A small break from your regularly scheduled daily doodle, which you can find here. And I know, text posts on Tumblr are such a drag but:
There’s been far too little coverage(if you’re not looking for it or aren’t personally connected to the issues) of the 400+ VFX artists who engaged in a demonstration in Hollywood during the Oscars. Rhythm & Hues, one of the main VFX studios behind Life of Pi, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was forced to let around 200 people go-many of whom haven’t yet received pay for work completed before being fired.
That’s right. The studio that accepted the Oscar for best VFX on a movie that made over $500 million worldwide in the box office can’t even afford to pay its staff.
What’s more, just as Bill Westenhofer(VFX supervisor on Life of Pi at R&H) began to bring up the plight in his acceptance speech, the orchestra was given the cue to play him off. With Jaws. Seconds later, his mic was cut.
To be fair, acceptance speeches that run long are often given cues to wrap it up, but the numbers don’t really add up.
But what is this all about, really? Reddit user PixelMagic has one of the more succinct explanations of the issues at play:
“VFX studios are having a very difficult time making profit on movies they work on, even if that movies goes on to make millions or over a billion dollars. VFX studios make 5% profit on a GOOD year, but most of the time breaking even or even losing money on a job. This in turn has a very negative effect on vfx workers working at those companies. The entire fault does not lie with movie studios or vfx studios, but both contribute to the bad state of affairs in different ways.
The most noticable, is that other countries offer tax subsides that do not allow even competition. If a VFX studio in California bids on work for a set price, then a VFX studio in Vancouver can bid that very same price AND offer a 30-35% (not sure of exact figures) tax rebate on that work, but the VFX studio doesn’t get that money, the movie studio does. So they (the movie studio) automatically get 30% of their VFX paid for by tax payers instead of out of their already wealthy pockets. The California VFX studio therefore cannot compete with this situation, so fair competition is impossible.
Low rung jobs such as roto/paint fixes are being outsourced to China and India by movie studios because they can get the work done far cheaper there.
Movie studios put vast pressure on VFX houses to lower costs AND do more work at those costs. They also put huge pressure on VFX studios to open offices in subsidized locales so they (the movie studio) can take advantage of tax breaks. Most VFX studios who refuse or can’t afford to offer a subsidized location don’t get the work and go out of business. However, movie studios expect the VFX studio to take care of all the costs of moving to the new country themselves. And still have the nerve to ask for cheaper labor.
In addition to movie studios asking for more and cheaper work, they want it done in less time. VFX on a movie used to be 1 year long, and now they are trying to take the process down to 6 months or less. Because of this…
VFX studios often have their staff put in TONS of overtime. 10-12 hour days are a norm, and during crunch time 16 hour days, heck, spending the night at the studio, is not unheard of and in fact common. These horrendous hours can last 3-6 months, 7 days a week. On top of this, several VFX companies are not paying for that overtime, because movie studios refuse to pay for the extra hours (remember they are putting on the pressure for cheaper), even though they have insane deadlines for VFX delivery.
Every other movie trade except VFX has a union to prevent such gross injustices. VFX artists don’t have a stable 9-5 full time job. They are just temp contract workers, jumping company to company, project to project. As such, they do not have portable benefits, as other unionized trades in filmmaking do.
Artists are too afraid to speak up against these injustices because they’ll just kick you out the door for causing too much trouble, because there are 100 dumb young kids who would jump at the chance to work on a Hollywood movie for peanuts. Without a union, they don’t have much leverage.
VFX studios are too chicken to take a stand against the movie studios, because really, they only have about 5-6 clients such as Paramount, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Sony, etc. If a VFX studio stood up to one of these companies about their unfair practices, they’d get black listed as trouble makers and never asked to work again, thus driving them out of business. Likewise, if a VFX worker complains to a supervisor about unfair hours and no overtime pay, he is similarly black listed to not be hired again on the next project.
This is just a handful of problems, but I feel the major ones. VFX artists in Hollywood are treated like shit. VFX artists have a huge passion and love of their skill and trade, and because of it are taken advantage of. It’s time for them to stand up and just be treated like decent hard working human beings.”
More on those kids working for peanuts.
Tumblr, you LOVE these movies. Let’s support the people who help make them stunning, or at least, you know, help them keep their jobs.