Indian VFX Artists Discuss Unionization & Problems

The booming VFX industry in India is running into problems. Read this thread and you’ll get some very good insight into the industry there and hopefully you’ll realize that no matter where you are in the world, we VFX artists go through the same problems regardless of race, income, and talent.

I also caught word of a thread on linkedin about Prime Focus in India. Here is a snippet from some Indian VFX artists discussing the company. The complaint apparently seems to be that some artists that are forced to pay a deposit for a long term contract and 14-16 hour work days at Indian facilities by Prime Focus.

I have removed the names:

Redacted: PrimeFocus is presently focusing on Money from newly joined members in their company (INDIA). Taking huge amount as safe deposit that commitment for 2 yrs and no refund after breaking the contract.

Redacted: They can do anything…

Redacted: They take money from new employees???

Redacted: They want people to pay to work there? Haha, that’ll be the day…

Redacted: Vfx at its best in india it really sucks…..for award winning films of Hollywood

Redacted: Which PrimeFocus are we talking about here Mumbai / Hyderabad / Bangalore / Chandigarh / Chennai?

Redacted: all the above

Redacted: i dont think this is happening in london

Redacted: Yeah I haven’t heard of that happening in London either.

Redacted: Does the other offices of Primefocus are aware of this??
I mean like the LA Head-Office ??

Redacted: anyone from LA Primefocus are on here ??

Redacted: That’s ridiculous!!!It means whoever is having money but not the talent can enter PF, India; I think they are getting ready for a compromise in quality for the sake of money!

Redacted: Actually pf need people who can operate software but not artists and they wont have any respect for artist its like slavery …..

I’ve come to a conclusion about India. There really isn’t a VFX market there, however there’s a huge VFX EDUCATION market there. From what I understand, Indian culture tends to play a very high level of respect for education and many are willing to pay top dollar for a degree in a respected field. Some individuals looking to make some quick money set up schools that don’t teach much but offer quick and expensive certificates in VFX.

I’ve regularly posted about scams and most recently posted various opinions by those working in the Indian VFX industry here and here. I also posted reaction to articles on how Indian VFX is actually being outsourced to the US and other higher priced countries and the demise of the Indian Animation industry.

Once again, I’m not here to put Indian VFX artists down. There are many great Indian VFX artists that I work with. They are not seeking to be a winner in a race to the bottom. They seek to race to the top just like you and I. That’s why many of them quickly leave India to get better salaries in the US, Canada, UK, and NZ.

Who I am here to put down are those that are nefarious and naive and cynically argue that no matter what you do, your job is going to India.

Soldier On.

17 Responses to Indian VFX Artists Discuss Unionization & Problems

  1. NateCow says:

    I completely agree with your conclusion about India. I spent some time in Hyderabad this summer working with Dalit** children who are being given an opportunity to go to school. Education is indeed the one thing that can seem to trump the caste system there, so that’s where our focus is.

    I’ve since come in contact with several Indian artists and was talking with a facility for a few weeks after I returned (they emailed me while I was there since they saw from my site that I was in India). I saw the same emphasis with the VFX training being huge but not a ton of effort to be a crucial part of the global VFX market, which is what I would rather see.

    I just know a lot of the Dalit graduates that are coming out of these schools are initially being trained to do tech jobs like networking, web development, media and yes, tech support and call centers. When I learned that, I immediately thought of VFX as a potential opportunity for these kids, and shifted views a little bit on the Indian market. That means thinking of the Indian VFX industry as part of the rest of the industry, and not just someplace we outsource to. And practices like you quoted have no rightful place in any region of the world.

    I’m certainly in the minority though since I’ve already been accused of “willingly destroying our industry,” which I think is a short-sighted, selfish, and misinformed accusation.

    **The lower-than-the-lowest-caste; also known as untouchables.

  2. fred says:

    Is this ,like a paid internship ? (except paid BY the intern)

  3. VFX Dupe says:

    I’ve talked to some of the folks on the US side of Indian outsourcing, and the biggest complaint they had about working in India was the mercenary nature of the workforce.

    There is plenty of labor available in India, but almost none of it had any previous training in VFX prior to taking the job. So the companies going there for labor had to pay to train the labor force. The training process is somewhat more difficult there, as they had to train artists for both a ground-up understanding of the tools, as well as teaching them how to work with demanding western VFX supervisors who wouldn’t accept anything less than they would expect from a US artist.

    What they found though, was that once an artist had achieved some success and mastery, another company would offer them 10 cents more per hour, and they would pick up and leave. [10 cents used here for illustrative purposes only.] The desire to have low-cost artists has created a mercenary workforce, where advancement in pay is the driving motivator. That makes it very difficult to balance the cost of training and holding the artists, with the need to have hundreds of workers at the lowest possible prices.

    So the backstory to Prime Focus asking for deposits from new hires isn’t necessarily that they are being jerks because they can, it’s more that they’re being jerks because if they don’t they’re basically paying their own money to train the competition, who can offer slightly higher wages because they don’t spend their money training anyone. But also probably because they can.

    VFX is now a global industry, which means this craziness we live with is now global too.

    • Ryan Dorsen says:

      well my brother Prime Focus thinks that a artist shud work for them for his whole life at a very low cost coz they provided training to him. A person won’t leave a company unless he get a fare pay from his work. PF gives $150 to its employees (this is not illustrative) for his work. If possible find a PF employee on Facebook or Yahoo or Google and ask him abt his job and his lifestyle. Even if they are sick they have to work. India don’t have any limit of good artists, in every Hollywood movie u’ll definitely find names of Indian Artists.

  4. meh says:

    I don’t understand the difference between the globalization of industrialized VFX and the global software industry

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6288247.stm

    http://www.stylusinc.com/business/india/bangalore.htm

  5. VFX Jimbo says:

    I worked at the Prime Focus Vancouver studio and I can confirm the long hours there.

    We were working on Sucker Punch and doing on average 12-13 hours a day. At one point we were working 7 days a week for two months straight. One compositor asked for just a day off (to rest up) and she got fired!!! NICE!!!!

    I will never work for Prime Focus again and I strongly recommend other artists to stay away.

  6. Anon says:

    All the PF statements are accurate except for the hours. Artists are expected to work until their shot is done. That means they could be there overnight or a day or two straight. Bangalore was shut down by a strike and Chandigarh had a riot. Both over raises that never came. PF doesn’t exist in Los Angeles any longer – there are more administration there than artists.

  7. meh says:

    [reposting]
    The PR vs the reality…

    http://www.primefocusworld.com/news/2010/11/prime-focus-handpicks-hottest-vfx-talent-launch-prime-focus-film

    http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/prime-focus-is-onwell-hedged-trajectory/314042/

    “…our focus is to build a certain pipeline to be able to get work across borders and to bring it to India using our cost and technology base, unlike any other typical outsourcing company we are also creating a very credible front-end operation that has its own local repute and presence through acquiring studios abroad. So, for the client it is as good as walking into his studio and saying what he would like to do. We then open our backdoor and get the work done somewhere [else] and plug it into the end product…acquiring studios abroad adds another strategic dimension to our business. While we have the capacity and technological expertise to carry out special effects and post-production projects, we do not have the experience to cater to Hollywood. The studios that we acquire bring in this repertory of experience in the form of people who have worked with film-makers in the developed markets. Our Indian operations will be able to learn the processes and skills required to cater to global film-makers from the teams added to Prime Focus through these acquisitions.”

  8. [...] Lastly, I wrote an observation about the Indian VFX and Animation industry that I will say about China’s industry: There really isn’t that much of a VFX or Animation industry in China, but there is a huge EDUCATION industry. Many families and governments will throw tons of money for the prestige of an education degree. It’s big business in India and China to have a school that charges big bucks for crappy VFX degrees. [...]

  9. meh says:

    Unions in the 21 century – another ‘western’ based company tries to compete with Asia by threatening it’s local employees

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15504838

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/transport-union-puts-its-case-on-qantas-20111027-1mlnn.html

  10. frank stokes says:

    C’mon, this is pathetic. I’ve worked as a VFX Animator and I’ll leave out the names of my supervisors and company but the Indian “VFX Talent” are significantly inferior to the American work force. In one
    case, I noticed the OJT was drastically needed with the Indian
    new hires, not to mention how they lack Americana Culture and don’t really get the cultural references which takes time to explain and these supervisors hope they can fully absorb it and apply that into the character animation work that the script requires. This a classic case of
    CHEAP COMPANIES farming out for cheap talent and praying
    they’ll get better by shadowing already established AMERICAN
    TALENT at the expense of of the AMERICAN TALENT, sad but true. Like the old saying goes, “Great work is never cheap and cheap work is never great.” I’m not against any race but I
    think this current “global” market is nothing more than greedy
    corporations willing to do anything[hired not so qualified people]
    in order to exploit them so they can rake in higher PROFITS. Just a damn shame what they’re doing to this
    industry. I’ve seen a lot of great VFX Artists get washed out
    by this new wave of cheap imports. But like all things, there will be a backlash; its coming!

  11. Ryan Dorsen says:

    From London to LA, Vancouver to India… everyone in management of Prime Focus know abt this. They do their best to harass artist, in PF artist is treated like a criminal. Low wages ($150 monthly salary for full time). Forced to work extra without any cost, without any food. Ppl get stuck with company coz they paid a heavy deposit to PRIME FOCUS as a deposit. It really sucks !!!

  12. soldier says:

    yea its the same every where in india other than R&H.RIP

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