The Suckers Bet

Sigh. I’m really surprised that I have to write this post but I’ll go ahead.

Some in the VFX community are going starry-eyed over some potential carve out for VFX in the CA film subsidy bill. Some have been given the impression that if we continue support for the legal effort to place anti-subsidy duties on subsidized visual effects these provisions will be thrown out and it will be all ADAPT’s fault!

This assumes that lawmakers are sophisticated enough to know what visual effects are and most don’t have a clue. Most only know the various lobbying groups that write the checks: MPAA and Hollywood labor organizations. In fact, I’ve heard some of the “experts” advising the politicians think VFX is all going to New York because of subsidies. Little do they know that the NY subsidies are capped at $7 million a year for VFX.

First off, the current film subsidies and ones potentially going forward do not exclude VFX. Currently if you have a film that is budgeted less than $75 million and you are awarded the film subsidies which are capped at $100 million a year you could use them for VFX in your budget. Even if the law is changed to include bigger budget films, it won’t even come close to places like British Columbia which offers to pay 60% of resident VFX salaries. Secondly, this new law being discussed can’t go into effect until 2016!

Furthermore, if someone, I dunno, anyone, or let’s say someone who sort of looks like Charlie Brown tells you that a provision is being considered by the state to give subsidies to VFX if you end support for ADAPT and the anti-subsidy duty legal effort, you should probably be suspicious of the motive. The CA film subsidy and the anti-subsidy duties are not mutually exclusive. In my situation, one deserves my undivided attention and that’s the legal effort for anti-subsidy duties.

That being said, I’m amazed people are actually falling for the idea that some contingency plan exists for CA VFX subsidies if the anti-subsidy duty effort is defeated. That’s a suckers bet but then again I’m not surprised.

Soldier On.

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13 Responses to The Suckers Bet

  1. animinsider says:

    It’s unfortunate you had to write this post, but I’m glad you did. It’s sad to see our own be so easily taken, but people need to be aware that this is happening before some wild bird whispers the MPAA’s starry-eyed sweet nothings in their ears.

    Even if there were some kind of “carve out” for VFX, I’d trade it in a heart-beat over an opportunity to end this bullsh** practice once and for all.

    For the record there is still no case anyone could make that could convince me that – on principle – this whole thing is not destructive and disadvantageous in the long-term to every party involved. There is no case anyone could make to persuade me that we don’t need to wholeheartedly support ADAPT and do everything within our power to attempt to put an end to this international bleeding once and for all.

  2. Dave Rand says:

    Some entities get so big they can no longer get out of their own way. Spending upwards of 500 million a year to keep an industry from leaving because other nations spend more on “borrowing it”. The reason 128 nations signed the World Trade Agreement….to avoid a race to the bottom.

    “No Member should cause, through the use of any subsidy …adverse effects to the interests of other Members.”

    World Trade Agreement

    For VFX the cost of an anti-subsidy duty is a fraction of the cost of entering the race….and you only pony up a few bucks once…rather than an annually escalating shake down.

    We can’t save the whole film industry, or the farmers, the lumber jacks, or the fisherman but we can save ourselves. We can, however open a door that others can pass through.

    The kind of threats and sideshows we are seeing are the result of being noticed. We are noticed because this effort carries with it the most important element you can have at any negotiation.

    Leverage.

    We’ll probably here some even more ridiculous gangster talk like “I’ll just get Spielberg to call Obama and kill this thing!” Not that anyone in authority would make such a childish statement…but it would not surprise me and would be a bright shining example that we are already winning.

    I’d rather give the Mayor, film Czar, and any tin star a chance to put their money where their mouth is and prove that they are really concerned about jobs jobs jobs and not just a few old friends and former employers.

    I’m confident they will all make the right decision. After all society and social media are watching. There’s nothing like the light of day.

  3. VFXSailor says:

    It’s interesting that the MPAA thinks they have the leverage.
    “Drop your CVD effort and we’ll get you your carve out in
    the subsidies bill.”

    No. How about this. “Get us a carve out that levels the
    playing field with Canada, the UK and New Zealand, is
    retroactive to 2014, and is not subject to future reductions
    or retractions, and we will drop the CVD effort.”

    AB 1839 is going to be done (or dead) in the next few months.
    The CVD case is just getting started. We’re not in a hurry.

    So, MPAA, good luck with that.

    • fxing says:

      Out of interest, since you put the statement in quotes, im assuming this is an official statement from the MPAA…..can you point me to the source of this, as I cant seem to find it.

      Also, just a thought, as if the CVD effort works, and as has been stated by Scott Squires and Soldier (maybe), that it will be written as such to not encompase a too large case. ie. VFX and not pysical production.

      I wonder if by trying to protect VFX jobs in california, by form of the CVD, that your with it potentially pushing out more of the physical production as it wont fall into that category….In effect adding to the problem of the film industry in California as a whole. ? Which could be seen as somewhat ironic, as your effort is asking for the help and support of both other guilds/unions/artist, and state legislators, but potentially your throwing them under the bus by doing soo.

      Dont hate on me, just share your thoughts.

      • VFXSailor says:

        fxing:

        The quote above is a paraphrase of how the MPAA is
        approaching artists now to get them to stop supporting
        ADAPT. It’s a verbal campaign, and you can see it
        playing out in the media. I would reveal more details
        of things happening behind the scenes, but it’s up to
        Daniel to reveal those when he deems the time to be
        right. Feel free to disbelieve it. I can’t really point you
        to a press release. But, that’s the message that has
        been received.

        As for your hypothetical, there are a lot of scenarios as
        to how this is going to play out. If we win our case, it’s
        a good possibility that other branches of filmmaking that
        are involved in physical or post production will use it as
        a model to bring their own CVD case. This could be used
        to slow down runaway production. It won’t, unfortunately,
        help to counter state subsidies. That’s another tough nut
        to crack. But, countering international subsidies is at least
        a start.

        I don’t really see more VFX work being done in CA
        causing physical production to be moved elsewhere.
        I’m not really sure of the reasoning there. If you could
        explain your thinking further I could try to give you a better
        answer.

        A lot of CVD cases end with some kind of negotiated
        settlement so that the duties never get levied. It’s
        possible that this situation ends this way. But, we’ve got
        a long way to go before we think about that possiblity.

        I hope this has been helpful.

      • fxing says:

        Its hard to believe that the MPAA is going to talk to artist directly…specifically…..and essentially “bribing” them. But I dont know, so i wont comment on that.

        too your question…

        Well, because if they cannot save the money by getting their vfx work subsidized..And as this CVD effort will only levy fines on VFX work coming from out of the country…they will try to get a different portion of the movie subsidized, in and outside the US?

        The issue I see is based on the latest report from the CA gov which Soldier posted on his twitter feed…..that physical filming has a huge economic multiplier (for every dollar spent by a production, the economic benefit can be a relatively large multiple of that…), and I dont see VFX production having as large of a multiplier factor (but thats just a guess, as there is no definitive information regarding that out there), which is the reason why I stated that it might be counter productive Economically (and for the Industry), in California.

      • VFXSailor says:

        Yeah, you’re right. It would be unusual for the MPAA to talk to an artist. I’m not sure what details I should go into, so let
        me just say that artists are being approached through
        political intermediaries that are very friendly with the MPAA.
        The story is being corroborated by media reports that there
        is a VFX “carve out” in the works for AB 1839.

        As for our CVD case causing reduced physical production
        in California, I only think that happens if we win the case,
        there is no negotiated settlement, and there is a general
        reduction of production overall. Personally, I think the
        world would not suffer if films like “RIPD” and “I,
        Frankenstein” didn’t get made. (I apologize if you worked
        on those films. I’ve had my share.) But, I can understand
        why people would be concerned about that scenario.

        All I can say is I hope that doesn’t happen. I don’t
        think it’s likely. But, it would be huge step up for me
        compared to the status quo.

      • JonMeier says:

        @vfxing
        If you look at the top grossing movies, you’ll notice the trend that they are all huge vfx films.

        These films fundamentally would not have been made without the vfx industry. So the return on investment opens the most interesting concept about all of this.

        WHAT is the percentage of AUDIENCE DRAW to the VFX SPECTACLE portion of these movies.
        -If you had a movie with Sandra Bullock as a funny Cop next to a movie with Sandra Bullock in space……..which one makes more money?
        -The answer is 2 google clicks away.

        -How much ABOVE THE LINE TALENT are the VFX facilities GIVING AWAY on these movies?

        -Read the above sentence again.

        VFX WORKERS would bring a TON of money into the regions if they were getting the deserved gross.

        The LA VFX facilities were very close to finally getting their share of gross, but the unreasonable budgets they had to compete with from subsidy zones were something INTENTIONAL or NOT, that crushed them.

        They need their level playing field to compete in a healthy free market system. A government teet will only place restrictions to play by other people rules.

        rant over

  4. VFXLady says:

    Soldier, I hate to have to ask a question you have probably answered time and time again. But do the Los Angeles and/or California officials understand that VFX workers are not asking for subsidies, that we don’t want them?

  5. Harold Weed says:

    If an anti-subsidy duty is placed on VFX and film work in the UK and BC, I wonder what the Studio reaction would be? My guess is that the Studios would rehang their production shingle in the UK and leave Hollywood all together. It’s the only logical reaction I believe.

    • JonMeier says:

      I’m curious why that would be the ONLY logical reaction? Do you think the cost of pickup up and leaving the studios you have in place in hollywood would be a sensible risk? You are placing all of your bets on the fact that the subsidy teet will always be there. What if you move your enormous corporation to the UK, and then whoops…..Taxpayers say NO MORE OF THIS! Well……now you are operating under a zone with no free money. That would be as Daniel so succinctly calls it….”A Suckers Bet”

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