Studios Depend More On VFX

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.”

Soldier On.

89 Responses to Studios Depend More On VFX

  1. Pssst says:

    Who’s putting who out of business?

    China to build $1.27bn Hollywood co-production film studio
    Chinawood, a new film-making centre outside Tianjin, will service co-productions between the US and China
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/may/01/china-hollywood-film-studio-chinawood

    The international film industry:Avatar 2: Made in China?
    http://www.economist.com/node/21553325?goback=%2Egde_39772_member_111580382

  2. David Rand says:

    Have faith in your talent. No one can take that away from you, they can just stand in awe of it. Only you hold that card. Together we could hold all the cards.

    Maybe you are staring at that card now and wondering what to do, thinking about not signing it, or doing nothing, and maybe even surrendering, or changing careers. Your hearing all kinds of fearful arguments about outsourcing and globalization.

    Unions don’t want to stop globalization. Don’t confuse that with the war cry of the studios that are among the most highly leveraged and organized corporations on the planet.

    “Well, we’ll just have to outsource more!”

    That is there only answer to your wanting to become a better business person? That is their best shot? They are willing to risk giving away their leverage and their secrets to foreign powers as a threat to stop you from getting wiser? To many of us that’s as transparent as a green screen and surely shows are value. We are their “precious” they are not ours.

    VFX’s reach can exceed it’s grasp. Maybe you are not being abused because you work for a reputable facility but plenty are and so is your facility. It is spreading as you watch it happen and read about it in the paper or on blogs like it’s fiction, but it’s not. Yes we need a trade union also among the shops to tell the studios how much money everyone is losing by enforcing the broken bidding business model the keeps efficiency and the director away from the real set, the vfx set. However there is no reason to wait for that. Better business can start with you.

    Instead of entertaining fear think of possibilities. Think about the possibility of SAG merging with the VFX Guild….but first there has to be a stronger VFX guild, and that can start by your empowering of that card.

    Imagine 500 new movies to choose from on any given weeknight distributed through the internet onto your viewing wall at home.

    There is no reason why a guild can’t be international just as there was no reason why work done in multiple countries could not be distributed globally. Difficult and complicated yes, impossible….NO! However, you and your family will certainly have zero influence on your own, you can not go global on your own, you can just watch the organized do it from your obstructed balcony seat.

    Expect plenty of professional anonymous posters paid to instill fear as union busters. They are already here and growing, but their arguments will be vague and weak.

    Remember you hold one card of many but together we hold them all. Have faith in your talent, be proud of it, you are not putting bumpers on Chevy’s in Detroit, your are an artist, a very rare and valuable asset… without it the studios have nothing, except organization….and you can certianly have that to. Wisdom is far better than fear. Organization is just smart business. Just because you’re talented and passionate does not imply you should lack wisdom and a strong business sense.

    • very well put Dave, I applaud you!
      My card is signed.

    • Craig says:

      A global union? Ha. Good luck with that.

      You think young, talented, ambitious VFX artists are going to want to join your union so that the jobs stay in the USA?

      And I’m not sure your advice to everyone here about testing on your laurels is smart.

      I know you think highly of yourself, but other people in the world have brains and talent and passion, too. All they need is a mature industry and veterans that have been around a while and their work will rival ours for the money. VFX in India was pretty bad to start, but it is getting better all the time.

      A union might be a good idea, but thinking it will guarantee anybody in the USA who is passionate about VFX a job is ridiculous.

      • It has to be a global union otherwise the whole idea of uniting to better everybody working conditions wont work. If the US stands up alone, the EU and international market will get more work. No india will not get more work, briefly maybe, but realistically if all the work could be done to the determined western standarts it would all be done there already. the quality is not there yet. this is not a reflection of skill on the indian artist side, its a matter of different mindset and way of producing things.

      • Dave Rand says:

        You’ve completely missed all the points and I never said or implied this. It’s just a tired old anti union argument:

        “And I’m not sure your advice to everyone here about resting on your laurels is smart.”

        I’d like to say your one of those professional union busters but that would be a stretch of the imagination for sure.

        By the way.
        Guess what the “I” in IATSE and IBEW already stands for.

      • Craig says:

        @ Dave Rand
        Really? You are going to get all sarcastic on me and say “guess what the ‘I’ in IATSE and IBEW stands for?

        So tell me, Dave. How many countries are represented in the IATSE? Can you just list the first fifteen or so countries with the most members here so we can get a decent idea of how international that union is? Thanks!

        Just because somebody calls you out for wishful thinking, does not mean that they are anti-union or a “union buster”. That’s kinda childish.

        Look. You need to face reality. Stop assuming that Americans are the only people in the world that are talented enough to produce visual effects. For a long time, that was true. Actually, for a long time it was true that ILM was the only place to get the best VFX, but others caught up.

        Are you really saying that people of other nations and ethnicities are not capable of doing work as high quality as us in the west? Are you really saying that it is not because they have young industries that they are lagging, but that they are just inherently worse?

        Wow. That’s really something.

      • jonavark says:

        @craig..

        I tend to side more with Craig’s sentiments than anyone who says there are no adverse effects from unionizing. That is simply not true at all.

        In many ways VFX workers are in fact putting bumpers on cars and making less money than people who work for GM. A great deal of VFX work is drudgery. Thanks to tech advances.. but in fact it really has been drudgery since day 1. (ever use a downshooter for weeks on end? )

        A true golbal union is impossible at the moment. Just won’t happen.

      • Craig says:

        @Andreas
        You are right. It needs to be a global union or it will backfire. Well actually, I don’t 100% agree with that. Despite Dave Rand’s tossing out terms like “union-buster” simply because I doubt the likelihood of a global union, I’m not necessarily against a union per-se. It’s just that forming a union doesn’t magically fix all things.

        Actors unions (and most other movie unions) have an inherent leverage in that they cannot be physically outsourced to other countries. VFX is different (unfortunately for us).

        It would be nice to “have faith in your talent”, but what is the point of not being realistic. How many actors that “have faith in their talent” are waiting tables in Hollywood? Sure, lots of us are really, really good at what we do and there will always be premium work around LA for the very top talent.

        Hey, would you say that to rising Indian and Chinese artists, too? Sure, their institutional knowledge and infrastructure is more like our was years ago, but wouldn’t you tell them to have faith in their talent?

        Presuming you will always be better than other people in the world just because you were inside the elite bubble for a time is the height of conceit.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        @Craig thanks for your post, this one made much more sense and showed thought!
        I don’t think that being part of some elte makes you better or anything. It’s getting into this tier that set you apart in the first place. And you can be as pro as you want, work is being driven away from LA. I’m currently working in Vancouver because the same job was outsourced from LA to here. So I’m feeling the impact right now.

        As an artist who has worked at r&h and spi I can attest for the quality that CAN come out of Indian offices BUT the communication hurdles and lack of understanding what’s needed for a shot will keep these industries back. It’s elite thinking or arrogance, 1/3 of all work has to be send back to them or fixed ( be that in LA, London or Vancouver) because they misunderstood the ask. Let me be clear, me personally, I don’t find the quality output is bad. It’s how fen I have to kick something back before they understand what we need that bothers me. Of course that can be personal experience but I want to say I heard similar stories from other companies and artists.

        Indian company’s train their artist off the streets in nuke or whatever for a couple weeks, they are not trained in thinking for themselves. They are not trained in what shots need or how production works. Unless hat changes (and it does slowly) I’m not afraid of the utsourcing argument.

        I agree that an actors face is harder to outsource (unless you take torn legacy..ahem) but I don’t think it’s so different. While a us actor is a box office draw so is fighting robots from ILM and if not ILM is doing them but some dingy shop in Mumbai we end up with soutpark style anim or at best RA ONE, which by itself was a massive step forward but would still be laughed at in western cinemas. It’s not Transformers. we have talent and need to leverage it. Have marvel do iron man 3 in china and let’s see what it looks like. Can’t wait!

      • Craig says:

        @ Andreas

        I totally agree that outsourced work to India is often crap. I worked at of those studios you’ve mentioned for a very long time. The main reason the work is crap is because those Indian studios lose talented artists all the time. The artists get better at what they do and ditch the SPI subsidiary for a better offer once they build up their resume. This is fantastic for those artists and the way it should be. However, assuming that India’s capabilities will always consists of artists pulled off the street is dangerous. India is growing an industry. It is hectic right now, but eventually, there will be powerhouses there that don’t need the help of US companies to get shots done. They will be innovating and producing stellar work. It’s only a matter of time.

        Same with China. I’ve been to a VFX shop in China. They use cracked software and have multiple shifts of workers (all very young). But that is now. Lemme tell you, those kids are eager to learn and be the best. After a couple decades, it won’t be the wild west that it is today and we will be in awe at what China can do.

        You all can keep telling yourselves that India and China (or any other non-western country) will always produce inferior work, but you’d be wrong.

        Again, people at ILM once thought nobody could rival their dominance in the industry. They were right for a while, but brilliant and talented people exist all over the world.

      • jonavark says:

        “Presuming you will always be better than other people in the world just because you were inside the elite bubble for a time is the height of conceit.”

        I have had that exact same discussion with egomaniacs in other forums. It’s hard to convince someone living in the clouds that they may be wrong.. even in light of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Excessive arrogance..

        That is also the case for those who are convinced that US VFX, California and Hollywood are essential to anything at all. It’s just inertia from decades of a lock on the industry but it’s not real.

        Large VFX software companies are training people all around the world. Many of these people already do the FX for many US feature films. And soon more of them will. Their work is just fine and some of it is better than average.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        @Craig

        I find your belief in the Chinese and Indian Vfx world interesting. If time is all that matters how come you seem to assume the west will be at a standstill while India and china take their 5-10 years to get our current level? By that logic we would be as much ahead as we are then? I personally don’t think we will make as much a jump as they will Inagree with you there.
        But seeing how little the industry has changed in the last 10 years to now I am now frightene day it. I have not seen a single shop without a western supervisor produce anything they would show in theatres here. Is it possible? Sure but is it likely? Idk. The studios would use it India and china in a heartbeat if they could. They don’t much.

        Also what about security! With the studios being so angsty about who sees their films and what leaks where they will not give avengers 2 to the same shop that uses a cracked version of maya anytime soon. And for once that’s a good thing. Again level playing field. If they have subsidies it’s unfair, if they don’t pay for their software it’s unfair. If they mistreat their employees it’s unfair.

      • Craig says:

        @Andreas

        You have good points. I’m not claiming that the world will equalize. Outsourcing to other countries will never be exactly the same as producing in the US. However, India or China don’t have to completely catch up with us to be a threat. They just have to get close enough where they can do great work at a competitive price.

        I have no doubt that the west will continue to be on the cutting edge of technology. That’s our saving grace. But I’m just saying that other countries can catch up at least enough to produce acceptable work for films like “Smurfs” or Alvin and the chipmunks. Don’t forget that technology gets better, as well. Using modern global illumination lighting models greatly reduces the need for armies of lighters, but also allows Indian artists to generate better looking images.

        There is no reason India can’t be doing the FX for the Smurfs movies or the Chipmunks movies in the near future.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Allow me to retort

        Your quote:
        “@ Dave Rand
        Really? You are going to get all sarcastic on me and say “guess what the ‘I’ in IATSE and IBEW stands for?

        So tell me, Dave. How many countries are represented in the IATSE? Can you just list the first fifteen or so countries with the most members here so we can get a decent idea of how international that union is? Thanks!”

        My response
        ****Missed the point there I simply restated it’s impossible

        “Just because somebody calls you out for wishful thinking, does not mean that they are anti-union or a “union buster”. That’s kinda childish.”

        ****Never said your were a union buster

        “And I’m not sure your advice to everyone here about resting on your laurels is smart.” j

        ****Never said or implied that

        “Look. You need to face reality. Stop assuming that Americans are the only people in the world that are talented enough to produce visual effects. For a long time, that was true. Actually, for a long time it was true that ILM was the only place to get the best VFX, but others caught up.”

        ****Never said or implied that at all

        “Are you really saying that people of other nations and ethnicities are not capable of doing work as high quality as us in the west? Are you really saying that it is not because they have young industries that they are lagging, but that they are just inherently worse?”

        *****Never said this or implied this ether

        In summary

        Now look putting words in my mouth is not an argument or a rebuttal. Basically everything you accused me of stating was false.

      • Dave Rand says:

        meant to say “not impossible”

      • Dave Rand says:

        I encourage the readers of this thread to go back an read my post. One thing I won’t stand for is anonymous posters hacking my statements and reassembling them to suit some angry impulse.

        I’ve worked with great talent from all over the world and respect all artists in every country. Those who read my posts regularly know this.

        My post’s main thrust was about becoming a better business person as well as an artist. I did NOT state any of thing “Craig” accused me of. Take some damn reading lessons pal..

      • Dignan says:

        So glad u made that post Dave. I usually don’t comment but wanted to applaud you for all your efforts on our behalf. People like Craig obviously don’t know you and how you fraught to get so many paid and treated right. Especially foreigners. I’m one of the Canadian artists you worked so hard for in recovering the close to one million bucks for. I worked with you recently and found you were the only artist constantly praising work out sourced to India and actually writing the artists personally. Your right, don’t let those who won’t take the time to even read properly try and change your message.

      • CompBrat says:

        I’m just reading this blog and can’t believe this attempt to butcher such a fine message Dave… Btw the …stretch of the imagination … brilliant. Flew right over to… Keep the faith I surely will and I don’t put bumpers on cars neither, if that is how you treat your work please do us all a favor and quit.

      • Anon says:

        I would certainly like to be a better artist I would certainly like to be a better business person. Dave, I just read some of the articles on your website. You’ve been speaking on all our behalfs and using your real name since 2007 when it was decided that the artists should take the fall for an 8 billion dollar corporation that got their might from being ……guess what people…. ORGANIZED. Thankyou for that.

      • Craig says:

        @Dave Rand

        OK, Dave. You are being pretty darn slippery. I know your responses are “I never said or implied that”, but you are splitting hairs. Nice try.

        So, you mentioned the IATSE in a sarcastic way to be condescending toward me and to prove a point. The point you later clarify as being to show that “it’s not impossible” to form an international union. Well, sure. It’s also technically not impossible that all VFX artists will start to wear suit and ties to work each day. Obviously I wasn’t going after the technical feasibility, but rather the real world likelihood of what you suggested.

        I asked you to list the top member countries for a reason. You didn’t for a reason. That reason is that the member countries are only the US and Canada. That’s about a world-wide as the World Series in baseball. The funny thing is that you feel this is proof that an global union is possible. I think it proves just the opposite. You might have a shred of credibility if at least the UK was a member. Look, a global union is a pipe dream. The reason is because it would not be in the best interest of most other countries. Other countries want the work and they want to compete with us to get it. Unions prevent competition and block out those not in the inner circle.

        I’m convinced you are a nice guy, but unless you can effectively argue how something as outrageous as an international union (not just us and Canada) could possibly form, you aren’t going to get a free pass with such notions.

        Also, you have nice sounding sentiments, but I don’t think they help. Thinking everyone will just “stand in awe” of our talents is arrogant and foolish. People should have confidence in their talent, but we all joined an industry that is cutting edge and evolving. So, what about those rock star nurbs modelers who expected people to stand in awe of their talents as productions moved to almost exclusively poly modeling and new tools such as z brush and mudbox started popping up?

        We work in a field that is competitive because it is glamorous and rewarding. People all around the world are learning VFX on their home computers and big universities alike. This is very little barrier to entry anymore.

        A local union might be a good idea, but it remains to be seen how that will work with respect to international competition.

      • Dignan says:

        Splitting Hairs????? Slippery ??? WTF you flat out owe this guy an apology for completely fabricating arguments he was never making. Show me where he stated Americans are somehow better…the nerve. Show me where he said other nations are not capable of dong quality work..not there at all either now is it CRAIG……his “I” in IATSE act was to demonstrate it’s not impossible as you said….not need to list your so called 15 countries to make that point.

        You’re the slippery one.

        Oh…. and BTW his comment that about union busting implied you were not smart enough to be one……

        Least you can do is man up an apologize.

        Or you can just keep looking like a fool to everyone that reads this post.

      • fizz says:

        The “I” in IATSE has about as much to do with global labor organization as the “World” in World Series does with international sport: not much.

      • Bella says:

        Great Point fizzz, except that’s not at all what Dave’s use of the “I” or IATSE was for. The point was it’s not impossible for a union to cross borders. So World Series is a clever comeback but for a strike for this his argument.

      • Anon says:

        Can’t anyone read any more? Skimming and presenting arguements by writing knee jerk reactions to words you don’t like to see or small phrases that pop out at you is not a valid argument.

      • Evelyn Wood says:

        Craig working his arguement http://bit.ly/JjHaKb

      • Rahul says:

        I am not sure about future of Indian VFX industry but you guys did overlooked at one fact that VFX industry in India is only a little over than decade old. And there was no special effects or optical fx industry to borrow old school wisdom either so the amount of progress they have made in these last 10 or 15 years is quite commendable. I think that’s something shouldn’t be pity at if not encouraged.

      • Ymir says:

        Rahul, the reason India’s effects industry is even as advanced as it is for roughly a decade is because they ‘bought’ it. Rather than develop their own industry, they’ve tried to hire anyone they could from the west to come over and teach them. Or in the case of Prime Focus, buy any existing facility they could. Just like in ‘Jurassic Park’, rather than learning from their own mistakes, they’ve tried to buy the experience of others not knowing whose shoulders they are standing on.

    • Pssst says:

      http://www.globalpost.com/passport/todays-views/100706/shifts-chinas-development
      China is just moving up the value chain, first they wooed the greedy entrepreneurs to build junk factories in exchange for access to markets now they are getting them to build IT factories

      • David Rand says:

        Outsourcing of production and the evolution of trade agreements, and who has a say them, is inevitable. . So is the expansion of audiences for the films we make ( a good thing ).
        As for that old IQ map that’s been debunked a long time ago as racists propaganda. There’s no evidence that one race is inherently more intelligent than another.

      • Pssst says:

        I just posted that IQ pic for fun.
        Inevitable? Sure, American corporations have lots of tricks to open up markets to their businesses…

        Reuters: Wal-Mart’s alleged bribes in Mexico hurt local economies says “Economic hit man”

      • CompBrat says:

        Here is a very direct question for everyone to dance around

        ….so our jobs are good enough for you to “steal” but our unions are not good enough for you to join ?

    • Dave Rand says:

      I encourage the readers of this thread to go back an read my post. One thing I won’t stand for is anonymous posters hacking my statements and reassembling them to suit some angry impulse.

      I’ve worked with great talent from all over the world and respect all artists in every country. Those who read my posts regularly know this.

      My post’s main thrust was about becoming a better business person as well as an artist. I did NOT state any of thing “Craig” accused me of. Take some damn reading lessons pal..

    • Dignan says:

      So glad u made that post Dave. I usually don’t comment but wanted to applaud you for all your efforts on our behalf. People like Craig obviously don’t know you and how you fraught to get so many paid and treated right. Especially foreigners. I’m one of the Canadian artists you worked so hard for in recovering the close to one million bucks for. I worked with you recently and found you were the only artist constantly praising work out sourced to India and actually writing the artists personally. Your right, don’t let those who won’t take the time to even read properly try and change your message.

      • Craig says:

        I’m not saying that Dave is not a good guy and I’m not questioning his good intentions. So, stop demonizing me for no reason. Dave citing the IATSE as proof that we can form a global union is just silly.

        I’m not attacking Dave as a person, I’m just challenging his broader notions that if you join a union, you are going to “hold all the cards”.

        This is obviously a very complex issue. We are not local coal miners. Forming a union is not as straight-forward when work can be shipped off elsewhere.

        I’m interested in what a union could do, but I’m wary of the potential side effects.

      • Bella says:

        you were “demonized” for completely changing his message into something it was not and I agree you owe him an apology.

        Making up the pretense that he thought Americans were better for starters was never said….and now you say he said IATSE was proof…never said that either…just said it was possible for a union to cross borders.

        Stop putting words in people’s mouth Craig.

      • Bella says:

        “Together we could hold all the cards.”
        I believe was the quote… could you please go back and read what was said Craig. Do it slowly so you comprehend it this time. Then apologize unless that is also to “complex and issue for you”

      • Craig says:

        I do owe Dave an apology, actually. He never said that Americans were the only people that could do VFX well. I think I must have got that from reading other comments and/or from Dave’s “have faith in your talent” and “you hold all the cards” schpeil. I inferred that he was suggesting that we do not have to fear work going overseas (if unions raise the cost back here) because of our superior talent in the west. Dave did not directly say this, so I am sorry for attributing that sentiment to him.

        However, Dave’s snarky comment to me about the “I” in IASTSE was clearly a swipe meant to show me up. So, what was the point? It was to demonstrate that an “international” union was “possible”. To show that a union can cross borders? OK, that’s fine. But I wasn’t arguing that it was technically impossible to do, I was arguing that a *true* international union would never happen.

        It is not impressive that the US and Canada are both members of the IASTSE. Our economies, culture, and politics are meshed together so much already (not to mention proximity).

        Here’s the deal, peeps:

        Dave Rand and others like him have it going on. As a VFX artists, you should definitely seek out ways to gain as much leverage as you can against the production studios. They have a lot of leverage right now because a lot of people want to do VFX. If VFX was not a job people were passionate about, then the studios would never be able to get away with what they do.

        I think the VFX houses are on the artists’ side. The VFX houses get pushed around by the studios. The VFX houses have very little leverage. If forming a union were such a good idea, why would the VFX houses not welcome it? The answer is because they fear it will put them out of business. It’s a weird situation. Unlike actors, screenwriters, etc. we do not work directly for a production. A production hires the middle man (VFX house) who in turn, employs us. Putting the screws to the VFX house does not necessarily put the screws to the studios.

        Sure, the unions can make deals with the studios that work stays in the US, but that will end up shutting out a lot of up and coming studios and protect the established big boys. A hugely talented studio in Poland, for example, may have an impossible time breaking into the industry because the union contracts say the work has to go to the big guys. If a studio on Poland can do top notch work at a lower price, you can sure as hell bet they want the opportunity to bid on the feature film job. This is partly the reason you will never have an international union.

        Yes, if VFX workers form a US/Canada union. It will work for a while for sure, but I’m not sure for how long.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Well craig thanks for the apology. I did not mean to offend you and sorry if that stung regarding the “I” . It was not my intent.

        No one is losing money in all those unionized credits because they don’t work on fixed bids. It’s enforced on VFX because we have no leverage, the artists don’t and the shops don’t. The shops have to compete with market socialization (subsidies) as well because they have no leverage. There’s a huge void. As the studios grew their main focus was the acquisition of leverage and control. Admirably they accomplished that goal and became highly organized controlling creation an distribution of content. If you want to enter a business relationship even indirectly with this group you have to have the business sense to have leverage of your own. No one “plays nice” here and no one cares about that shop in Poland unless they earn their respect. There’s already a massive imbalance in leverage. The big six even lining the pockets of foreign politicians to get tax money to pay for their massively profitable movies. One day there may be a level playing field but not as long as artists AND shops cower in fear, kneeling before Zod.
        Both of the unions have made it clear that their modern business model is well aware of the fragility of many shops and they have no intention of making that worse…no one wants that. Each contract is unique and there is zero history of them putting any VFX shop or studio out of business..quite the opposite is true actually.

        We need both a trade union and a artist union for starters…and never say never to how that could grow….those that employ you, the big six, certainly never did.

        .

    • fizz says:

      @bella – ok, but international bit in IATSE means bits of Canada, BC mainly. And that’s it. Can you give me an example of a film union that does more than that? US guild members shooting a US studio picture overseas don’t count as their agreements are made in the states.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Dga, sag. These unions all start nationally first then grow internationally.

      • fizz says:

        Are you sure about that? Having a bunch of non-US citizens living outside of the US in a union is not the same as it being a truly international body. Many UK Equity members are in SAG, but that’s because they want to work in the US. You don’t need to be in SAG to work on a production in Europe. Same goes for the DGA – European directors usually only join the DGA when they go for a Hollywood gig. UK non-SAG casts are not covered by the agreements that SAG has with the US studio, nor can SAG stop the US studio from using non-SAG talent.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Well let’s be clear, most people arguing that the union has to be global are against unions in the first place.

      • fizz says:

        No, they’re just pointing out that the assumption that the union has to be American in origin is just a bit… well, arrogant. But then would you accept a union that came out of Mumbai, or London or Wellington?

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        Yes if that union brings me the benefits I seek yes. Does it matter where I was created? Or what the exact name is? Let’s get it going Nd worry about the freaking logo color last ok? Seriously…

      • Dave Rand says:

        It’s been a fact for over 15 yrs the the most profitable films come from our efforts…from VFX. When you watch the credits roll our names are at the bottom of that totem pole and often just plane left out, why? …because pixels are expensive? ..no because we have no representation!.

        More disconcerting is that we actually fund their representation, and the pension and health care plans for all the names that appear ABOVE ours from the residual portions of the films that we supplied most of the profitability to.

        Think about that.

        Yet out of fear so many of us hesitate to become better at our own business, even mock those that rattle that cage, and all out of fear…even unwilling to stand behind real names while its being done.

        Some even change a message out of fear.

        I imagine at one point in some board room maybe when the producers started talking about global markets and even getting governments to PAY them to move the productions to foreign shores, at least one hand went up in disbelief stating that it was impossible ..even silly. I’m sure many hands went up actually..

        …good thing for them that those with some vision did not listen. …maybe there’s a clue there for us.

      • Dave Rand says:

        ….quick answer to a private email I just got asking me:

        “what about vfx soldier they are anonymous?”

        My answer :
        “You are VFX Soldier”

      • skaplan839 says:

        LOVE that!

      • fizz says:

        @VFXSoldier – that wasn’t what I was asking – my question is would *you specifically* accept the authority of a VFX union that originated from outside the USA? You can hardly expect the rest of the world to fall in line behind a US union if your answer is anything other than “yes”.

      • Dave Rand says:

        I’m not speaking for Steve but would like to comment if you don’t mind…..Not only would I love to see a VFX union originate outside the US but I would gladly join it if I was employed in that country. I really don’t see a downside to that event at all. I would also LOVE to see more high budget foreign vfx films especially from the countries that built their infrastructure on money from the good old USA and so far have added very little back after moving our jobs to their shores with market socialization. A practice we agreed not to implement. I know that pisses people who’s lively hood depends on those subsidies, but when they are gone their talent should be enough and their local film market should supply plenty of work just as their local union supplies proper representation.

      • fizz says:

        Still not answering my question: you propose an *international* VFX union – one that crosses national borders – but so far everyone ducks the question. Would the US posters in this discussion join such a union that originated outside the US and accept its authority *within US national borders*? If the answer is “no” then you can hardly expect anyone outside of the US to take seriously your calls for IATSE/TAG/another US union to extend their reach globally. It smacks of imperialism.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I’m of the opinion that each region form their unions and work together on issues. The iatse and bectu have done that before:

        http://www.bectu.org.uk/news/gen/ng0156.html

      • Dave Rand says:

        No ducking was done to your original question. I said I’d join the union and obviously that means recognizing their authority, and I’d add it would be great for balance to actually see that arise as a possibility because it would mean some leverage had finally grown substantially from the big six USA sources. If your working in a VFX subsidized country I’d think you’d want to see some local tent pole movies originate with local money. Maybe it would lighten that frustrating chip that lands on so many of the shoulders of subsidized artists.

      • fizz says:

        @Dave Rand: with all due respect, you are still dancing around the question. Sure, you’d join a foreign union whilst you are working in that country – the same as foreign actors and directors joining SAG and the DGA when they come to work in the states – but would you join an international union originating in, for the sake of argument, Mumbai and *accept it’s authority over US jobs on US soil*? That’s what you’re asking people outside of the US to do when you advocate the extension of TAG and IATSE beyond North America.

        As for chippy – you should go through the conversations I have to endure with US VFX producers who refuse to call countries by their proper names, referring to them uniformly as “subsidy locations” and then happily blather on about the cool work their shop just did on a movie produced entirely in New York (45% rebate), never for a moment accepting that their inflated bid is backed by the Big Apple’s tax payers.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Not sure what your angling at but I’m not dancing around anything. No matter where it “originates” I’d adhere to any vfx union that represented the artists fairly simply by joining it. Are you asking me a hypothetical question, asking me to pretend I’m more than a VFX wrists? Why don’t you ask the question you really want to ask instead of dancing around yourself and call your self by your proper name while doing it so? I’m against market socialization wether it’s a country or a state. You can read my posts on that. It’s easy just look for the name Dave Rand.

      • Dave Rand says:

        damn mac I did not mean to type wrists I meant artist. Ironic though.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Look –although I feel it’s very important VFX Soldier stay anonymous I always encourage others to use their real name. I believe it empowers us by spreading confidence instead of fear. If anyone were to be black listed it would have been me as I’ve been using my real name for years….. and personally I’m tired of engaging in debates with ghosts. I’d add with “all due respect” but quite frankly I need to know who you are for that.

      • Dave Rand says:

        “That’s what you’re asking people outside of the US to do when you advocate the extension of TAG and IATSE beyond North America.”

        This raises the question : Should then that same artist have a problem working on films from the USA while under another countries subsidy program?

        Now can I ask you if you where you work Fizz?

      • Dave Rand says:

        Sorry Fizz…I need to find out whee i shut off this auto completion of my sentences. i meant to say

        Now can I ask you where you work Fizz?

      • CompBrat says:

        Here is a direct question for everyone to dance around.

        … So our jobs are good enough to be stolen but are unions are not good enough to be joined .

        And BTW “New” York and those darn colonists are part of the USA now. We and our president are sick of watching jobs leave the county to foreign politicians paid off to steal them. You should be afraid, you spend your time promoting domestic film production and stop question our efforts to do the same. There will never be balance until the playing field is leveled… And that time is coming.

      • fizz says:

        @CompBrat: well, at least you have the “decency” to be nationalistic about it. And frankly, no, the US unions don’t currently interest me. They weren’t interested in having VFX people when we tried to get in back in the 90s and I’m suspicious of them now. The ADG’s efforts to get matte painters and previz people strikes me as lame at best and divisive at worst.

        The point of the NYC comment is that the complaining producer was clearly benefiting from a subsidy ($1000million up for grabs in the US) but refused to recognize it even though it allowed them to come in with a very heavy bid. The really sad thing about it was that the leading cadre of this Californian facility was clearly taking a lot of money out of the company and not reinvesting it in pipeline. Subsidies do indeed lure jobs away, but then how do you explain Weta’s massive award on Avengers? No subsidy there.

        @Dave Rand: Right now I’m in London. For most of last year I was in LA. I expect to be back in LA in a couple of months. I have worked in every major VFX center around the world except NZ.

      • Dave Rand says:

        “They weren’t interested in having VFX people when we tried to get in back in the 90’s”

        Could you cite an example of this? Maybe Steve Kaplan could respond. I’d be interested in being enlightened about them turning people away.

        As for awards based on talent and branding that is the way it should be.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Also could you post your source regarding Avengers being done at Weta where any government tax breaks were suspended? I’d be interested in reading up on that.

      • CompBrat says:

        I love my country but it is more about breaking trade agreements and exploiting foreign taxpayers into subsidizing already highly profitable ventures based on schemes and playoffs. Fizz a few questions for you what is your nationality? What is your job title? I have not read all your posts but the ones I have seem to offer criticisms of others ideas and plans. What are your plans? What do you like about VFX Soldier?

      • CompBrat says:

        ….and crickets.

      • Dave Rand says:

        While waiting for an answer I did some checking on fizz’s claims regarding the union and Weta’s subisitdies:

        IATSE has never turned away any VFX artists. There was some organizational issues and confusion when VFX first came into the picture with the Local 16.

        Subsidies are alive and well in New Zealand. If it was opted to not take the money I would love to see some evidence of that.

        http://www.filmnz.com/production-guide/incentives/large-budget-screen-production-grant-scheme.html

      • Dave Rand says:

        ..i would add that the IBEW has never turned down an VFX artist from forming a new guild. In fact they are actively working on that front now with some new ideas. http://www.vfxsuccess.com

      • CompBrat says:

        …and more crickets… Look who’s dodging the hard question now… Just what I thought

    • Rahul says:

      Ymir, yes, I do agree that without help from the west Indian industry wouldn’t be where it is now but I don’t think that doesn’t take any credit away from the industry for it’s commendable growth rate.

      I strongly do feel that you have brought up an important point here, that is the industry is lack of general self innovation and knowledge bases such as user group events or even good active local internet forums.

      Anyway I am being positive here and I hope it will change in time and more and more VFX will be used in Indian films. I think there is enough work available for Indian studios in Indian film industries (not just Bollywood, there couple of other major industries as well in India) but it just that so far No Kubrick, Lucas, Spielberg or Jackson have come up to tap into the new VFX market.

  3. ambertreto says:

    Reblogged this on TNG Visual Effects and commented:
    From #VFX Soldier

  4. vfxguy says:

    So you’re saying that you think vfx budgets should be more than $100 million. How much then? $200 million? $500 million?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      One. Billion. Dollars.

      But seriously it flies in the face of your argument that if the subsidies go away they fill just force us to work for less.

      • vfxguy says:

        If subsidies go away they’ll pay a higher unit cost because they’re not getting free cash from foreign governments any more?

        I’m not seeing your logic here.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        The studio heads make it pretty clear in that article: they need vfx now more than ever and have shown to pay more for it since the budgets go up. If the artificial pricing is eliminated then they are going to be obligated to pay the real price.

      • andreas jablonka says:

        I sure there will be a time where they will ask for the same price without the discount they get from the subsidies. That will pass because suddenly all company’s have to bid on the same playing field. And once they can’t point to London or Vancouver and have the “30% cheaper than you” leverage they have to pay market price.

        And they will. Because they need the Vfx work. That’s why we should raise our prices now because they still need it. Subsidies or not.

      • vfxguy says:

        Budgets have gone up because the number have shots have gone up. Cost per shot has fallen through the floor over the past decade.

        Studios are already paying the market price: US studios are still competing (as you are so fond of pointing out soldier).

        If subsidies ended tomorrow and Cali studios jacked their prices by 20% the suits that are buying would laugh in their faces.

  5. globalvfx says:

    “Most of the VFX work is for the 6 US Studios based in California”

    ummm……..really?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Yep: Sony, Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros., Fox, and Disney. Did I miss anyone?

      • I think globalvfx was confused by the statement as to the US studios who ORDER the work (see above) NOT just the Us companies (sony, DD, IL, etc) that DO the work.

      • globalvfx says:

        sorry, my mistake. Overtime is having a bad effect on my brain functions!
        won’t be long until China is calling the shots, though, as those studios go to them for funding.

    • andreas jablonka says:

      I think wrong again. Sure they have the cash flow but hey could put that in their own film industry. They don’t. They want western entertainment and while I’m sure they are mingling with it I highly doubt hey will tell Michael bay on transformers 4 he can only do 3 versions of a shot instead of 30..,

  6. Billyshakes1492 says:

    chinawood..bruno.. they’ll start making their own movies in a few years… wont need us.. we ll be another vendor for them… then again maybe not… in the 80s it was japanese money, 90s was the middle east money… so just a cycle… we have to bring our a-game.. unite and work together..

  7. […] a great comment from Dave Rand on vfxsolider this weekend: It’s been a fact for over 15 yrs the the most […]

  8. Mike Vargas says:

    A global union needs to start locally somewhere.

  9. Ymir says:

    Are we seeing a ‘market correction’ in the industry? Between ‘John Carter’ and now ‘Battleship’, it looks like VFX only can no longer save a movie and guarantee big box office. Story, story, story. Even as simple as it was, ‘The Avengers’ had a story.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/20/entertainment-us-battleship-idUSBRE84J0AS20120520

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