VFX Oscar Demonstration?

solidarity

Scott Ross has a message for us:

A Piece of the Pi?

I had a vision tonite. The perfect storm had occurred. The VFX industry in turmoil whilst blockbuster movies are making a fortune. LIFE OF PI racks up $577 million whilst R&H files for bankruptcy. Chances are Bill Westenhofer and team will most likely walk away with a statue on Sunday, though they have no job or paycheck on Monday. So… given this outrageous situation, what can be done?

Here’s where the dream part came…. 500 or more VFX artists demonstrated only blocks away from the Dolby (Kodak) theater on Sunday, Oscar day. Waving signs that say… ” I WANT A PIECE OF THE PI TOO”

A number of VFX professionals (even me, skeptically) have thrown around the idea of some sort of gathering. While I can’t guarantee the details I can guarantee you one thing: The media is very interested in covering this. Dave Rand has been working with them and I’ve been contacted about it too.

I have a few concerns given how last minute this request is (I guess we’re used to that in the VFX industry right?). Regardless, no matter what the decision is, I want you all to be as effective as possible so I have some advice.

Where & When?

The Oscars will be closed off for blocks so it may be tough for many to get there. Pick a spot that has plenty of nearby parking and easy access and I’m certain the media will meet you there.

My suggestion was the front of Sony Pictures headquarters on Madison Ave. It’s close to many of the VFX studios like Imageworks, DD, and Rhythm (even though its out of the way for DW and Disney workers) and there is a lot of free parking. Bring warm clothing.

Have a clear and concise message.

The media is going to stick a microphone in your face and they need a few good lines to put on the news. So be clear in what you have to say or it could backfire. I agree with Scott Ross’s message:

The message is simple: VFX artists create incredible images that translates into huge box office or MONEY… BUT, VFX companies are going out of business.

Stop Subsidies (edit: Hint Hint.)
Stop exporting our industry

Fair business practices.
Fair Labor rules

Start supporting the men and women that create the magic in movies.

If this works out right it could lead to something big. It could also backfire. So gather amongst yourselves and discuss/decide. When you are ready we’ll let the media know.

Soldier On.

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246 Responses to VFX Oscar Demonstration?

  1. S says:

    I understand that the roads to Hollywood will be closed, but Sony is a bit far away from the action. Paramount is a lot closer and so is Fox. Warner’s is just over the hill and they left Rhythm hanging.

    There has to be a place closer to Hollywood and Highland to do this. It would be nice to have the people in their limos at least see the signs as they make their way to the Oscars. The producers and execs won’t be at the studios. People can always take the Metro into Hollywood.

    To legally assemble, we would need a permit. Is someone looking into that? Only have a day to do it.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      Isn’t the metro station blocked off at highland?
      What’s the assembly permit requirement?

      • the walk from western to highland is only about 1/4 mile, you can shelp that pretty easily. also the bus will take you to Santa Monica again a pretty short walk. I used to live at Hollywood and Cherrokee, and have walk the whole area . it’s not bad , just be very clear and careful what you ask for, I really think a union would hurt the rest of us who choose to start our own fortunes in other states . and i have ZERO intention to want to crawl back into the cesspool of CA and raise a family on food stamps while making 100k a year because the inflation and cost of living out their is rediculas . you have more issues in CA then just “workers ” rights you need to make it a livable functioning business environment. so make sure you’ve run ALL the numbers and know how much they actually did scrape off the top be carfull about asking for things that are unattainable, otherwise more will just leave the state to do business where it’s friendlier.

      • Scott Squires says:

        To Mary-margaret
        ‘I really think a union would hurt the rest of us who choose to start our own fortunes in other states ”

        ??? so how would a vfx union hurt you in another state?

        If you can’t pay living wages where ever you are and can’t cover basic health care then you probably shouldn’t be starting a business.

        Why is it the RIght to Work states have the lowest wages and require the most federal help?

      • Ymir says:

        Could be wages are lower because costs of living is less and you get more for your money. Trying to make a 1:1 wage comparison is a bit of a stretch. most states dont have a lot of high paid industries such as the motion picture industry. As to federal aid, I don’t see how unionization factors in to that equation? Some of the states in the worst financial straits are historic union states (Michigan, Illinois, New York, and California).

      • Scott Squires says:

        Actually it’s been show that there’s a connection to average wages and Right to Work states.

      • Ymir says:

        “But proving cause and effect on wages is difficult, since many factors influence what workers are paid in a given locale, such as whether the mix of businesses are concentrated in higher-paying industries.

        Some economists say when differences in cost of living are taken into account, wages are roughly the same—or even higher—in right-to-work states.”

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324296604578179603136860138.html

        Needs to be placed in context.

      • shaner says:

        As someone who resides in a right to work state, I can tell you from first hand experience that wages here are much lower and people have an expectation to work more for less

      • Time to Act says:

        I worked at a union shop once and it was the best, wish I could again. I paid $400 bucks a year in union dues for full health insurance, two pension plans I’m now apart of, a 401k option, amazing pay, including the best overtime benefits. Plus when I left since I worked so much my health insurance covered me for free basically for over a year. Also if I can join again I’m close to my 15 year, insurance for life for free mark.. I don’t see anything negative.

    • linda henry says:

      Does anybody work in a building on Hollywood BLVD across from the Kodak or nearby ? We could hang signs out the windows & attract attention

  2. David Scottson says:

    Anyone know definitely why Rhythm and Hues went bankrupt when Life of Pi made half a billion dollars? How much did they charge for their work? Were they just not charging enough money?

    • Time to act says:

      You are bringing up one of the exact point we have been making on the blog. The film studios force the VFX companies to under bid the work, and force them to relocate their facilities to chance the subsidies in other countries. They to this by saying if you don’t do this you won’t get any work. This cost the VFX studios millions.

      Also the VFX companies don’t get any points or residuals on the films they work on, so when a film does really good and it’s full off VFX the VFX studios don’t see any of that.

      • James S. Tre says:

        “force them to relocate their facilities to chance the subsidies in other countries. They to this by saying if you don’t do this you won’t get any work. This cost the VFX studios millions”

        Sorry, This isn’t complete nonsense. If you let your pants down and bend over – Please don’t come whining you’ve been scr@#ed !
        It’s a whiny approach from people who just lack any business sense. If you choose to believe those studio executives that you won’t get any work – you really don’t deserve to get any.

        This is all coming from a vfx artist, remember , JUST LIKE YOU.

      • Time to Act says:

        Actually that is true, I worked at and saw all work stop coming in to a VFX shop until they opened up a Vancouver office. The work showed up again after. You have to remember that the small shops trying to do things right are getting screwed also, not just the large corporate ones.

        Ill never forget I’m a VFX artist jackass

    • randallvfx says:

      “We made some bad investment choices that cost us a lot of capital and we did not book enough work to sustain the size of the company,” said feature film division chief Lee Berger. (R&H)

      curious why he didnt mention subsidies or pressure from the Studios..etc..

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Because being forced to open a VFX facility in vancouver for subsidies is a “bad investment”?

      • meinvan says:

        @soldier. thats you personal interpretation. and no, nobody forced them to open up in vancouver. Even if it is the case that they were “forced”, why would that = a bad investment. The workers are still getting paid the same, the studio is still getting paid the same, they have a much easier time recruiting and getting visa’s for the onslaught of talent around the world….and not only is it easier to get visa’s, and also most certainly a hell of a lot cheaper.

      • Scott Squires says:

        meinvan – if your boss insists you stand on your head if you want to get paid then most people would say they were forced to stand on their head.

        Opening any branch elsewhere takes money. Lots of money because you have to lease a building, buy a lot of computers, setup a render farm, hire potentially hundreds of people. Did I say this costs a lot of money and you’re forced to do it?

        And all of that just to have the option to bid on projects. No guarantee you’ll get the project. The companies doing the work do not get the subsidies. All of that money goes directly to the studios. So all of this just to make poor profits, not more profits. How long do you think it takes to pay off leasing a large building and buying computers and the rest of the costs of setting up a new facility? It’s going to take years to pay for itself.

        In vancouver they don’t have an easier recruiting because there are a lack of vfx people there. That means paying people more or paying for their moving costs. More money again. And to the people moving to Vancouver, Vancouver is more expensive than most cities in US so the workers are getting less. There’s no winner here except for the studio. Not the vfx company nor the workers.

      • randallvfx says:

        Also Scott there is double taxation if you are a resident in California (California does not recognize Foreign Tax Credits). I pay approx. 8% more taxes because of BC and Cali taxes…but Id rather be here than fighting over the scraps in LA (I would come back to LA if someone here offers me a job, Ive available next month ;) )

      • Larry Gritz says:

        @Scott, I usually agree with you, but I have to take issue with your comment, “There’s no winner here except for the studio. Not the vfx company nor the workers.” Ahem, I consider myself a HUGE winner for having moved to Vancouver, it’s been a great opportunity for myself and my family.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        There were people who considered themselves huge winners when the subsidies allowed them to live in New Mexico… Then the subsidies went away.

        I don’t have a problem with VFX pros living where they want to be but that’s not their choice, it’s the studios. When the subsidy money goes away (and it will), you’ll be obligated to move again.

        Many of my supporters were people who come from that situation. They made the move and the rug got pulled.

      • Ymir says:

        Soldier, the subsidies are still in place in N.M. The only thing that went away was Sony, which was for company political reasons. Certain execs needed Vancouver to succeed and to do so, they had to kill Albuquerque in an effort to coerce those artists to relocate. Move or be laid off. Over 90% chose lay off. Unfortunately Sony didn’t succeed as Oz wasn’t getting done, so large chunks of work had to be sent . . . to another facility in L.A., and back to Culver. But Disney got their kickback so all is golden over the rainbow as far as they’re concerned. So Sony cut off their ABQ to spite their bottom line.

      • randallvfx says:

        perhaps their bad investment was moving from Playa Del Rey to the Northrup compound in El Segundo? that alone is a huge investment there…

      • randallvfx says:

        I think Vancouver is different than Florida or New Mexico, because Vancouver houses a community of VFX shops, not just one. It now has infrastructure and a larger talent base. It will take a while for that to be abandoned. I think the VFX Facilities are done building pop-up shops to chase tax credits…time will tell. We will see how many facilities (besides Framestore) will move to Montreal…

      • Scott Squires says:

        If subsidies for vfx were dropped in Vancouver or another area offered vfx subsidies 2x as much as Vancouver many of the branches would likely close.

        It’s expensive for a company to keep and operate a branch in another city/country unless it pays for itself. And don’t assume companies won’t leap to the next place. At this point they’re dug a hole for themselves and it seems to be the only direction they can go, especially if the studios are ‘requesting’ them to be there if they ever want to get work.

      • Larry Gritz says:

        @VFXSoldier, I’m not disagreeing with you about the distorting effects of subsidies. I’m just saying, it’s a bit too black-and-white and very presumptuous to put words in people’s mouths. They can decide for themselves if they are winners or losers (and they can change their minds if their situations change). I understand the point about New Mexico (or Florida for that matter), but moving someplace where there is just ONE employer is a totally different and inherently riskier situation that may not be applicable as an analogy for Vancouver or London or any other hub of VFX work, subsidies or not. I don’t know if the subsidies will stay or go, but my intent is to remain here either way.

      • randallvfx says:

        Now that Im in Vancouver, Id rather stay here. Id rather be from Vancouver and do gigs in Los Angeles if need be. Much like Larry, there is a contingent that will not chase the work to Montreal or any further. Spreading out the talent anymore will cause every facility fewer and fewer senior experienced people at one facility…the work will suffer.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Here’s what I think will happen:

        The UK facilities will open satellites in Montreal where there are largers subsidies than bc. Many UK artists will ultimately move there. BC get hollowed out by facilities going out of business or moving to Montreal.

      • fishies says:

        Framestore is not the only one opening companies in Montreal.

        MPC is opening there too.

      • scathie says:

        “BC get hollowed out by facilities going out of business or moving to Montreal.”

        When will this happen? Can you please provide a date range that this will occur.

        Thanks

      • VFX Soldier says:

        We can start today:

        “”The place to be probably is Montreal,” said Kuther, citing the generous incentives there.”

        http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118066500/#.USpBLYJ4u_w.twitter

  3. Rob says:

    Shouldn’t the first demand be “Pay VFX studios adequately” instead? Because just getting rid of subsidies wouldn’t take care of that. Or do you see that as covered in “fair business practices”? If so, I would argue that the priorities should be “fair labor rules” => “fair business practices” => “stop subsidies” => “stop exporting our industry”.

    • Really? says:

      what is this obsession with “stop exporting our industry”??? By our industry you mean only the US, right? So really this isn’t a place for anyone outside the US. Sorry, but YOUR industry uses foreign monies. And it goes where it gets most bang for its buck. Regardless of subsidies, the future is asia and the asian sub-continent right now. I suggest you move over there if you want to stay involved.

      • anon says:

        Pretend for a minuet it was cotton not vfx. If all the cotton companies left your country, you would feel ‘your industry’ had left. That does not mean you own all of or feel the cotton industry was all yours, simply ‘your’ piece of it. The ‘part’ you where involved with.

        Can’t we not fight for our family’s and way life? We now have to move to China too? Says who, and who the f**k are you to tell me, ‘oh its not your industry…’ I’ve been doing this 15 years, its all i know, YES it is my industry. My piece of it, I know its not much, but its all I have.

        You are the type of person either not effected, or befitting, so just piss off. Wait till it happens to you.

      • Really? says:

        the US does not have a monopoly on vfx

  4. vfxgirl says:

    YES! it’s high time. Please keep us posted as to where/when.

  5. Twain says:

    Solidarity.

  6. Steve says:

    Better rates for VFX and genuine profit participation would help.

    Even when a VFX company creates a leading character, the actor might get a share of the revenue, but the VFX company just gets paid once. Those CG animals are vital to ‘Life of Pi’ and R&H should’ve been paid accordingly.

    • randallvfx says:

      In not sure why everyone keeps talking about the facilities getting a piece of the revenue- residuals or profit participation should be at the artist level, like it is for other roles in the entertainment industry. When I worked at Stan Winston Studio, if Stan had his own deal on a picture SWS worked on, great, but the puppeteers all got their residuals, no matter what. Great if the VFX facilities want to make their own back end deals, that is not the artist’s responsibility, especially since we dont have any information or control on the financials of a VFX company. Artists arent called in (and their advice is usually ignored) to approve bids and/or contracts that go to the Studios. Rights of the artists should not live at the VFX facility level, but at the artist level. Remember, VFX facilities are just as guilty (not abiding by labor standards,etc) as the Studios are. Once the artists has common ground with the VFX facilities, then we can band together to support each other at the Studio level.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Suspect the puppeteers got residuals because they were part of SAG. That’s how it used to be at ILM. (i.e. unionized, organized)

      • randallvfx says:

        very true, they are SAG… basically you can puppet a character around or be a character’s voice, but if you create the CG version of that character…no residuals! performance is performance! total BS

  7. nathan says:

    The REAL sign of how much change we can expect is when these guys from R&H walk up on that stage to receive their oscar. They will have Hollywood trembling. They have no jobs so nothing to loose except maybe a one chance to make some really valuable CHANGE to the industry they are in. Use those few minutes to let the world know what wrongs are being done!! I fear they will be too scared of the system and will make another sligh comment like they did at the Baftas – it went unnoticed!!

  8. vfx_cynic says:

    Bill Westenhofer and all the other vfx nominees (winners and losers) should stand on the stage and say something. The demonstration is a good idea but would pale in comparison to something happening on the stage.
    If the demonstration was on message with what happens on stage that would be amazing.

  9. wb says:

    Amazing!
    The picture is so cool – It’s all about rats and snakes.
    On one side the rats, ready to bite their colleagues once they are starving,they don’t like the sun and they are searching continuously in this garbage generator named VFX industry. (so called “big features” = garbage)
    The other side – snakes – rats eaters, ready to spread their poison and move in a very attractive way (see recruiters) to get the rats closer and eat them.

    Amazing !

  10. bla says:

    if Bill W or any vfx peeps would even dare to say anything (and that is a BIG IF), they would drown them out with the music, remember Michael Moore…

    • Time to act says:

      It’s worth a shot, I’m tired of hearing all the nah say.

      Even if the music comes on at least we know that the leaders of this industry stand with us.

      • bla says:

        i feel your pain and agree with you, while unfortunately my many years in the industry gives me some sad insights to say to you that no sups or higher ups EVER stood up for anything. especially not on TV. we must formulate a different plan than the one relying on the folks going up the stage. otherwise we’re just setting ourselves up for disappointment. again.

      • reelruel says:

        This is great. I think it will take an all across the board approach. Us showing strength on the line showing up with can influence and show them support when they walk up on stage. We can do both!

    • Caleb Howard says:

      Bla… You sound like a guy I know. ;-)

    • Drew says:

      Drowning them out would be throwing a match on a haystack. Nothing draws attention to an issue like blatantly covering it up. These people are angry and on the edge of taking action. Censoring a speech would ignite a fire..

  11. VFX_nomadNoMore says:

    I’m there if there is time to properly get this organized. I think the closer to getting to hollywood and highland the better. You can always take the red line and get off @ Hollywood and Vine and then walk over from there. You can get pretty close to the red carpet on foot. A demonstration by artists followed up by a soundbyte from the VFX Oscar winners would be huge in helping this industry move in a positive direction. It’s about time for some action on the part of the artists! Let’s get something organized and make some headlines!

    • Really? says:

      “…would be huge in helping this industry move in a positive direction” – um, you mean the American industry. Not the whole VFX industry.

      • Scott Squires says:

        With subsidies being used to control vfx work no vfx artists or companies are safe. Anywhere. You can be as good as you can be but if a government decides to fund your competitor you will lose work. The vfx companies are scrambling for scraps that leads to vfx artists scrambling for scraps. As Vancouver and other places are finding out, there is no safe location. This isn’t just a US problem. Time to get educated.

  12. Time to act says:

    Hawthorn and orange looks open. It’s a block away right in front of the theater.
    I would also say 3pm it’s starts at 4 so being there when the caters are showing up is important.

    Here is an interactive map of Oscar road closers.

    http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/feature?section=news/local&id=8550718

  13. weedimageoftheday says:

    I unfortunately cannot be there this weekend, but you have my support! If anyone does get mic time, I would advise keeping your message clear and focused on the main issue of stopping the EXPORTATION of MOVIE MAKING. Many many more businesses and industries and crafts suffer when work is exported. VFX artists can gain support of other artists, unions, guilds if the protest includes other crafts and does not exclude them. A fight here on the VFX stage has the potential to help others as well and to grow bigger and more powerful. I want to see Hollywood and California be a booming industry town again. Thanks for your consideration and good luck.

    • VFX_reckoning says:

      I don’t agree with this at all. Personally, I feel a message as broad as ‘stopping runaway film’ weakens the moment and it’s already been done with no response. Nobody cares. In the end, studio budgets with have to be evened out across the board, which means less money for the pigs (actors) and more to the VFX shops. Which also means the VFX industry will also have to bargain and take the a stand against those other unions.

      • VFX_reckoning says:

        Sorry, I don’t mean this organizing shouldn’t be done, I was just responding to weedimageoftheday…

      • weedimageoftheday says:

        Dear VFX-Reconing: think there are plenty of people that care about runaway production, but the message has to be continuously hammered home before action is taken. Although our opinions are different I’m happy that we can disagree amicably. Soldier on!

  14. vfx_vet says:

    I think Sony is a good choice. All the things that have been discussed over the last year or so – chasing subsidies, outsourcing, underbidding, hire and fire facilities – these are things that Imageworks is renowned for. They could very well be the next studio to fall should this pattern continue.

  15. Dave Rand says:

    Please stay tuned to this page for updates, and a twitter feed that will start soon. We have some very interesting and unique ideas and a positive message to promote. I believe this will be constructive and well received. More to come soon.

  16. Jerry Weil says:

    My suggestion would be the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars. There are lots of press already there, and you can get fairly close to the action. This is the first year it’s not at Morton’s (now at Craft in Century City), so I don’t know what the setup will be. They wouldn’t know what hit them if hundreds of protesters showed up there.

  17. hi says:

    Isn’t it kind of the vfx studios own fault for agreeing to work on a project for such a low cost? Nobody is forcing them to lower their price. Honest question.

    • Ashes says:

      Honest question, did you bother to even read anything on this blog? The major point of it is that the tax incentives in various countries ARE forcing the US vfx houses to lower their prices.

      • randallvfx says:

        Studios have been pinning VFX facilities against each other before there were VFX facilities all over the world and subsidies. Yes globalization has played a huge part and made VFX very competitive, but at the core of it, Studios have been leveraging a sellers market for as long as I can remember. There are 6 major clients controlling 80% of the VFX work out there. Even if you get rid of all subsidies, and 100% of all VFX was done in USA, the Studios would continue to cut VFX budgets and let the VFX facilities fight it out. Supply and demand folks. Continuing to point the finger at the dreaded subsidies does not solve the problem entirely.

      • Really? says:

        Eh? They’re not being forced. They take the decision to do it.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Really? …
        You have 6 clients. It’s a buyers market. If the studios say jump the vfx companies have to say how high and what else can I do for you. If a studio says they won’t give you any work unless you have a branch in a specific other country with subsidies then you in fact are being forced. Option 1. Set up a branch. Option 2. Close. Even if you do option 1 you may find you end up at option 2.

      • meinvan says:

        @scott – thats free market capitalism. subsidies or not, the bigger fish will always do that. they’ll just have to come up with a different way to put the pressure on. which in our industry is pretty easy, alone from how the studios underbid each other.
        trade association is the way to go. the vfx houses need to band together and put pressure on the studios, just as the “big 6″ are doing

      • Scott Squires says:

        ‘thats free market capitalism’ != subsidies. Free market is where governments don’t interfere with commerce. In this case the governments are truly messing with free market capitalism.

        Trade assoc is fine but for any company basking in subsidies they don’t want that to end so they are unwilling to join a trade association. Framestore says they’ll lose 75% of their business if subsidies disappear. None of those will join until it happens to them. If 1/2 your trade associations are getting government subsidies of 30-50% how will they ever be able to try to balance it. Even if they can eliminate underbidding and bad practices it will still be a losing proposition.

      • shaner says:

        meinvan, what’s free market capitalistic about BIG studios seeking BIG rents from BIG governments?

        Nothing.

        It’s corporatism.

      • meinvan says:

        your right scott – free market capilism != subsidies, and i never said that. it means that the big 6 will just find another way too drive the bid down. they clearly dont want to pay the market value, and they have the power as the vfx studios are fighting for the few movies that they can get their hand on.

        to para phrase scott ross “we were making 5% profit in the good years” and thats without the sudsidy war going on. at a 5% margin anything can go wrong to drive a company into bankruptcy.

        agreed, if subsidized then the vfx shop should be subsidized and not the studio. as the subsidies should be in place to help out the company that is taking the risk and doing work in the specific location.

        then finally, wouldnt you agree that american economics is driven by the free market idea? then why is pretty much every industry in america subsidized, banking > pharma > oil and agriculture. Most of those subsidies are in place to “help” the small people. the independent farmers, alternative energy companies etc…. but who actually gets the money….big business.

        dont blame canada or england. blame the US for putting in place a economic system that is never good for the small independent guy.

    • S says:

      I guess you don’t read the Hollywood Reporter. Love Ang Lee saying he sympathizes with Rhythm, but then goes on to say this stuff should be cheaper. That mentality is our problem.

      http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/life-pi-director-ang-lee-422270

      • Steve says:

        What he actually says is that he understands it tough and that R&D is very expensive and that it’s tough to make money at VFX. He’d like it to be cheaper, but he understands why it isn’t.

        Frankly he sounds better informed that most people about the subject.

  18. jonavark says:

    R&H should publicly turn the Oscar down and make a statement in support of artists & VFX workers publicly.

    • JD F. says:

      It’s a little late in the game, but maybe there’s a way to get Bill W.’s e-mail and send him a massive petition ?

    • Lucio Flores says:

      Turn the Oscar down? Hell no……

    • Jerry Weil says:

      The oscar doesn’t go to a facility, it goes to the individuals named on it. Those individual supervisors are in the same boat we all are. If any of them want to take a stand and refuse the oscar that they’ve worked very hard for, that would be admirable.

      • jonavark says:

        Good point. But it is an opportunity to make a sacrifice to make a point.

      • Ymir says:

        Nobody would care. The orchestra would strike up some music and the announcer would say the nominees were unable to attend, or some such, and the show would go on.
        What would be nice, is if somebody has a connection to Seth McFarland. Getting a mention in a monologue would be good.

      • vfxgirl says:

        absolutely i agree.

  19. JD F. says:

    Well, not necessarily turning the oscar down, but at least saying something bold that will be heard and attract more press coverage…

  20. Mal Ignitas says:

    If I could be there, I would be wearing the “Swimming With Sharks” sandwich board.

  21. JD F. says:

    how about this ?

    https://www.change.org/petitions/all-visual-effects-academy-awards-nominees-make-a-stand-for-our-industry-on-the-academy-awards-stage-this-weekend

    I tried to keep it small, and I’m not a native english speaker, so, apologies in advance for any mistakes.

  22. The Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Think Bill W would say anything? Would it just hurt his relationship with the studios? And do we know if he was let go on that fateful Sunday or is he still at Rhythm? I’m pretty sure they kept him.

    I really hope he says something about the plight of vfx…. But I’m not holding my breath. He’s a good guy, but who knows how much pressure the studios and the academy put on him to just smile and wave.

    • Ymir says:

      I agree. But not because I think Bill would be too worried about his relationship with the studios, but because Bill is a class act. He’s probably one of the most unsung vfx supes in the business. If he says anything, I’m sure it will be classy, yet non-controversial.
      Probably a lot of younger people on here don’t realize, the Academy did not always look kindly on visual effects. It wasn’t until the early to mid 90s that vfx had an official branch, guaranteeing there’d always be a vfx Oscar. And just in the past few years have we gotten a full five nominations like the other major awards. Protesting, getting our message out there is one thing. Storming the red carpet with torches and pitchforks could result in losing what visibility that has been fought for and gained.

  23. stjohn says:

    Park somewhere along the Metro Red Line and take that to as close to Hollywood and Highland as you can get. You aren’t going to be able to get within a mile of H/H by car.

  24. friction says:

    I hate to say it but i think we need unionization. Only this way can we force our employers to create/join a trade association, which is probably the only thing that, through collective bargaining, will begin to dismantle these practices employed by studios to drive down prices, and could force more money to flow our direction. How can we be expected to push the boundaries of our craft when our employers make so little while the studios make so much? This is my opinion.

    • Ashes says:

      The big problem in our industry is the subsidies. That’s what’s causing the low bids, the constant uprooting, etc. I’m not sure how a union would help this. They have already taken the position that they can’t do anything about it. If the US unionizes, how does this force the studios to pay more? The union reps can talk all the want, but when push comes to shove, all the studios do is say:

      “Company A is in Country X and we get 30% cash back if we go there. Their bid was $10mil. We’ll get $3mil back making our cost $7mil. Can you match that?”

      If the US company can’t match, then they lose the bid. So, I don’t know how adding the extra cost of a union would work. If we had a profit margin that allowed the houses to take an extra .25-1% and roll that into union costs, then I’d say go for it. Personally, I don’t mind making a little less if it’ll help out the majority.

      There is also a major conflict of interest with the union. They are reping a nonUS artists who benefit from the tax incentives and US artists want these incentives to be removed. So, which side are they going to support? I have watched many people I know in IATSE, SAG, AFTRA, Local 839, etc. lose jobs and work to runaway productions. So, I think I know what the unions will do.

      I just can’t find a way that would make it feasible for a US vfx house to go union, right now. If anyone can show some hard numbers, not just a union rep saying, “We’ll fight for you!” I’d love to see them. Post the links. I’d love to be wrong because I do think unions, in general, are a good idea.

      • randallvfx says:

        Studios have been pinning VFX facilities against each other before there were VFX facilities all over the world and subsidies. Yes globalization has played a huge part and made VFX very competitive, but at the core of it, Studios have been leveraging a sellers market for as long as I can remember. There are 6 major clients controlling 80% of the VFX work out there. Even if you get rid of all subsidies, and 100% of all VFX was done in USA, the Studios would continue to cut VFX budgets and let the VFX facilities fight it out. Supply and demand folks. Continuing to point the finger at the dreaded subsidies does not solve the problem entirely.

      • VFX_NomadNoMore says:

        The subsidies and unionization are separate issues that both need to be dealt with. Unionization is important for workers’ quality of life but if the subsidies don’t end there won’t be a US workforce to represent. There may be “Americans” working in vfx, but they will be in another country where the government subsidizes the work. In the shorter term subsidies need to be dealt with and in the long term unionization would be great.

      • Ashes says:

        My point is that there will always be in fighting around in vfx until the subsidies go away. If a house can’t get a job, then the union is useless. No hours=no healthcare.

        I don’t agree that the subsidies and unionization are separate issues. Again, show me a viable way for US house to win bids if they have the extra union costs. If there’s a way, then I think most will jump on board. Right now, there’s little incentive for staff and senior artists to go union if they think it’s going to leave them unemployed. Until you can prove that it won’t you aren’t going to get the support of the union, which is needed.

      • Jen says:

        @Ashes – “Right now, there’s little incentive for staff and senior artists to go union if they think it’s going to leave them unemployed.”

        There’s going to be even LESS incentive for staff and senior artists to continue working in the VFX industry if the ever-degrading working conditions start denying them paid overtime, health benefits, retirement benefits, and living wages.

        One way or another, they’ll go union. Either they unionize the VFX industry, or they jump ship to the Local 839 shops for better pay and benefits under a union contract.

      • Ashes says:

        @Jen, here’s the problem with what you are saying, at the big houses in the US, staff and seniors get healthcare, OT, 401ks, and a decent salary. They also pay better than most of the union shops. As far as most of them are concerned, the union is not going to give them anything they don’t already have expect the fear that they are going to lose work faster. So by saying the union is going to make their lives better isn’t something they are going to buy. For the smaller houses or freelance maybe, but that still doesn’t address the problem of higher bids. How is the union going to prevent that? Until they can answer that question, it’s going to be an uphill battle for mass support.

        Right now, it’s a case of, “if we can keep our bids competitive and get the work we have a chance to stay open.” The union option is viewed as, “it’s going to tack on an extra cost for our bids and we can’t afford it.”

      • Jen says:

        @Ashes – …here’s the problem with what you are saying, at the big houses in the US, staff and seniors get healthcare, OT, 401ks, and a decent salary.

        Do you think your wages and benefits are permanent?

        They’re not. Imageworks artists learned that lesson the hard way.

  25. Dave Rand says:

    Ok folks here’s the deal. I just paid a grand of some vfx artist’s pooled money to fly a plane with a banner over the redcarpet that will state something with 40 characters. We’d like it to end with vfxunion.com

    This will take off from the Compton Airport around 3pm Sunday. There will be a news crew to interview concerned artists willng to come speak.

    The company we are using has flown the Oscars before, with out a htich. So FAA regs etc are cleared for this.

    The media has informed me they’s also try to get helecopter shots of the banners and night plane from the air.

    I invite all of you to help me with the banner 40 characters

    There will be a second plane that flies over at night with an ulimited numer of characters but it’s recommended we group those messages in 50 character lots and I’d like to end those with vfxunion.com also.

    So we need to come with lots of slogans.

    Personally I agree wth Ross that we need a trade association, but i also believe we need a union. I.A. is our best bet.

    Bottom line it has to STOP being an option that WE don’t get paid when any negiations are afoot regard the often ridiculous ways our industry does business. No mattter what your feelings about a union or a trade association.

    This is an open letter in the sky to the crowds below and our peers. There may be some of you on the streets below in support also, if so do so peacefully and respectfullly.

    I firmly believe that ANYTHING we do at this point that shows solidarity can only be additive.

  26. Caleb Howard says:

    For the message, I’d stick with Scott’s original point – that the studios need to adequately compensate the VFX facilities,

    “VFX needs a piece of the Pi” is an excellent message.

  27. Scott Squires says:

    Solidarity and unionization are a good start.

    I don’t want to rain on the notion of doing something but a few thoughts.
    1. Most impact would be a mention from the vfx winner. Short, to the point after their thanks that is seen and heard. And possibly something to create follow up questions from media.

    2. As I recall there are have been some protest groups and others around the Oscars. How many of them have you seen on TV or in the news? This isn’t a new idea. The problem is they’re focused on what sells – the glamor, glitz, etc so the media is not likely to waste time on protests. Even news takes a 2nd place for some stations on that night.

    3. If you’re in front of an empty studio at night do you think any media will send anybody to cover it? Especially when all focus is on the Oscars.

    4. What is the message and who is it aimed at? The audiences? The studios? The audiences have no input/control over the vfx situation. The world financial markets collapsed and some were brave enough to create Occupy movements. How much di the public even care or want to be educated? Look at the mass shootings here in the us? How many times has it had to happen before the general public even started to wake up. So with that in mind how much impact will a 10-20 people have?

    I say 10-20 because that many or less have been interested in attending union panels or discussions. It’s incredibly difficult to get a large number of visual effects people together unless it’s a very specific vfx related task. (Bake off, VES nominations, etc)

    One concern is that it ends up being 8 people with a banner half way across town and it’s covered by the media. That would reveal how much apathy there really is regarding this.

    5. What if we focused the solidarity on things that would make a difference? Unionization is one of the first ones. How many people willing to stand on the street corner have signed rep cards? How many have passed out rep cards at work or talked to co-workers? Are the number of artists actually interested in changing things a very small but vocal percent or do we actually have a lot of people and backing to stand up for things?

    How many people backed vfxsoldier project to investigate WTO and subsidies? How many will be willing to back it if it looks good but needs funds to move to the next step?

    Scott

    • Time to act says:

      I saw the other strikes mentioned on the news. But that was local news, that’s why we need to be near the Oscars as close as we can get so that we can get on National News.

      if we don’t try then nothing will be done.

      Its time to Man up or shut up.

      • NormaRae says:

        exactly. time to put SOMETHING into action… we can have written discourses from here and there and back again – pun full intended. its time to make noise. make our presence heard and capture national media attention. big studios will just try to shut us down directly but not if we make a loud enough racket and make ourselves seen and heard.

  28. I’ve just skimmed through most of this. It still feels like such a futile effort – any of these initiatives.

    – We’re never going to end outsourcing, or globalization.

    – The chances of unionization are slim, there’s just far too many artists, and more come into the industry every day.

    – There will always be subsidies, you can reduce them, but without fundamental changes to the industry, and especially studios – the industry can’t survive without them.

    – Bad press is bad. This sort of initiative would never be covered my major media anyway. If you want coverage, find someone who can opine the problem, then spread it around.

    Start small dudes, very small. If you’re angry, channel it into a unified initiative. Get groups together, start talking, keep talking, keep up the momentum.

    • Ashes says:

      -No one is calling for an end to outsourcing or globalization, just the tax incentives which create a false market.

      -Number of new artists isn’t a blockage to a union, if we had one, they’d just have to join. Not a big deal, happens all the time at union shops.

      -The industry can survive fine with the subsides. Hobbit is hitting $1B, it didn’t need the $57NZ that it got. Studios are just trying to get as much money as possible. Hey, if they can pay Jolie’s 4 year old $3k a week plus $60 a day per diem, it can pay us too.

      -There’s an old saying, “No press is bad press.” Yes, some are better, which would be the Ocsar winner to say something and I would agree with the comment that having a low turn out would not be good, but just gettig the word out would probably be good.

      Things have already started. Many of us have donated to the WTO lawsuit VFX Soldier is try to file.

      • Scott Squires says:

        +1 to these Ashes comments.

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        “-No one is calling for an end to outsourcing or globalization, just the tax incentives which create a false market.”

        Really? At the very start of this vfxsoldier says that he supports these messages:

        “Stop Subsidies
        Stop exporting our industry”

        Now one of those messages I agree with. The other one not at all. You can probably figure out which one is which.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I support stopping the subsidies which in turn leads to displacement.

      • Scott Squires says:

        VFX Outside

        Subsidies are the main cause of exporting the US film industry. If the subsidies did not exist then the outsourcing and globalization would be much different.

      • Ashes says:

        Should have been:

        -The industry can survive fine WITHOUT the subsides. Hobbit is hitting $1B, it didn’t need the $57NZ that it got. Studios are just trying to get as much money as possible. Hey, if they can pay Jolie’s 4 year old $3k a week plus $60 a day per diem, it can pay us too.

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        Scott I agree, the subsidies have distorted the market completely. However there are companies outside of LA and the USA that do great work and who will survive without them, and as long as the message of subsidies is tied into “you’re stealing our industry” you will lose the support of people who’d otherwise be on your side. I don’t like subsidies, in fact I loath them. I do however find it nuts that some people seem to think that for my country to have a VFX industry we have to have an equally sized Film industry. We provide a service that is all, and as long as we do so at a competitive rate (not a subsidied one) and deliver good work that our client is happy with, then I’m happy.

        Subsidies are bad. The fact that we are a global industry is not.

      • Scott Squires says:

        If there were no subsidies we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion. Yes, if the subsidies disappeared there would be some places throughout the world still doing visual effects. But a large portion of the work is shifted due to subsidies.

        For those companies that require subsidies to remain afloat or who have grown only based on subsidies then indirectly they are causing the loss of work.

        Lets lose all subsidies and the global market will sort itself out.

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        I would be happy to do that (lose all subsidies). Then again I’d also be happy to see directors made accountable for actually thinking about what they want in their movie instead of lazily wanting to see 1000 options, producers made accountable for keeping their directors in check, and studio execs made accountable for keeping their producers and directors in check.

        Maybe one battle at a time.

        In the mean time, there are a huge number of people in VFX around the world who don’t want our governments bribing studios, because we have confidence in ourselves and our ability to survive in this industry. It’s our tax money as well that we’d rather see spent on education and health.

  29. Michael Everett says:

    Regarding picketing the Oscars, FTAC did it a couple of times in our campaign against the Canadian runaways, and in 1999 I joined survivors of the Hollywood Blacklist in their Oscar protest against awarding Elia Kazan an Oscar. It’s very hard if not impossible to get media attention by picketing the Oscars. First, there will likely be the anti-choice wackos with huge posters of fetuses. They’ll get there early and attempt to monopolize what space there is. Also getting there early will be the movie star lookie-loos. Plus the media has zero interest in fetuses, subsidies, etc. when there’s movie stars around and will NEVER cut from the red carpet glitz to a handful of picketers. A presence at the Oscars works better if it’s directed at the Academy members as they are driven up to the red carpet. They are most of them our fellow workers and this is an educational opportunity for below-the-line workers to reach out to them with our issue.

    Ten years ago FTAC was zeroed in on assembling a Hollywood labor coalition with enough clout to do battle with the studios in defense of our jobs they were exporting to Canada and elsewhere. On the IATSE side we were able to secure endorsements and major financial help from three key IA locals (Camera, Props, Set Lighting), despite opposition from then President Tom Short who went on record in a letter to the Secretary of Commerce that runaway jobs did not effect IATSE members, the Basic Crafts (Teamsters, Laborers, Plasterers, IBEW, etc.), and SAG which endorsed us enthusiastically and helped our legal fund reach the $300,000 level needed to launch our trade initiative. WGA was friendly to us, but mostly kept a neutral position. The official DGA sided with the studios in opposition to our labor coalition. This coalition is still under attack by the studios and can be reassembled. Historically, the studios and IATSE have strenuously opposed all efforts at unifying below-the-line workers to fight for our mutual interests which only indicates what a potent strategy it is.

    Not long after our legal filing was rejected by the Bush administration we learned from a lawyer that a successful lawsuit might be developed against subsidized domestic runaways if harm could be shown and in the case of “Ugly Betty” moving to New York to collect subsidies, their entire Hollywood crew was harmed by losing their jobs. As I recall, “Ugly Betty” moved back to LA, but the possibility of showing harm to workers victimized by subsidies is still a possibility.

  30. We’ve left some thoughts up at vfxlosangeles.wordpress.com on the overall approach. It isn’t comprehensive, but starts a conversation.

    This is not just about outsourcing and globalization. R&H played that game well and lost. It’s about a fair price for the work, and the ability to have a business model that can stay in business without losing massive amounts of money to hold on to its talent.

  31. Dave Rand says:

    The planes will be in the air. Pointing to vfxunion.com and have one message on the day time banner running in the air getting shots from the choppers and the ground crews.

    The night plane will run 9-10pm over Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood running scrolling messages of 50 characters each ..ending in vfxunion.com

    There will be an a twitter feed also.

    I need help with messages and artists willing to speak on camera.

    I am working out where the media can meet with us. Some interviews can even happen on Saturday or Sunday during the day.

    Whether or not we have large groups of vfx artists on the streets would be great but I don’t believe this is crucial.

    I firmly believe that ANY sign of solidarity at this point is only additive.

    As for the planes they are paid for and happening.. so your positive contributions are what is most helpful now.

    • The Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

      This is a great idea, Dave. Trying to think of messages. Where should we send them? And where could people meet up?

    • The Academy are, of course, @TheAcademy on Twitter; their preferred event hashtag is #Oscars. (Using #Oscar is likely to run you into Oscar Pistorius case traffic too, it looks like.) I was thinking #vfxprotest and #Oscars for Twitter use.

      I have posterboards and Sharpies, a raging abcess in a back molar, a root canal scheduled for next week, and intend to be protesting on Twitter from my couch. We could also run a Tumblr with submitted images from VFX workers who aren’t in the area or have other commitments, like the various 99%/ student debt movements do.

    • JD F. says:

      I still don’t have all the e-mail addresses of all the VFX oscar nominees, so, if anyone could help on that…

    • VFX Soldier says:

      This is the 4th vfx petition I’ve counted this year. What does this one do that the others haven’t?

      • JD F. says:

        Maybe it has nothing more than the others… Just thought I’d actually try to do something useful this morning, rather than just silently following this thread, or posting my two cents like everyone else. is that wrong ?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        It’s not wrong but it’s a part of the problem. People are mistakingly thinking that signing another petition or some other platitude will bring media attention that will somehow make the studios to change.

      • JD F. says:

        Part of the problem? As opposed to reading this tread and keeping the rant going on without trying to do anything ? I’m not sure I’m following you…
        In my opinion, this petition is not aiming to beg at studio execs for their pity and for change, nor is it an open plea designed to attract media attention on its own. It’s rather directed at asking our colleagues who could be on the main stage on sunday, to try and say something about it so that more people come aware of the situation, rather than just smiling, happily holding their statue and waving at the camera. Sure, it most likely won’t get the major studios to change their bad practices, probably not much more that street demonstrations and flying banners will. But every little bit helps, no ?

      • mat says:

        I don’t think it’s part of the problem. I think it makes artists more and more sensitive to the problem we are facing in this industry, and it’s the only option some people have to stand for what they believe. It starts with a signature, then people talk around the petition and it gathers people. That what can make a differnece, because people are getting more and more sick of what happening.

  32. bla says:

    can any of you guys list the nominees and post it here? i think we can get their email addresses easier .

    • The Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

      The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
      Life of Pi: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan de Boer and Donald R. Elliott
      The Avengers: Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
      Prometheus: Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
      Snow White & The Huntsman: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

  33. Time to act says:

    Boycott Ang Lee.. Even he has no respect for us.

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/life-pi-director-ang-lee-422270

    “I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business”

    • The Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

      I’d like to believe it was the wrong choice of words. Maybe he meant to say more affordable for the studios to stay in business? (As in, VFX shops get more revenue?)

      I know I am reaching for straws here but… ;]

  34. Supply and demand. We keep supplying them with labor and art, why would we expect demand to change?

    Filmmakers will not change their demand as long as there are supply options, including outside of the US and outside of the established vfx studios. As long as there are options, it’s a buyer’s market.

    • randallvfx says:

      That was my point as well Robert…we had these problems long before VFX went global, and subsidies existed. Since day one the Studios have being playing the VFX facilities against each other. Has there ever been a summit meeting between the VFX facility owners and the VFX executives at the major studios?

      • Scott Squires says:

        No, this scale of problem did not exist before the subsides. Studios would always pit companies against each other but few would offer 50% discount and the studios couldn’t point to that 50% off discount from another company as they can with subsidies.

        Each company would tend to position itself and know what they could bid and still get paid to do the work.

        Now eliminating subsidies will not solve all the problems but at least it will be on a level playing field where quality and efficiency would play a larger role. With or without subsidies there will have to be an adjustment in the number of vfx companies doing business if they expect to remain in business competing for the same marketplace.

        Risk and subsidies

      • You think it’s bad dealing with 6 film studios, try getting every city, county, state and national government around the world to agree to not offer subsidies to attract jobs to their district.

      • randallvfx says:

        so after subsides go away, then the fight for low wage labor practices abroad taking VFX away from Los Angeles is next?

      • Scott Squires says:

        Can the top 20 vfx films of this year all be done in India and China? No. If cost were the only factor then all studios would get all their work done there already. Low labor costs are even lower priced than subsidies. But studios know they can’t get the quality required for a world wide audience.

        And at least they will compete on their own situation and not primarily on a artificial market manipulation.

  35. Kevin Scott says:

    I am there in spirit – as I had to take work abroad to put food on the table.

  36. bla says:

    Eric Saindon == [Removed]
    Bill Westenhofer == [Removed]
    Erik-Jan de Boer == [Removed]
    Guy Williams == [Removed]

  37. fireextinguisher123 says:

    @bla,

    Sharing these people’s personal information in a public forum such as this one is probably NOT the best way to endear them to our cause.

  38. Dave Rand says:

    Update: Can only get the red carpet plane due to technical diff…but this is the important one! The banner will say

    BOXOFFICE + BANKRUPT = VISUAL EFFECTS VFXUNION.COM

    –as we had to give them this right away.

    News is VERY interested in this. LA times is running something shortly.

    Working on a location. The plane will take off from the Compton Airport and we should have a news crew there.

    The plane will fly from 3:30 till 4:30pm Sunday over Hollywood repeatedly.

    One headline that is being used already

    WHY ARE THE STUDIOS BEATING THEIR PRIZE RACE HORSE TO DEATH?

    We need artists to show up at a location, most likely the Compton Airport where the plane will take off and a place in Hollywood yet to be determined, waiting on the press…stay tuned.

  39. randallvfx says:

    Has their ever been a summit meeting between the VFX Facility owners and the VFX Studio Execs? Besides a couple of quotes from Lee Burger @ R&H, do we have any commentary from any other VFX facility?

    • Scott Squires says:

      The VES put out a request for companies to meet to discuss possibly a trade association. The VES wasn’t going to be the trade assoc. but was asking a neutral host to get companies together. Some came, some did not. I wasn’t there but I think there were 3 meetings. Nothing came from it and I don’t think any of the big 4-6 companies participated.

      The VES also does a Production Summit with one year with panels regarding outsourcing, etc. A studio executive or two were up on a stage with a few company management people. It was all hugs and kisses and not a real discussion. All from fear of a company being blacklisted by 1 of the 6 studios.

      The studios actually have meetings among themselves but vfx companies? Not that I know of.

      • randallvfx says:

        Why are the artists fighting for the VFX facilities when they wont even fight for themselves? As artists, dont we need to survive regardless of the politics and economics of owning a VFX facility? Weren’t the artists up in arms against the facilities for bad labor (overtime) practices,etc, now we are fighting their battles? This is all extremely dysfunctional, no wonder we arent taken seriously.

  40. Larry Gritz says:

    Re: getting the message right

    I think we can all, worldwide, get behind the message “We need to find a business model for VFX facilities (and a model for their relationship with the big film studios) that allows them to stay solvent, and for the artists who work in VFX to have civilized working conditions including reasonable hours, healthcare and other benefits, and job stability.”

    As far as subsidies go, I think we’ll get nowhere making the argument about it not being a good government investment. Frankly, nobody cares — as far as I can tell, the people who are against the subsidies may like to talk about how it’s bad for citizens and governments, but they’d still be against the subsidies even if all the studies showed it was a great investment, and similarly, the people for the subsidies think it’s a good idea regardless of the studies showing it’s a loser. And it’s just weird and presumptuous for people in one country or state to argue about the best way for another country or state to spend their tax money.

    Where I think we can find common ground on subsidies is the following: We all can agree that the industry and the workers would be better off if companies competed based on the quality of their work and the cost efficiency of their operations. It’s a good thing for companies efficiently doing high-quality work to succeed and last, and for companies doing crap work or who can’t keep their costs under control to fail. The biggest problem with subsidies is that it distorts this beneficial process — when subsidies are high, somewhere there is a company doing inefficient, bad work that nonetheless wins jobs that they should lose, just because of happenstance of geography and politics, and in another place there is somebody doing great work at a good price, who suffers and goes out of business because they are not in a subsidied area. This helps nobody. If we argue against subsidies based on this distortion of the rightful winners and losers, rather than pitting country against country, we are more likely to have some kind of consensus.

    And I really think we’re barking up the wrong tree any time we get anywhere near arguing that people in one country, state, or city somehow deserve to have all the jobs concentrated in their backyard. Jobs should go to where the talent wants to live; keeping it concentrated geographically is a distortion no less evil than that caused by subsidies. So many natural allies who happen to be in London, Wellington, Vancouver, or for that matter San Francisco, think it’s an unmitigated good that VFX jobs are spread around the world in places they would like to live, and they are alienated any time somebody starts talking about keeping jobs in the US, California, or Los Angeles. Don’t fracture unity of the industry by making it a nationalistic crusade. No offence to those who want to work and live in Los Angeles indefinitely, but you are probably in the minority of VFX workers worldwide; it would be unwise to turn the rest of us off by making the fight about “keeping jobs” someplace so many of us don’t actually want to live. There are other fights that are more important and that we can all agree on.

    • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

      Well said Larry. Of course just a few posts below this one is the comment:

      “VFX_reckoning says:

      Umm, it would help if these other countries actually had their own F’ing film studios and were exporting vfx work to the U.S. That is fair trade, not having to chase around the work”

  41. FrankiegoestoHwood says:

    In fact, they’re planning to stage a protest to call attention to their own plight — and that of California visual effects workers in general. — right, so please don’t call this an industry-wide protest. It’s very specific to Californians and Americans. The business is changing. Asia and sub-Asia is where the the action is now heating up. So instead of them moving to the US, US workers will have to move there. All supply and demand. Sucks – but true.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Umm wasn’t rhythm rhythm had 4 facilities in Asia: it’s bankrupt.

    • VFX_reckoning says:

      Umm, it would help if these other countries actually had their own F’ing film studios and were exporting vfx work to the U.S. That is fair trade, not having to chase around the work

      • Ymir says:

        Yeah . . . right.

        “But Wuxi’s prospects for becoming a global film center doesn’t look so rosy to some. China’s film industry has entered a bubble, believes Wang Zhongjun, chairman of Chinese film producer and record label Huayi Brothers. His pessimism is based on the relatively small proportion of Chinese films that become profitable. Over 500 films were produced in 2011 but only about 160-170 made it into theaters, with only about 20% making a profit and another 10% breaking even, Wang points out. But that ratio is roughly the same one on which Hollywood has been thriving during the past century.”

      • Milka says:

        Like dream works you mean an Indian owned company

      • Milka says:

        If studios did not have a monopoly on the industry then more films would be seen in cinemas. And us studios owned by foreigners like sony, dream works and fox.

      • VFX_reckoning says:

        Sony is a publicly owned company I think, but I’m not talking about international ownership, that doesn’t matter. Those film studios are still BASED out of California. They may have a monopoly of sorts in the U.S., but not in other countries.

        That’s just my personal opinion, I’m not trying push anyone out or to keep anyone out of the vfx industry…Until that day comes, when China or India have large enough studios on their own soil, to push and create world-wide content…I personally feel California based film companies have an imperative and ethical responsibility, to first and foremost, support it’s own Californian economy, associate businesses and those who reside there. There is a reason Hollywood is Hollywood, the current world wide dominion of film is located there, and no matter what country you are from or working in will change that until another country establishes a competitive film industry.

      • FrankiegoestoHwood says:

        umm, the money that puts these films together are not just american dollars

  42. randallvfx says:

    http://nickelodeoncg.wordpress.com/

    nick animation going union?

  43. Dave Rand says:

    Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Channel 9 and 2 have been looped in.
    So far we have two locations the Compton Airport and Hollywood and Vine as meeting places.

    Tune into @vfxunited for updates.

    Please tell all your friends and co workers ..you don’t have to be on camera or in the press or even hold a sign…just be there with your friends.

    We can start getting together around 1pm . The plane will begin circling from 3:30 to 4:30 pm

  44. vfx hell says:

    Tweet at Seth MacFarlane, encourage him to say something onstage, get some vfx hash tags on there:

    @SethMacFarlane

  45. vfxGhost says:

    so http://www.vfxunion.com/ doesn’t go to anything right now. Is that going to be fixed?

  46. Mike says:

    great that it’s coming together…..finally! I’ll be at Hwood and Vine….

  47. World wide says:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323864304578316414057909902.html

    Check out the comments, you will see how little the rest of the world understands what we do.

  48. Dave Rand says:

    Some people have begun inviting their friends here. There’s an invite your friends button….but you prob all knew that I’m a bit late to the social media game. http://www.facebook.com/events/102072926647311/

  49. Lisa McNamara says:

    I have a question and if this has already been explored, my apologies but:

    The live action shoots get some kind of subsidy for staying in California (apparently Ben Affleck is getting a lot of attention for shooting the majority of Argo here). If there is support to keep live action in California, why can’t there be a similar type of support for VFX companies or studios who keep the work here? I mean, if you can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em? It seems nearly impossible that subsidies will stop in other countries; and VFX is as big a part as the live action component of major films–or a bigger part in many.

    I am genuinely curious as to whether this has been explored with the film commission or the governor’s office.

    Please educate me (if you have the time).

    Thanks!

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Subsidies are just a race to the bottom that only institutionalizes displacement and distorts the price of VFX

      The UK was very hot for VFX when they offered a subsidy of 25%. Now its shifted to Vancouver which covers 60% for VFX. Soon it will be Quebec or Australia. Each location poaching the others in a race to hand out more to the studios.

      It distorts the price of VFX causing companies that shouldn’t be in business to stay alive while putting companies that are efficient out of business.

      By encouraging California to offer subsidies it would only add more volatility to the race and no lead to long term stability. It would also be unaffordable. In 2012 BC paid $437 Million in film subsidies! That doesn’t even include the federal amount which will bring it to $600 Million.

      On Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 12:04 AM, VFX Soldier

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        I understand how it skews the market, but how does it differ from the incentives given to live action? I mean, the various states’ film commissions often offer incentives to shoot there. Just curious about why this would be any different.

        Thanks again.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        There is no difference (however the state subsidy is very limited to small productions and is only a reduction on taxes owed). That being said I’m also for having a level playing field on the live action side.

        On Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 12:18 AM, VFX Soldier

      • Scott Squires says:

        The state incentives are pretty small and restrictive. They give it all away in 1 day in June. It only covers a certain cost range (lower than many vfx movies) and most films in California do not get them. Much different situation than elsewhere.

        Also many subsidies are tied to live action. As an example the Disney people were complaining that Illinois required 1 day of shooting if you only wanted to do the vfx there. NY has a specific post-production subsidy but it required a certain % of work to be done there so Disney did not like that either. So they were planning to lobby both these areas to make their subsidies less restrictive. (VES PRoduction Summit covered on my blog and fxguide)

        Vancouver has a special DAVE(?) subsidy specifically for animation and live action so every place has it’s quirks which are constantly changing.

        UK subsidies didn’t cover animation and tv so there was a lot of scuffling till the got those too.

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        Thanks, Scott. That explains it well. I have more questions about what can be done to dig out of the mess but i’ll leave them for another time. Perhaps this demonstration will get the Studios’ attention enough to think about the problems they’re creating for an entire industry. Then again, perhaps they’ll only be worried about which parties to get to post ceremony.

  50. Mike Estacio says:

    well you see how well protesting worked for the Writer’s Guild…

  51. Lisa McNamara says:

    I know that what i’m about to say will rub many people the wrong way, but it’s the truth.

    I was, for many years, a recruiter for the animation/VFX industry. Many of the people who are now under- or unemployed are my friends, for whom i have great compassion. BUT:

    When i first started recruiting in this industry in the late 1990s, the CG industry was still relatively young. There was a paucity of artists who were qualified to do the high level of work that was expected. When i was crewing a VFX studio, it was necessary to lure talent from other studios because there were only so many excellent artists. We mostly lured them with money because, as has been correctly pointed out, the hours are brutal and the lifestyle during production is punishing.
    So the VFX artists made what was considered to be large sums of money (by any standards) and they liked the fact that they could support families, live in nice houses, and drive expensive cars.

    Fast forward to the last couple of years. There are now schools churning out young people who are eager to grab onto that lifestyle–they’ve seen the behind the scenes footage of the cool workplaces where artists can wear shorts to work and zip around the hallways on razor scooters and have catered BBQ lunches and beers on Fridays. They have seen the VFX supes drive up in their Lamborghinis and collect their Oscars. To young people, it’s a big golden carrot. And, many of these VFX luminaries have been happy to participate in the training of what they thought would be the next generation of artists. Meanwhile, in other countries, the now reduced cost of startup has made VFX houses spring up, and the demand of the Studios to jump on the subsidies gravy train has forced many US-based companies to open overseas branches, often sending the US talent over to train the local artists in places like India and Canada.

    In an effort to keep the costs competitive, the US companies began to hire the far less experienced young ‘uns to fill the seats that had been occupied by the more experienced (i.e. more expensive) artists. Hey, they figured, this kid can run Maya…and he’s fifty bucks an hour LESS than this guy who’s been doing it for fifteen years. Let’s just hire him!

    I know i’m about to digress a bit here, but please bear with me:

    Back in 2006, i was a recruiter for a new Bay Area-based VFX/animation studio. Our mission was to staff up the entire studio, relying heavily on recent students to fill the seats, so not only were we charged with building an entire studio from scratch, but we also had a tight production schedule in which to deliver the first film. Complicating matters even more was the fact that this was to be a union shop, meaning that all artists would be required to join IATSE 839, also known as the Animator’s Guild.

    As we got into the staffing process, a big part of the recruitment pitch was to explain the benefits of union membership. And trust me, they were fantastic. For the cost of minimal dues, the artists got comprehensive health coverage, guaranteed overtime pay, and an employer-matched pension that vested over a mere seven years. Those of us who were ineligible to join the union were hugely envious–our paltry corporate benefits included a much less comprehensive health plan and no paid OT (someone joked that OT meant “own time”).

    And here’s what happened:

    The VFX artists, by and large, hated the idea of being in the union. They were skeptical about the benefits, didn’t want to pay the minimal dues (the large initiation fee was covered by the Studio as a signing bonus, so artists didn’t even have to pay for that themselves!), and hated the fact that they were restricted to only two weeks of paid vacation and ten paid holidays a year. Moreover, they hated the fact that their large hourly rates, earned while freelancing and receiving no benefits (as Scott Squires correctly cites) , would be lowered to accommodate the huge fringe benefits they would receive.

    I know that what i’m about to say will be hugely unpopular, but it is the truth. The artists, by and large, wanted to turn down our offers because at the time it was more important to them to keep their inflated hourly rates than to have the stability offered by union membership. And trust me, these hourly rates were FAR from minimum wage (we’re talking somewhere in the $60-$75/hour range for senior artists). Admittedly, the entry-level artists were making far less, but in many cases they were thrilled by the idea of having a rate in the $20/hour range and getting all the nice benefits.

    Some of the artists who have been most vocal in this demonstration effort were some of the ones who were most vocal about keeping their high hourly rates. They liked being able to live nicely and drive their nice cars and have their new iPhones that cost $400 when they were first introduced while we were staffing this studio. I remember the big rush among the crew to get these shiny new toys as quickly as possible.

    So, you’ll forgive me if all the complaints about how the artists are treated seems a bit ironic to me. Mind you, i’m all for having them treated fairly. Absolutely. However, THEY were their own worst enemies in many ways.

    You see, when i was attempting to hire the 500+ artists for this film, we had a hiring budget. And the hourly rates were, in many cases, significantly lower than what the artists had been making as freelancers. And even though our mandate was to hire fresh, young talent, there are only so many of those people you can hire and still successfully complete a film. We needed to hire many of the seasoned vets who could not only crank out large amounts of high-quality work, but could also supervise and mentor the youngsters. And those experienced people would not back down on their hourly quotes. As a recruiter with a lot of seats to fill, i often fought very hard with the management of the studio to give the artists what they demanded because, frankly, we needed them. As a result, the salary “nut” was hugely over budget. And, i will add, i was not very popular with my managers, as i took the position of advocating for the artists (even Dave Rand can attest to that). In fact, i probably couldn’t get hired as a studio recruiter again after that debacle.

    Sadly, after four years the studio closed its doors. The cost of keeping it alive was far too high. There were, to be sure, numerous other problems, but the high salaries didn’t help.

    My point, however, is this: i realize that artists shouldn’t have to be paid minimum wage. I realize that they deserve decent working conditions and benefits. I realize that they need stability.

    However, back when all of that was offered, they didn’t want it. They wanted to keep living the lives they had built, with no concessions. There was a golden time in the industry when there were few artists and lots of work to be done and given that it was an artists’ market it was a golden time in a great big cushy bubble.

    But now the bubble has burst and the harsh realities of a far bigger work force have set in.

    I personally think there is a middle ground, something between minimum wage and $75/hour, where VFX artists can work comfortably and receive benefits and have stability. And as i have been saying for years, to much criticism, it will take concessions on all sides. Yes, the studios have to be willing to pay reasonable amounts. But the VFX artists may have to learn to live with an overall lower pay scale. Example: teachers, who are often highly educated and spend years honing their skills and keeping up on the latest information, are doing some of the most important work there is to do. Yet, they may make only $100K a year at the tippy top of their salaries. But they still do it, because they love to do it. And they survive. They don’t drive BMWs or Lamborghinis, and maybe they don’t buy every slick new toy the minute it comes out, but they support families, and don’t go hungry and live perfectly fine lives, and often retire with pensions.

    So here’s my question to the VFX artist community: if you could keep your jobs and stay in the U.S. and earn a decent living wage, would you be willing to come down on your high hourly rates to do so? Would you be willing to make that compromise? Because i can tell you, it would make a HUGE impact on the ability of VFX studios to stay afloat in this new, competitive market.

    You may not be able to go to work and get free Mountain Dew and espressos and Doritos, and you may not have the masseuse show up three times a week to work on your strained necks and backs, but you might be able to stay at one company and have work for the foreseeable future. I realize that it will take a huge change on the parts of the Studios, too, but if all sides are willing to make compromises maybe, just maybe, some of these problems can be solved.

    Feel free to excoriate me now. I wish all of you only the best.

    • Scott Squires says:

      I agree Lisa that many are blinded to the benefits of a union. I would also agree that people be flexible in their pay such as absorbing some of the cost of a unionizing. (a few dollars an hours possibly for better benefits) The fact is now people won’t be offered the same rates they once were. There was a spike in wages and now there is more supply of artists than there are positions available.

      The flip side is most visual effects workers are freelance, just like most film workers. They will be laid off as soon as the work slows down and have to look for other projects. They have more risk than the typical full time worker and some may only work 1/2 the year. Unlike teachers that know exactly when they will be off and when they will restart, vfx workers don’t know when they will get their next project.

      Some people who have been ‘on staff’ for years are finding out the hard way. Likewise most animation studios have been reasonable about trying to keep a flow of work coming in so that’s a problem for them when the unexpected lay offs happen.

      Visual effects is done as project work and so that will mean there will be feast and famine time periods, just like it has even before digital. For that reason visual effects workers should get higher salaries than people who work at full time longer term jobs.

      What many in visual effects don’t understand is the union health care is typically much better than most company health plans. And even better they have continuous coverage as you have gaps between projects and can cover you for a year or more depending on the hours you have put in. Being in the union also means you get paid all overtime and that they can’t instantly lay off hundreds of people without some compensation. And you have somebody to fight for you and back you up should a company do some questionable things. At the cost of a few hundred dollars a year the added health insurance, pension and other benefits are well worth it.

      There is a reason all of the others working on films are unionized. Directors, writers, cinematographers, actors, etc. They’re not stupid. They know what they are getting in exchange.You don’t see many of them actively trying to leave it. Only in visual effects do we have the attitude that we don’t need it and that we’re better than it. And that attitude has much to do with our downfall. Many are realizing as Lisa said what an opportunity they had and they passed on it.

      And there will be a lot of naysayers that it’s too late to unionize, that it will be the nail in the coffin, all jobs will be instantly go overseas, etc. These people are Eeyores. They will always look at the worst possible scenario, no matter how unlikely, and use that as an excuse to not do anything. And they will continue for year after year while an industry erodes. This same ‘chestnut’ about it being too late has been said for 15 years. And they will surprised when the industry is gone, even though they haven’t done anything.Their fear of doing anything is preventing any form of progress and they are more than happy to share that fear.

      There is no point for the unions organizing if it will raise the cost of doing business significantly. No point in a union if does drive away work. That’s why each company and the union negotiate a balanced contract. And that’s why the workers may be involved in the negotiations (lower rates of a few dollars to offset some of the costs).

      Now is the time to stand up. There is a peak level of interest now that may be very difficult to get again. And next year the same people that didn’t stand up will still be saying why doesn’t some one fix the industry.

      Wally Phister, DP of Incentive, Dark Knight and a few other little films, spoke about the union in his Oscar speech.
      Video of speech

    • vfxguy says:

      “So here’s my question to the VFX artist community: if you could keep your jobs and stay in the U.S. and earn a decent living wage, would you be willing to come down on your high hourly rates to do so? Would you be willing to make that compromise? Because i can tell you, it would make a HUGE impact on the ability of VFX studios to stay afloat in this new, competitive market.”

      The answer will always be no, and because of that US (and international) companies with huge salary bills will continue to struggle.

      I would happily take a 40% pay cut if it would guarantee me a regular 9 to 5 plus OT without worrying if I’m going to have a job in a year’s time. Unfortunately this only works if everyone else goes for it as well, and they won’t.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Unionizing requires a majority (> 50%), it doesn’t require everyone. Once over 50% vote to go union, the company has to go union. And fortunately you wouldn’t have to take a 40% pay cut for the company to be doing what it’s doing now at the same price.

        You will likely be laid off when the company is slow even if you made minimum wage. Hard for project to project service business to guarantee work 100% of the year.

    • Ymir says:

      Lisa, you make a lot of salient points, but one question to ask is, why are all of the animation/vfx studios located in high cost locations? Los Angeles, S.F. bay area, Vancouver, London, et. al. All of these locations have high rents, and if you can afford a home, high real estate costs. There are other cities that are just as nice and more affordable for people to live and work in. Sure, they may not have the hip and trendy personality of the current locations. But if people are interested in that security, wouldn’t it be more affordable for a facility to operate, or a studio to run one someplace more business friendly than, say, California?

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        Thanks, Ymir. Personally, i agree with you; i mean, i understand why LA is a hub, but beyond that i can’t really answer (perhaps Scott can). That said, if you look at Sony’s attempt to base a studio in Albuquerque or DD in Port St. Lucie…you see what happened. I can also say that trying to recruit people to work in non-hub cities can be very tricky. People want to live where there’s other stuff to do besides work…i have encountered this, too. All i can say is that i live in LA but don’t live in an expensive area…affordable housing can be found, although it might not be close to the workplace or the “good” stuff, i’m afraid.

      • Ymir says:

        Sony’s facility in ABQ and DD in Florida closed down for two very different reasons. I was at the Albuquerque facility and the reason Sony shut it down was not for the reasons everyone is lead to believe. It was killed, pure and simple, to try to force the artists there to relocate to the fledgling Vancouver location.

        I lived in L.A. for 13 years and in the bay area close to 9. Like you say about people wanting to own the latest coolest gadget when it comes out, there is the same mentality about living in a cool city. I know a lot of people who said “why would I want to go to ABQ or Fla.?” Well, like people being lured to BC, that’s where work is. And of course, there are things to do outside of work in these locations. It’s not like L.A., S.F., wherever has a lock on things to do outside of work. Sure, going to a club in L.A. sounds cooler on FB status than going to a club someplace else, but that’s superficial, like owning the latest gadget on first day release rather than a month or two later when the shelves have restocked.

        Everybody who went to ABQ (especially those from L.A.) came away with “I had no idea this was here”. Though we’re spread around the country now, we’re still a tight knit family that shared something the people that turned down the offers didn’t. There’s no reason that companies can’t forego the subsidies, but open up and staff shops in more business friendly locations that will be more stable in the long run. But as you point out, everybody needs to take a second look at how important the shiny object or cool location is to them.

      • Scott Squires says:

        VFX companies in LA – At one time vfx was actually closely tied to the studios.

        The studios setup in LA to avoid patent rights with Edison and to get better locations. LA offers a lot of sunshine for most of the year so better for any outdoor shooting. It offered beaches ,city, suburbs, mountains, deserts, etc. Great for close location work. Major port and train stop made it also a good location for major industry.

        Movie making is a niche market with a relative small number of specialists (compared to farming, retail, etc). so it was good to have a number of companies in the same area which would mean a larger number of freelance specialists. And you also get pollination of ideas. Same reason you have silicon valley and other hubs of specific industries. As freelancers you have a number of potential employers within easy reach. If you work at a location with only 1 employer for your skills, especially in freelance, thats’ not really a good option.

        Lucas setup ILM in the bay area because he wanted it there. He could have setup wherever. Most of us working there would have preferred they move a little further north to cut down on the commute and the cost of housing but of course he moved into San Francisco.

        Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, London, etc. are al lin larger cities to get all of the benefits (airports, sellers of anything, workers in every field, etc.) If this were a permanent job then you could setup anywhere but the company needs workers and workers need options of companies in a freelance world.

        And as I say at one time directors used to drive over to review work and have meetings. And vfx teams used to go to the studios to shoot footage and to have meetings and interact with others. Which made LA the place to be.

      • Ymir says:

        The overall message there is “at one time” “used to”, etc. The way things used to be. Lucas moved to the bay area because that’s where he wanted to be, and Peter Jackson stayed in New Zealand as that’s where he wants to be. Modern technologies allow for real time communications and interactivity so location is really a non-issue any more. What is at issue is a company being able to operate economically at a sustainable level. Right now, the studios are dictating where companies will open shop, not based on what’s in the financial interests of the companies but due to the subsidized interests of the studios. If the subsidy issue is removed from the equation, the company that can offer the lower bid will be the one with the lowest overhead operating costs. The other part of the equation is talent. How important is it to the available talent base to live in an expensive urban monstrosity such as Los Angeles, as opposed to other cities that offer the same amenities (airports!) with less of the hassles and expenses? ABQ? NOLA? Portland? Austin? At one time, Marin and Vancouver only had one effects shop, as well. They didn’t just spring up as ‘hubs’, they grew in to them.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Yes, not to say that companies can’t setup elsewhere and that is an option to keep the overhead down. (lower cost of leasing, lower cost for employee housing, etc)

        In the case of ILM they were a big shop and people would expect to go back to LA for the summer or slow months. Much depends on how long you think you’ll work there and how solid you think the company is there.

        I worked with Legend in San Diego for Transformers and it was surprising the way the studios reacted (including directors, stereographers). It was less than 2 hrs away but to the studios it might as well have been 1/2 way around the world. And in some cases they chose closer shops simply because they were closer. A lot depends on how much the director and studio trust the company and how much they want to be involved. In person is almost aways better than Skype.

        There’s also been the possibility of telecommuting to work. There are of course some waste of trying to do something as a group and getting reasonable and effective communication. But in theory a company could have a number of people living elsewhere and still contribute to the work. You’re already using cinesync and Skype to communicate with a director or supervisor, having the workers elsewhere wouldn’t be much of a stretch. As I recall someone based in South America working for 1 of the London shops. I’ve known a couple of matte painters who were able to do it but that’s not the case for most. Certainly that can bring down the worker cost and allow them to live anywhere.

        But the subsidies usually demand that the people qualified be working there obviously so that tends to reduce that option as well.

    • Josef Bloomfield says:

      I see your point. The benefits..ie sick days, vacation, medical and 401k’s do have a real dollar value. So yes $75/hr freelance and $75/hr with benefits are not by any means equivalent. For a company those benefits have a pretty clear price.

      For an artist the value doesn’t correlate to the price. A 401k might be out of reach for a junior artist at $20/hr and of little value. For a senior artist the tax benefits are great.

      The situation you described at Imagemovers is history. In 2012, I don’t see what an artist gets from accepting a lower rate when they are basically freelancers on anywhere from 3 month to 1 year show “contracts”.

      Without solid term deals anyone with half a brain will push for the best hourly rate they can get. In a boom the rates will balloon and in a bust they deflate.

      At best, people are on show contracts that gave the artist no protection. Start dates and end dates on written show deals are routinely changed with the artists having to absorb the financial hit.

      Comparing us with teachers is ridiculous. We are in a profit making industry that’s dominated by 6 media conglomerates. For the most part teachers are civil servants. Until recently they had stable jobs, guaranteed pensions, vacations and health benefits. We have health benefits while we are on the job.Everything else is negotiable or not even on the table.

      Right now, we can’t even count on getting fully paid for work done. I don’t see a middle ground on such a skewed playing field.

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        What i am trying to say is that if the VFX industry were to come to the table with a proactive plan to unionize, there may be salary concessions that would be part of the plan. If that could be accomplished, there would perhaps be more substantial reasons for the work to stay in the U.S., or at least off-shoring the work might not be as attractive to the six media conglomerates. And if more of the work were to remain in the U.S., studios like R&H might have a better chance of staying in business and having a more stable work flow.

        Look, none of this is a panacea. All i’m trying to point out is that steps must be taken and every journey begins with a single step. If everyone keeps the same attitudes, nothing will change. But if there is a united effort to help what is surely going to be a complete meltdown without it, the studios might be willing to be a part of the solution.

        And, for the record, i’m not “comparing” VFX artists to teachers, per se. What i’m saying is that there are other industries in which highly skilled workers doing important work make less money overall and have decent lives. What i was trying to point out is that there is something between minimum wage and the high freelance hourly rates that mid- and senior-level artists were making that could be determined to lead to a more sustainable overall paradigm.

        I will also say that when i worked at ImageMovers, i didn’t see a whole lot of savings going on for the rainy days to come. What i saw was a parking garage filled with BMWs and Mercedes Benzes and Porsches. Believe me, there was a higher percentage of expensive cars in that garage than just about any other parking garages i have entered since. So while i realize that because the current model is freelance you guys have to make better than minimum wage, i also know that there was a lot of flagrant spending going on, and that’s not the way to prepare for the lapses in projects.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Let me just say that my rate can fluctuate wildly depending on the deal and the benefits. When an recruiter asks what my rate is, I tell them it’s impossible to say without knowing the terms of the deal.

        If I’m a 1099 freelancer where I incur extra payroll and equipment costs, no benefits, I charge a higher rate. If I’m at a union facility that offers a *solid* 3 year term contract then my rate can go lower.

        There are many who feel the economics are too complicated for them so they are all about the high hourly rate no matter what the terms are. It easy to just say “my rate is this” and not care about the terms. That can really backfire.

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        Exactly…and that’s a really sensible approach but, as you point out, not everyone has your sensibilities.

        I guess what i would hope for, as a best-case scenario, would be a standardization of pay scales industry-wide and, subsequently, a standardization of benefits. Certainly unionizing could help to level that part of the field.

        Again, i completely realize that this is a very complicated issue and it falls to ALL sides to solve the problem. I was merely pointing out one facet of it, along with a suggestion for the first step towards a solution.

        And i also think that if there is an appeal to be made to the “big 6″ to keep the playing field more level, it’s best to approach with some compromises at the ready–it’s always better to air a grievance along with a solution than to simply complain.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        About the car thing:

        I’ve noticed a fair number of VFX pros that have nice cars.

        However, many of them buy the nice car because it’s “mobile” and they can’t invest their hard earned OT money in things like a house or family. That being said there are people I know of who have been burned badly purchasing homes thinking they had some permanence.

        The car can be quickly sold or even be the vehicle to help you move to Vancouver! ;)

        On Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 12:48 PM, VFX Soldier

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        totally agree! rates vary so much these days. how much do they want you (vs just filling the seat), how long? when I was asked to go to DD Vancouver rather than DD Venice last year I made them pay for my housing for 3 months as I could not afford to pay double rent. They did not like it but finally agreed. My rate was a tad lower because of it but it was good deal.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        Im not sure thats a major factor about the cars but the house argument is valid. I bought a house after weta and have not lived in it for more than 5 months in the last 2 years as I was constantly working somewhere else :(

      • VFX Soldier says:

        and I assume you also have to pay rent in the other location you are working too correct?

        Again very costly situation that has been exacerbated by subsidies in my opinion.

        Look I’m all for people buying homes and planting themselves where-ever it may be: New Mexico, Florida, Vancouver…

        but what I find is that it’s usually driven by subsidies which get outbid by another location.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Actual a 401k isn’t out of reach of lower ranks and is in fact the best time to put money in. My daughter is a preschool teacher who makes much less than vfx people and she puts money into a 401k. Choice is how much pocket money do you want to spend versus investing in your future.

        The freelance nature of visual effects has always been there but many choose to ignore it. Now that it’s here the best thing is to have health care coverage between projects. 1 night in the hospital is easily $20,000. Appendectomy can be $135,000 Buying you own insurance is expensive at $400-2000 month.
        One month of health insurance would have paid your union dues for the year.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        As i said I paid my LA mortgage but made DD pay for the Vancouver housing so I would not have double rent.

    • VFX_nomadNoMore says:

      Lisa,

      What you’re saying is exactly what I want!! If I were offered this today (and I trusted it) I would take it in a heartbeat. I was still new in the industry in 2006 and was never in any position to affect a union decision at all back then. Maybe the feeling back then was that a union wasn’t needed but the way I see it is that I suffer more now because of decisions against a union in the past.

      Now that this is issue is coming up again I hope that things might go the other way. It won’t fix everything but it sure can’t hurt. I would give a lot to have some semblance of job security, a steady 401k, a pension plan (omg wouldn’t THAT be amazing), and some sick/paid holiday/vacation days. All I want is to be able to feel secure in living in one place, not having to constantly worry about having a job, and not being worried that I’ll have to leave my family (again) to go work in some subsidized city somewhere. I don’t need to be rich and would love to feel comfortable saving money for my future instead of feeling that I need to always be stashing money away to pay for my expenses inbetween jobs. I just want to be able to provide for my family and have a life – in addition to a job that I enjoy. Working nonstop for a few months and then being off for a few months is not a great way to live. :(

      Obviously there are many issues in play here, but it’s time for us to do SOMEthing. There are many more people in the industry now than there used to be, maybe now there can be a majority vote.

      I’m all for people living where they want. However, I’m against people being coerced to move around the globe just so that some studio can get a tax subsidy. I’ve had to do it myself and while I’ve met plenty of people that liked moving around or living outside of LA I have also met many more who did not. If you’re young and single it can be fun to experience different cities/countries but if you want to have a family and a place to call home it’s no way to live.

    • skaplan839 says:

      Lisa –

      First, its always a pleasure to see you weigh in. Your experience always lends to important and poignant commentary.

      I’ve always believed that the first contracts signed between a vfx facility and a union will be wrought with concessions on the unions behalf. After all, its the first contract! If we ever got to a point where we’re forging new ground by getting an agreement with a business that is brand new to unionization, it wouldn’t behoove anyone for the union to crush said industry under the weight of the contract.

      Secondly, take a look at the minimum wages in the 839 and TSL agreements (which I believe would be the basis of wage floors for a vfx contract). Do you find them to be excessive?

      TAG minumums: http://animationguild.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/TAG-CBA-minimums-2012-2015.pdf

      TSL agreement (wages at the end pages): http://animationguild.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/TSL_CBA_2012-2015.pdf

      Whats important to remember is this clause in the contracts (Article 4, paragraph C in TAG CBA):

      Nothing in this agreement shall prevent any individual from negotiating and obtaining from the Producer better conditions and terms of employment than those herein provided”

      I would expect the union to take the position that it wants to establish some basic standards and conditions to build on in subsequent contract negotiations.

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        Likewise, Steve, always great to hear your voice as part of the discussion.

        I love that you point out that a better deal is always negotiable. But as you know, i am a true believer in the support of the union, now more than ever.

        I hope you know that if you can ever use my help with anything relating to this issue, i am at your disposal.

        Respectfully,

        Lisa

  52. VFX_reckoning says:

    I don’t know…on the film side of things, I personally don’t feel our pay grade is asking to much, especially considering the millions upon millions of profit our work generates. I always bring up the point of re-structuring SAG contracts and studio budgets, because actors shouldn’t be receiving $30-$70 mil per show with residuals either. That’s a ridiculous exorbitant amount of money for one person in any form of creative content. They aren’t the only ones busting their asses on the show…Why not cut those amounts by half and shift it to the Post-shops. A more balanced budget would also help.

    • Lisa McNamara says:

      Yes, the actors’ salaries are nuts. But such is the way of this nutty business. Personally, i’m a socialist at heart and would love to see the whole world even out…why should actors make more than doctors or teachers or firefighters? It’s a crazy, upside down way for things to be, and yet i doubt that any of that will ever change in our lifetimes.

    • Wage what?? says:

      To answer you question about wage the answer is we have too. In the last year everyone I know has had to cut their rate just to get a job because the studios aren’t offering the good rates of yesteryear. My guess would be $65 hr is hard to come by, I know that when ever I quoted that number the emails and phone calls stopped.

      I agree that actors get paid to much compare to doctors, but they are also why people come to the movie( well before our VFX have become 90% of a movie) so yes I want the good old day rates back and a union for the benefits because they are cheap and amazing. That’s why we need to band together.

  53. Grow up? says:

    Not to be a downer but I’m noticing on other pages that are rallying people, a lot of talk of turning this into a comic con type event or Halloween. I’m all for enjoying this experience but we need to remember this is serious, it’s not a game. The rest of the world won’t see costumes as creative they will think we are crazy much like the reaction to the occupy movement.

    • VFX_reckoning says:

      Let’s hope people don’t show up in costume or this opportunity is blown.

    • vfxGhost says:

      I like the enthusiasm, but I see your point. Remember the occupy movement when all the news would do was focus on the drum circles and pretty much anyone who looked like vagrants?

    • VFX_nomadNoMore says:

      Agreed. This is not comicon; this is a serious problem and nobody will take it seriously if we don’t take it seriously ourselves. You can still have fun, but please don’t turn it into a sideshow.

  54. F. X. Murphy says:

    Admittedly, I have been quietly watching this unfold despite being impacted by the issues at hand. There is a lot I feel I may be able to contribute, but right now time is of the essence. If you are a VFX professional and live in Southern California, your presence is needed because today is our best opportunity to start raising awareness. A lot of time is being spent theorizing what VFX union representation may look like or how facilities and studios could adopt a new business model. Honestly, all of that is a tad premature for we have not even been asked to the table for a discussion with those whom we charge for our grievances. The content creators wish to continue to reap in windfall profits and in order to do so, they need something that we all have; knowledge, talent, experience and a successful track record. That my friends, is called leverage. And if there is one thing I have learned from sitting on both sides of the proverbial table, it is whomever has leverage, has the upper hand. Turn off the monitor, open the shades, see the light, join the fight.

    • Lisa McNamara says:

      I think what the “theorizing” regarding possible organization is about is not premature. I don’t believe anyone will ever be asked to the table…it’s more about asking those at the studios to meet and come to a compromise. That’s why it would be best to have an agreed-upon model to approach with. The VFX community says to the Studios “we are willing to do this…what are you willing to do and how can we meet in a way that is mutually agreeable.” Even getting, say, Jerry Brown involved for the California-based plan might be helpful.

      But, in essence you are right. Action IS important, though action that leads to agreement would be the best kind.

      • F. X. Murphy says:

        I wrote,”…tad premature,” not [completely] premature. LOL. I do not disagree with the notion that it is important to have a clear, concise message and proposals that address our issues, in anticipation of some sort of mediation. My motto at work is “proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” The aim of my post was to temporarily change the dialogue so as to rally the troops. A sincere thank you for your contributions and ideas.

      • Lisa McNamara says:

        You are correct, sir! You DID say a “tad” and your alliterative motto is spot on!

        And i wholeheartedly agree with you:)

  55. dani says:

    time for a Union (US first), or at least a strike, like the writers did (yeah, I know we’re different, so ?)

  56. Tenzin_vfx says:

    You have my best wishes – NYker

  57. Tenzin_vfx says:

    Unionize?

  58. spk says:

    I don’t want to dismiss or demean the relevance of this discussion, however, it is not a new issue. You can go back to the very beginning of what is now the visual effects Industry and see that this has been a concern. In the late 70’s and 80’s the Industry was centered in LA, it’s where it grew-up and evolved. Lucas moved his base of operation to Marin, cause he grew up in Northern California and that’s where he wanted to be, many who started with him in LA were reluctant to move.In the beginning he was the only one really using his facility. The other companies were generally an off shoot of title houses and small boutique shops that were experimenting with ways to create film effects that were better and more efficient. Many of the early artist/techicians were from the camera and optical printer departments of film studios and post houses. once computers became the prevelant tool, we had two person teams, one who was an artist and one who could manipulate a computer. The biggest challenge was to match up compatible people. I ‘ve seen salaries grow and decline. Everybody wants a slice of the pie. Sometimes if a producer wants something bad enough he/she will pay for it but most of the time they want to go where the “deals” are. The expertise was here in LA and anyone who was interested had to find their way here to “break-in.” I remember bringing in experts in specialty software from Canada, getting work visas so they could work in our studios to enhance our capability. Producers and studios, were reluctant to utilize a lot of these new techniques because they did not understand them. As time progressed and there was success of films like Star Wars, that Studios wanted to jump on the band wagon. As people or some of these early Effect shops
    gained credibility, they were sought out by the studios and producers. What really gave the Industry a major boost was the Advertising Industry. They wanted to cash in on the success of the Films that were bringing in big audiences because of the visual effects that were being used to create great images. Ad agency art directors and execs would come to us and say i want my ad to look like, this film or that film, can you do that and you’d quote a price and they’d pay it. We’d bring over Film Directors that never thought about doing a commercial because it was beneath them,but I’d say you get $8000 a day for 6 days work and you’re done. All of a sudden I have film directors calling asking if they can get in on it. This was 30 years ago. then many of these effects companies were union, the biggest cry was how do we make them non-union,when the competion started getting thick. Although, no one was sending work outside the USA, the competion inside the US was getting pretty intense. ILM was usually always booked, either by Lucas or one of his friends and other companies which were poping up, like Robert Abel, Boss Films, Digital Productions, Etc, were vying for some already limited dollars in the effects business. Everyone wanted great images but for a deal. then production started to move over seas, to the UK, Canada and Japan. The labor was cheaper, but they hsd limited knowledge and the depth of their talent pool was pretty thin. Producers and studios by now weren’t so concerned with quality but could you do it cheaper than the next guy. Many effects studios would just about give away a job to get the work, many times not even covering their overhead, and many were just bad business people who didn’t think to add their overhead. I had one Visual effects producer tell me that she did not need to add in the overhead cost because it was covered by her company, When I said you are the company, how are you going to cover the cost of your facility, she just said, I’ve always done it that way. That’s why they had been bought and sold 3 times in 4 years. Now days, the studios can squeeze you which ever way they can, because the competion is even greater and competing against foriegn companies that have loweer saleries and lower cost of living and overhead make it difficult for those US companies. It doesn’t matter anymore where you are located, but sometimes it does help to be local if a producer doesn’t like to travel or like foriegn food. But in most cases, the bottomline is what decides it. Even when I asked a major studio exec that the place he had chosen had a reputation for having a high redo rate, he said that it was easier to get permission to do a job low cost at a questionable studio than it was to ask for more money to have 6 redo’s after it had already been approved. So I sympathise with your current plight. I wish there was a simple answer and an even easier solution but just lowering salaries a few dollars isn’t going to do it. In the pass 35 years almost every major effects house with the exception of ILM has fallen by the way side. The founders of R&H are friends that we worked togther and they all deserve better as do the emploees that they valued. But until the major studios and producers stop playing these games the problerm will go on. Visual effects companies need to look within themsleves and try and set some standards that are workable but the Studios have to buy into it as well and they have to see what’s in it for them.

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