The Mission

My name is VFX Soldier.

For many years, I have worked in the Hollywood Visual Effects industry creating imagery and animation for a good number of blockbuster films. While the journey here was tough,  it was driven by a simple idea portrayed by a quote in an old film The Flamingo Kid:

There are only two important things in living . . .
Finding out what you do well, and finding out what makes you happy.
And if God is smiling on you, they’re both the same thing.

I loved creating art when I was young and it became the fundamental driving force in my education. I tried so hard and learned to do it so well that after college I was blessed to end up working with incredible people of different talents from all over the world on awesome films. However, as satisfying as my career has been, I’ve labored long enough in our industry to notice huge problems that are affecting me, my friends, and the companies we work for.

The Success Of The Industry

The visual effects industry is relatively young but the imagery we create each year for these films have taken center stage since it’s inception. The top box office grossing films of the last 30 years were driven by an abundant amount of visual effects and so were the top 100 films of all time which made a combined amount of $56 Billion dollars. If you were new to this industry, you would suspect that the companies that administer visual effects for the Hollywood conglomerates would be fortune 500 companies with stock prices that rival Apple or Google.

Industry Problems

Isn’t it ironic that the visual effects industry is one of the worst businesses to be in? Each facility operates on a flawed business model by losing or making no money at all on the blockbuster films they conduct work on. On a good year they will make a profit margin as small as 3-5%. How can this be possible? The reason why is Hollywood studio conglomerates effectively leverage their position by pitting vfx facilities so strongly against each other that eventually one company ends up taking the project for a loss. In fact, one producer was so bold as to state in an article that:

If I don’t put a visual effects shop out of business (on my movie), I’m not doing my job.

You are probably thinking that the ability to get the lion share of companies to compete for your business is great, and indeed for the studios it has been a total blowout. They have made billions of dollars from these movies while visual effects facilities compete to make the best work for the lowest price and thats where the problems snowball.

Our Problems

Unfortunately this one-sided affair is compounding problems for my colleagues and I. In an attempt slash costs the vfx facilities have eliminated benefits such as sick days, health insurance, and retirement accounts. Many are forced to work under illegal conditions with unpaid overtime and 1099 tax statuses where we are responsible for paying the employer’s portion of social security. The projects have become more volatile as the vfx facilities try to please the demands of the director put in place by the studio.

For example, famous director Jon Favreau during reviews at one vfx facility was ever so bold as to stuff his mouth with donuts and wipe his hands clean using the sides of expensive leather seats provided for him to sit on. Constantly months of work can be thrown away by last minute changes by directors with zero consequences. This in turn leads to extended crunch times to update the changes where artists work day and night with 70-100 hour weeks.

The problems are further compounded by countries that hope to generate economic activity by offering subsidies that essentially pay studios to have the vfx work done there. Vfx facilities are now becoming “rent seekers” where they move from country to country, state to state to take advantage of free government money. This has led many vfx artists to become permanent nomads where some are forced to leave their partners and newborn children to find temporary work in the far reaches of the world. I know of senior colleagues who purchased homes with a false sense of job security only to end up being laid off months later and forced to foreclose when they could only find work in another country.

However, one would naively think the subsidies are a great solution to the problem since the facilities can begin to make a profit, and countries can make a huge investment returns in economic and tourist activity. But even that is not the case as studios expect even lower bids for their unprofitable work. With the recent decline in the economy, governments are finding themselves in deep debt due to dwindling tax revenues. Many of them are starting to take a hard look at the economic returns they are receiving  for the subsidization of studio welfare. One study concluded that for every dollar spent to lure film industry work, there was a 14 cent return in economic activity.

My Problems

Many of you are probably reading this and thinking why doesn’t the person who wrote this stop being a crybaby, after all it’s competition and if you want to get paid you better play. But of course, why don’t I just shut up and live with the fact of being a vfx nomad and that having a retirement plan, health insurance are only reserved for those who can afford to fund it themselves. I have always known that there are many people out there that have it worse than me but after being witness to all these problems it causes me to reflect on the very idea that drove to do this in the first place.

The idea of finding out that one special thing about myself that I did well and made me happy ultimately became a part of my soul. You might think it’s ridiculous to think this but why the hell should we sell our souls at the lowest price? This contemplation has led me to re-think things and jokingly fantasize with others how nice it would be to work a steady job in the insurance industry. These thoughts come across many of my colleagues who are in turn seeking careers elsewhere. These issues are slowly getting the attention of the national media in the Huffington Post and Time Magazine. They allude to the many problems we are facing and that it may lead to a huge billion dollar industry collapsing. Simply put the incentive for many of us to do great work is going away.

The Mission

I’m not going to leave this industry without attempting to help fix the issues that are facing my friends, colleagues, and their families.

  • The vfx facilities need to stand up and  organize to ensure that the work they accept from Hollywood studios lead to sustainable profits.
  • The artists that work for the facilities need to educate themselves about organization and agree to a set of standards that ensure they can continue to work. It’s easier than you think. Just anonymously sign a rep card.
  • Artists need to be vocal about vfx facilities that engage in abusive and illegal behavior. One site has cleverly created a way to review your experience with various facilities. Take the time to comment on the facilities you work for here (update 3-11-2012: Link taken down as it seems the site has been hit by a nasty virus. Makes ya wonder dunit?).
  • These problems are ultimately solvable by engaging in communication and conducting townhall meetings.

This blog will post and reflect on issues that are facing the people we work for and the people we work with.

I Need Soldiers

I’ve never served in the military but I call myself VFX Soldier. I have and will continue to battle along side many of you in the trenches to conduct work  for many vfx, commercial, and animation facilities. Given the problems we are facing, the current reaction is trending towards a slow march to the bottom.

In a race to the bottom the only ones left standing are biggest losers.

The big hollywood corporations have always been the same. Are they greedy and bad? duh. Are they highly organized? Of course. What compounds the problem is that we accept the fate they hand to us because we are un-organized . The irony is that they stand to lose the most in this. So why are we losing so badly? It’s because we let them win. I always hear the term used to describe vfx artists as “geeks” and given the situation and the results this is rightfully so. We let the big Hollywood corporations bully us without saying anything.

You are probably a vfx artist sitting there reading this as you wait on your render of the 78th iteration of a  shot that was due two weeks ago. Have you bothered to take the time to speak to some of your colleagues about the things going on in the industry? Many of you roll your eyes and accept it but what if you could do something simple that could echo in changes for your career and make things better for you, your retirement, your future partner, your future kids and their education, and your future families’ health. For you, VFX Soldier is commited to help you understand about the importance of providing for your future in retirement and finance. For others, you may be reading this and think that I am finaly a person in the industry you have been waiting for. Actually, I have to admit that you have been the person I have been waiting for. Soldiers are commited to a mission to defend an idea. They sacrifice themselves for the greater good and that is ultimately what our industry needs. VFX Soldier is on the march and I don’t need geeks, I need soldiers. Contact me and let me hear your story.

100 Responses to The Mission

  1. [...] When I heard about the VFX Soldier blog I thought I’d post for FX DAG readers. Lots of similar sentiment to much of the discussions that have been recently sweeping the industry. Worth a read.Check it out here: http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/about/ [...]

  2. I read your article and I feel energized. I am a VFX Supervisor with some Hollywood experience.
    I would like to know more about this project. In principle, I am interested in becoming a soldier too.

    All the best and aloha from Kailua.
    Remo Balcells.

  3. Dark Energy says:

    I hear you and its upsetting to me as well. How can I continue to work in an industry that holds a bleak future?

    I left a former career for vfx 7 years ago thinking I had a chance to do something I truly love but now am reassessing my goals.

    First there was global outsourcing, then dwindling opportunities as facilities began to shut down. The gaps in work between gigs are getting longer and tougher to deal with.

    You are so right, we must band together somehow. People like Jeff Okun are our champions and we should definitely give him and others like him our support and input.

    We are all in this together whether we work far from one another.

    Count me in as a VFX Soldier.

  4. Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Count me in. I was planning on going guerilla. How can I help.

  5. Au Revoir says:

    I loved my job… I spent a lot of money on education to do a job I loved. That’s the one thing I wanted out of life, a job that didn’t feel like I had to go to work, that I can be proud of. Fast forward a few years.. and I can’t stop thinking about how to get out and what to do next.

    Everyone I know says “have your next career planned out,” they all know you get burned out, tired of it all… guess you can say I’m there now.

    I’ve had one weekend off since January, I’ve worked for 6 companies in that time. A lot of the time I was on dayrates, with no OT. Only one of the six companies offered me health. None offered me sick days, and all asked me to come in on the weekends.

    One wouldn’t let me leave at 1:30 am until they were sure I’d be in the next day at 9 am for Saturday morning.

    I’ve worked a shift so long I hit straight time again, and for what?

    For them to ask if I’d want to go to India to train my replacement, for being handed an EDD packet and saying good luck after having me lose out on my next gig for that particular company, for working until my eyes burned and my wrist stung and my health to deteriorate on the bad catered food only to learn I don’t even get a credit.

    I could say I’m done, I hate it, that’s it. But you know what, I’m going to say let’s have at them, I’m with you. It’s about damn time and we deserve it.

    It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s that I’m a fighter, and I don’t like being pushed around, and I don’t feel like holding my breath any longer.

  6. chris says:

    My father told me to do what i love, because i will shine, and the money will come. so thats what i did. i went to school, got my degree in computer animation, and set out on this journey to doing what i wanted to do with my life. i had a steady job at a studio for 2 years as a department lead, and while the money was good, the only other thing we got was promises, promises, and more promises. we’d become full ‘employees,’ we’d get actual CONTRACTS, benefits, raises, allthat stuff. then they called a big meeting one friday and said “pack up your desks and be out by 6.” some of us managed to land work elsewhere, some in california. and we were happy for them. for maybe 6 months, then they’d be unemployed again. this industry is a mess. and its going to reach a breaking point where the reality is too loud and well known for big hollywood to contain, and then nobody will want to do vfx work anymore. organization is key to growth. and i think step one is getting the word out as to how this industry is actually being run, and the young ones in school need to know first what that path they’re on is really heading towards, because you cant pay sallie mae on 8 bucks an hour.

  7. polymathjack says:

    Count me in :)

  8. paddy says:

    While I agree with much of what you say, I think I detect a parochial US-centric bias. Even references to “Hollywood” betray that. The key fact of the matter is – vfx is a global industry, like it or not. California, London and New Zealand are the three key players right now, but other centres coming up fast.

    So any references to guilds etc (as per your link to the rep card idea) have to take this into account.

    Vfx is unique in the film industry, in that it requires the dedicated labour of hundreds, if not thousands of skilled “workers” for long periods of time. Only in the construction of large sets can I think of anything in film that is comparable.

    There is no tradition to cope with this, and the general state of affairs is that vfx artists are taken on in a freelance capacity, with little job security and relatively poor working conditions.

    But what would seem to be poor working conditions, little job security and not-great wages to someone in Los Angeles probably looks pretty wonderful to someone in Mumbai or Bangkok. And people in those places are every bit as smart, hardworking and creative as people in LA.

    Yep – globalisation. It may not be fair, it may not be pretty, but all things being equal, work will go to the lowest bidder. It’s only the fact that Hollywood, and London, and NZ etc have a certain depth of knowledge and the right cultural attitude to achieve high-end vfx work that is keeping those places dominant.

    One solution that might be available to vfx houses, given that the payroll will always be by far the biggest figure in your outgoings – find ways to reduce vfx artists’ wage expectations by providing better conditions, better fringe benefits, better job security, better creative input and so on. Or to put it another way – stop treating your artists like shit.

    • Isa Alsup says:

      I agree the VFX industry, like many other industries, is a global one. However, all things NOT being equal, is the problem.

      Subsidies and barriers to work are the problem. Subsidies offered by a city, state or nation to attract TEMPORARY production are a bad idea. They artificially prop up the local economy, driving wages and prices up locally, for a short period. When the subsidy expires or a better one is offered elsewhere, work dries up and the local industry crashes. Workers enticed into low “start pay” with expectations of higher pay never see their higher pay as their job vanishes.

      I’m a big believer in economic advantage. If the same work can be done for less somewhere, that’s a reality that is hard to complain about. For security sensitive industries, the country can and should protect themselves from the loss of those industries. I don’t see VFX as a security sensitive industry.

      Further, the blocking of skilled workers by certain countries gives the lie to the idea of free world trade. Yet no matter how much experience a worker has, if the worker is above 30, the odds of getting a job overseas become smaller. Many countries make it easy for single workers under 30, but over 30 it gets tough.

      The world is changing, and we can change with it or we can go the way of the dinosaurs. This may mean working abroad if you can get it. It may mean finding ways to develop and own content and then control the production. It may mean a workers’ guild and a vfx producers’ guild. It may mean taking the issue to the WTO and protesting subsidies. Canada can’t really claim their industry is not competitive to the US industry, so why do they still have subsidies?

  9. annec says:

    I don’t actually work as a Hollywood VFX artist, but in a related field. The question that keeps coming up for me is: If you’ve had bad experiences with a company, why not name names? Company, supervisors, producers… If you’ve worked your butt off for a company for years and then get screwed or loose your benefits, what do you have to loose by calling them out? Really?

    If an employer requires insane, illegal work hours, why not report them? If that company isn’t paying overtime, they are evading taxes. The EA spouse’s letter only resolved the problem once a class action lawsuit was filed to go with it.

    Curiously, even internationally studios in the UK and Canada are also starting to feel the same pinch CA ones have been experiencing. It’s just taken a bit of time to get there. Just last week the UK Olympics work was farmed out to a studio in China.

    Big corporations will always try to take advantage of their employees, the difference is that in so many other fields – they pay for it either in the courts or in recruiting. I wonder if VFX artists are just too nice.

  10. Reese says:

    I’ve worked for four of the big companies over the last 4 years in London and LA as an artist and I totally agree. Count me in as a soldier and let me know what I can do to help the cause.

  11. Ean says:

    “If I don’t put a visual effects shop out of business (on my movie), I’m not doing my job.”

    I remember this quote going around. Does anyone know who actually said it? Would whomever said this be man/woman enough to own up to it, to come out and claim responsibility for having said it? I’d love to start a dialog with this person. Have them on the next town hall panel, maybe.

    A lot of vfx people assume all studio-types think the same way as this anonymous producer. Unless we get some big names disagreeing with this mentality, we’ll all continue to assume all producers are motivated by such private thoughts.

  12. JO says:

    AMEN BROTHER

  13. London based compositor of 8 years..worked for most of the vfx companies..count me in!

  14. cheekylilbasterd says:

    I feel like a big f..k..g fool

    I’ve been studying my ass of to get into this industry, if i knew this is what it is , I would have gone for some retail job a long time ago.

    If I don’t put a visual effects shop out of business (on my movie), I’m not doing my job.”

    I cant believe that the whole world of VFX tolerated this. I saw this video of George Clonel or watever his name is spelt, he must have said something bad about the paparazzi and on one of this their red carpet show offs. they all shut their cameras when he came out of the car. even for that brief moment, it was a great response but I guess VFX artists have no balls, why , because they been sitting on it for too many insane hours it burst.

    Now
    On the issue of solution

    VfxSoldier, I dont have it but as of now, I dont care if i never produce an effect again, I dont care if I never touch aftereffects or maya again but I do care what happens to the people that create effects and I will decicate whatever is left in me to that cause.

    I’ve in this office here for 4days, I haven’t gone home, I smell like my ass, I’ve been doing music videos for cheap ass people saying to myself oh, dont worry, when you get to hollywood it will all be good, just put this in your reel.

    Many Nights I could have gone to clubs and find me some UKnowWhat, I stayed in to study everything from rigging to scripting all on my own with little money, I will be dammed if to silly ass producer was to make my little worst at a time when it should be better.

  15. Steven says:

    I too grew up absolutely in love with art and movies and VFX. I remember watching Star Wars and Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 and just being awe struck by the magic of it all. The magic I saw was such a profound inspiration to me that I started learning 3d at age 12 on my 486 using 3d studio for DOS… 3d and film have been in my heart and soul for so many years now and its such a real part of me that I know I can never walk away from it. Ill be doing 3d in the raining streets homeless if I have to. I have been working professionally in the VFX industry for over 5 years now and I am one of the fortunate ones lucky enough to have an agent who is a decent man. He will haggle my price, get me jobs, warn me about companies… But even with a guy like that on your side he still cant fix the problems that VFX solder mentioned, like the lack of benefits, and abuse, the long hours, the low pay for something so astonishingly technical; the stuff that relatively very few people can do. I am all for a workers revolution in this industry and I hope the day comes where we are organized enough to get whats due to us. We deserve better lives… I can feel the revolution starting, people are talking and that’s good. I just hope it happens soon. Spread the word people. Start doing something about it.

  16. Kathy says:

    For you fellow Californians, the insane taxes and anti-business attitude in California are strangling the VFX houses and pushing the big studios out of the state when they need work done. This hurts EVERYONE. The easiest thing to start with on the list of things to do is to stop voting Democrat! We all know the tax incentives other states are using are easily pushing people into other states. Lower the taxes here and bring them back! A business-friendly state with lower taxes and spending would be the first step in keeping work here and bringing jobs and money back.

    Part of the problem is that because there’s less work here due to the bad business climate, there are way too many people dying to do the work because they love it so much. This is what causes the abuse–because there are so many people trying to find work that doesn’t exist in California, the studios and VFX companies don’t have to fight for people to hire because the prospective employees aren’t willing to walk away from what they’re offered, no matter how bad it is. They’ll just take whatever they get.

    But lower the taxes, bring the work back, and suddenly the companies have to compete for YOUR skills because there’s a better match between the amount of work and the workers. When they have to compete for you, they can’t treat you badly because you’ll just walk away. This is a very easy first step.

    • vfxsoldier says:

      Kathy,

      We had a Republican Governator for the last 6 years but politics aside:

      VFX facilities pay little if any taxes at all so a tax cut would do them no good. Remember, their profit margins are razor thin and as an employer in California, you only pay taxes on your profits.

      • Kathy says:

        The studios who hire the VFX facilities are the ones who are taking their work out of California. If it wasn’t so bad for them to do business here (and so much better elsewhere by comparison), that wouldn’t be happening. The more work there is here, the more everyone has to compete to hire the individual workers. That means better conditions.

    • Winston Smith says:

      You know vfxsoldier, for all the back and forth between us, I agree with pretty much everything that you have to say here in your mission statement.

      I acknowledge that you strongly support labor organization as a solution. I agree that it is A solution. But is it the BEST solution?

      I don’t mean to quibble here. I’ve come to share. Regarding this issue that you mention:

      “Many are forced to work under illegal conditions with unpaid overtime and 1099 tax statuses where we are responsible for paying the employer’s portion of social security.”

      I’ve brought some weapons to the party. I don’t know how effective these weapons will be, but here you go:

      IRS Form 3949-A for reporting suspected tax fraud activity.

      http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f3949a.pdf

      http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=106778,00.html

      Can be used by ANYONE to report ANY suspected tax fraud activity of ANY person or business ANONYMOUSLY. Alleged violations that would apply would include “Failure to Pay Tax”, “Failure to Withhold Tax”, and “Other” (would be “Misclassification of employee as independent contractor”).

      IRS Form SS-8 for requesting an IRS review of employee classification

      http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss8.pdf

      http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html

      Needs to be filed by the worker or business. NOT anonymous, but I’m sure many vfx houses would have a fit if an artist sent this form to the IRS.

      IRS Form 8919 for employees who have been misclassified as independent contractors by an employer;used to figure and report the employee’s share of uncollected social security and Medicare taxes due on their compensation.

      http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8919.pdf

      http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=176666,00.html

      Must be filed by a worker, and is NOT anonymous.

      For those readers who are not familiar with the difference between an employee and an independent contractor, please see what the IRS has to say about the topic:

      http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15a.pdf

      http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html

      Basically, what it all boils down to, is that the IRS is the one who makes the final determination. NOT the business. NOT the worker. It does not matter if you have a written contract where an artist and a company mutually agree that artist is an independent contractor. If your work status fits the definitions determined by the IRS, you are an employee.

      IRS Forms SS-8 and 8919 should be used by any artist who currently works for, or has worked for, a company that employs/employed you as an independent contractor instead of an employee.

      IRS Form 3949-A is the most interesting. An artist does not even have to work at a company to file one of these. Let’s say that you interview at a company, and the hiring producer and/or owner gives you think old wink-wink about you being hired as an independent contractor instead of an employee. You can say no thanks and decline the job and then file Form 3949-A with the IRS. Or you can take the job and then file the form. Or if you already work there, you too can file the form. No doubt that it will take a while for the IRS to process the claim. But eventually they will. The IRS is very thorough and takes tax fraud very very seriously. Remember, famous Chicago mobster Al Capone was never jailed for murder and mayhem. He was sent to prison for federal tax fraud.

      I’m personally planning on filing a Form 3949-A against a prominent vfx company in southern California by the end of this year. We”ll see how that goes.

      I’ve been looking into California state law to see what kind of protections there are against employee/contractor misclassification and the process for reporting violations. I’ll post when I find anything useful

      More to come…

      • Ray Vasri says:

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  17. K.C. Murphy says:

    Here here. Capitalism seems to only reward the shyster. The guy who stands out front of the wagon extolling the health-restorative virtues of his cocaine-imbued drink. Marketing. The guy who made the coke gets no money. The guy who bottles the coke makes no money. The guy who paints the bottle makes no money. They guy who sells it lives in the big house. Why is this?

    When I left a 10-year career in games, I wanted to start a Union for all the overworked game artists. It was the only way I could think of making rules to enforce a better quality of life – reform from the bottom up. If no one who makes the art will work these hours, for this money, we can’t make the product in that time, etc…. Alas, I learned that no one wants to join a Union in games. They want to play it safe – they don’t want to rock the boat.

    Please tell me how I can help!

  18. C says:

    Dont worry When Im an awesome Director I will compensate good work.. then the companies will want to work for me — all depends —- if movies make that much!! I will not be so greedy – Being an artist myself I know the stresses involved. Or even perhaps not have workers literally die making a film. Instead a productive environment, happy — producing FFF wicked stuff….

    This is what I will achieve If given the chance.

    BAM!!

  19. KainVictus says:

    We hear this same story all the time, and half the comments are from people saying how late they had to work or how they got no time off.

    I am a visual effects artist and have put in my hours just like everyone else. That being said I am not going to sit here and blame every company for the shitty working conditions.

    As a FREELANCE artist you give up Healthcare and Sick days- and this is the way it should be. If you are indeed staff somewhere, then yeah, you might have something to complain about. If you are not, then get you’re own damn health care and stop bitching. When you work at 6 different studios a year, how can you expect a company to offer your those incentives?

    Secondly, most of you guys want all these companies to change, but all you do is bitch on forums. I just read a comment how some guy had to stay until 1:30 am and then the studio expected him back at 9:30 am. If this is a problem SAY SOMETHING. No one says anything to their producers, you all mostly just take it and then whine about it. I’ve worked all nights on a Day rate not making any OT. I hit my limit and gave my producer a Black out after set amount of hours… Guess what, I stopped working All nighters.

    Moral of the Story- Grow some balls- there is a reasons were pigeonholed as geeks- cause we let them step all over us. Grow a backbone and stick up for yourself..

    Same with pay too- ask for more money and don’t be so god damn timid.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      When you work at 6 different studios a year, how can you expect a company to offer your those incentives?

      Easy: With a union. That’s how so many other disciplines such as editors, cinematographers, art directors are able to get health and retirement benefits while working at 6 different places.

      A union provides portable benefits and health insurance to cover you in between gigs.

      • KainVictus says:

        There is a reason Freelance artist make more money than Salaried artist.

        Pay into your own retirement and health insurance. Most places wont even match a 401k anyway.

        Union, really only protects the entry level wages.

        All the savvy freelancers I know, do just fine. It’s not rocket science- protect your own interests.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Have you been audited yet?

      • KainVictus says:

        A lot of assumptions with that comment.

        First off. I work primarily as a w2 artist.

        Secondly, if I owned my own S-Corp I would work as a 1099 legitimately.

        Not sure if you have been following as of late, but this whole 1099 issue is really becoming a non issue.

        Most of the commercial houses in LA have switched to w2 and only accepting 1099 if you have an S-Corp.

        Obviously this doesn’t fly with big film houses like Rhythm and Hues, Digital Domain, or ILM. But then again, no ones really complaining about them, as they tend to offer all the incentives you are asking for (at a less wage) minus the retirement.

        Retirement is an interesting subject though, cause this isn’t the 50’s anymore, people don’t stay with a company for a their whole career, so you tend to lose those legacy incentives. This is why I say to plan your own retirement. Max out your Roth IRA, pay into your own 401K.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        So you haven’t been audited yet.

      • KainVictus says:

        Why would I get audited, I pay my taxes- can you arrive at your point?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I know quite a few artists who agreed to 1099 situations with the whole S-corp deal etc. They got audited and paid – big time.

        My point is the mistake many vfx artists and facilities are making is thinking 1099 is some sort of choice. It’s not defined by you or the employer. It’s defined by the law.

    • KainVictus says:

      Firstly, you’re friends must being writing off more than they are allowed too, like say… a home “office.” in which case, they deserved to get audited. If you don’t want to get audited, hire an accountant who does everything by the books.

      If you are incorporated you are paying your quarterly taxes and employee taxes, so what exactly are you getting at here?

      The problem with the 1099 situation is companies classifying unincorporated artist as 1099 artist- getting out of paying employee Taxes. THAT is what uncle sam is after. Its a liability problem with the employers not the artist. If anything, the artists have been on the hook for those fees through 3rd party payroll companies.

      Why else do you think companies have been fast to switch to w2? And by the way, these same companies will accept a 1099 if you have an S-Corp. It is a legitimate means to do business as a freelance artist, especially for commercial work.

      My guess is you do not freelance heavily, or are just strictly stick to film.

    • atariboi says:

      Wow! Imagine that someone bitching on a forum about other people bitching on the same forum. This forum is to help everyone and also to educate those that are unaware of how bad the situation is in this industry. You talk big but you still only grew some balls as you put after a ton of abuse from your employer.

      Unions are seen as the end all solution to the problem, there has to be a global stand on this situation for it to change. While a union would be a fabulous support to poor working conditions and wages only if artists stand together can change occur.

      Not everyone can stand up to their employers, many artists have family’s that they need to support and feel vulnerable because of this.
      This industry is small and it’s easy to be blacklisted!

      Benefits, fair wages (including OT) shouldn’t be something that an employee should be worried about especially in Canada.

      • Ed says:

        Tell me about it. I voiced some political opinions that some considered ‘conspiracy theories’ and got blacklisted from a major studio, after asking the leads and supes about my work and having them say it was excellent, one of them still destroyed my chances at another big studio with a negative review. Unfortunately, increasingly one does not make it in an industry unless they tow the globalist establishment line, or at least keep their mouth shut on the subject. This is particularly true of the VFX industry where it’s so small that politics and word of mouth is King.

  20. VFXproletariat says:

    Does anyone know what VFX facilities charge their artists out at? There’s been a lot of talk of wages and hours etc.
    and I know it’s all based on hollywood accounting but if VFX soldiers knew that they were worth to the studios they would have a lot more ammunition when bargaining

  21. Im 17 and just started my first term studying VFX. My lecturer referred the entire class to this site. Truth be told, Im rather discouraged by all the negative comments. I never knew that this industry was this bad..
    But you know what? Im damn well still gonna pursue it, because its my passion. I really hope that the situation improves. And for all the VFX artists out there, I just wanna say that you guys are my heros, please continue creating masterpieces!

  22. Dark Energy says:

    To violet rapture:

    This site is the most honest blog about the state of things from the artists’ point of view in the vfx industry. For years before this site was created, all we would do is talk amongst ourselves about the struggles and challenges we face just trying to survive doing what we love to do. Thanks to VFX Soldier, we have a forum to share common ground and hopefully through one another. come up with ideas to better the situation.
    From the time I started in vfx in 2003 the industry has gone through many changes and is still in flux; outsourcing, studios shutting down, compressed delivery schedules, more students entering the workforce, etc.
    I admire your passion and thats a good thing to have. Its what has kept us going as well. Your lecturer did a good thing by pointing you and your classmates to this site. It was not to scare you but to make sure you guys know what you’re getting into.
    Today its even worse. A number of former co-workers have left the industry or am now contemplating leaving vfx altogether. For me, its the length of the gaps in work between projects…they seem to be getting longer. Not having to worry about how long can I survive without work until the next project starts is a luxury nowadays. I have suffered during these gaps which lasted between several weeks and 6 months. It can be a brutal cycle and to be honest I don’t know how much longer I can put up with this. Being a senior level artist is no guarantee for steady work but for now, I’m still in it.
    Good luck with your career goals and thanks for the good words.

  23. Rumtea says:

    So, what are we gonna do now?

  24. [...] Jeff Heusser’s tweet tries to tell us, the identity of VFX Soldier isn’t important, his message is. Jeff also understands that in order for the industry to stop using artists as a means to speed [...]

  25. VFX Sup Gypsy says:

    Hi whoever may read this. I feel compelled to chime in here.

    I am on my 15th year in the industry. I have worked in SF, LA, UK and Vancouver so I have a pretty good feel for the wages and the working environments. I agree with much of the sentiment that is going on here but there is a vital piece missing.

    We chose to enter this industry and love it because it is one of the few that allow us to express artistically. but look around you; If you are working in any country you will be a veteran at 30. At over 40 I am an old dog. My point is simple. We are workers for hire. The companies we work for are for hire. Compare it to acting. You can try and change the industry, by unionizing for example, or just realize what it is. This is a young person’s game and not thinking about what the future holds as you get older and you do not want to work the hours is an issue you will have to deal with. My professional swimming days are over, I do not care to do another Ironman, but that does not mean I cannot do more with my life. You are talking like VFX is all you have to offer this world. Union’s would have stifled my ability to move around, to get paid well for what I did and to rise to Supervisor within my first 5 years of working. I loved it and my lawyer and doctor friends pulled more hours than me by far. The obvious difference is their job security but they lack the problem solving and creative adaptation I learned as I jumped from set to set, movie to movie. So at the end of my VFX career I am working on life B and C and D… all of which I started at 35 when I realized I would have to move again to go anywhere with my career and this was not something I predicted I would like to do. So plan a life. Start developing something if you do not want to be a worker for hire at 40. Union, no Union, SF LA or Australia/Canada, the fundamentals of the VFX industry are the same.

    So I am sorry to contradict some of the thoughts that are on this site as I am guaranteed to have worked with some of you at the larger facilities… who I respect tremendously. But you have to take charge of your own life in the world. I am not saying do not fight subsidies or fight for what you believe in at all. I am just saying live in the real world a little too.

    VFX Sup

  26. Flame On says:

    This topic & these perspectives are very interesting to me. I’ve been freelancing as a Flame artist for 15 years and have been a member of IATSE/Art Directors Guild for about 10. It’s baffling why I get all the protections and benefits of a good union while I’m working at one of the big studios, but when I work right up the street somewhere else, doing the same thing, it’s not even an option. My non-union clients are a mix of employee pay & 1099. Neither arrangement comes close to the studio deals through the union. I used to be very skeptical of unions in theory and only reticently joined in order to work on the lots — but it turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.

    Not living as much in the film vfx world, maybe I just don’t understand the situation — but *why* hasn’t a union already been formed, and what is standing in the way? I mean this is southern California — even hotel housecleaners have a union — and I hazard to say that they’re generally more easily replaceable than experienced vfx artists.

    Perhaps its simply that the vfx industry is relatively new, and new industries do take time to grow out of the awkward phase and mature into organized, responsible entities. Maybe we’re seeing the seeds of that now. But the gaming industry is about 15 years older than vfx (I took a little part in that as well), and I’m not aware of unions there either.

    Or is it something else?

  27. If you want to obtain a good deal from this paragraph then you have to apply such
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  28. Gary Watts says:

    Los Angeles Times Article By Evan Halper
    September 5, 2012

    “Do Hollywood tax credits really help the economy?”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-hollywood-tax-credit-20120906,0,5860362.story

    Don’t forget to post your comments!!

    cookies must be on to post

    ~ Gary Watts ~

  29. Concerned parent of a VFX artist says:

    You should do something like the screenwriters and forma guild so that you can b heard collectivly. The post production houses know they have you all divided and conquored. If you can work together and learn to say NO to low wages and unpaid overtime the post production houses will have no choice but to treat you better. In turn they will have to push back on the producers to get paid better. Over all a VFX revolution would be good for the industry,

  30. saif says:

    This blog is so depressing , I breath vfx love to see my work while I watch a movie that I like or playing a game know that I played a part in it . That’s what’s made be got into this business . Without us there will be no movies like the avenger no games , without us life would be so dame boring and what we do is too dame complex artistic and creative . I thought the vfx industry is marching up not down . I’m depressed by this blog , not healthy for students

  31. Michael says:

    A possible solution?
    Since it’s the production staff that brings a film tot the screen they should be compensated through a guarantee of ticket sales proceeds. Another words if the studio fails to pay the employees it is the obligation of the producers to forfeit a percentage of profits from ticket sales to cover the labor costs directly to the artists/staff. Then it should be the responsibility of the vfs studio to reimbuse the production company before being allowed to continue operating.

    It’s a pipe dream but just laying out some ideas that may take root.

  32. Ivan DeWolf says:

    when I first started reading this blog, it really felt like a call for unity, someone was making a stand, planting a post for us to gather around as a unit.

    no more.

    now it is focused almost exclusively on the offshoring and government incentives, pitting VFX brother against brother.

    In this mission statement you declare “The reason why is Hollywood studio conglomerates effectively leverage their position by pitting vfx facilities so strongly against each other that eventually one company ends up taking the project for a loss. ” and “The artists that work for the facilities need to educate themselves about organization” these issues are largely ignored right now, with a sharpened focus on government incentives.

    yes, being forced into a nomadic lifestyle is bad; being FORCED into anything at all is a problem. I don’t think government incentives to studios creating a situation where VFX facilities are forced to move their operations and jobs from place to place is a good thing.

    however, I also do not think it is the ONE AND ONLY PROBLEM in the industry. there is no one and only problem.

    Please, yes, continue to fight against government incentives, level the playing field, these things matter.

    BUT SO DOES EVERYTHING ELSE.

    please, lets not forget the myriad of other issues this industry faces. Lets widen the view from local bickering, and get back to trying to improve the entire content of all our collective lives.

    let’s get back to unity.

  33. Aikibu says:

    Well Folks having experienced the VFX paradigm from both sides all I can tell you is that the technology and globalization have effectively eliminated the “company sized” service end of the business years ago here in the US. It’s a wonder R&H lasted this long. If you’re an artist then your only choice is to create and own your own content. If you’re just a render jockey, compositor, or the like without a union you’re basically subject to the whims of the GLOBAL VFX market. Most of you know this and yet you forget this is a SERVICE business not a TALENT business and I can pay folks just as talented or more talented that you a quarter of what you make and less then why shouldn’t I? I am in the business of making MONEY with my CONTENT. It costs tens of millions and more than likely hundreds of millions of dollars to make a VFX driven movie or game BEFORE I EVER SEE A DIME in profit, and there’s a good chance I’ll get hosed and lose money ( We are ladies and gentleman… always at the mercy of the consumer). Think about it. I am not too sure fighting with film makers over subsidies is the right way to approach this. There has to be a way that involves the parties viewing your services and costs and TALENT as a win-win for them and for you. You’re worried about “wages and working conditions” They’re worried about their entire careers.
    You think you have problems…here’s another famous quote from the “Business”.

    ” I am not here to f**k you over but IF YOU LET ME…I WILL F**K you over on this deal. That’s my JOB!”-A Studio Head.

  34. Allan Smorra says:

    A single soldier can fight a battle, but it takes an army to win a war.

    Good luck with your organizing efforts. It is time for the VFX artists to be recognized and valued for their talent and contributions to the film industry.

  35. Anonymous says:

    The industry is one of the worst. I studied for animation, and right after school I switched directions because of the poor working condition and pay. It was a great choice, and I’m doing well at the moment. I look at all my friends who I studied along side of, and they’re struggling for work, getting picked up for a few months here and there, then dropped again. Some of the hardest working and talented people I know, and they’re forced to work day and night for mediocre pay, and no job security.

    Wish you guys the best in turning this industry around.

  36. Rocket says:

    What no one is considering is VFX have become a totally digital product. We are dealing with a globalized digital product that is decentralized because our end product is easily sent over the internet anywhere in the world. No amount of unions or protectionism will stop this transition.

    The only reason the film business was centered in Hollywood and New York for so many years was because you had to process your film at the lab. You literally could not be too far away. Now Kodak is bankrupt, the local film labs are being torn down and the old business model is making way for the new digital model. Cameras are digital and everybody has one, which incidentally makes everyone a DP – union or not.

    A Local VFX union will only serve to kill the local business which remains. And by the way, if you know most of the VFX artists in town they are making much more money than grips, gaffers, camera, wardrobe, hair or the art department – all union positions. If you want to compete in the new digital global market, local VFX artists and companies must move ahead of the curve and invent better more efficient ways of delivering our product.

    Don’t wait for a wave of tax incentives because they are never going to come to California in a meaningful way. Think about it. You think VFX artists or the film industry in general is so important to California? We let the aerospace industry disappear which was a lot bigger…. VFX artists should grow up and realize that we are in a global market. Either compete and win by being better and faster than the competition, or get out and sell insurance.

  37. Marius Krutze says:

    VFX is an art form. as soon as the investor does not respect the art, he will apply only pressure. and thus remove the basis for a living for the artist.

    this is in all professions that are an art form. The quality of work is in the eye of the beholder, and the pay does depend on the movie managers eye as he accepts or dismisses a shot.

    the only choice the artist has is: No.

    don’t do something for someone that only uses you. the artist has to be independent, in other words, the companies doing VFX are to big and there are to many.

    Unless VFX companies start to produce their own other source of income: VFX companies will be short lived.

    you have to be good, but you also have to say no. never be in a position where you have to accept a job.

  38. Michael says:

    I would agree with that statement but take it a little further. I can’t help but think of the ants in “A Bug’s Life”. We as artists are needed by the entertainment moguls. They are the few, we are the many. It may take suffering and sacrifice initially, but we all need to band together and demand our fair pay. Hollywood makes movies that reap over 100 million dollars at box office. I for one do not believe the numbers when I hear a movie has cost 200 million to create. Somewhere there are the fat cats who are being paid tens of millions while the true creators of the production go without compensation.

    Point is if we all band together and refuse to work until equal pay is established, maybe not in a union but some unified amendment. Also we need to educate the public. If they become aware of the situation they will support us, knowing we are the reason for the entertainment they watch. But it wont work if others, like Asia undermine our efforts. It has to be unified to work effectively.

    On another note, when did it become okay for credits on television to get sped up and reduced to half screen (illegible) when the station shows whats coming next. It’s total bullshit that the people responsible for receiving credit get completely passed over for a pseudo commercial. I think there needs to be a law stating credits are not to be altered with, otherwise show them in the beginning like they used to back in the day.

  39. Jace says:

    Listen you hear that? That’s the sound of change.

  40. As a worker in another side of the ‘industry’ (gaffer) nothing you have stated is in anyway surprising.
    Nor would it be to anyone with experience in any other division of the film industry, nor would I guess for someone in the fashion, music, or gaming industry.
    In fact in any industry which has a veneer of being cool, and which has a serious ‘independent’ or spec section based on the use of ‘volunteers” or unpaid interns.

    Lets be honest when there’s a large population of people trying to break into an industry because its something they would love to be part of, to be able to do well, and hence are willing to work for free or nearly so to learn or even just for the perceived status of being in or merely associated with the biz and the cool that provides, then theres will always be a large opportunity for exploitation.
    Indeed there will be constant pressure to exploit, what else justifies a producers bonus?

    (Side note: this is also what tends to keep our industry so insular, if theres a high educational expense for entry followed by a roughly two year below living wage ‘ apprenticeship’ your selecting for a very narrow slice of the populace)

    The unions for all their evil act as some small counter pressure to some of this, not that they have any issues for using it for themselves when its seems to their sort term advantage, or at least they do in my side of the ‘biz’, as the danger factor. By this i mean that for all the artistic and individual personal effort I put into my work I get paid what i get paid not to screw up.
    I screw up and we loose a day of shooting, or god forbid something hot and heavy falls on an actor’s face, then the money lost is far greater than my entire wage for the job and the insurance that i provide against that happening, and that i do so in public (or as public as a set ever is) is the only reason I still have a reasonably well paying job.

    Unfortunately computer work is seen by people who have no idea how to do it as easy. (Yir just tapping on the keyboard and fiddling with yir wacom.) in some ways repeating what has been done before has become easier or at least the tools to do it have become more available. It is also work that is done largely in private. Even when confronted by a large room of workers there is very little to distinguish one back hunched over a keyboard from the next. Add to that the result of failure is seen merely making you do it over.

    While we may all know that doing what has been done before is rarely the goal and that individual input and style has a large and profound impact on the resulting work, and that doing it over isn’t as easly as control click delete, this is never going to be a deciding factor to the people in charge of budgets.

    I hope vfx workers some how avoid the painful exploitation and destruction of personal lives of its founding workers that was so common in the heydays of the early animation studios, (walt was an evil bastard) or the bullpens of the comic industry, (dc and marvel destroyed allot of lives) or the early session players in the music industry (Motown didn’t exactly share the wealth) and so on.

    I hope you do, and after you do so you tell us all how so when the next wave of innovation hits its workers can avoid the exploitation and destruction that inevitably seems to follow.

  41. Jack Boats says:

    I’m with you! Let me know how to help. I did the things I was supposed to do to be successful in life, went to school got a degree in Cinema and Animation and took the only job I could find close to my field after college which was animation software testing. In less than a year the company closed. I found work in Hollywood in Tv FX and was paid like $7.80 an hour. I got some experience but demanded more for the all nighters they wanted me to pull so I was fired. I hopped around from shot to shot for a while around LA but I rarely could enjoy my successes because I was immediately looking for my next gig. I watched more and more H1-B visas waltz in and drive my rates down. The opportunities seemed slim and I heard the projects were longer in Games so I tried that. I moved and did work for longer stretches but the outcome was always the same, eventually the studio closes or I was laid off. Not only now was I competing with visa workers with PhDs in areas like Rocket Science who were way over qualified for artist work, but the work was being outsourced to places where workers get paid in peanuts or work for free. I contracted for a guy “Rob Taylor” who convinced kids from Full Sail to ‘intern’ at his sweat shop. He got them to fly out to Cali and paid them in sandwiches for lunch and rented them a few run down apartments in the ghetto but no pay. I was appalled and when I stopped showing up after my contract expired he called me screaming at me about why I wasn’t there; I laughed at his arrogance. I’ve been laid off or fired so many times, from small boutiques to names like Imageworks, Tippett, Sony (SCEA), Electronic Arts, Zynga… the list goes on. Some of these jobs went for 2+ years without any complaints from management. I’m currently looking for other ways to apply my skill set because it doesn’t seem like my first choice for a career turned out very well but I don’t want to give up. I want to fight the good fight and be a part of a sustainable industry. I want to be able to put roots down someday and have a family but I’m afraid it might be too late. I’m not asking for pity I just want to be honest about my plight so that others who see this know that they are not alone. Even when you feel like the biggest POS because you weren’t picked for that next project or you feel that you flunked your last interview it may not be your fault. It very well may be that the powers that be are purposely aligned against you for their own capitalistic intent. We must organize a real UNION not just a ‘society’ which does nothing, have a clear message and list of demands, delivered by an elected leadership group. California is a right to be fired state but it is also a right to directly petition state, which means if we get the signatures we force a vote. If we can get union protection and laws passed that reward companies for hiring locals with specific language binding those incentives to actual employees we might just have a chance to make a difference in our lives. Let me know when and where to show up and I will be there!

  42. I’m with you VfxSoldier! I once had an HR person at one of the BIG 8 refer to me as a wrist. That was my first clue that something was a bit fishy in this industry.

  43. NMC says:

    See here’s the thing and I hope you can take this and be honest with yourselves. Other than natural inflation, VFX is the sole reason film budgets have sky rocketed! Several million dollars for the 15 second birth scene of Sandman in Spider-Man 3. Ang Lee saying he wished effects were cheaper. Steven Spielberg, whom I’m sure was a massive hero to most of you, stopping production on Robopocalypse because of inflated VFX costs.
    This is what happened: VFX replaced models and miniatures, VFX sprung on this and graphics houses popped up everywhere, then gutted the studios with exhorbitant prices and now your losing it.

  44. rustypix says:

    Hi vfx soldier, I wanted to share my recent Studiodaily.com post which is relevant to your mission statement and current vfx troubles.

    Several things become evident when considering the plight of the VFX artists from a point of view encompassing the global culture and economy:

    Titles and egos:
    We can call a construction worker who lays tile perfectly and caulks a bathtub without beading a superb craftsperson, but rarely an artist; that title falls on the Architect and interior designer. VFX artists resemble these construction workers in that they are superbly skilled in executing predefined art direction. The use of “artist” might be bruising some egos and adding some confusion to the problem at hand. Maybe “VFX craftsperson” is more than suitable to the job description and less ego confusing in the long run.

    Who doesn’t want it cheap?:
    The goal of ever industry on the planet is to become as cheap and efficient as possible. The Film studios and VFX studios demand this, and VFX craftspeople want this too. Every time faster hardware, new plug-in or app becomes available inevitably eases the workload. Every body wants it done as efficiently as possible. The more people get involved in an industry the cheaper it gets because more of the minute problems of the process get solved making it easier to grow workforce in the craft, it is an unavoidable function of division of labor. This is evident by following the timeline of any service or product that has ever been mass marketed; VFX does not escape this. When a craft becomes so easy it either becomes a script, app or junior work, this event should inspire a craftsperson to stay relevant or choose a less developed craft.

    Pay:
    It might be false to assume that any given VFX craftsperson could execute a given task in equal quality and schedule, yet that is what current pay structures imply when using hourly or daily rates. It would make budgeting more accurate and truthful if VFX craftspeople could sell their finished products to their pipeline dependents at a price determined case per case by peer consent and reflecting a proportional share of each ticket sold, regardless of how long it took them to make. Each individual’s virtues, skills and intelligence come into play, which makes paying using uniform time scales and not the finished product a bit archaic; they are not selling time but a product. Figuring out efficiency and quality is the creative part of their job. Imagine, there would be no over or under budgets!

    Subsidies I:
    Taxes subsidies are very shortsighted solutions devised by executives and politicians with very shortsighted agendas; this management dilemma currently permeates every industry in the planet. The end result forces craftspeople and VFX studios to migrate chasing these short-lived regional anomalies. Hard to solve because business and politics get tangled in an endless spiral, but maybe VFX craftspeople could organize globally to oppose this trend and/or negotiate a surcharge to the audiences in the regions that offer the subsidies creating a global balancing fund.

    Subsidies II:
    Here is a hidden subsidy; why is the price of a movie ticket uniform regardless of the movie? If a movie cost 1B to make and another cost 1MM why should the price to see them be the same? Imagine if the price of all cars were the same regardless of quality, performance, showroom, etc? The price of a movie ticket ideally should have built-in it the entire production process, place and form of showing and it is recency. This is a hidden subsidy between adjacent showrooms, where low budget movies amortize the losses of the big budget movies. Audiences should be exposed to a more transparent pricing and pay for what they expect to see. Did accountants come up with uniform pricing to ease their jobs?

    Geek out:
    VFX craftspeople would benefit in the long run by whole heartedly associating to discuss their craft and help it become more effective while keeping them well versed and relevant. Associations like the “academic” component of regional chapters of Siggraph come to mind. Associating, not for the craft, but simply for the purpose of labor rights and compensation would stifle the evolution of the craft; just look at production unions, it ends up taking 10hs to prop a ladder and 10 more to place markers. Every one ends up working for the clock not for the craft; this is counter to the division of labor and ultimately counter to the purpose of community and civilization. Associations such as Siggraph need to geek out and reach out to offer its services to the global community at large. Once the global community learns to value VFX it would engage and respect it.

    Running for cover:
    The global community might easily be on the fence regarding the contributions of the VFX industry; Life of Pi is a rare exception, but Spiderman####, Batman####, Superman#### just soak our youth with senseless violence and gender distortions (hence careful taking “artist” credit or you might end up with some blood credit: Columbine, Aurora, Sandy, etc). Is this the best that this Industry can offer to humanity? If VFX found meaningful and purposeful partners in the global community the craft would surely be respected. There seems to be little real value around so no one cares where things are made, how or why as long as they are “designed in California”.

    Ok, You can stop beating me now:
    The economic stronghold on the cultural content of any film hinders the art form from contributing meaningfully to the global community. Culture is not a for profit industry, it is meant to further the human spirit, not to make humans want things and to take on personalities counter to their own innate identities. If VFX created meaningful value to the community then the community would return with independent funding or gifts, (ie. Kickstarter). Bluntly, current blockbuster filmmaking is a direct attack to the freedom of every human in this planet, probably the main reason why no one will care if VFX suffers. The sad part is that probably society can’t afford to invest all this amazing brain power and talent in making these moments of mass psychosis; these geniuses would better serve us all by solving real life problems. Associate, debate amongst each other to make VFX relevant and then maybe VFX could find an audience that cares.

  45. MW says:

    I am really glad I read this. VFX getting unionized has been on my mind a lot lately.

    CUT TO: angry and puzzled rant

    As a film editor, and former production assistant, I’m glad you guys are finally getting your shit together. Everybody loves there job on a film – it’s why we are there – but do you think Teamsters would let a studio work them 100 hours a week no O.T.??? They would literally start EATING STUDIO HEADS FOR BREAKFAST.

    If you’ve ever been on set you would know how hard it is to get anything done without someone driving a truck somewhere. Same thing with VFX. Hollywood summer tentpoles – which studios have come to rely on HEAVILY – would be useless without you guys an gals. Avatar would’ve been a bunch of actors in blue suits with tracking dots on empty sound stages. There would be no Avengers or Harry Potter movies.

    I know it sounds harsh, but look at hollywood history. VFX artists aren’t special. It’s all there in b&w. Studios have been trying to get over on EVERYONE that works on films SINCE FILMMAKING BEGAN. Why do you think there is a Directors Guild? Screen Actors Guild? Motion Picture Editors Guild? Local 600? Writers Guild? IATSE? Even producers have the PGA. The film industry is heavily unionized for a reason. Studios will try to screw you over. If you think you have it bad now, try reading up on past hollywood studio work practices in the old days. Cinema Unions have fought for regulation for almost a century.

    Because of this well known history, I blame the VFX companies and senior artists that let it this go so far. Especially the ones that started as students/artists and became supervisors/shop owners that perpetuated the work ethic without saying/changing anything. I mean, didn’t some of you guys study film history? SAG has it so good because they have been fighting for fair treatment and regulation for 80 years.

    Glad someones doing something now. VFX/CGI is still young so there is time. Best of luck to VFX Soldiers everywhere!

  46. @ulh_ says:

    i think it is all a mix of free workers, evil producers, greedy studios, vfx is “cool” effect and so on. In Argentina a truck driver or a garbage man makes 3 times more money than a vfx artist, composer or 3d artist. I dont know how this repulsive system of endless growth with less investment works.

    regards

  47. Here is the problem:

    What you are choosing to do for a living isn’t really worth much because it can be done just as well/nearly as well/even better by people all over the world.

    So rather than trying to force the world to change so that you can have a nice house and healthcare benefits while doing the same thing an illiterate Indian peasant can do, why don’t you try doing something less imitable and more valuable?

  48. Mister Wonderful says:

    Quote from VFX Soldier….”You are probably a vfx artist sitting there reading this as you wait on your render of the 78th iteration of a shot that was due two weeks ago.”

    Amen. Brings a fucken tear to my eye. The stress the bullshit, the nonsense and the veiled threats of leverage by companies. Who can in front throw you right in the trash no matter how talented you are. That’s the kind of people we’re talking about here.

    Greed. Douchery. Evil. Lies. Deception. Coercion. Fuckall.

  49. its me says:

    You are soooo right vfxsoldier !!!!!

  50. This is actually the type of information I have been trying to find. Thank you for posting this information.

  51. HERMAN says:

    Dream cheap viagra of huge dignity?

  52. […] what I am inclined to think of as ‘roadkill’, and struggle to believe that anyone wants to see creative individuals being destroyed.  I am curious to see what Parker and Stone create, now that they are grown up […]

  53. Inna says:

    I thought: Maybe a reality TV show on the life of a VFX artist would help expose the World to the plight…

  54. Poonam says:

    Throughtout my life i have been a very much fond of movies and games i still remember first movie that actully boost my passion for vfx industry was STEALTH whole explosion sequence were just mindblowing. But now after getting into this industry i realise that this industry only looks good in BIG SCREEN.

    Count me in..

  55. Rory1234 says:

    I thought that this dramatic situation there was only in Italy. I was already thinking of moving elsewhere to make this wonderful work. I work in the field of vfx because I had a great passion for it, but now I’m really thinking to leave it. My life is slipping away because of this work and these mechanisms. I am not happy anymore, when I start a new project, but I have anxiety. It hurts me to abandon this job, but I would not live to work but work to live.

  56. jungle_bunny says:

    I just returned from working in Indonesia where they paid me 60 cents an hour to work 100 hours weeks. I slept at my desk or in the office way to often and my boss would arrive at work after lunch time.

    She/He would then sit on face book all day…then bring me my work around 7pm. I would then be told to “Just have it done by morning”. If i refused i would be subject to personal confrontation from the head of studio and or the fear driven Coordination teams.

    I was basically forced into working for days on end. The longest was 2.5 days with no sleep. This would happen every single week 24/7!! not just at deadline.

    I was never paid on time or to the correct amount owed. They lied about providing Contracts and Visa’s so I was forced to work as an illegal immigrant.

    This Studio “Infinite Frame Works, Batam, Indonesia” and others like it should be shut down. The people running it need to be demerited and sent back to McDonalds for further training. Sadly Im the only person out of 250 creatives to speak up about it!!!

    With in the 3 months i managed to survive there..my gums were bleeding, i contracted nasty skin diseases and suffered from consistent food poisoning from the provided food.

    (We are in the jungle..middle of no where).

    Mean while, the higher/western management dwell in 5 star accommodation across the way. I was disgusted at the amount of bullying and unprofessionalism that took place in my short visit.

    Senior management name calling and picking on staff barely 20 years of age until the would cry them self’s through their 3 rd consistent all nighter.

    That was my first job in VFX.

    Im in. Let me know what I have to do.

    Thanks for reading.

  57. […] and on prospects for the workforce as well. At most effects shops, artists toil long hours under intense deadline pressures and do so without health care, vacation pay, or job security. Increasingly, they are hired for […]

  58. Nathan Kreuzman says:

    After reading your article, I’m honestly shocked and scared. I am currently studying at SCAD for visual effects, I am more often now hearing from my friends who are also VFX artists that they aren’t able to find any jobs in the industry (even when their work is ridiculously amazing). It scares me because of all of these problems, no one wants to work 70-100 hour work weeks with no health care and no retirement benefits, traveling the globe when most people have friends and families. I am honestly really considering changing my major after reading this. I am paying so much money for school to get into this industry, but what if there is no industry left to get into when I get out? I am extremely sure everyone else is thinking the same, I just honestly don’t know what to do now.

    If anyone has the need to contact me about anything regarding this, my email is nkreuzman@yahoo.com. I may not be a VFX artist now but I will definitely help in any way I can.

    Best,
    Nathan Kreuzman

    • Inna says:

      I went SCAD as well (majored in VFX and minored in FILM & Television) but took a different route. I started a company back in my home country. Sad to hear about all the mess going on in the industry back in USA… We are not taught to be entrepreneurial just to sit at our PCs and do as we are told.

  59. JKC says:

    Hi all I’m a software engineer from India and i thought of switching may career to vfx industry by doing masters or learning post-prod softwares because doing VFX is something which i’m dreaming of day and night but after seeing this and getting info from few other VFX artists, I’m really scared wat to do. Are you suggesting young animation aspirants like me to not enter VFX industry ???? will this field not be developed in the coming years ? Is this the end for us ??? without any camera tricks / animation shots / any other liquid, my eye is dropping real tears now. Please guide me wat to do, which one to choose

  60. Mjk says:

    I always wanted to do stuff like creating imaginary thing which is impossible doing in real lyf so called vfx, so i come in this industry, i thought this would be great, i will do what i love, unfortunately its was not great at all, my parents spend a lot of money to make me entered in vfx school to learn about what i really wanted, but its was not worth of it, when i finished and got a job in multinational multimedia company i work there for 2 years and those 2 years were like 20 years i used to work there like 10-14 hours a day and they paid me less than what i have worked and they have earned, plus no respect of an artist, we were not treated as an artist, i used go like a donkey, sit finish there damn shots and come back to home, still didnt contribute the total money that my parents spend on me for the vfx school, i just wanted to leave this industry as soon as possible, for the new young people who trying to get this industry, it would be my request dont come, do complete your study and go for business thing like management or coding stuff or mba there are lots of thing out there…..

    But still as a artist i’m in always..

    Thnks for reading…

  61. Sorry … But unless you make an artifact that is unique to yirself you are not an artist …
    You may be an artisan … A skilled and valuable craftman, making finely crafted objects of rare beauty and intricate design but unless those object possess some special value by way of your indivisual input in thier creation you are not an artist.
    If you were painting designs on plates you could have great and exacting skill intensely developed from years of practice but unless the plates you painted had special value precisely because you painted them as opposed to others you are a craftman, and valued as much.
    Craftsmen have always been devalued by technology even as they have been the the primary motivators of its progress.
    Just because your parents made expensive investments in your education which you chosed to focus on a field which appealed to some internal indullengence from your youth does not make you an artist, working in a ‘creative industry’ does not make you an artist, even making artifacts does not make you an artist.
    none of those things guarantees or intitles you to a happy, successful, or fulfilling life.

    What special and meaningful unique work have you done? What value have you added to the social/historical context of your chosen field?

    Cause even if you have done that, even if you are actually an artist, … It still doesn’t mean yir owed an satisfactory carreer.

  62. Raj says:

    Hi guys,

    Just an idea…

    How about the producers pay the vfx company’s bare expenses for the duration of their project, and then share the profits once the movie is released? (10% of profits after the producer gets his money back)?

  63. […] How to Find a VFX Facility on a Low Budget. Special fx have bloated the costs of film production over the last 30 years. While audiences enjoy watching stories … The Mission | VFX Soldier […]

  64. Raiyan says:

    I think one of the answer to the fear of not having a life in VFX , is actually by being a filmmaker. Instead of abandoning our knowledge of VFX, why not try to break in as filmmaker with extra Jedi knowledge of VFX compared to “normal” filmmaker ? I truly believe that we can be a better storyteller.

    Moving “up” the ladder (although I disagree with the term of “up”). Making our own content. Making a movement called “VFXPeople Media” ? The movements strives to promote a healthier life in media industry, and commiting at least 10% of profits into a global fund for VFX artist worldwide, for free education, cheaper or free software, equal work chance & support, VFX social networking and political lobbying of each and every country.

    The is a bigger narratives than a mere subsidy. It’s about changing the very core philosophy of social and economic imbalance, in a global scale. We are working in a system that assumes that each individual is a replaceable machine part. We are conditioned to not having any leverage by the very core decision maker, to drive their profit ledger. It’s not unique to VFX, it’s happening all over the world.

    So why not try beating them in their own game ? Make our own content ? Be our own studio. Make distribution networking. Not easy, but not impossible either, as Content Is Always The King, despite what any platform or studio would like us to think otherwise. It’s time for the big dinosaur to die and extinct. A new business model – more humane perhaps- is possible

  65. Lois says:

    I recently graduated in VFX and I’m having a really hard time finding work. The freelance work I have been getting isn’t enough to make a living off of. There is a lot of talk about the horrors of the industry, which makes me increasingly leery. Some VFX artists seem more incline to argue with each other instead of trying to find a better solution to the problem, which affects everyone around the world.

    “United we stand. Divided we fall.” Is pretty true for the VFX industry. We all need to wok together or this industry will crumb.

    The industry should unionize. I think the idea of base pay and shared profits is one of the best ideas. I don’t agree with the 10% considering most movies have any where between 5 to 20 vfx studios working and some have more work then others. I think based on they work they should get a percentage of the profits.

    I’m going to keep trying to find work in the field that I love but will do what the guy above suggested and make my own content in the meantime.

  66. Ajay Sharma says:

    I’m with you VfxSoldier!!! Count me also.

  67. Crism says:

    awesome, I hope to be of some help here!

  68. Vinz says:

    I am a secondary student who actually have a passion in vfx too .. Seeing this just technically killed me

    I mean when I started I thought : good skill = big studio = big salary
    I live in Indonesia, no major fx houses here I guess
    I was actually surprised when one of you mentioned your working experience in Indonesia. Sadly it was a negative experience

    What do you, senior artists think I should do ?
    If I want to continue movies, do you suggest go freelance, hobby, or search for a studio ?
    I don’t want to be mislead by the stream right now

    Seeing your posts grew my anger to people behind these too, why don’t give them a sense of ‘no vfx’ in whatever they do

  69. Elke Starck says:

    I’m totally in also – I just quit my first VFX job as a coordinator. I tried for years to get in, got a job finally and between the ridiculous hours, the rude production team, overall stress and constant tension it was too much. And watching all the people around me work even longer hours with little to no thanks was just sad.

  70. Jason says:

    Hi VFX Soldier.

    I’m interested to know more about this so I’ve sent you an email to your account! Please do check it out! :D

  71. I’m living this everyday, moved to LA about 4 months ago and have barely been able to keep myself afloat on freelance, but now I have to go get a serving job or something because no one will hire me. Never thought I’d have to do this at 30 years old

  72. this post says:

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