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:

https://www.gofundme.com/s5hw7-send-eric-to-dc

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:

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=USTR_FRDOC_0001-0413

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

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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.

Variety:

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.

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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.

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Veteran VFX Supe Ron Thornton Hospitalized

September 15, 2016

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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.

https://www.gofundme.com/2pbngrnc

Soldier On.


Will #Brexit Lead To A #VFXit?

June 23, 2016

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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.

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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.

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