s portion of social security. The projects have become more volatile as the vfx facilities try to please the demands of the director put in place by the studio. Constantly months of work can be thrown away by last minute changes by directors with zero consequences. This in turn leads to extended crunch times to update the changes where artists work day and night with 70-100 hour weeks."
- Many VFX facilities have been forced to move or have gone out of business because of underbidding exacerbated by government subsidies that drastically distort the price of VFX.
- For every $100 paid to a BC VFX worker, the government pays $60 back to the studio. This is not a tax credit, it goes beyond the tax liability. It’s free money for rich US Studios.
- Subsidies violate many international trade agreements and we have hired counsel to challenge them.
- No matter how successful or efficient our work is, we are ultimately at the mercy of the next government willing to distort prices and put the companies we work for out of business.
Here's a quote taken from An Open Letter To Ang Lee, who has been widely criticised for not giving his VFX artists the recognition they deserve despite his film winning Best Cinematography (Ironic, considering most of it was shot in a swimming pool) and Best VFX:
"After a fabulously insulting and dismissive introduction from the cast of the avengers, at least two of whom spent fully half of their film as a digitally animated character, R+H won for it’s work on your very fine piece of cinema. And just as the bankruptcy was about to be acknowledged on a nationally-televised platform, the speech was cut short. By the Jaws theme.
If this was meant as a joke, we artists are not laughing."
Here's some more stuff you might find interesting:
- President Obama speaking out against subsidies:
- VFX Solidarity International facebook group
If you see someone on twitter, or on facebook, with a flat green avatar: they are part of this movement. We chose flat green because, without us, that's all you would be able to see. A greenscreen. And maybe some dick in a stupid costume.
For those that don't know; I'm a VFX artist. I chose to write about this here because it's important to me, if not to anyone else, that people are informed. All we ask is your awareness and support. I'm going to end this blog here but if anyone has any questions I'm going to be around so feel free to drop me a comment. I didn't intend for this post to get so long but, y'know, fuck it.