VFX pro to testify for trade action on VFX subsidies in NAFTA renegotiations

June 28, 2017

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Update: You can donate to Eric here:


Huge thanks to all of you who helped contribute to comments on NAFTA renegotiations. VFX professional Eric Rosenthal left a comment in the previous post that he might be able to go to Washington D.C. to speak out in support of trade action on VFX subsidies during NAFTA renegotiations. Great news to hear this week that he has been invited to speak!

I met Eric when he volunteered to testify at Los Angeles City Hall during hearings about the lost of VFX work in California and against giving subsidies to the US studios. He did great and I’m incredibly grateful for him to devote his time and effort to the issue. Eric said he doesn’t need any money for his trip but I think we should pitch in to help pay for his $850 flight.

Perhaps someone could setup a GoFundMe page with a $850 limit to send money to Eric? I believe he’s on his way out to Washington D.C. and I know many of you contacted me to help get him paid for his trip.

Thanks Eric! Looking forward to your testimony.

Soldier On.


The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) seeks comments on digital trade issues and potential remedies for NAFTA negotiations

June 2, 2017

Statement from Daniel Lay, Co-Founder of the Association of Digital Artists, Professionals, and Technicians

In 2013 Daniel Lay, the writer behind the industry blog VFX Soldier started ADAPT to help fund and direct a trade effort to curtail the use of subsidies in the Visual Effects industry. The hope was to hire a DC-based law firm specializing in international trade to help prosecute a case in international trade court. The goal was to levy anti-subsidy duties against countries like Canada who offered massive government subsidies to US studios like Disney and Warner Bros. that can cover up to 60% of labor costs for visual effects work on many blockbuster films. This has led to many US VFX professionals to lose their jobs and many VFX facilities to go out of business or move to Canada. Ultimately ADAPT was unable to raise the funds to prosecute the case as many supporters simply could not afford to donate after losing their jobs.

Support for trade action by representatives

While ADAPT could not continue to prosecute the case, the damage to the US VFX industry has continued to be substantial with a recent report by Film LA showing a 50% drop in VFX productions in California over the last four years. At the time, ADAPT’s trade effort quickly gained media attention and successfully gained the support of the California legislature:

It is the intent of the Legislature to urge the United States Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to investigate aggressively and impose sanctions, including tariffs, on productions and elements of production, including visual effects, virtual photography, and music scoring, that are digitally distributed and electronically transmitted, in its definition of “articles” protected by the Tariff Act, to combat unfair and illegal competition caused by international subsidies to these articles of commerce, and to urge the United States Congress to take other appropriate actions.

Even the Motion Picture Association of America, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the world reluctantly admitted the validity of ADAPT’s case after arguing that digital products like films should be treated no differently than physical products:

The VFX guys have been smart frankly about turning this around in [on] us

ADAPT’s effort was encouraged by supporters who responded to statements by our current and previous Presidents:

President Trump:

“I’m going to direct the Secretary of Commerce to identify every violation of trade agreements a foreign country is currently using, to harm you, the American worker.”

President Obama:

“I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules… It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (on why NAFTA has become obsolete):

The economies of the U.S., Mexico and Canada are quite different from what they were when NAFTA was started. [NAFTA] doesn’t address digital, doesn’t really address services very much, had very weak enforcement provisions, had a whole lot of things that you would never put in a present agreement. “

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer:

Renegotiation of NAFTA should “add a chapter on digital trade

Call to action and instruction.

A request has been made by the USTR to report evidence, either by way of personal accounts, studies, or articles, that issues have arisen distorting digital trade markets including subsidies in visual effects, and caused the loss of jobs in the U.S. They have asked that people use a submission form posted in response to The United States’ intent to “commence negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”  

From the Federal Register:

“In particular, the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) invites comments addressed to:

General and product-specific negotiating objectives for Canada and Mexico in the context of a NAFTA modernization.

Treatment of specific goods, including comments on:

  • Product-specific import or export interests or barriers
  • Experience with particular measures that should be addressed in negotiations
  • Relevant digital trade issues that should be addressed in the negotiations
  • Relevant trade-related intellectual property rights issues that should be addressed  in the negotiations
  • Relevant trade remedy issues that should be addressed in the negotiations”

The form allows anonymous submissions and attachments, and can be found here:


The due date for comments is June 12, 2017.

They have requested that links to online content not be used if possible; rather that we copy/paste the text of any linked content with appropriate sources listed. For any large blocks of text over the 5000 word max or images/graphs, an attached file such as PDFs, or jpg screen captures of online content, etc, will suffice.

Soldier On.

Soldier On Ron Thornton

November 23, 2016


Hollywood Reporter:

Ron Thornton, an Emmy-winning visual effects designer, supervisor and producer who worked on such shows as Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Voyager, has died. He was 59.


Thornton is best known for bringing computer-generated imagery (CGI) to television, most notably on the series “Babylon 5.” Following its series pick-up, he formed Foundation Imaging in 1992 with Paul Beigle-Bryant, who would go on to supervise visual effects for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” and “Enterprise.” He won a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in visual effects in 1993 for his work on the television film “Babylon 5: The Gathering.”

A funding page is still available for donations to help cover his medical costs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: My Experience as a Female Artist in the VFX Industry

October 12, 2016

Today is my last day in the visual effects industry.

It’s an industry that I’ve spent nine years of my life completely dedicated to, so it’s a bitter sweet kind of day. My love for animation and film began at 4 years old, when I saw the Lion King at the cinema with my dad. From that point on, having watched these cartoon animals with such believable human qualities, I knew I wanted to be involved with the magic and at the age of 18 finally enrolled onto my dream VFX course.

Growing up with good people around me I never really witnessed or experienced any kind of “special treatment”. Therefore my years in the industry have been a very interesting learning curve, socially as well as academically. From working with the most wonderful people in the world and being supported by amazing teams and supervisors, to being very obviously treated differently to my male counterparts.

Overall, I have really loved my job – it’s been fun, challenging and exciting all at the same time, especially when your shots start to come together! I can even deal with the long, unpaid hours and working weekends (not that it’s right, but that’s another story!)
However one thing I have struggled with over the past few years, is a select number of people who have made me feel very unwelcome as I’ve progressed in my role. There are several notable times that I will never forget, in which I have been patronised in front of supervisors, had my ideas brushed off bluntly in meetings, been excluded from lunches, had handshakes rejected (yep, seriously), and even had one interviewer completely avoid eye contact with me. This may seem like a bit of antisocial behaviour from a few individuals, but it always sticks with you when you realise that the behaviour is aimed towards only YOU, whilst surrounded by a team of guys.

Read the rest of this entry »

Veteran VFX Supe Ron Thornton Hospitalized

September 15, 2016


I came across a post on Facebook by one of Ron Thornton’s friends that the veteran VFX supervisor has been hospitalized. While I don’t have all the information a gofundme page has been set up to help pay for medical expenses. If you can please help support him and spread the word about donating.


Soldier On.

Will #Brexit Lead To A #VFXit?

June 23, 2016


Tonight a majority UK voters chose to leave the European Union which as of this writing is leading to a meltdown in financial markets and wild drops in foreign currencies agains the US dollar. There’s been a bit of chatter amongst many in VFX as to the ramifications for those who work in UK VFX facilities which is made up of many migrants from the EU.

In my view, while most experts agree that #Brexit is a great evil, it might be advantageous for the UK VFX industry. The UK along with the rest of the global VFX industry relies heavily on massive subsidies offered to Hollywood studios which send work to locations which offer the most amount of free money. While this blog has a negative view of subsidies, many in the UK look at subsidies for US studios as a necessary “deal with the devil” in order to win work for the UK and make it competitive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comcast Acquires DreamWorks Animation

May 1, 2016

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Are people still reading this thing? Well, It’s been a year since I’ve posted on this blog and after the end of the ADAPT effort I took a long hiatus. As disappointed as I was, the post-VFX life has been great. New opportunities, I got a home, and even fooled a wonderful woman to spend the rest of her life with me. Maybe I’ll write about it some time if you’re bored.

Anyways, I figured I’d come back if there was something interesting to write about and this week there was some big news:

DreamWorks Animation has been acquired by Comcast.

The Animation Guild’s Steve Hulett and Cartoon Brew’s Amid Amidi gave their thoughts on the situation.

In my view this is terrible news for DWA as we know it.

Everyone has always known that at some point DreamWorks would have to continue without Katzenberg but who would replace him and garner similar success? This was a CEO who heavily invested his time and belief in DWA products while also being a world player: He commanded the presence of Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Under JK, DreamWorks achieved what every VFX facility would consider the gold standard: A profitable stand-alone studio that owns intellectual property and produces high quality animated films with it’s own digital production unit. However what we’ve witnessed is that isn’t enough for Wall Street’s insatiable appetite for monster profits.

For a short time, it seemed everything was going to be okay with Hasbro potentially buying DWA but instead Comcast, which already has an animation division with Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment, has agreed to purchase DWA for $4 billion. This is a huge success for Katzenberg and he deserves it. However for the employees at DWA it’s a vastly different story because Comcast will subscribe to Mellandri’s feature animation production model and not the production model of Katzenberg.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wikileaks Creates Searchable Database For Sony Leaks

April 16, 2015

From the press release:


Today, 16 April 2015, WikiLeaks publishes an analysis and search system for The Sony Archives: 30,287 documents from Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and 173,132 emails, to and from more than 2,200 SPE email addresses. SPE is a US subsidiary of the Japanese multinational technology and media corporation Sony, handling their film and TV production and distribution operations. It is a multi-billion dollar US business running many popular networks, TV shows and film franchises such as Spider-Man, Men in Black and Resident Evil.

In November 2014 the White House alleged that North Korea’s intelligence services had obtained and distributed a version of the archive in revenge for SPE’s pending release of The Interview, a film depicting a future overthrow of the North Korean government and the assassination of its leader, Kim Jong-un. Whilst some stories came out at the time, the original archives, which were not searchable, were removed before the public and journalists were able to do more than scratch the surface.

Now published in a fully searchable format The Sony Archives offer a rare insight into the inner workings of a large, secretive multinational corporation. The work publicly known from Sony is to produce entertainment; however, The Sony Archives show that behind the scenes this is an influential corporation, with ties to the White House (there are almost 100 US government email addresses in the archive), with an ability to impact laws and policies, and with connections to the US military-industrial complex.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said: “This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there.”

Soldier On.

Why The VES Should Recognize Scott Ross For VES Fellow

April 14, 2015

The other day I got an email from the VES asking members to suggest nominees for title of VES Fellow:

The Visual Effects Society is asking for your suggestions for nominees for title of VES Fellow, which is a member who has maintained an outstanding reputation and who has made exceptional achievements and sustained contributions to the art, science or business of visual effects, as well as enabling members’ careers and promoting community worldwide for a period of not less than ten (10) years within the last twenty (20) years.

Previous VES Fellows recipients include: Jonathan Erland (2010) Dennis Muren (2010) Doug Trumbull (2010) Ed Catmull (2012) Richard Edlund (2012) Ray Feeney (2012) Carl Rosendahl (2012) Mark Stetson (2012) Bill Taylor (2012) Phil Tippett (2012) Richard Winn Taylor II (2014)

VES Fellows nominations, must include (2) two letters of recommendation for each nominated person. Please have this information available when submitting for this award as it is required.


If you’re surprised to learn that I joined the VES, it was in the hopes of lobbying their members to support ADAPT. Since that effort has ceased I will probably not renew, as the organization is restricted to only doing charitable and educational work.

Before I deleted that VES email I looked at that list of fellows and thought: Why isn’t Scott Ross on that list? He helped build two of the biggest VFX companies as General Manager of ILM and CEO/Founder of Digital Domain. He employed thousands, gave many their start in the industry, and hired many of today’s superstars.

If you’ve been an avid reader of this blog you might be surprised to read that. When I started this blog in 2010 as an anonymous VFX professional, I wrote strongly about my disagreements with Scott and the VFX business. Over the years, we would have a lot of debates back and forth in the comments section of my blog. I would hear about others who had, sometimes illegitimate and sometimes legitimate disagreements and opinions about him.

However, as I got to know Scott personally over the last two years after revealing my identity, I had a chance to see a person who cared incredibly about the VFX industry and the people who work in it. If anyone deserves to be a VES Fellow, it’s Scott.

Here’s why I strongly believe that. We officially met in person over 2 years ago when I wanted to go forward with a legal effort on subsidies and help start the short-lived trade organization ADAPT. It was an immense effort that would require me and someone else to put our necks on the line publicly and do it without compensation.

I wasn’t sure if Scott Ross was up for this immense task. He was relatively better off than most of us in VFX and attained success as a former CEO. Why would he take that risk with me? What I quickly learned is that no matter how deep the disagreements we had in the past, Scott put that aside to stand with all of us in an incredible effort to try to fix a broken industry.

When the big day came to announce our effort and reveal my identity at a demonstration during President Obama’s speech at DreamWorks Animation, Scott joined us and marched with us for hours in the sun. Afterwards I could see that Scott was dehydrated and tired but his spirit was enthusiastic.

As we drove back home and exchanged thoughts about what went down that day, I thought to myself: What former VFX CEO would do what Scott did that day? What VFX person for that matter, would do what Scott did that day for us? It’s sad to realize this but in many cases there were professionals in our industry deeply affected by the issues who wouldn’t even bother to move a mouse to support change, but Scott Ross was willing to move mountains for so many of us.

This is the Scott Ross I came to know and the Scott Ross that should be nominated to become a VES Fellow. If you’re a VES member reading this I kindly ask you to click on the link above and nominate Scott Ross.

Soldier On.

Quebec Government Says Bon Voyage To Film Subsidies

March 23, 2015

I haven’t posted much on this blog but some recent news caught my eye:

Last week’s Godbout Commission report sent shivers up the spines of Quebec’s film and television production industry. The Quebec Taxation Review Committee, chaired by economist Luc Godbout, recommended phasing out the Quebec Production Services Tax Credit beginning in 2020.

If you’re a reader of this blog you shouldn’t be surprised by the news. Last year I posted how the Quebec’s austerity measures led to an immediate 20% cut to their film and games subsidies. At the time the government was paying up to 60% of resident VFX salaries.

This is pretty significant news as there are a number of European VFX facilities that have opened satellites there to stay competitive with subsidies offered in Vancouver. My guess is those facilities will have to open in BC and move their talent there. This is also the first time since my blog started that a major international location is planning a massive cut to their film subsidies. Ontario is also having serious conversations about the costs of these film subsidies.

Here in the US, many states have begun to curtail the use of film subsidies: Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Connecticut, Alaska, and Florida.

If you work in VFX, be always prepared to move to the next place offering the most amount of free money.

Soldier On.