A VFX artist in India emailed me this post he wrote that he allowed me to post here. It’s a bit long but an incredibly worthy read:
First off, I am writing this post not because I want to bitch about anything or because I believe I can effect a change…..I don’t (Far brighter men/women than I have tried and failed at that). I am writing this for the future VFX artist who is considering entering the industry (especially in India, since I cannot speak for other countries). So that you can make an informed decision. A footnote somewhere out in cyberspace where hopefully they stumble onto it and gain some knowledge into what is going on.
I am a relatively new user here, I am also a VFX artist currently working as a freelancer in India, before this I worked for some of the bigger studios in the country mostly as a VFX/Lighting Artist without naming names. On the forums when I browse through certain topics I inevitably see the topic of discussion shift to how work from US/UK/Canada etc is/was/will-be outsourced to India/China/Phillipines etc. A lot has been said on this, some bad & some not-so-bad but this has led to a general discomfort for some users in relation to people from these countries.
Also the perception that VFX shops in India are more “sweatshops” than actual production houses. While I cannot object to that conception (Its entirely true…..although that is changing), I feel no-one ever clarified the situation from a local point of view. As a VFX Artist working in the Indian industry, I can tell you that not everything is fine here. The work comes here because of the grossly undervalued bids placed upon them or the cheap labor available, the obvious result is that VFX artists in India are suffering the same fate as their western counterparts. This is mainly true in case of salary/compensation for services rendered. Don’t even get me started on the work environments.
There is a disturbing trend in India for the past couple years in India (Especially since around November 2008, around when the recession hit) where VFX artists are forced to work for “experience” or “goodwill i.e we’ll keep you in mind” in “apprentice” or “training” positions. These apprenticeships usually last for a period ranging between 3-9 months and are generally unpaid. Some companies at the end of the term of these apprenticeships cut loose the interns stating reasons of “insufficient quality” or the more popular “We just don’t have any projects going on right now….We’ll call you”. OR They might consider extending your training to an extra three months or more, if you choose to remain unpaid for the duration. Whats more, is that you will have to repeat the whole process when you join another studio, because experience certificates and references are non-existent here (unless the studio exec is your close personal friend/relation). It appears that cheap labor isn’t good enough, now the labor is required to be free. Thats not to say that people are not selected to full-time or continual work, its just that is very rare. The end result being that the companies, get an almost inexhaustible pool of FREE Labor, allowing them to turn essentially a profit without Cost of production overhead in terms of labor. How is it inexhaustible you ask…….for the following reason;
(How’s that saying go again….”The rich get richer….” or something like that)
Animation/VFX Schools are churning out more students at the speed of light (literally…think…..Blink and another batch of students have completed their course) promising them futures in Award-winning films and telling them the industry is “booming” with tens of thousands of available job opportunities. Suffice to say, the training offered by the majority of these institutions do not exceed even a beginner’s level (You could literally study the tutorials available on the internet and be 10x more qualified to a production job). Also, just to clarify beyond a shadow of a doubt…..there are thousands of jobs “available” but if you can find one that pays you fairly, consider yourself one of the lucky few. A brief side-note for ones who studied 3D/VFX on an educational loan, you have to begin repaying the loan from the date of joining a job whether it is paid or not meaning, if you don’t come from a family of means…….you’re in trouble. (<—just a personal experience observation)
What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing…..to an industry BUT to a flesh and blood individual with a family & responsibilities it means a lot. Especially, since it’s more than likely you’re going to take a loan out to study the outrageous basic courses on offer. The industry maybe booming but the true professionals within it are slowly wearing thin, not because there is a lack of talent -though that maybe a common presumption-, but because people with the talent and the dedication and the passion (and all those other big words) are being phazed out….why? because the dumber the industry stays, the more free labor the companies get. And let’s face it, it’s not like they require a solid 3D artist/Compositor to get the job done, all they need is someone who can click effectively (I’m talking about roto here not 3D).
There are people in India, human beings not machines, human beings with dreams and aspirations just like individuals from all over the world. Human beings some of whom really do want to make a better industry, and human beings who will never get a chance to do so. And in my honest opinion, human beings who would be better off pursuing some other worthwhile profession…….atleast until the spoilt whiny infant that is the current Indian VFX industry grows up into a responsible adult (That could take forever sadly…..or may never happen).
I just want to say that I am not a pro/veteran or anything like that. I am just a kid from a small town who had to hold down three jobs and work for peanuts (sadly, I still do) who unfortunately had the wise idea of becoming an effects artist……and now is bitching about it.
When I look at the people from an industry I don’t see an American VFX Artist or Indian VFX Artist or Canadian etc etc., I see a fellow Artist…..Someone who I might be able to learn something from or someone who I can teach something. And for the record, as an Indian Professional working actively here I oppose the outsourcing of work from one country to another , I honestly believe that outsourcing has replaced money as the root of all evil. But hey, what do I know! I am just a kid after all.
If after reading all that you still feel you can make a difference in the industry, I have a very…very humble request, respect your work and ask for fair pay. If it’s a company that can’t afford to hire you for salary, it’s a company that shouldn’t be in business anyway. Just ask yourself one question, will any educational institution teach me for free? no? Then why should I be expected to work for free?
On a final note, I’d just like to state that I did not intend to hurt any sensitivities with the preceding wall of text. Its an opinion for what it’s worth, nothing more/nothing less.
There are exceptions to every rule, and there most certainly are many valid studios/opportunities in India as well as valid Educational institutions that have recently been established, what is stated here is more or less a majority situation not an all-encompassing epilogue of a country’s state of affairs in 3D/VFX.
Oh and uh………Let the flaming begin!
What generated this post was my article on something that happened at a VFXTalk forum. What angered me was unsuspecting VFX artists in India and China being taken advantage of by a predatory businessperson. Those VFX professionals who tried to warn those new artists of the practice were censored and banned.
My blog was started to help protect artists worldwide of abuses by predators in the industry. Whether it be Warner Bros. trying to shake the New Zealand government for more cash, or some vfx school luring unsuspecting kids into a mountain of debt. As you can read from the post above, we all go through much of the same issues: unfair practices, unpaid labor, predatory vfx schools.
I may not be able to help VFX artists in India and I know many bring up the fact that creating an international union would be impossible. However, if a VFX union is formed here in the US, I would strongly advocate it help streamline the visa process of international artists who get hired at a union shop.