April 21, 2014
The LA Daily News reports on some recommendations by the LA Mayor’s Film Czar office at City Hall which you can hear at the 16:25 mark here:
Alluding to industrywide complaints that store owners frequently ask for money in return for allowing a production to take place outside their businesses, Dalal recommended that lawmakers address ethical issues, perhaps by creating a “code of conduct” for the industry.
“Los Angeles is known as the extortion capital of the world for the film industry,” Dalal said.
Extortion? Really? I’d like to ask the LA Mayor’s Film Czar’s office how they can accuse business owners of extortion when the film industry does the same thing on a more perverse level with their demand for more film subsidies.
According to Mr. Dalal’s statement, when disrupted business owners ask for compensation from Hollywood studios that shoot in front of their shops, that’s extortion, but those same studios threaten to disrupt the CA film industry by leaving unless the government gives them more free taxpayer money. Is that not the same type of extortion the Mayor’s film czar office says the studios are a victim of?
Looks like the pot is calling the kettle black here and the media and the public are wising up to this ruse.
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April 8, 2014
Last month many of you read about the blockbuster revelation by the MPAA that made national and international news and bolstered our legal effort to place anti-subsidy duties on trade distorting subsidized VFX. This was a case concerning dental braces and last week there was a ruling in the plaintiff’s favor that further helps our case: ITC Says Digital File Transfers Are Imports Under Tariff Act. You can read the ruling here where this key statement is highlighted.
I did an interview with Buzzfeed about the importance to this case where I explain the significance: How A Case About Invisible Dental Braces Could Change The Way Hollywood Does Business:
“If the MPAA is saying films are a tangible good, and those goods are heavily subsidized by a foreign government, the law allows us to put duties on that,” Lay said.
“The MPAA and the [International Trade Commission] have confirmed our position that digital products are goods, their electronic transmission are effectively imports, and the Tariff Act applies, which contains not only strong anti-piracy provisions, but strong anti-subsidy duty provisions too,” he said. “We have been working on the case, which we hope to submit in the coming months.”
The MPAA also had a charming response which I agree with:
“Congress has given the ITC broad authority to protect U.S. industries from unfair acts in importation, including copyright infringement,” Ducklo said in an email. “In order to fulfill that mandate to protect American business, the ITC must be allowed to tackle infringement where it most often occurs — online. Otherwise, American businesses lose an important protection, which puts them at a significant international disadvantage.”
April 2, 2014
Assemblymember Mike Gatto is one of the main legislators behind the CA film subsidy bill AB1839. Last week he caught the attention of many of us after he expressed his interest in our anti-subsidy duty effort. This Saturday he will have a townhall meeting that you must RSVP to attend:
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 5
Glendale YWCA, 735 E. Lexington Drive.
Space is limited. RSVP by calling (818) 558-3043 or via email:
While I may not be able to attend Saturday’s townhall, we have been in contact with Mr. Gatto’s office hoping he’ll support our legal effort. For those of you that might attend his townhall meeting and get a chance to talk with him, urge him to support our anti-subsidy duty effort and explain to him why it’s important to you. I will send an update if I’m able to attend Saturday’s meeting. Let me know if you end up going.
March 31, 2014
Over the weekend some great news:
Disney’s hit film “Frozen” has become the top-grossing animated film in box office history, knocking Woody off his pedestal. With its opening in Japan this weekend, “Frozen” has taken the top spot and pushed its worldwide box office to an estimated $1.072 billion, pushing past “Toy Story 3.”
Opponents of this blog have long argued that without subsidies and unorganized cheap labor, Hollywood would not be able to make successful movies. However Frozen is a glowing example that you can make successful movies with unions, no subsidies, and lots of great VFX. Oh and break some huge records too.
It’s also worth pointing out that this isn’t an exception, the most successful animated films have followed same course. What’s amazing to me is that given the parity in the skills for VFX, we haven’t really seen this trend in the international locations. Has there recently been a similar successful film like Frozen where it received no subsidies and was worked on by organized labor in international locations? Why is that?
March 27, 2014
Latest financials have been released for Digital Domain Holdings which is the company that partly own’s Digital Domain:
DIGITAL DOMAIN (00547.HK) announced that in 2013, the revenue rose 153% yearly to $467 million; loss equaled $192 million, against a net profit of $5.95 million in the year-ago period. The loss per share equaled 1.955 cents. No final dividend was declared.
The numbers are in Hong Kong Dollars so the $HKD 192 million loss is about $USD 25 million. This January DDH (earlier known as Sun Innovation) warned that it was going to have some huge losses:
SUN INNOVATION (00547.HK) issued profit warning, projecting significant consolidated loss for the year ended 31 December 2013, due to operating losses incurred from its visual effects business, plus impairment of the participation rights in respect of the film Ender’s Game as at 31 December 2013.
Many in VFX believe co-productions are the answer but as I pointed out, it was very expensive for Digital Domain. Digital Domain minority stakeholder India’s Reliance Mediaworks also suffered massive losses and delisted their stock. There are also serious questions of the suspicious death of China’s Galloping Horse (Digital Domain was sold by GH to Sun Innovations last summer) owner Li Ming who died of a heart attack. It was revealed he was under interrogation.
March 26, 2014
Three years ago I wrote about an anti-poaching agreement revealed in a Federal investigation between Pixar and ILM. The case later expanded to reveal that not only were big high-tech companies like Google and Apple were involved, but these anti-poaching agreements were designed by CEOs like Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, and Meg Whitman.
Now a recent article in Pando reveals that even more companies were involved and one of them is DreamWorks Animation. The court documents show messages from Pixar President Ed Catmull to Disney’s Head of Studio that clearly show the intention was to keep wages down:
Plaintiffs’ evidence also supports Dr. Leamer’s theory that Defendants’ anti-solicitation agreements were intended to avoid “bidding wars” for personal that could drive up wages. See, e.g., Shaver Decl., Ex. 60 (stating in an email that Pixar and Lucasfilm “have agreed that we want to avoid bidding wars”). As summarized by Pixar’s President, Ed Catmull, when writing to the head of Disney Studios:
We have avoided wars up here in Norther[n] California because all of the companies up here — Pixar, ILM (Lucasfilm], Dreamworks, and a couple smaller places — have conscientiously avoided raiding each other.
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March 24, 2014
Last summer a number of readers emailed me about a college in Buffalo, New York partnering up with a subsidy induced VFX startup called Empire VFX. I largely ignored the story because if you knew the intimate details of NY’s subsidy program, you’d realize it was actually a woefully ineffective program.
Well, now the President of Daemen College, Gary A. Olson, has written an article in The Huffington Post piggybacking on ADAPT’s Oscar March to proclaim they have a solution to the problem. We Can Keep the Visual Effects Industry Here in the U.S.:
The college has signed formal agreements with several community colleges in the region agreeing to enroll those of their students who graduate with a two-year digital media degree into our certificate program in visual effects. Once enrolled, these students have the unique opportunity to work side-by-side with professionals in our partner company on actual projects for the film and advertising industries. A Daemen student intern, for example, just helped resurrect Charlie the Tuna for StarKist.
Unfortunately Mr. Olson is on a road to hell paved with good intentions. If you’re a reader of my blog you’ve known about the Digital Domain Institute fiasco where Florida State University tried a similar student program that bankrupted Digital Domain that left Florida taxpayers with a $100 million hole in their pockets.
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