There was quite a bit of noise generated from my post on international subsidies. I thought I’d bring together snippets of quotes from my blog and elsewhere that will help readers get a range of opinions from facility owners and artists.
Reactions From Facility Managers & Owners
Former ILM manager and Digital Domain founder Scott Ross comments:
I implore you to focus on the root cause, VFX studios are drowning… there are NO margins and NO room for errors.
Yes, there are issues with subsidies and non portable benefits and long work hours and the like. But, if the root issue was resolved, the other issues, while still challenging, would become much easier to address.
2nd generation VFX facility owner Gene Warren Jr. of Fantasy II Film Effects:
I have no problem stating that the Canadian subsidies, the ones that target foreign productions, mostly originating in the United States are illegal. The Canadian Parliament, in 1998 passed legislation that was specifically designed to transfer (steal) jobs from the United States. International trade agreements that the U.S. and Canada are both signatories too, prohibit one country harming another with unfair trade practices.
Framestore CFC owner William Sargent was quoted in Variety back in August (Double Negative VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin also had the same sentiments on cgtalk, quote was removed):
We operate (apart) from government,” he says. “We have relationships with studios themselves. It’s simply business as usual for us.
A commenter who claims to be one of the owners of Hydraulx commented a few months ago:
If you want to improve your pay, fight the illegal subsidies that other states and countries are offering the studios to take our jobs from us. It is THE issue facing the industry. Tax incentives are an evil, illegal Practice that we must stop.
A VFX Supervisor in California emails:
I agree with you that subsidies hurt – the people benefiting from the subsidies probably don’t want them to go away though – why would they? The “fair” argument doesn’t work too well with people on the benefit side of the “unfair”
A VFX facility manager emails:
Your point about the trade complaint is right on the spot. I think all of us in the industry, companies and artists alike, should be filing complaints. I’m willing to try almost anything to get us an even playing field. I think that’s all any of us are asking.
Reactions From Readers
Reader Andreas comments:
lets assume all subsidies are declare illegal. will the big studios like that they have to pay big money in California again? they will find a way to drive down costs again and the “wrath” so to speak will be on us.
Reader D comments:
You’re a freaking hero. I’m a working TD right now planning a family of my own and facing the prospect of not knowing what continent I’ll be living on in 6 months.
Reader N comments:
A couple million a year for vfx firms is far below the radar compared to the hundreds of billions going into subsidizing farming, manufacturing and forestry in the US/Canada and their trading partners.
Reader Susan comments:
You need to focus on easing immigration in the US too.
It’s all well and nice that you want to bring back the work, but the fact is, at the moment we can’t hire enough good people to work in the industries everywhere else.
Reader turncoat comments:
You’ve just lost the support of most, if not all of the VFX artists in Vancouver who previously were looking up to your work and your blog.
Reader Lived It comments:
I’m currently working at a major LA VFX house, and the owner has openly talked about opening a satellite studio in Vancouver because the subsidies are so huge, and because they are losing projects to London and Canada and Singapore because of those subsidies. As he pointed out, the workforce is no cheaper in those places, and the exchange rates are no longer the issue – it’s the subsidies.
Reader maple leaf eff comments:
At the moment I have no problem working in another country, but I definitely don’t want to be moving around every 6 months when I have a family. Whats happening in California could also happen in Vancouver in a few years.
I agree with Scott Ross that most of these problems stem from the fact that VFX facilities subscribe to a bad business model. They need to form a trade organization to standardize how they bid for projects and how they get paid. However if the reaction is lukewarm for Scott Ross then who else are they going to listen to? This is why the labor unionization movement is growing. We relied on the facilities to solve the problems and some have just exacerbated the issue.
I knew the title of the article was going to make people think I was xenophobic or nationalistic. However, it’s a fact that jobs in California have been moved out to other states and countries to win a government subsidy. While I have railed against state subsidies, the WTO only regulates international trade.
For my readers who felt betrayed over this issue let me quote someone who I never thought I’d quote, Ronald Reagan:
The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.