Framestore To Open In Canada?

Well well well, looks like UK-based VFX facility Framestore might be opening an office in Canada:

Framestore are interested in connecting with VFX artists and production crew across all disciplines and levels in Montreal.

We will be coming to Montreal in the coming months to meet with candidates interested in hearing more about Framestore both in the short and long term.

Why might Framestore open in Canada? My guess is it’s the subsidies. Look at this comparison of subsidies between the UK, BC, and Quebec and you can see that Canadian subsidies offer a lot more free money than the UK.

Basically the California VFX facilities have been able to catch up and beat the UK in the subsidy war by opening satellites in Vancouver. My guess is that Framestore had to up it’s game by opening in Canada also.

There has been a bit of distress expressed by some in the UK VFX industry. This comment by a cgtalk forum moderator was sent to me and made me chuckle:

In somewhat related news, a film that the London VFX shops have all been bidding on recently was almost entirely awarded to Imageworks this week, who apparently paid to get the job.

Next time Americans complain about UK tax incentives, I’m going to bring up this little titbit.

….

My understanding is that they literally paid to get the job (this is for All You Need Is Kill).

Apparently they’ve done it before too – a friend of mine who worked there some years back said they paid to get the Matrix sequels.   Underbidding is happening all the time too. On another recent bidding war, I believe a studio eventually got awarded the work as they offered to do all the digi doubles for free. I can’t recall what project or studio it was, but it happened a month or so back.

I have no problem whatsoever with tax incentives, and this includes the Canadian incentives which have definitely taken work away from London – so even though we are losing out on this, I have no issue with governments providing incentives to encourage growth in emerging industries. I don’t think it’s unfair. However, paying to get work and severely underbidding or even offering to do things for free are outright predatory practices that are harmful to the industry as a whole.

Well, look what the poster above doesn’t understand is that much of the ability to underbid the actual price for VFX is because of the subsidies.

Let’s say you have a film that actually costs $20 million to make in California, theoretically a UK facility can utilize UK subsidies which can cover 25% of the costs and artificially underbid the price: $15 Million. That’s been the story for a good while.

However, if that California facility can coerce workers to move to Vancouver as Imageworks has been doing, they can take full advantage of the Canadian subsidies which can cover almost more than 50% of the costs! They can easily underbid the UK and turn that bid into $10 Million. BC even provides a nifty calculator for you to see.

So as you can see, everyone is underbidding each other using huge amounts of government subsidies and we as VFX professionals are all along for the ride. This is why so many international trade agreements prohibit subsidies and why I’m against all of them, even the ones in the United States. It’s a subsidy war. A race to the bottom which I’ve been warning about since the day I started this blog.

I know many love subsidies but as I always say: If you live by the subsidy  you die by the subsidy.

Soldier On.

70 Responses to Framestore To Open In Canada?

  1. 839spi says:

    Imageworks coercing is one way of putting it. “Take this offer now, or your job goes to someone else” is more like it. And by the way, you’ll lose your matching 401k contributions, and they’ll classify you as IT so they don’t have to pay you overtime. In a tough labor market you can take the crap offer that’s a sure thing, or risk being unemployed if you can’t find another offer quickly.

  2. vfxGer says:

    How practical is it to get every government in the world to agree on subsidies?

  3. Dave Rand says:

    Interesting how the capitalism of six American studios requires foreign market socialism for their vfx vendors to survive.

    • edwardh says:

      Not really a new thing. I’d recommend e.g. “Noam Chomsky – Hopes and Prospects”. Describes among other things in quite a bit of detail how the “free” market is to quite a large degree really funded by citizens. Not always foreign, such as when technology (say e.g. “Internet”) is developed by the government and then handed over (for much less than the original investment) to the private sector.

      But… at any rate… figured I’d just throw this in because it fits what you said so well. Then again – you may already be very aware of the whole issue and there may be a very sarcastic tone to your comment😉

  4. Realdeal says:

    Right now there isn’t enough work to feed all the big facilities around the world. The studios know this, after all, they’re the ones handing out the jobs. The UK facility in question wanted that job real bad but an LA facility with a raging thirst for cash to feed its hair-brained schemes across the world bid it so low that the only way to beat it was to shift the work to Montreal and take advantage of the killer rebate they’re currently offering. Given that another LA facility had just done the same thing to them I guess it’s a case of what goes around comes around.

    I guess the capitalism of the US studios is truly fucked.

  5. Woah says:

    It seems they are not opening a facility in Canada. From what I ‘think’ its only for recruitment purposes. It did cross my mind as to why Montreal and not Vancouver nonetheless.

    • bigbrod says:

      Framestore is actually opening a studio in Montreal. Why not Vancouver you said? Simply put, there is not enough people there to have a permanent studio ( most of the “big” studios in Vancouver are mostly temporary ) and Montreal is much bigger, it can absorb another studio, not to mention the fact that a fair amount of the production softwares are developped in Montreal ( Autodesk, Softimage, etc. ).

      • Brian G says:

        Which big studios in Vancouver are temporary? DD, MPC, Image Engine and Imageworks all have a long term commitment there primarily because you can’t secure that kind of prime real estate without a long term lease.

        Framestore going to Montreal is far more likely to be driven by a less saturated market, smaller time difference to UK and what is actually a far more generous subsidy in Quebec compared to BC.

      • Charlotte J. says:

        As a montrealer VFX artist, I can tell you that Montreal has a huge hub of experienced employees available to hire at relatively cheap cost. The industry of VFX and video game has been hugely funded by the provincial governement, both in education (offering technical, college and graduate degrees specialized in VFX and video game) as well as incentives for Multimedia, vfx and video games companies. We used to be a bigger hub in special effects before 2005-2007, when 2 big studios closed because of bankruptcy. Since then a lot of artists and technicians are looking for work, but have a hard time to find anything since the pool of people wanted to work in the industry has outweight the number of jobs available since then.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      The labor shortage in Vancouver is great. the vfx industry has double its needs in vancouver in 2years and currently all studios are fighting over talent and have to import foreign workers. Montreal has a small vfx market and can provide workers that are less fought over than Vancouver.

    • mtl32 says:

      19 % vs 37% tax credit in Montreal math are easy on 100 employe it a lot of money for owner it there profit

      Like Radical in BC shutdown there door in BC for maybe Ontario same deal 37 % credit radical had 400 worker i believe

  6. xfv says:

    cinesite to open in vancouver as well…supposedly

  7. ion says:

    so just the other day Sir Lancelot there at head of framestore was on some tour or other with government ministers, shortly after which a raft of new breaks and subsidies were announced for the London VFX industry, then they take the cash and send it over to Quebec. Wonder how the factory workers, miners, truck drivers, paying the tax for this, including all those citizens currently having their social programs, healthcare, pensions, educations, all being cut in the name of ‘austerity’, so a few eaton/harrow/oxbridge chums can play ‘movies’. Good luck in framestore quebec, they don’t take any bullcrap over there …

    • NWang says:

      I’m not sure you understand how those tax rebate things work. The money goes to the film production companies, not the VFX houses. So essentially it makes it cheaper to film in the UK if you then do post there (the production companies get a reduced tax bill)

      The VFX companies don’t see any of it, so they’re not “taking the cash” and sending it overseas. Presumably they’re just behaving like any other business, pursuing new opportunities/altering as the industry alters etc.

      Similarly there were no changes to the tax system announced “recently”.

      (I must say, you’re very angry about this. Perhaps if you knew more about it you’d be less angry?)

      • Doug C. says:

        The VFX companies in London may not be directly getting any of those funds but they are being awarded work that they might not otherwise have won. So they certainly see plenty of benefit from this incentive scheme.

      • ion says:

        From your own press ;

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/30/roll-call-corporate-rogues-tax

        “Those at the sharp end are being hit hardest: from cuts to disability and housing benefits, tax credits and the educational maintenance allowance and now increases in council tax while NHS waiting lists are lengthening, food banks are mushrooming across the country and charities report sharp increases in the number of children going hungry. All this to pay for the collapse in corporate investment and tax revenues triggered by the greatest crash since the 30s.

        At the other end of the spectrum though, things are going swimmingly. The richest 1,000 people in Britain have seen their wealth increase by £155bn since the crisis began – more than enough to pay off the whole government deficit of £119bn at a stroke. Anyone earning over £1m a year can look forward to a £42,000 tax cut in the spring, while firms have been rewarded with a 2% cut in corporation tax to 24%.”

        Perhaps london vfx houses could help their fellow citizens by trying to run productive, innovative business that don’t need to be begging for tax transfers from poorer people to endulge thier hobbies. Instead of being a burden on society, they could pay their own way in life through excellence and effort, instead of lobbying. Just saying ….

      • NWang says:

        (Replying to Ions latest post)

        Having read that article i’m hazy about why you think thats got anything to do with VFX, or film. Its discussing tax dodges, typically by registering off-shore. I’m not aware of any VFX houses in the UK doing that (frankly they’re not profitable enough to justify it)

        I think you’re a bit confused about whats going on, which is perhaps confused further by being surprised that European countries tend to want their governments to support the economy.

        I appreciate that you see this as unfair, but theres nothing stopping the US government supporting sectors of its economy it feels are important. They certainly did that with the US car companies who went bust. Or are you saying that GM should have been more excellent and innovative?

      • mtl32 says:

        actually money goes to VFX house as well it 37% in montreal and 19 % or 17 % in Vancouver so if you do the math on 100 worker at 70 000 $ a year here goes your profit . VFX company don’t make a big profit and we all known there often idiot bidding on shot that make studios over spend and Hollywood want more for less to feed there 4 o
        r five guy at the top that want more Big house and Ferrari.

  8. Paul says:

    Bunch of pussies, do politicians even realize the amount of cash these movies generate?! Puppets with no balls whatsoever.

  9. weirdo says:

    some politicians actually do realize that one pound invested in this business brings the double back in income taxes. I just can’t figure out how people can still complain about this, it’s an open market and if your governing people don’t have the understanding of this you can vote otherwise next time. by the way, if framestore opens a studio in Montreal, I’ll try to be there for sure, the city is super-cool.

    • Alan Rutherford says:

      Montreal is really cool, I will definitely be there if this is true. At least it’s not raining every single bloody day like in Vancouver or London. Shit! Working all day like crazy, then have to deal with the bloody rain. My clothes are never dry. Can’t stand it anymore. I need more sunlight.

      • Paul says:

        Ahhhh CEOs and Execs must be rubbing their hands listening to the two of you! They don’t even need to hire and pay PRs or sales reps!

    • skeptical says:

      “that one pound invested in this business brings the double back in income taxes”

      Citation needed. What is your source for those numbers?

  10. VFX_Boom says:

    I’m curious how the UK based artists feel about this. I mean after all those unpaid overtime hours, blood, sweat, tears, blahblahblah,…..your UK ‘Based’ studios all seem to be running to other areas, and leaving the UK high and dry.

    I know it’s “Just good business” for the VFX studios. We can’t compete blahblahblah. But, in the end are the UK artists gonna see the writing on the wall? Are the UK artists seeing themselves as commodities or pawns in all of this?

    How is the morale in London these days? Has the last bit of studio loyalty faded out?

    Or have the vultures started circling and are folks cutting their wages just to land a gig?

    The VFX industry in the UK was FEASTING for a looong time, and now that famine has hit………………very curious.

    • Peter pikka says:

      Ha! Come on! Quit being such a drama-queen, will you? Framestore won’t be leaving london, they EXPAND, so that means more money for the home office, more money for highly-paid talent, more volume also means more credit. IF they open in Montreal, if they have any financial problems, where do you think they will cut? London? Being afraid of expansion is not very manly, you know. By the way, this forum should be called VFXTWAT, as as twats only add some juice in it.

    • VfxArtist says:

      What can you do? Do you think the UK companies love and appreciate their artists with all the hardwork they have done for years? Artists are just figures to them. Look and ask around, Dneg has Singapore office, MPC has not just Vancouver but India office and currently expanding.Now we are seeing Cinesite and Framestore expanding to Canada as well. I dont think the big 4 will shut their London shop but artists cuts already happened.
      Move to other country or get cut.
      And a big thank you and screw you very much from the companies.

  11. free says:

    Please let them them stay in the UK! They screwed things enough! I do not want any company from the UK to come to NA.

    However, I do not give a damn about artist in the UK. They have no rights to complaint, the system works as it is because of them anyway. If they haven’t been working like slaves (I think it’s a British tradition) companies would not be able to do what they do.

    • ion says:

      There’s alot of truth there. You obviously have read some history in your time. The same people who dragged humanity down during the Dark ages, are still there. They never went away, just kept their heads low for a few hundred years, waiting and plotting. Things only improved for humanity when the majority of folk were able to free themselves from these lords and sirs, just for a few hundred years. Its all about power and status to a very small group, and they don’t mind dragging everyone back to medieval living, so long as they still can call the shots and lord it over other people again, albeit at a much lower standard of living. Freedom and innovation are their enemies. If they can enslave everyone back into ‘dark satanic mills’, or picking cotton on the plantations, they will!

      You know the global economic financial collapse in 2008 was centered and created in the prinicipality of the ‘square mile’ city of London (not actually part of London UK or Britain at all, with it’s own legal system and incorporated internationally as a private corporation in Delaware and the Cayman Islands). It is the imaginary money they did not even print on worthless paper anymore (all imaginary computer entries nowadays), that spread across the globe in the biggest ponzi fraud of all time. It’s all documented well now – UK subsidiaries of US and EU banks, that could operate in the square-mile-city-of-london as separate companies, able to do things there that they never would be openly able to do on Wall Street, Frankfurt, Paris, Singapore, at least not without facing prison in their home countries. But financial fraud is second nature in London’s financial center. The biggest collapse – AIG – at the time of collapse, was massivley in profit in every one of its divisions across the US and Asia. It was one office – the London office – which ran up hundreds of billions of debt and took the whole worldwide company and stockmarkets down with it. Same with Lehmans Bank. It was the London operation that collapsed the parent bank on wall street. Same with Bear Sterns. Infact, the whole trigger for it was a small British Bank called ‘Northen Rock’, that one year earlier collapsed under a bank run.

      Later, it became apparent that Northe Rock collapsed because it had made massive, massive, trillion dollar bets on mortgage securities on Wall Street that it never had funds for and hid from worldwide regulators. Now do you see why so many VFX companies and artists are a bit nervous about London based eaton/harrow/oxbridge ‘business’ men rolling into town with unlimited access to tax transfers and subsidies, to play their gulag plantation games. If they are successful, you will soon be working 100 hours a week, wearing rags, wondering how the heck this happened….

      You have to feel for our UK brothers, they are victims of a wicked network of eaton/harrow/oxbride puppet masters, living in a hazy ‘matrix’ world of unrealities, though quasi-communist wealth transfers, via the taxation and subsidy systems, paying for their own chains and prison bars, yet never realising they are manipulated in an invisible prison. There are some excellent, talented brothers there in the UK, if they can escape those shores, we should welcome them as we have for hundreds of years, for those seeking economic freedom and freedom from persecution.

      • NWang says:

        Haha.

        This message brought to you by Fox News…

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        You saw it here first folks – this blog has officially jumped the shark and was last seen heading out past lunar orbit!

        Any subsequent comments are the gibberish of spasming neurons/circuits…

      • ion says:

        ad-hominems aside, do you actually have some sort of points to make, or disagree with the behaviour of city-of-london finance behaviour as outlined here? All of this verafiable. What exactly is your point? If all you can do is engage in playground attacks, I suggest you leave the discussions to adults, and run along and play.

      • wilsom says:

        Ion – your argument is also not cited or based in fact.

      • Urizen says:

        Its true that Ion’s posts are colorful and perhaps in some threads, confused in fact.

        But they work toward a general understanding that surpasses the average awareness of the vfx masses, at least down by where the ‘chartered Thames doth flow’-

        -be that now in the Caymen Islands or wherever .

        For your own sake, even if you’re fine with your potato patch, learn to recognize old Royalty regardless of mask, so that you at least know when to bow. You may not realize it, but failure to genuflect out of ignorance is not an excuse in the sight of the law.

        Or are you still waiting for the web tutorial that spells out the grand unified theory that ties in the behavior of the little pixel particles on the monitor stuck in front of your face, with the the history of power and greed and people?

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        I’m waiting for one of you lot to start talking about giant lizards disguised as royalty or the elders of Zion being in control of the international VFX industry.

      • ion says:

        @globalConspiracyRus

        you are the only one talking about x-files and the like. That is ad-hominen. Look it up. It just means if you don’t want to talk about things in a reasoned way, you just divert the discussion in obscure areas that had nothing to do with the hand in topic, just using lazy charactures to not talk about something that may be uncomfortable. For some British folk, this would be the psychological situation known as ‘cognitive disonance’. Just like @Wilsom says ‘you are factually wrong’ but then offers no counter argument or rebutals to whatever this definition of ‘wrong’ is, despite having clear names and timescales to work with from the established arguments. Noam Chomsky, mentioned earlier here, once wrote an interesting book called ‘engineeing consent’ – I really think somesort of book reading like that is useful for developing critical thinking powers in this respect. Apparently he is not a lizard but some sort of highly respected professor at one of those fancy institutions like Harvard or MIT or somewhere. Not that you should ever read one person’s view and start parroting it like a religion, but it is important to think for yourself and develop your own views. You can forget x-files – like Urizen said, the history of power and greed of people is one of the only sad but true aspects of this world we can be sure of. And the history of British ‘higher classes’ (whatever that label they give themsleves is meant to mean) is not pretty and very tenacious. And alot of it has been based, more overtly than many other cultures, on getting people’s effort, labour, creativity and innovation reduced to little or nothing, so they can skim the cream off entirely for themselves. You probably can never expect a 50-50 deal in life, but that model eventually heads to 99%-to-1% against you. Most of it achieved through tricks of trade agreemebts, hooky law contracts, money printing, stealth taxes and inflation, financed by hidden subsidies and transfers. People like Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Cromwell, Gandi, all discussed the same things in similar terms. To the best of my knowledge, they were not tin-foil hatters or lizard people. Dressing up simple con tricks as grand laws and business practices has been the great skill of these lords and sirs for hundreds of years. Until one day you are making great profits but working like a slave with no idea why.

        So again, if you refute the original dates, timescales, and so on, just put your points across with calmness and reason. I maintain that the city of london caused the global economic problems of recent times and that it is a wider product of the wider system of political control in the UK that is trying to go global in its reach.

      • urizen says:

        Wait away, certainly, by all means.

        But take a breath at regular intervals.

        It promotes the health and well being.

  12. alex says:

    What a narrow-minded and stupid thing to say. I can only assume you are one of the west coast artists who are disgruntled because work is moving away. I am sorry if the modern doesn’t work for your lifestyle, but this been a long time coming. Stop thinking of the US and LA especially as the center of the VFX world. A quick look at who won the academy awards for best visual effects in the last ten years should give you an idea that this is not the case anymore,

    If anything, european companies are opening offices in your country not to take work away, but to employ people there to work for them. Which is a good thing, don’t you think?

  13. free says:

    Well, I am not against people… rather companies from the UK. I just simple don’t want them to bring their working motive/perspective to NA and that’s all. It’s culture related, does not matter where the company is located. For use companies should operate based on the law the country has. Again this doesn’t and can’t change the perspective of the people. I just don’t want to deal with additional BS that Brits deal with over there, we have enough issue to deal with over here…

    However, I stand what I have said about the “people”, employees of the UK. They should have acted when they forced to work with no paid overtime, no paid holiday, no proper contract, no sick pay, no proper wage, etc. instead of saying “They may fire me if I ask an question or demand things I think I deserve….”. After all, people being ruled the way they deserve. Same applies everywhere though…

    • globalConspiracyRus says:

      See? Gibberish

      • free says:

        It doesn’t matter whether it’s the truth… Just say gibberish. What can I say to you man…

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        Your statement is gibberish because it’s not based in any kind of observable, verifiable truth. “No paid holiday” – wrong, 27 days a year for all PAYE staff. “No proper contract” – wrong. “No proper wage” – by what standard? The average salary across the big three in London is $95K – verifiable by pulling the records from Companies House in London. “No sick pay” – wrong, kicks in after 3 months in the job. “They may fire me if I ask questions” – really? Plus free health care, maternity/paternity rights and free legal representation in employment disputes. So I will go further, your statements are ill-informed, nationalist, xenophobic gibberish.

        If you don’t want FS in your country then go vote for some flag-waving zealot who’ll keep them out and stop your government from giving away free money.

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        Or better still, grow a backbone and build your own VFX companies and make them be the way you want them to be.

      • ion says:

        @globalConspiracyRus

        Strange. I know of three UK guys who have worked for me before, that signed contracts for several months at a large UK studio, then were laid off just a few weeks later because the company wasn’t successful in bidding on a project to secure some work (like that was the employees issue – I am sure they didn’t mention that to the employees when they wanted them to join). Also, the stipulations you mention sound like standard EU employment law. Nearly every UK studio contract will insert a little clause saying “I forgo all my rights under EU employment law ….” So there really is no point in having a contract from the employees perspective, its just there to cover the company for insurance and liability issues. Actually, contracts need not be an issue per-se. I worked for nearly a decade never having signed a contract. Its just that in the UK, you will be abused like an office temp. Its the lack of respect that is probably the bigger issue for many London VFX workers.

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        Have you ever actually visited the UK? Or even left the US? The world you’re describing is alien to me. You can’t “forgo all your rights under EU law” any more than you can sign away your statutory rights as a consumer. You can agree to opt out of the 48hr working time rule, but you can also opt back in unilaterally by verbally telling your manager. If you want to talk lack of respect you only have to go back a couple of weeks to the tales of DDMG’s demise – the kind of behaviour that went on at the Florida DD studio – with people locked out of the office when they turned their backs – and months of unpaid back salary is virtually unheard of. Same goes for the unpaid DD LA freelancers.

      • ion says:

        you won’t get any argument from me on that one (it’s not a competition)

        port st lucie = america’s Bopal
        DD = union carbide

  14. As a non-American artist, it would be nice for once to read something on this blog that sees the VFX industry as a GLOBAL one. Being a European, who moved to Canada to work for an American based studio owned by a Japanese Multinational Corporation, i find it a little frustrating the sense of entitlement that a number of California based artists have.

    I agree that tax incentives are creating a race to the bottom, but i didn’t see such an outcry when ILM opened their Vancouver pod.

    It’s interesting that all this talk of unionization has only arisen in the past couple of years as the Americans join the other 75% of us in the industry who’ve been getting screwed for years. I almost laughed in an American co-worker’s face when he said “Did you read this contract?! They can end your contract before the actual end date!”

    Regarding working conditions- One would imagine that a company must comply with the laws protecting workers of the country it is in, regardless of where the head office is. ie an American company can open an office in Canada and not have to pay overtime after a certain amount of hours, whereas it would in California.
    In the UK, you cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours per week. You’re contract will have a section in it saying that you may be expected to work more than that, and you agree with that. Also, look at how many days holiday you are entitled to in the UK versus US/Canada.

  15. Matt says:

    In regards to the buying out of work . Perhaps Sony did offer a great deal but they also offered a far better animation crew to the small crews available at the other bidding companies . I also hear that MPC basically bought maleficient from under image works so they are just as guilty.

  16. This is unfair says:

    Dear soldier,

    you might be interested in knowing that Framestore is also opening up an office in Los Angeles. Not sure how or if that fits into the malevolent scheme you and many on this page seem to imply they are executing, but I can promise you its not for cheap labor or tax incentives.

    I have personally worked with the Framestore as well as many other companies in the VFX industry around the world and must say that when it comes to integrity and good will towards the artists that work there, Framestore’s management is second to none and in fact are far ahead of any American company I have worked with in that regard. This is obviously based on personal experience, but in my opinion US and Canadian artists should be glad they are expanding their reach into their markets. And to be fair, FS have for years had an office in New York, have been doing great work there and are growing steadily. And they opened up well before any incentives were in the NY game as there are now.

    Like incentives or not, they are a reality in countless industries all over the world. Personally I prefer incentives in our industry to the oil, weapons, airlines or even auto industries. Let alone governments skewing the agricultural markets around the world to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. We are peanuts. Less even. Literally, check out this graph of agricultural subsidies :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:United_States_farm_subsidies_(source_Congressional_Budget_Office).svg&page=1

    Is Framestore in this business to make money? My guess is absolutely. It is a business after all, even though the margins these days may defy that definition and are leaning towards charity, the beneficiaries of which are certainly not the owners of Framestore or any other VFX studios I am aware of. I think you are well aware of that fact dear soldier, if you are as switched on as I’ve given you credit for in the past.

    The way I see it, FS and the rest of the companies left standing in the VFX industry are heading towards a different business model – something nobody quite knows what it looks like or has gotten to work yet, not for lack of trying.

    Implied malevolence on anyones behalf is not helping, artists or the companies that are left to employ us. We need to figure this out together. Moaning on your modest soapbox will only get us so far. What can you offer in the way of leadership and ideas to get us all out of this mess? Lets hear some of that. Come on everyone, start talking.

    • ion says:

      Like I said ;

      “I know of three UK guys who have worked for me before, that signed contracts for several months at a large UK studio, then were laid off just a few weeks later because the company wasn’t successful in bidding on a project to secure some work (like that was the employees issue – I am sure they didn’t mention that to the employees when they wanted them to join).”

      I know who the company was. But I am keeping a respectful silence about it.

      • NWang says:

        That sounds nasty, I know someone who suffered the same fate at the hands of a large San Francisco company a few years back.

        In fact didn’t it happen to all the people who signed up for Disneys’ “Circle 7” studio-that-was-designed-to-force-Pixars-hand about 5 years ago?

        …and the people in Sydney who signed up to DD’s “Paradise Lost” venture last year, before it was…well…lost. The same thing happened there didn’t it?

        Complicates your anti-UK agenda though. So maybe i shouldn’t have mentioned them? Doesn’t make it ok though, but its a fact of life in an industry thats entirely project-lead.

      • ion says:

        North america is a large vfx market. Of course it happens. But I know for sure that it is no way in proportion to the schenanigans of London, which is a tiny market of maybe 3-4 tax-payer funded companies. Far higher per-head-per-studio. And what do those folk do then? When they are staring at the tattered dreams and broken promises lying around their feet, sold to them by that lot? There is a more fundamental honesty in North America, if you are up for it, positive, hard working, there will be another opportunity just around the block. But in london … when it is not a real business model … It’ll be difficult to find another job in such a small market, they will usually have to pack their stuff up and head back to France/Spain/Germany/Italy/Turkey/India/Canada/wherever, just in time for the next sucker to sold a ‘pig-in-a-poke’.

      • NWang says:

        Its difficult to know where to start commenting on this, fundamentally i don’t think you get that Europe actually *likes* the idea that governments help industry. I realise you don’t, but the rest of the world isn’t like you.

        Your accusations all seem to lead back to you thinking that the London companies are supported by their government..therefore thats evil..and therefore *they* must be evil too.

        I just don’t agree with you on that.

        Then again i am a socialist, so i suspect you’d be surprised if i agreed with you.

    • ion says:

      But anyways, in this particular case, is it really expansion and investment into the local economies and communities? Or is it opening tiny store fronts in other markets, financed partially or completely, by tax subsidies and lobby grants from the rank-and-file citizenry tax base back home – who may be completely oblivious as to how the tax money taken from them is used – in order to tap into other markets and outsource it back to the parent office? Like a trade, tarif and dumping scenario? It happens in the world, usually in very sophisticated ways – that’s why there is a World Trade Organisation for trade and tarifs. Trade can sometimes not be straightforward and very manipuated, in very ‘unfair’ ways according to written agreements. I would love to live in a world of sunshine, lollipos and unicorns but unfortunately, like the ancient greek proverb says; “a scorpion will sting you because that is what scorpions do”. Time can only tell. Sony rejuvenated a whole area of LA nearly singlehanded, with not too much local government intervention, very beneficial to the local communities. But it is naive to think this is always the case or intention. We have to keep an open mind and see, as always.

      • NWang says:

        FWIW i understand the Framestore LA office is a commercials office. It isn’t concerned with film. Why don’t you phone them to ask?

      • This is unfair says:

        With all due respect, I suspect you don’t quite know what you’re talking about ion. There are actually quite advanced auditing procedures involved in getting tax rebates through the European system and the NY system is pretty hard core as far as that is concerned. To insinuate the framestore is opening up offices around the world with the explicit intent to break local and international law sounds somewhere between highly unlikely to completely absurd my friend. The money involved in our industry is not enough to cover the kind of legal advice such maneouvers would require and a quick mental calculation would reveal the reward to risk ratio is not even close to high enough.

        Stop watching Fox news, put away that Grisham novel and start doing something useful. I agree with you on one thing; we should all have an open mind. But until you are ready to come up with some facts I would keep a closed mouth while you watch the proceedings. Libel and slander is serious.

      • ion says:

        To answer your point about coming up with solutions, here is a practical apllication of this. Small businesses are by far the biggest employers. When I take folk on, its for a much longer timescale, I try to make it 50-50 basis, and honest with folk I work with on showing the budgets and revenues. We can act stealthily because we can strip away unecessary bureaucracy and concentrate the art and technology.

        When a large company with access to lobbying, tax breaks, easy visa relationships, government connections, and so on, is able to use its advantages to muscle us aside, that takes work away from us. And it could be said on a basis that has nothing to do with business and everything to do with crony relationships.

        If it is yet a foreign company, tapping into tax funding of rank-and-file citzenry overseas (shop workers, truckers, office workers, teachers, engineers, miners, so on, never really know where the tax goes to), that is really difficult to compete against, since it doesn’t have so much basis in core business. Like the article earlier said, qouting the framestore guy said, “75% of vfx work would leave the UK without government assistance”. So if there wasn’t government assistance to them, they would not be in a position to open store fronts in NA, and would not be in a position to take work away from small firms. The same will hold for smaller studio bosses in london as well. They will also get crowded out because they will not have the muscle and relationships to leverage a lion’s share of state assistance.

        Like I say, folk with me will get a longer run and better pay, they will likely have a more stable income and be able to participate in home ownership, family life, lesiure activities. And they have. What’s the alternative? Big, bloated, tax hungry companies bullying their way into state finances through old school tie connections. All that does is put an extra yacht or golf course in that company owner’s portfolio. I would give 50-100 families a home and a decent standard of living. The state-funded studio leaves you with insecure, made-on-a-whim employment prospects at a much lower rate. You see, there is a point to it all.

        And what gives with this ad-hominem obsession with fox news? I would have thought my views were the complete opposite of that world view. And you folk in the UK should be much more worried about News International and Sir Rupert Murdoch than us. Didn’t you just have a big trial involving Fox and the Murdochs? The Leveson Enquiry? Wasn’t it all about probibing into suspicious relationships between government ministers and newspaper corporations, all of whom were eaton/harrow/oxbridge chums and were seemingly involved into unsavoury, manipulative behaviour behind the scenes? Hummm … this sounds a bit familiar .. Sirs and lords forming old school relationships between business and government.

        Perhaps @NWang can comment on his socialist ideals regarding this leveson enquiry and his former socialist Prime mininster Tony Blair. Seems like a funny kind of socialism to me .. did you see those news articles about a year ago? You know, where Blair the socialist is earning about 20 million dollars a year but paying tax of about 250,000 dollars for it, all channelled through various cayman island foundations. You see, you get the right connections, you get your snout in the tax payer trough. Is that how socialism works? (please don’t tell me all about socialism and capitalism, they are both nonsense concepts used for the gullible, stupid or naive).

        What this obsession over there

      • NWang says:

        Here we go again, a rant fueled largely by misinformation someone googled then quoted out of context. I feel like i’m watching Fox news, from what i’ve seen of them they don’t let facts get in the way of a rant.

        What on earth has Leveson got to do with socialism? Do you know what it is?

        I give in, believe what the hell you want. All the UK companies are evil, the rest of the world is evil, we’re stealing your jobs… if only everyone else realised that californian companies were perfect the world would be a better place.

      • ion says:

        @NWANG

        You are not reading again. I think overuse of game consoles and coke/redbull/pepsi are shortening people’s attention spans nowadays. I also said ;

        “The same will hold for smaller studio bosses in london as well. They will also get crowded out because they will not have the muscle and relationships to leverage a lion’s share of state assistance.”

        We are in solidarity with our smaller UK studio bosses/brothers and, given the chance and current technology, we could likely be working together if it wasn’t for large tax bloated companies crowding everyone else out of the way. (I actually lived in London for five years in the early nineties, I have some idea).

  17. […] VFX Soldier – Framestore to Open in Canada […]

  18. Nate says:

    I heard a rumor recently that MPC was also opening a studio in Montreal, can anyone confirm or discredit that?

  19. zoomzoom says:

    If you go on the Framestore site, you’ll see they are hiring right now in Montreal. Good. I don’t know yet for MPC, but I wouldn’t be surprised, I know that Vancouver’s facility has a few problems and they’re not happy. Times are changing I guess.

  20. zoomzoom says:

    MPC is opening a facility in Montreal this spring/summer. It’s a money thing for Vancouver, as always.

  21. […] I wrote about this 3 months ago and pointed out that the reason for this move was because Quebec offers significantly larger subsidies than London. For every $100 in VFX salary paid there, the Quebec government offers $60 to the studio regardless of the amount of taxes owed. […]

    • There are several reasons why Framestore has made a move here in Montreal. For one, London needs an extra night shift do to work with an 8 hour delay with reliable and skilled senior artists here in Montreal working a virtual 24-hour day for London clients…. Second, salaries here aren’t at high as London, but neither is the cost of living or rent. The canadian dollar has been worth more than the US dollar for over 2 years so, the exchange rate isn’t the reason. Third, there is quite a lot of extremely skilled vfx talent here in town. There are longtime software developers, such as softimage and autodesk/discreet and a cinema culture that has developed quite vigourously without the need for tax incentives because Montreal is a TV-Film cultural capital since the days of the National Film Board and earlier (The Lumiere Brother’s first North-american projection was here in MTL). Fourthly, subsidies and tax credits go directly to studio producers for shooting, not vfx houses, and Framestore (as do local Montreal businesses) offers live on set previz and comp for major pictures. Five : The QC govt has given Framestore a 1 mil$ interest free loan to be invested in salaries, but that’s it. They could have gone to a bank. How do you think local VFX shops in town here feel when a huge player like them arrives with our taxes kicking us right in the ribs ? Montreal has suffererd many times by the rapacious behaviour of certain studios (Warner in particular) that will bleed a city dry until it dies. (The Fountain, 300 etc…) Framestore’s arrival isn’t met with a lot of cheer, because a shop that suddenly opens up 200 more-or-less stable sweatshop job positions in 6 months will cause a serious talent drain on other local shops already scratching to make a living. Lastly, crappy in-house producing is also an under-mentioned reason why shops fail and Montreal has a reputation for being extremely efficient. We are a small market with niche pictures helping us roll along, but the talent is localized there, even if the huge mega projects aren’t.

  22. […] pointed this out last year. The idea with these subsidies is that it should create a sustainable local industry but that […]

  23. […] pointed out that VFX pros in subsidized locations are not immune to the subsidy race. Last year UK facilities like MPC and Framestore were opening in Montreal because of much larger subsidies. Now Cinesite is the next UK facility to […]

  24. […] have dominated the UK’s ability to do work there since its infancy. Framestore even had to open a satellite facility in Canada because of larger subsidies and their own CEO admits they would lose up to 75% of the work without […]

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