The LA Times reports that as US studios depend more on foreign revenue, the more they lean on the spectacle that needs no translation: VFX.
The star now is the spectacle. Studios can spend more than $100 million just on the special effects necessary to make Spider-Man swing through New York in 3-D or Iron Man and the Hulk plow through an enemy army.
Of course for those of us that work in the industry this is nothing new. VFX has been the star for quite a while and don’t forget the immense amout of VFX work done on animated blockbusters. However as important as VFX is, the industry is still incredibly small for even the US.
Most of the VFX work is for the 6 US Studios based in California and they seem to be pretty honest on how bad they need it. Dreamwork’s live-action studio received funding from Reliance on the condition they create more VFX spectacles and less oscar-nominated dramas. And one Disney executive says the story can take a backseat:
“People say ‘It’s all about the story,'” Hendrickson said. “When you’re making tentpole films, bullshit.” Hendrickson showed a chart of the top 12 all-time domestic grossers, and noted every one is a spectacle film. Of his own studio’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which is on the list, he said: “The story isn’t very good, but visual spectacle brought people in droves. And Johnny Depp didn’t hurt.”
What’s amazing is how such an incredible opportunity has been squandered by those of us in the VFX industry from the facility owners to the rest of the working professionals. Most facilities are basically paying to do the work as they underbid each other and some are at risk of not finishing projects at all, leading to bad quality.
I can’t help but be reminded of Variety’s David S. Cohen’s article which came out almost 5 years ago this month which focused on the dangerous squeeze the studios put us through:
“If I don’t put a visual effects shop out of business (on my movie), I’m not doing my job.”