Reactions: ‘Help Bring Back Lost VFX Work To The US’

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.

My Reaction

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.

Soldier On.

16 Responses to Reactions: ‘Help Bring Back Lost VFX Work To The US’

  1. Rob N says:

    I agree with you and many others. If you open a shop in Michigan, you should be able to be cheaper simply because the cost of living is cheaper, not because the government gives the production 42% back. That’s ridiculous. Canada is the same way. I have nothing against Canadian studios or anyone really. I have an issue with the governments funding these ventures simply because the governments are broke themselves. They should be taking care of their constituents immediate needs. If artists in Vancouver come up with great ways to do an effect so that it’s less expensive then that’s awesome and work should go there. It should not be simply because the government gives back 30-45% rebates. If California offered those same 40% rebates we’d hear a lot of complaining (and studio closures) from those abroad about the lack of work and how their living was directly affected by all this.
    If we’re on a level playing field, ingenuity and workflow will win out nearly every time. I remember being at DD and losing work to ILM simply because they had a better test or their initial cost was lower. Kudos. This is a different story. Hopefully it plays out well for all involved.
    Rob N.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      if you open a shop in Michigan…:

      Philippe Martinez, Maxsar’s CEO, admits those plans are only as solid as the state’s film tax incentives. Martinez said since his company depends on the film tax breaks, his studio might leave if the incentives go away.

      The studio claims it will be the first computer-generated film shot entirely in Michigan.

      • Rob N says:

        I know one of the people running that show and yeah they are only there because of the film subsidies. I know a few places taking advantage of that tax break specifically. It would be interesting to see what would happen if this all did level out. Very interesting. It won’t of course. Too much money is at stake for this to not be in place.

  2. T says:

    I agree with you guys. The cost of living here is lower than California and that is what should matter. Michigan took a big hit with the auto industry so they were trying anything they could to bring money here. But with the unemployment rate and current economy, I’m not sure that did anything to help the people that live here.

    I’ve yet to see or hear Michigan take away post work from California. The film incentive has been this way for years and the only thing that has happened has been films being shot in Michigan. No post work that I’m aware of.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens when studios like this open fully and start working. So far it looks like they are working on B rated movies with not a lot of money behind them.

  3. Xavier says:

    “I have an issue with the governments funding these ventures simply because the governments are broke themselves.”

    Some argue that subsidies still turn a “profit” for the government because the amount of the subsidy is less than the tax revenue generated by extra jobs.

    Also, Soldier, I’m curious to know if you think that California should sue other American states such as New Mexico, Michigan, Florida, etc…? Don’t they have subsidies too?

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Bogen, @ftwo. @ftwo said: Reactions: ‘Help Bring Back Lost VFX Work To The US’: There was quite a bit of noise generated from my post on i… […]

  5. annynomous says:

    Trade tariffs is what we need, the U.S. should be taxing companies more, yes more, for sending work abroad. Incentives should be taken from companies that outsource, and tax breaks only given to American companies that supply American jobs.
    It would also be nice if the countries currently stealing vfx jobs from the U.S. labor market focused on creating their own vfx industry independent of Hollywood. They wouldn’t need our jobs if they were supplying their own.

  6. Chris says:

    How many folks reading this have signed a rep card for their current studio?

    It takes under a minute to fill out, and then print out.

    Click to access RepresentationCard.pdf

    Without a rep card, the Union can’t do anything at YOUR particular facility. Once they start receiving rep cards, they can start organizing with YOUR help.

    Contact them!

    Mail the card to this address:

    The Animation Guild IATSE 839
    1105 N. Hollywood Way
    Burbank, CA 91505

    With enough cards, a shop can be organized, and YOU can have real benefits too.



  7. […] Canada, UK, and other locations. I’ve also written that US trade law experts question the legality of international subsidies for US […]

  8. […] facilities in California are being injured by international tax subsidies for US studio producers. Many trade law experts argue that those subsidies are a clear violation of WTO international trade l…. How would the VES rectify the issue when many of their members are facilities that depend on these […]

  9. […] Reactions: ‘Help Bring Back Lost #VFX Work To The US’ […]

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