VFXSoldier at gmail dot com.
VFXSoldier can also be found on twitter.
i’m completely on side with your thoughts and have been vocal about them, and criticized from a number of corners about this very thing. i was an owner of a facility for 10 years before selling it, and although we weren’t perfect- the changes the corp made after the acquisition were not in line with my perspective, and is one of the reasons i left.
there are many ways to fix this race to the bottom, but the key thing to know is that it has to be a concerted effort- and it starts with artists, freelancers and then moves up to facilities.
it isn’t up to the studios..this is a codependent relationship and everyone has to put their collective feet down and say ‘no more’
1. artists must be reasonably paid for work and refusing to work overtime without compensation – at EVERY facility, no matter the size.
that means the kids, the pros, the seasoned veterans need to shrug off the cool factor, be willing to lose out on some ‘awesome’ project..and be willing to work on something tedious or uncool, saving some of that reasonable salary and OT pay for a rainy day so you can say ‘no’, hold the line and get paid the right rate for the right gigs.
2. facilities must never accept work for less in order to keep people employed. its a downward spiral. you will never get the rates back up – you push competitors to follow you down and the studios win.
although far more painful in the short run – it means layoffs rather than facility closures. hopefully you have paid artists well enough to save for a rainy day. see #1.
We know the expertise and talent is HERE – and ultimately the work comes back, _every_single_time_.
At the start of a show: if the shots are bid high – shots/shows will go to India/China/Korea; they will fail; then we will get the work at higher rates at the end.
logic will not prevail, the cycle will continue, but we can stop our acceleration of cost reduction, and make the studios pay for the expertise. money is never an object for the studio at the end of a project.
studios never fail to pay for expertise.
the vfx industry just keeps giving it away for free.
eventually there will be some stability if we hold the line.
as for how to achieve #1, i completely believe that if we can’t self manage; if we really are unable to act as a collective without a formal charter then we need to unionize to ensure facilities and individuals follow an appropriate line. This isn’t impossible, it just will take effort, and for gods sake – take the well paying gig over the ‘cool’ gig any day.
just my thoughts, or some of ‘em.
good work and keep it up
I could agree more
You I’m not even working in the industry , but I’ve been preparing myself to, I feel really really disappointed esp. with Houses and how the accepts the sh.ty treatments. I dont know much, but I wouldn’t want to work my life away and I fucking work too hard, I’m sick and tired of broke.
One one thing , this stupid sh.t have been going on for far too long , the cool gig BS.
I heard too many artist going , well we got in to create cool sh.t, But at the end of the day, this is just a Job just like any other, it’s not special
Yes you get to create cool sh.t but really really it’s just a job. So let’s all get that into Our heads. and for goodness sake you guys already in the biz , you have the power to make things right so us up and comings would not suffer the same fate . Let all come together and Organise this mess without fear.
A free market economy does not allow for compassion and solidarity.
I fear vfx artist are like the uk coal miners of the 70′s. Why pay uk prices when it is cheaper to import coal from Russia.
Support must be marshalled from sister entertainment/film unions.
Just saw this article on Ringling College of Art and Design and it seemed related to the article about Gnomon you posted…is a trend starting?
“…the moviemaking assets at Ringling College of Art and Design involves more than $1 million in public, and possibly charitable, funds to build a post-production operation on the campus…”
What about the indy games business model?
Is now the time?
A number of other major changes need to happen for this model to be dominant:
The emergence of a freelance games development workforce, coming together for a project in the same way a crew assemble for principal photography on a movie. (Owain Bennallack’s excellent article in Develop sets out some of the issues and requirements here, and I particularly endorse #5: the need for equitable pay)
Acceptance of new financing models such as single-project special purpose vehicles
Increased reliance on standardised middleware to allow contractors to move from project to project
Massively increased expertised in outsourcing and managing vast projects mainly staffed by outside contractors
But I am convinced that Will Wright’s departure will be seen by future historians of the games industry as a turning point. As the moment when the creative talent broke free of the contractual restrictions of publisher employment and were freed to pursue their dreams.
But it’s not all good news for developers
However, this is not the beginning of a development utopia. There is some bad news for all those developers who are not superstars (in other words, everyone except the handful of individuals names above):
The only people who will get the mega bucks are the superstar developers who can make or break a game. No one else
As publishers embrace this model, they will massively downsize their internal development. (Microsoft is well on the way to eliminating internal development already)
But these new production companies will give developers an example to aim for. And, as developers increasingly move from project to project as freelancers, they will get to work with the best and brightest creative talent in the world.
you will find it interesting…
I love this blog. I’m wondering if you know of a good way to get shots for a demo reel after a freelance project is completed. Would it be easier to write up an agreement before? So many of my friends do freelance work and no one has a better method other than writing a request and then hoping that they follow through.
The contracts we sign are also put all the power of allowing demo reel shots in the hands of the studios. I’m wondering if there is a good way of amending these contracts so we freelancers would receive a copy after the project is aired. Maybe you would have a template?
Thanks in advance!
I would like to meet with you to discuss helping VFX workers. Please contact me. Thank you!
You must read this VFXSoldier!!
It’s an awesome blog for vfx updates.
Hey I’m from India and I plan to join a vfx course in Mumbai. I think I’ll love doing it as I’m already a freelance digital artist. But my concern is mainly towards the future: India has a practically non-existent animation/vfx industry so I’ll have to look abroad for good job opportunities and this might incur further cost.
I have to think about the salary and scope of this field. Will it pay well or will I have to switch jobs in the future?
sorry to say but the truth is you may have to switch your job if you works in india ….
could you please try to share this prime focus news to indin news channals…..plzzzzz
its help for vfx workers and also a lesson for prime and other company’s like prime those treat people like animal.plz
Hey…so they laid off around 300 people in the Digital Domain Florida branch…sucks.
Confirming this from a report from a friend there in the PSL office.
More to the point, they said specifically that the facility is being closed and the staff let go effective immediately.
I’m new to your blog and noticed that many of your links on the right side of the main page are broken. Do you keep those up to date? I found the ones that worked were very useful, thank you!
How not to be affected by this subsides thing?
Great simple and straightforward call to save the unions: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/01/25/msnbc-krystal-balls-timely-rant-on-union-membership-americans-wake-the-f-up-video/
one idea would be to create a list of studios that abuse artists (aka vfx sweatshops) Think of it as a kind of Yelp for vfx studios. This way they will have difficulties recruiting artists and hopefully they will increase their working conditions. If a studio has bad reputation, they will be having trouble recruiting talent because not many people will be responding to their job postings.
I didn’t know about this site….thanks for sharing.
Yeah, something like this but for the VFX/Animation industry here is the US or even worldwide.
Check this, specially people working in California. I don’t know if it is the same in all the U.S.
Dude since you are against subsidies why dont you post this petition on your blog so ppl sign it
saw this didn’t even make the news
Today…triggerfish cape town – films Zambezia, Khumba – all staff – pink slip.
This industry is collapsing – daily. Wake up.
Is their room in this group for a Special Effects old schooler like me? I with you all the way! So how do we stop this madness? Contact me, 818 391 8522, email@example.com,
Like to share more news!!
Stargate cutting artist hours to save money, while producer and vfx supervisors working with salary base won’t be affected because its not hourly base, disregarding they are the highest paid people.
The sad part they never send memo , so no legal action you can take.
Please stop treating artist like garbage.
Copied, is it true?
Some news on the bad side to tax incentives.
Though not a VFX’r I’ve been restoring classic movies using the most popular software here in L.A. for over two decades. Not only have I seen my rate slashed in half benefits taken away, forced to work freelance, when I’m actually an employee, I’ve and many around town have also seen our jobs shipped to India and China. I can relate to the stress it can cause of seeing american classic movies owned by Sony and Fox shipped to China. not always direct. Once U.S. restoration post house setting up overseas offices to avoid the labor rates and medical benefits.
No one is hiring. Once a limited skill has gone the way of hiring kids in shipping to pick dirt, now thats not good enough, they have to save more and send it to China. Now a thriving industry has become a China college course that they get credit for and not even pay them. College degree sweat shop over seas to produce
sub quality work that comes back and we have to fix. Why is this fair because America sold out its cinema history along with it morals
cheap is always better, the dollar rules so who do you complain to? Sony who distributes the work , nope they dont care. Sony’s Grover Crisp gets hailed by his film restorations , I’m sure he eats well as U.S. artists keep struggling to stay afloat as his movies get restored .
I have given up this leaky boat eventually its gonna sink. Then technology will put everyone out of work, I just wish I would have seen this coming instead off working my but off to make these guys rich. My fault for not being smart enough to see it coming
Digital domain is laying off 200-300 employees by November to go chase subsidies in Vancouver. Only the execs will stay in LA. They will lie and say they are offering relocation assistance to employees but its only the super senior level people and execs. And they like to say “scale down here and upscale there” but you’re still getting let go.
California, I love you. We’re coming back.
It’s time for creativity, technology and positivity to flood California. Let’s work harmoniously and collaboratively with our fellow vfx comrades around the world and especially our Canadian neighbors. There are plenty of vfx to go around.
Apologies VFX Soldier, I don’t mean to hijack your blog with an overly wordy rant. Please know I am thankful you’ve opened this up to comments. I’ve just got a lot to say.
Maybe someone’s laid this out already, but here’s what my 26 years in the Hollywood FX industry has taught me.
I left Hollywood effectively after trying to save a bloated VFX driven TV show from getting canceled. At 3.5 million-per-episode and 21 Producers, there was a perfect storm of pointing fingers and like most of Hollywood, they were throwing money at their problems to try and plug a hole on a sinking ship- which by the way, was indeed canceled 6 episodes after I left. There are many factors that cause sky rocketing costs. Nepotism and saving-face is a major factor especially in Hollywood and that always seems to win out. Hollywood is much like the government. It’s full of incompetent management that figures it can spend it’s way out of any problem.
I started as a modelmaker, of the hand-built variety, worked with motion-control rigs, moved into special effects and eventually into digital visual effects.
The battle is about the law of supply and demand and the formerly all-mighty dollar. Before everyone had access to learn and use compositing and 3D tools, only a select few artists were available and they could charge a lot because of high demand/low supply. Now everyone can do it on their laptop practically anywhere in the world. We have to be realistic about life.
Yeah, we love visual effects, but plumbers, carpenters, electricians also like their jobs. We’re not special and we are subject to a changing marketplace. There’s a lot of factors to consider, but despite one’s love for creating vfx, we have to remember, it’s an art form and throughout history, artists have always been poor unless they found a fat cat that would get behind them. There was a time when it seemed like everyone was becoming an overnight millionaire creating websites, but those days for the most part ended for them also.
But didn’t we all see the writing on the wall? We’re moviegoers too and even we’re sick of seeing 2 hours of VFX eye candy with little or no script development with 4 out of 5 movies released.
There’s a lot of factors to consider, but despite one’s love for creating VFX, we have to remember, its an artform and throughout history, artists have always been poor unless they found a fat cat that would get behind them.
Every industry has its hay day. We should be thankful when we’re able to ride a wave and recognize when that wave has terminated on the shoreline. I was lucky to be in the last generation that still built miniatures. When James Cameron made a movie, every shop was working, but at the same time, we were like “wow, look what he’s doing with computers now” and I could see things were going to change.
My recollection of where things got really ugly was during the major offensive waged during the movie 300. Producers at the VFX companies were complaining that the movie Producers that awarded shots to them came back after a lot of time was already spent to complete shots, before payment and said, “Ok, now you’re going to do it cheaper and if you don’t, we’re going to yank all of your remaining shots and give them to another company.” This apparently became standard practice around the movie industry after.
There are many factors causing VFX workers to get the bayonet in the gut, but we’re not alone. Many jobs and/or contracts in other industries are at the mercy of every shrinking budgets in unfriendly business climates. Those that survive financially must learn to adapt and sometimes it means changing geography or industry. For me, I saw that the movie industry was growing fast of Vietnam of all places and I’ve been here 2 years now doing commercials and movies for this half of the world.
What are unfriendly business climates? There’s 2 factors: Unions and government. Unions destroyed the auto industry (I’m from Flint and watched it happen to all my relatives), the textile, aerospace and yeah the movie industry. SAG strikes, WGA strikes etc. sometimes lasting for years, bankrupt a lot of companies and individuals. A few years ago, there was someone from IATSE that was trying to unionize the VFX industry, but he wouldn’t listen to reason. He hadn’t learned yet that Producers years before had already starting going to other countries (even before tax incentives became the big fad) to produce for more reasonable costs. People in other countries just wanted to work and outrageous demands were not constantly being made under the threat of bankrupting the production. Yeah, it sounds like extortion, because it is legalized extortion. He didn’t understand that it’s now a global economy and that Producers don’t have to stay in Hollywood and kiss the ring of union leaders, who, by the way, always seem to get paid 3 or 4 times more than the people they represent, while charging them expensive annual dues.
Granted, there’s a time and place for unionizing- but it’s rare now because there’s a variety of checks and balances in the form of laws that have come along since The Great Depression… there’s the Dept. of Labor, the IRS and of course an army of lawyers that would love to assist you in a class action against a major studio. However, I had a situation back in the 80′s where I along with 15 other modelmakers were in the 14th hour and dinner was 6 hours overdue, and it looked like it was going to be an all-nighter. I got everyone together under the management’s nose and we told them we were not working any more until they buy us dinner. They did, sort of… 2 small pizza’s arrived an hour and a half later.
But watch out to. There is a blacklist- be smart about it and REALLY careful. Chances are, that incompetent boob of a Producer or Supervisor is related to someone high up.
The other problem is government. The problems are much broader than just payroll taxes someone mentioned early in the thread. Carl’s Jr. quit trying to open new locations in California because on average it is now taking 2 years to get all the permits and approvals necessary. Instead they gave up and opened more locations in Texas, where approval time is on average 6 weeks. The cost of doing business in CA is also extremely high, for example there’s $1.50 in taxes alone at the gas pump for EACH GALLON.
There’s one dependable industry of VFX left where a good pay rate can be experienced, albeit hours are going to be hellish at times – Episodic television from the American alphabet networks. Reason: 9 to 11 day turnarounds require working locally in Los Angeles. Working in-house directly for the show is better than working for a contracted company that is usually pitted against another in an otherwise bloody cock fight. Episodes are budgeted about 2.5 to 4 million depending on the show.
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