Who Is VFX Soldier?

Well, something funny happened to me today.

Joe Harkins, who was irked about some of my posts, wrote a pretty controversial post titled “Who Is VFX Soldier?” in the hopes to make me “own up” to what I have written over the years. He subsequently revealed that in his spare time, he has been trying to track down my identity using some rather flimsy evidence to come to some wild conclusions as to who I am.

To my surprise, before I could respond a plethora of comments and tweets by various individuals were directed at Mr. Harkins in strong disagreement for attempting to out me. Soon he apologized for the post and took it down, along with his whole blog and twitter account.

First let me say I accept Mr. Harkins apology. I’m sorry if you were irked by my post but I strongly disagreed with what you were saying. After Joe took the post down, I tweeted to ask him to put the post back up because what he did was already out of the bag and eventually someone was going to re-post it elsewhere. He ask that I not put up what he wrote and that I not comment on the issue. While I will respect Mr Harkins wishes on not revealing his post, I have to comment on the issue to clarify a few things.

Why Am I Anonymous?

I started this blog with the idea of trying to unify vfx professionals and change the narrative. In order for it to be a catalyst for change I wanted something to motivate people. When I was in grade school we learned about the tomb of the unknown soldier. I couldn’t understand the notion at the time. Why was he/she unknown? Why didn’t someone deduce who he/she was?

The teacher explained to me that wasn’t the purpose of the tomb to the unknown soldier. It was in honor of the nameless, faceless group who had sacrificed their lives for the freedom of others. While our concerns come nowhere near what they were fighting for, I felt vfx professionals around the world were sacrificing so much for a film industry that did very little to recognize and or share the same amount of respect and success as they did with others.

My anonymity was an attempt to make this an egoless mission. It’s not perfect at times but my goal was to make people not focus on who I was or what I did but to focus on the message. I’m not scurred of who I am . I’m proud of what I’ve said on this blog and I “own up” to all of it. If Joe had outted me I would have continued the campaign. As I said before, I don’t ask you to trust me, just verify the information I have presented. If you feel it’s incorrect you are more than welcomed to comment and discuss.

With that being said, I feel the criticism directed at Mr. Harkins is totally valid. This was a tawdry underhanded tactic and while I was concerned about his announcement of trying to track me down, I was also concerned about the potential of others having private information tracked.

An Act Of Solidarity

You know what surprised me the most? It wasn’t what Joe did, it was the reaction. So many people even the ones that strongly disagreed with me unified to defend me. It humbled me. I’m incredibly grateful. Some would say this was a huge diversion from the larger issues we are trying to solve but I disagree. Consider what happened today:

A so-called divided group of vfx professionals united to protect an anonymous one in their ranks. If you were willing to do that for me, what about the person sitting next to you at work? What about the unknown fellow in your industry working an ocean away? What unites us is far greater than what divides us.

This funny incident led to an act of solidarity. We are marching towards progress. We are all VFX Soldiers.

Soldier On.


33 Responses to Who Is VFX Soldier?

  1. jona says:

    I am sorry to see so much contention among the troops.. I’ve been watching this discussion for a few months now, trying to separate the doers from the talkers. One thing about Joe, he’s actually doing something. Starting from somewhere. I think he’s prepared for the back and forth, including your comments. He seems like a level headed guy. I am sure lots of people would like to know who you are. You don’t mince words.. I think that is essential to this drive. But people have to be able to take it if they’re going to stick their necks out.

    Again, overcoming interpretations of text posted in blogs requires patience.. I hope everyone can agree to disagree while pursuing the bigger goals. I think it is healthy.

    • skaplan839 says:

      While I have to disagree with a lot of your assessment of Joe, I can say having met the man, I find he acts from a place of true desire to see positive change. I regularly question his methods and tactics, and todays post was no exception.

      I also lament his “going dark” for this reason. As much as I disliked his methods, I feel he was able to reach a different sect of the group. One sect that hadn’t listened before and was becoming active.

      I hope he finds the impetus to return to the discussion.

      Steve Kaplan
      The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE

      • jona says:

        I am certainly not defending Joe.. just giving him the benefit of the doubt. Everyone knows him better than I do. I have only been following this subject for a short time. He did apologize and take it down.

        I am surprised by some of the discourse on this subject. The thin skins of some folks who, by their list of accomplishments, should be able to take some heat. That is why I hope the leadership positions aren’t solidified until someone who can really take the heat and not shut down or move away from discussions they have started because of standard, predictable internet noise, rants, disagreements etc.. If you really believe what you are saying you need to stick to it while being flexible enough to modify your stand on issues. THAT is a leader.

  2. Ciaran says:

    I was going to post a comment on Joe’s blog but it was gone by the time I got to reading my rss, but has it already come to this?

    You have your reasons for remaining anonymous and I respect that. Joe should too, but his opinions were also valued and it’s a shame he’s gone offline because of this.

  3. jez says:

    It’s all come to this? Reminds me of the pandora’s vox essay written in ’94 about the internet:


    Ho hum, lets hope things calm down again. If not there’s always “Mr Ballscock” to speak a word of sense.

  4. daland4vfx says:


    I have sometimes disagreed with some of your points of view, but you have always allowed a discussion and I appreciate the extraordinary amount of time and effort you devote outside of the extraordinary effort it takes just to work in the craft. You have been a fair minded and thoughtful voice for the many many exhausted vfx professionals trying to earn a living.

    -david burton

  5. andreas jablonka says:

    I feel the anonymity sure acts as counter ego. Info wonder where you come from so to speak, are you a client side supe or more likely a Vfx artist? I think people wonder to better judge you or better trust you.

    Joe is a hot head with a good heart. He put out the petition and people gave him flag for it. Then he changed the wording and message. People bitched again. I see that through him and vfxfoundation a lot has happened. Talks, petitions, forum threads to save the industry.
    I see joe as a catalyst with a name. He’s the crazy millionaire eccentric, but he gets stuff rolling and they we do need!

  6. hfaeuilheauila says:

    His post ended up in my RSS feeds before he deleted it. It was pretty damn creepy, to be charitable, and I’m glad it’s gone. I also think he’s incorrect. But I think anonymity is very important. Anyone else remember the VFX lawyer blog? It was so great, a real loss.

    I would love LOVE to speak my mind in the open, but I have a family to think of. It’s not being a coward, it’s playing a long-term strategy.

    P.s. every time you lament a lack of labor unions, just try to remember that real blood’s been spilled on both sides for a couple hundred years. Change is seldom easy and never painless.

  7. Billyshakes1492 says:

    Lets stop the finger pointing… and in fighting …we really need to start the revolution going… 2012 is our vfx spring…

    If we are to march on ROME, we need to have one voice and focus….we more Hannibal, Spartacus leadership types…so right now too many soldiers and not enough generals in cause….

    VFX Soldier is like the main character in V for Vendetta….

  8. Billyshakes1492 says:


    Would you support a town hall meeting to educate everyone, to get everyone on the same page as to what is happening and what needs to happen?

    We are never going to get to ROME if the vfx membership is scatter all about with different agenda… 2012 VFX Spring.. Let the revolution begin

  9. Billyshakes1492 says:


    Do you think that it is happening too slowly? Not enough generals to lead the march to ROME.

    No sense of directions.

    2012 VFX Spring.
    Let the revolution begin….

  10. yasper says:

    Is it just me, or has the petition not gained signatures at all since Harkins’ online departure?

    • andreas jablonka says:

      It’s Ben going from 1500 to 1600 but slowed down.maybe we reached the saturation of Vfx artist reading these blogs.
      Maybe people never share the partition! Your allowed 10 shares a day. Go do
      It, post it on fb every day and share it so people get it.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      One could speculate but the numbers were tapering off well before mr harkin’s departure.

  11. Billyshakes1492 says:

    No one is fanning the fire for the petition.. this movement lacks leadership.. we will never get to ROME …

  12. John Rouse says:

    Can somebody archive Occlude blog from Google cache before it gets buried? I never anticipate a really good blog to get nuked by its author. I’ll put it in a little folder where I keep VFX Law. A shame.

  13. billyshakes1492 says:

    The numbers taper off cause people got bored.. cause there is no heart to this movement..No leadership..

    We all get eaten up by the Lions in Rome..

    • jona says:

      Well.. VFX soldier is anonymous. Kind of like a VFX”Sniper” instead. Joe Harkins has gone dark. Scott Ross started a thread on linked in asking everyone to help. Then pretty much said nothing can be done and we’re all whiners without 3.3 million dollars. I’m thinkin he’s a poor excuse for a leader and I hope this doesn’t end up in his hands, actually.

      Other than that there are union people who have made their suggestions.

      But you’re right.

      This is going nowhere. 3 months ago when I started looking into this I had no idea who the major players were.. turns out.. there aren’t any.

      Actually.. trying to do this online is turning out to be a waste of time because of the lack of leadership.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        What exactly was the trade organization going to do? What policies were they for?

      • jona says:

        The boiler plate response to that question was

        Hire a shitload of lawyers
        Rent offices
        Convince facilities to join..

        Which led me to wonder why everyone was invited to join the thread only to be told they where whiners.

      • Scott Ross says:

        No, I didn’t Jona …. I said that the “movement” needed capital to be effective. I estimated that to be about $3MM…. I did however get frustrated by the oft times lack of motivation by the workers, the owners, the studios and the director/producers. On the LinkedIn thread, there were only a handful of participants…. this issue has been haunting our Industry for years….APATHY TO DO ANYTHING except complain.
        And… I never said anything about a shit load of anything let alone lawyers.

        To quote Mr. Zevon… “send lawyers, guns and money.” The movement ( which is stagnant at best) needs resources…and yes legal advice, and lobbying efforts, and educational materials and to set standards and … yes, leadership.

  14. billyshakes1492 says:

    What happen to the petition from Joe? What happen to the thread on Linkedin?

    No leadership. No movement.
    No money. No movement.
    No education about the cause. No movement.

    We need VFX Soldier to lead our movement.

    We need a town hall meeting to get a movement started.

  15. […] Former Digital Domain founder and ILM General Manager Scott Ross recently commented with a statement I can’t help but agree with: I did however get frustrated by the oft times lack of motivation by the workers, the owners, the studios and the director/producers. On the LinkedIn thread, there were only a handful of participants…. this issue has been haunting our Industry for years….APATHY TO DO ANYTHING except complain. […]

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