Taking Action On VFX Subsidies In December

In my spare time I’ve been working on a potential challenge to the subsidies used in the VFX industry. If you read this blog I talk a bit about how subsidies are regulated by many international trade agreements. I have been in contact with parts of the government and law firms that specialize in trade law about this issue and I’m happy to announce that we will be starting a campaign to fund a challenge to various subsidies in December.

The law firm I am working with has agreed to break the process up into various stages. Each stage will be funded by a Kickstarter-like project where VFX professionals around the world can donate funds. The funding goes directly to the law firm to pay for the work they will be doing. It’s important to note that not a dime of this money enters my hands. We’ve structured this so the money goes directly to the law firm’s account.

I’m pretty excited about this and so is the law firm. They’re a top notch group of people who are really interested in this. I was particularly attracted to this law firm for their experience and being realistic: They questioned how motivated professionals in our industry are to solve this problem. From my experience I felt there was a lot of apathy.

This first stage will tell us a lot. If there is a lot of interest it could become something huge and very effective. If not then we go back to doing what we do best to solve the problems in this industry: Nothing.

Soldier On.

147 Responses to Taking Action On VFX Subsidies In December

  1. Charlie Don't Surf says:

    I am still wondering how you are hoping to convince vfx professionals in New Zealand, the U.K., Canada, Australia….hell, even New York… that these subsidies are something that is in their best interest to fight against.

    • VFX_Boom says:

      At the end of the day, I don’t feel any professional artist wants to work in an artificial market. That rug can be pulled out from under you at any moment. New Mex, Florida, anyone? The idea of “In an artists best interest” takes on a very different meaning in regard to this issue. London is feeling it now.

      Artists need to recognize the simple fact, we are killing ourselves, and sacrificing so much in our own lives, and those of our family so some film studio executive can buy a bigger, fast car each year. That’s what it come down to.

      We need to stop lying to ourselves that we are the “Cool” kids, when in reality we are the kids being touched inappropriately by our dirty uncle (Film Execs).

      • Charlie Don´t Surf says:

        I respectfully disagree.
        I am in London, and benefitting directly from these subsidies. I plan on going to Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Canada for work.
        I chose this industry precisely because it allows for international mobility.
        If the susbsidies are stopped what reason do California located film studios have for outsourcing work to far off lands like London or Sydney, with massive time zone differences and no appreciable gain in quality? None.
        So don´t count on my support for this anytime soon.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        “If the susbsidies are stopped what reason do California located film studios have for outsourcing work to far off lands like London or Sydney, with massive time zone differences and no appreciable gain in quality? None. So don´t count on my support for this anytime soon.”

        This is precisely why subsidies are prohibited by international trade agreements: To prevent market distorting protectionism.

        What you have admitted (which I don’t necessarily agree with) is that the VFX industry in Aus, NZ, UK, Canada, and Singapore would cease to exist under market conditions. If the only thing propping up local vfx industries are huge government subsidies then I’m sorry to say that it probably shouldn’t last. It’s putting many facilities out of business.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        Sure, Soldier, I’ll admit to that. Hell, even Sir William Sargent from Framestore admitted to that not long ago.
        What you fail to grasp is that purely free market capitalism is a distinctly U.S. conception of capitalism, and a mostly theoretical one at that, since your own government is the first to put into place huge subsidies in other industries.
        What I am merely pointing out is that the interests of California based artists are not necessarily in line with the interests of any other workers in this industry in other countries, so you can expect not only no support, but actual opposition from them, regarding this matter, unless you can explain clearly how those artists stand to benefit from your proposal.
        So while I personally applaud you for taking a stand for what you believe in, and praise this site for airing the many grievances that artists have with exploitative business practices in this industry internationally, I am afraid that on this matter we will have to agree to disagree.

  2. Well this is exciting. I look forward to reading the Kickstarter action plan details and hope to see some firm dates.

  3. LMP says:

    I believe in miracles…

  4. VFX Los Angeles says:

    I’m very curious what paths that we can take to mount a real challenge. So many people are becoming expats simply to work. It’s a little frightening. Not all of us can pick up our lives. It would be great if Vancouver could get their union going so their artists get treated fairly, and then we could do a union in the US. Portable healthcare and a pension system would be great.

    • Dull says:

      Vancouver does not really union. Mostly they good cocered with canada healthcare and overtime laws. Us have problem of crappy healthcare general.
      You have start where union in most needed.

  5. postvfx says:

    VFX jobs in L.A. area are diminishing rapidly. I’ll be more than happy to help, but I do not believe studios would care much about VFX professionals in L.A. They will take their projects where ever is cheaper for them, and they will do anything to make an extra buck.

  6. Andreas jablonka says:

    I think this is a great idea. For all those artist that complain but don’t do anything here is your easiest way to support the cause. If some sizabable donations will be made we know the movement is there just plagued with apathy. Maybe the learning curve for Iatse was too high? I’m not excusing this behaviour but could see that a lame bored artist donates 20$ to a good cause rather than stand up and make waves to saves his job. I’m looking forward to it, a little scared but what do we have to lose? Nothing!

  7. - says:

    I’m in! Sick of these studio crooks abusing subsidies and treating us like cattle from the result of a shitty economy. This can’t go on for much longer. Doesn’t matter where you are, the issue is global!

  8. VFX_Hope says:

    I’m in. I’m sick of the usual: “we would love to hire you but our needs have moved to [ insert subsidy country here]”. I refuse to turn into a migrant worker and Jeopardize my relationship with my wife and daughter.

  9. VFXguerrila says:

    Theres a novel approach Soldier…crowd funding! Hey there Mr. Surfer…You got into this for international mobility? Is that what they are teaching now at Art schools these days? Is that how they sell animation degrees now?
    I think the military tells people they will get to see distant lands as well?
    Poor chap hasnt been in this for long me thinks…

    • Charlie Don't Surf says:

      Don’t make assumptions, you would be wrong.
      I have already made one international move for work ( to the UK ). I dislike London on a personal level, but unfortunately it’s where the work is in Europe, so I live here.
      I have no qualms about making other moves if I stand to benefit, career-wise. Like me, I know many other people who have embraced mobility. Including some US citizens who I have had the pleasure of working with.
      And if I ever want to settle down anywhere, I have the coice of doing so, even if that means transferring my skills to another industry. Things change.

      • P-Fi says:

        You are correct, the only way you can settle down will most likely mean getting out of the industry. Or working only a fraction of the year picking up random 911 freelance. That’s the problem, you do not have the choice of being able to settle down, sure globetrotting around the world is fun for a short while, but not for your entire life.

        Especially it’s not desireable when you become married or have children and need to cater to a wife that may have a career or children who need steady school. Or how about the idea of buying a house somewhere, that sure would be nice.

        As long as there are better incentives somewhere else, staying put is not possible. You are probably beginning to see this now with the UK struggling to keep work because of better incentives in Vancouver. How bout picking up and moving to Vancouver for a few years, then onto Singapore a few years later. What’s after that?

  10. VFXguerrila says:

    Dont wish upon a death star…Miracles take Chinese labor and/or Mexicans!

  11. […] VFX Soldier – Taking Action on VFX Subsidies […]

  12. vfx_cynic says:

    I know the details will come out later but on a basic level who will you be challenging, the film companies, US states, US government, Canadian government, WTO or all of the above?
    I do worry if this happens successfully then all vfx work will go to California and there will be a clamber for green cards.

    • VFX Los Angeles says:

      At least California has a vfx industry that can handle the influx of work. Having to give out green cards for people to work, would be kind of an amazing turn about.

    • bob says:

      I don’t mean to be offensive, but it still bewilders me that other countries can’t develop their own industry. How much training do they need to finally stand on their own? How is HW obligated to prop them up?
      Free market enterprise should be a level playing field you do the best work you get the best jobs.
      That being said, yes great work has been coming from all over the world. Sooo killing the subsidies shouldn’t have an effect unless of course other countries simply can’t compete without them.
      I am personally curious to see if they can enforce the current trade laws that are being conveniently overlooked to benefit big business, not free market.
      This will be an interesting endeavor.

  13. vfxlies says:

    Subsidies are one facet of a complex problem that includes: local labor laws, health care, tax policies, and worker’s rights, which vary from state to state and country to country. California is expensive no matter what it is competing against.

    How does your effort compare to the efforts of other organizations who have challenged subsidies in the film industry and failed?

  14. VFXjohn says:

    This isn’t a California centered industry anymore. Things have changed. They changed partly because of subsidies for sure but also because it became possible to do it worldwide. Many people blame it all on subsidies but they seem to forget that this industry has the same problem since it’s very beginning.

    Let’s say 15 years ago, before subsidies, when it still was a californian only industry, working conditions were already really bad. And they went down and down and down since…But so did the working condition for pretty much everyone in the western world.

    Now without doing any anti-americanism, as usual where americans aren’t happy with the doing of another country, they will try to make them stop it and try to force them to play by the USA rules. Guys, you gotta evolve. If the industry is leaving california it’s because it’s not so attractive anymore and because there’s no need to stay there anymore. Instead of preventing other states or countries to be more attractive than you, make yourself more attractive than them. Evolve or Die, the rules are changing, change with them.

    I am not saying subsidies are a good things, we’ve all seen their limits and abuses. But I don’t think it’s the main problem. Subsidies aren’t the reason why working conditions are so bad. Capitalism is. If there is one place were that habit of making a lot of profit as fast as possible really grew it’s in the USA – and everyone blindly followed – and now it’s turning against all of us. Other countries just got better at it…

    And I am also aware I am not bringing any solution to our problem. I believe a union would help a lot, and I believe that should be the focus. Through it we could get more equal working conditions. But it has to be a worldwide union in order to work and I don’t have high hopes that this will ever happen.

    Anyway I’ll follow how this goes, maybe I’m wrong and this will help…

    • Dave Rand says:

      I had hoped subsidies would help plant seeds that would grow more content providers world wide. Sadly it’s been more of a one way street with content generated by the studios in the USA and the post VFX work being subsidized by foreign governments and very little being added back to the mix for all to benefit from. In a time where jobs are a huge concern in the USA you have to understand there’s a desire to stop them from leaving the country on a one way street. Obama has spoken on this topic several times…It’s only fair play. I still believe there will be plenty of VFX work in the years to come and a very limited amount of REAL talent to get the job done. Learning how to push the buttons is not an example of talent. Talent can not be taught, that’s also a reason why we are all running around the globe on visas and work permits, we are still rare. Quite frankly i’d like to settle down but staff positions and long contracts are rare these days as the vendors are in a constant state of flux chasing subsidies, and chasing talent.

      I’ll pledge $1,000 right now just let me know where to send it. More later if it’s needed.

      • Dull says:

        It possible to settle down. I have friends which settle down Europe (not uk) and still alive and happy for years now. They had hard times but they made it. They had not high profile jobs for long time until cloud atlas passed by. Many if us wants working on Hobbits, avatar or marvel action flick and cry if need work in different countries.
        You can have all cool project in your hometown!

    • Dull says:

      You so right man!

    • urizen says:

      “I am not saying subsidies are a good things, we’ve all seen their limits and abuses. But I don’t think it’s the main problem. Subsidies aren’t the reason why working conditions are so bad. Capitalism is.”


      But good luck with regulating religion, much less questioning it full out. Think of the children, you perverse and selfish bastard.

      Twain and Mencken might chime in here, except that they’re both long dead. (What a relief for everyone concerned. Talk about inconvenient truth.)

      So onward to migrant feudalism, with heartfelt best wishes, smiles, and gift baskets all around.

  15. Matt says:

    Ok so you stop subsidies including all the USA states. How will you manage healthcare and other benefits that vendors seem to have to provide in countries like theUS. What I mean is you will soon have Sony uk where it will be cheaper not only because salaries are less but the facility overhead will be lower as they will not need to subsidize things like healthcare .

    If this did happen then we will see less VFX heavy films being made and so less work anyway. I hear you ask why. Studios have a budget to how much they have to make movies a year. Currently with subsidies it allows this budget to go further and more VFX films are made. When this goes away they will still only have the same funds but VFX films will become more expensive thus limiting the number of films made.

    • Paul says:

      VFX films as you call them are blockbusters that bring in hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in profit. I can’t believe you find an excuse to their playing the system just so they can make even more cash. Don’t you understand that the dynamic at play is buy low sell high no matter what?!

      • Dull says:

        I am not jealous, how much money they make. If they make 30 million or 3billions profit. It does changes work condition.

        Key to teach artist and unionize to work only under fair condition!

    • vfx_cynic says:

      Exactly, or just currency fluctuations, if its cheaper to do a film in euros or sterling or rubles then the film makers will go there. The fundamental problem is the film companies just want to make their films, not build vfx industries or long term businesses.

      • bob says:

        The issue with currency fluctuations is just that, they fluctuate all to often. Subsidies laid the ground work for a more stable environment to address that problem. Currency fluctuations have never and will never be beneficiary to business. Too risky, hence subsidy, governments attempt to secure the work and alleviate fears in market fluctuations for big business.
        Subsidies are the primary if not only reason work left Ca. Then came the hungry cheap labor.

  16. JZ says:

    Good luck going after refundable tax credits. Might as well fight against foreign governments offering universal healthcare too!

    Should have union dues go straight to your lawfirm. If you guys win, us foreigners can go back to being treated like shit by homeland security and begging for the jobs that Cali rightfully owns.

    Vive le vfxsoldier. Hope that this improves working conditions.

    • bob says:

      Or you could stop leeching of the U.S and create something for yourselves. Why wouldn’t you?
      If you’re so proud do something with it.

      • Ross says:

        @bob: The USA leeches off EVERYONE else on this planet. Bombing Libya, Iraq, invading Afghanistan! And now they complain about other countries wanting to lure business into their own backyards! INSANE! >:I Biggest COCAINE users on this planet is the USA! Biggest OIL consumers on this planet USA!

  17. KL says:

    Subsidies are common across all industries. I don’t see how you could stop it unless the US is attractive enough. If you find a way to block a studio from spending their money abroad, I’m sure they would close down their american branch and find a way to create a new studio abroad. Like someone said previously, this trade is worldwide now. Luckily it still requires highly specialised skills not easily found everywhere but that reality is slowly diminishing. The way I see it, things tend to balance out after it reached an extreme condition.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Talent not just “skills” –big difference, and the former is very limited. The leading nations signed the world trade agreement to stop market socialism from ruining industries and robbing taxpayers. Subsidies that take jobs from one nation and move them to another are the type at hand. Subsidies to struggling potato farmers from their own country are not being questioned.

  18. alex says:

    This is awesome. I’m happy to see you and Tag bringing to light what is going on and doing something about it. Its really disappointing that the Ves is such a lame duck when it comes to standing up for the artists. Have you considered working with film works LA. They are doing good work having to deal with awareness of run away productions maybe we can get them to focus on post production also. http://www.filmworksla.com/

    • alex says:

      Not sure why the spacing got all weird at the end.

    • Ymir says:

      The VES is an international organization with apps. 3000 members worldwide. Though created and headquartered in the U.S. (Los Angeles) it cannot favor any market or subset of artists over another.

      • Ashes says:

        Yes, which is why they should be supporting the removal of tax incentives. Governments should not be devaluing our work and buying projects. It is bad for the industry and the artists. Right now there is plenty of work to go around and no one place can do it all. So, instead of forcing artists to move around, it better to move the work around.

      • alex says:

        I guess I see it differently. I have nothing against people working in other countries/ States. And I don’t have a problem with countries that just have naturally lower costs of living and business. But when governments artificially lower the cost of business and make it impossible for other places compete that is what I have a problem with. And its not just about LA its a race of governments who can give the biggest tax breaks, Its not good for our industry. And for the workers, as we saw with New Mexico when they pulled the tax credits it left workers stuck in a place with no work and leases or mortgages.

      • JustCurious says:

        To be clear, they didn’t pull the tax incentive in NM. There was talk of it when the new Governor came in so Sony used that as an excuse to do what they were doing anyway… moving all the jobs to Van.

      • Ymir says:

        Yes, Sony’s decision to close the Albuquerque location was not due to vanishing film incentives and the New Mexico film incentives are still in place. It was closed for other reasons which have now come about to bite them in the butt.

  19. Justin Johnson says:

    Sold. Where do I donate? I will give $400. I LOVE LA.

    -sent from Shanghai

  20. Willly Phister says:

    Hmmm. Not sure whether xenophobia is more offensive than partnering with lawyers and convincing yourself you are doing good. Get a passport and grow up.

    • Foreign Junior says:

      Agreed, as a non-American the fact that FEATURE FILM work came to Vancouver is 100% responsible for me being able to get into the industry and I’m not even Canadian. I understand the subsidy system does not work but I also am getting sick of hearing about how terrible it is that the work has left LA. To clarify the only ‘feature animation’ studio to leave LA is Sony. DW, Disney and Pixar still don’t really do anything here.

      Also for the first time I feel equal to my american junior colleagues where they tell you ‘all you need to get into the industry is skills’ which is entirely untrue for juniors, skills and a US visa, which you can’t get without experience. Lately its really felt like the rest of us had a chance.

      This on many levels does feel like Xenophobia where the rest of us had always had to understand that we MUST move for work, it feels like Americans have to now be part of the club and they can’t handle it. It’s pretty difficult for many of us outside of the states, and I hope you guys can finally understand our struggle.

      Don’t be prejudice to other VFX cities because you have to move country and get a passport like the rest of us, go see the world!

      • Ymir says:

        FJ, I hope you never have to experience planting roots, buying a house, starting a family where your job is, and then get laid off and watch the job market move to another city/country out from underneath you because of foreign government subsidies. I really hope you don’t have to experience that like a lot of artists in America did. I hope, even when you are 55, you can still freely pick up and move around the world at a whim, just like someone can when they’re 25. If you’re willing to live that lifestyle for the rest of your career, good luck.

      • bob says:

        Ah kids, your mind will change when you grow up.

      • FJ says:

        Actually I’ve already moved country very many times, my family had to uproot my whole life. It’s not the end of the world guys, get over it, its happening in other industries not just our own. If you wished to work in film and stay in one place, I hate to say it but its a very ‘lucky’ dream if you can do that.

        What I’m saying is many of us have had this reality always, and now it is the same for the US. It’s not a good thing, but it also sounds like you guys just have to face the real world like the rest of us.

        Yes Ymir I am willing to do that for the rest of my life, I know no other lifestyle to be honest. I’ve never lived anywhere for more than 5 years and so have my parents before me, that’s what they did to stay competitive and they eventually settled in jobs they didn’t ‘enjoy’ as much but that are stable, and I know I’ve chosen an industry where this is a necessity too. If I need stability I will need to make a different job choice.

        You can honestly (if you’re good at all) get work and stay in one place (not necessarily your favourite place), but its not the best or most well paid work.

        You can’t have it all, your favourite job AND stability… good luck to you guys.

        You also just assume I am a kid… I am a junior, but not that young 😛

  21. PP says:

    Stop blaming the rest of the planet for your problems. That’s so typical American. The FX industry doesn’t belong to Californian. It’s a US problem because it’s US companies that are outsourcing their jobs outside. Fix that first! Put pressure on studios to make theirs movies in the US. It’s your problem, not the UK, NZ, Canada or anyone else. Stop playing the victims. Do something about it but deal with it “internally”. That’s good for any industries. The source of the problem is in the US to start with. And stop asking for six figure salaries. That will help too. We’re not brain surgeons. We move pixels on screens.

    • PP says:

      Think about it for a moment. You guys are bitching about UK, NZ etc because of subsidies. What about China and India? They don’t have subsidies for what I can tell. So what if all the job go there? (and they will) What are you going to bitch about then? You guys want to fuck up everybody’s life all around the world because Californian’s deserve more than the others? Even your fellow Americans from other states? Who the hell do you think you guys are? You are not the center of the world. The world doesn’t revolve around California. The industry is changing, adapt or die. That’s nature’s law. All the money comes from Hollywood! You let it out and then you complain to others who take it. Duh! What do you expect the rest of the world to do. Poor Californians… Let’s not take the money because they need our help… Are your guys serious? Again, fix your own problems at home and leave the rest of the world alone. It’s an internal US problem. Klondike is over. Move on.

      • PP says:

        And finally think that other countries need the subsidies for their own productions. Only Hollywood has that much money. Smaller productions need them. If you want to kill subsidies all around the world you are also going to kill many local industries that rely on them. Not gonna happen. And no, they are not going to make a special case for Hollywood movies. There wouldn’t be a single movie made in Canada without subsidies. So, you want Canada to kill it’s entire movie industry because some guys in California are not happy? You think subsidies should only applies to Canadian movies and not US? Then you will see Universal Canada, Dreamworks Canada and all the majors opening businesses in Canada (or UK or whatever). Subsidies are never going to stop. It’s actually getting bigger and bigger even in the US. Only California is out of the game. That’s why I keep saying it’s your problem. Either get subsidies in California or stop Hollywood from feeding the rest of the world. It’s a Californian problem. I’m done.

      • VFX_Boom says:

        PP, what would your feelings be if the UK pulled the subsidies in the near future? By having the subsidies in a place like the UK, or Canada, it creates an artificial market. As a working professional wouldn’t it be better if your field to have a true level market supported by the industry? Much less volatility for everyone.

        But, I’m also curious, I kinda feel folks saying the UK, and places like Canada should have subsidies is almost the same as saying California should have all the VFX work. It’s almost a moot point. Thoughts?

        And, it seems artists around the world fail to see the bigger picture of the instability that subsidies provide. For those of us who are career types, we are looking 5-10 years down the road, and how subsidies erode the true value of what we do as artists. It divides us in so many ways, when really it should be an issue we are ALL deeply concerned with.

      • PP says:

        Subsidies have nothing to do with the market stability. VFX shops realized that keeping full time staff is quite expensive and a profit killer on down time. So now they all hire on a per contract basis. The industry is changing. You need to adapt. I didn’t get a staff job since 2003 and I’m a senor CG artist. I had to travel all around the world to find jobs. The gold mine is empty, go to another mine. Thinking 10 years down the road is, well, unthinkable. No such thing as stability in this field of work. And again, you tell me about subsidies as being the problem. Remove them, most country will still be cheaper than the US. Not gonna help. Why is it so hard for Americans to understand that Hollywood is the source of the problem, not the rest of the world? Keep the money in Hollywood, you won’t care about the rest of the world. You are fighting the wrong battle.

      • Ornery says:


        I’ve been doing VFX work in Vancouver since ’95. I own a house and have 3 kids. I have not had to move once and my kids have enjoyed worldclass education and socialized healthcare.

        Please, tell me how killing subsidies here will increase my “Stability”?

        The standard quality of life in Vancouver is well above the standard in California. Having to move my family down there and bounce contract to contract in LA would be a nightmare. We would be facing increased crime rates and decreased education/healthcare/infrastructure quality.

        As soon as the USA joins the first world when it comes to parental leave, healthcare, public education and personal safety. I’ll be glad to support re-centralizing your film industry.

      • VFX_Boom says:

        PP, totally agree that capitalism from Hollywood is to blame. They don’t give a shit where the work is done, as long as it’s cheap. Those guys profit hundreds of millions off our backs. But, the few things we can do like organize, and stand united against them will never happen because of short sighted narrow mindedness.

        And when you say it’s impossible to see 10 years into the future for this industry, I totally disagree. 10 years from now, it’s all in China. Unless we can make a change for the better for all of us. DD, RH have their foot in that door to China. With ILM, and Dneg right behind them. It’ll be a interesting turn of events when that hits.

        @ Ornery

        Nowhere did anyone mentioning you having to move. It’s interesting folks associate the removal of subsidies from Canada = artist having to move. Or, do you feel that would be the case?

        I’m talking about having the clients, film studios, have to pay for what a shot actually costs to produce. And not get the discounted price, in which they turn around and claim the discounted price as the normal everyday price for VFX work.

        I almost wonder if the clients had to pay the full price for shots, they’d stop dragging their feet that causes us so much pain and frustration with late turnovers, anim changes, the list goes on………

        I totally agree that the US heathcare system is a joke. It’s just plain sad how politics are put in front of the heath of the citizens.

      • PP says:

        Yeah, you are right. 10 years from now it’s all going to be in China. That’s why I’m presently moving away from the FX industry and reorienting my career. If you make typewriters and you see that computers are coming, you either stop making typewriters or you make computers. That’s where the money it. You lose your business if the other guy makes a better job, a cheaper job, a faster job or all of the above. China’s not there yet but it’s coming. Better start learning mandarin…

      • Dave Rand says:

        @Ornery we know how you feel that’s how it USED to be for us.
        If your cozy situation was threatened you’d feel differently. This is the root of the problem, the race to the bottom as solider continuously points out. I look forward to the day Canada is less parasitic, we all should. It’s not a healthy situation.

      • Dave Rand says:

        @PP Obama has spoken many times about your fine point that we need to tackle this domestically and he’s promised to do so.

      • atlas says:

        Nobody is blaming other countries and fact in point is, this approach is designed to enforce the trade laws other countries are breaking. Don’t fret if this works and the current laws are in fact upheld American;s won’t be whining about you take their work. You’ll be wondering were your job went, since assuming this rant is from a non-American, and wondering why your country is incapable of providing work you have been afforded through payoffs.

      • atlas says:

        Nobody is blaming other countries and fact in point is, this approach is designed to enforce the trade laws other countries are breaking. Don’t fret if this works and the current laws are in fact upheld American;s won’t be whining about you take their work. You’ll be wondering were your job went, since assuming this rant is from a non-American, you’ll be wondering why your country is incapable of providing work you have been afforded through payoffs.
        California\hollywood jobs you’re working on were created there. Why are you so entitled to the work? It’s ironic to hear the rants of people feeling the threat of losing the jobs they paid to have and blaming those that have already lost them out of fear of losing their own. As if they are special in some way, unigue to the situation. But honestly in the same exact position just years later.
        Get used to it, you have no future either.

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        “I look forward to the day Canada is less parasitic, we all should. It’s not a healthy situation.” And the rest of us look forwards to the day when “American” cars aren’t built in Mexican fabricas straight out of a Hieronymous Bosch painting for a couple of dollars an hour, the day when a fair portion of the $200 sticker price of a pair of Nike sneakers goes to the woman who made them in Thailand who lives in a barracks hundreds of miles from her family, the day when a Malian cane cutter can earn enough cash to buy his kids shoes because subsidised American corn syrup is no longer wrecking the international sugar market and the day when the Reapers and Predators stop killing kids to keep the gas in Wisconsin under five bucks a gallon. Maybe John Lennon could write a song about it.

  22. - says:

    @Ornery Your an owner, aka Staff, your talking to a lot of Contract peeps. When I was in Vancouver I jumped around job to job, and so did my fellow artists. I don’t think VFX soldier is looking to attack your job “stability,” but, to address the issues that subsidies have on our industry as a whole.

  23. Is not the Outsourcce the problem
    The Problem is like the UK guy think is cool I can travel. But You don’t get payed enough for all of this move in postproduction. When I work in Production they pay my accommodation,Fly,Food for the time of the Production is UP and It can be more than 3 Months UP to 12 Months. and I get more value for my work and my money

    When I do the same for Post Production and be relocate in another Country. They just afford pay fly and accommodation for a Months and after I need to found a Place to leave and all the Crap connect whit the Relocation.

    I work all over the World for Post Production and production and I tell you this the worst place to work is London.Quality of Work/Life etc…

    Overall work in Post Production is same as work at General Motors Factory the Only difference the General Motors Employes as Benefit and they Guild as no. And we don’t have the Ball to Strike because we are all pussy. So yes we enjoy work like chines or India whit out any rights or protection.

    Why the artist in Vancouver they don’t Strike why?? They are all scare to be out of work.

    We need to fight and change is stop working go on the street and Strike don’t worry if they wanna remove the all work from north america the Production House they will do anyway same if you Don’t strike but at list You can go down fighting.

    Post Production is a Factory there is not ART or Creative INVOLVE
    Face the Reality. Not because you spend time fix and Make Model or Comp this mine your are creative the the All Creative Process was done and gone the Time of the PreProduction.Where there is People they Are Artist first and they get pay top dollar for do the Job and Know you at the Computer at the end


  24. Eric Shawn says:

    I’ll be contributing. Best of luck!

  25. Scott H. says:

    I think this is great idea, and definitely good luck! Hopefully though, you have researched what Tim McHugh (who used to runVFX house Area51) and his effort with FTAC – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ftac-petition-needs-intense-lobbying-149537 and have better results.

    • vfxlies says:

      More to the point:

      On September 4, 2007, the Film and Television Action Committee (“FTAC”) filed a Petition for Relief under Section 301(A) of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Petition”) before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The group was outraged because of the increasing number of jobs that have relocated to Canada, and decided to petition the U.S. government for redress. The FTAC asked the government, through the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”), to eliminate the unfair subsidy programs that the Canadian government offered, which harm the U.S. film and television industry. On October 19, 2007, the USTR denied the Petition.

  26. Clicking Bandido says:

    You have my sword.

  27. CGChick says:

    Considering how screwed I got when I worked in London (signed a year-long contract, got laid off along with everyone else after only 5 months, lost all my savings trying to get out from under the mess) I fully support this.

    I’m tired of being a migrant worker. It was fun for awhile but the jobs keep changing, the new boom town is Shanghai and it’s only a short matter of time before London’s VFX industry dies off and those folks suddenly get thrust into the same environment that we LA folks are already in.

    We already see Australia going down the tubes along with London and LA. I’ll be interested to see if the industry workers in those two cities will wise up to the game faster than the LA folks did.

  28. vfx usa says:

    Some posters have noted that subsidies exist across industries and throughout the world (even in the U.S.). True, subsidies are not per se illegal (as someone noted above, it is fine for a government to subsidize potato production to feed its people), but what is a violation of law is the subsidization of exports (i.e., the government of one country (e.g., China) subsidizing the production of a product for export to another country (e.g., the U.S.)). This is not some figment of U.S. capitalism — it is a Wolrd Trade Organization rule, and every country that has signed onto the WTO has agreed to comply with these rules. With more than 150 nations (including pretty much every developed nation in the world) as members of the WTO, it is safe to say that the majority of the world understands that subsidization of exports distorts trade in a way that does harm to domestic industries and, thus, is undesirable. Whether or not any poster here thinks export subsidies are good, bad, or indifferent, if it is determined that they are in violation of WTO rules, then they should be ended. Soldier on, vfxsoldier!

    • S. says:

      My understanding is that these subsidies were put in place to grow the work force at home and introduce a new business, but the studios are getting around that by importing their workforce and naturalizing them so they can partake in the tax credits. This is definitely not what was intended by the subsidies, but due to a lack of workers, it needs to be done.

      I don’t think this is right and I am sure that if the governments that provide the tax incentive knew that this is how they were paying out their credits, they would probably change their policy and ensure the workforce was made up of citizens and not foreigners.

  29. VFX Los Angeles says:

    Here’s the thing: If this industry was awarding work based on merit and price, California could succeed, especially being at the front door of the studios. Artificial pricing vis a vis ‘subsidies’ are hurting everyone. They are making us into a nomadic class of people. Always traveling to where the work is, and getting hurt or abused by the whole process.

    California has something going for it, in being where the film industry lives. It grew here and in Northern California, and the old pros are here, teaching and passing on the legacy that offers up speed and quality.

    The industry will bounce from country to country, of that there is no doubt. Each country though, as the value increases, will ask for more money to do the work. It won’t be profitable in the long run, because the workers will unite. Right now there is an effort, it seems on making sure that we don’t unionize, or form guilds to offer long term benefits. More socialized first world countries do benefit from having universal health care, and a better retirement program.

    Ultimately though, I think, that it is important that we all work together. Try to speak with one voice and stop the petty fighting. For those Vancouver people who say they only have work because of subsidies… Well why don’t you try making it like the rest of us had to… By being good at what we do. Your market is bloated with people that don’t have passion for it or capability to be in it, and you have facilities that hold n to worthless people because the market is so full of work and limited talent.

    If this was merit based, everyone would have to be good to keep going, and it would make better work and better looking work for everyone. Then we can start competing on real price, and maybe start studios that are less conventional and work a different way to stay ahead of the curve.

  30. VFX_Boom says:

    One side effects of subsides that folks almost never talk about with the artificial pricing in place, and having the studios bid each other down to death, the VFX studios themselves have to resort to tactics that involve…….

    -Not paying proper OT (I know each area has it’s own policy)

    -Misclassified (Artist responsible for pay roll taxes in addition)

    -Lying when recruiting ( Housing/Cost of living/Taxes/Medical)

    -Bait and switch contracts

    -No more OT meals

    Basically anything to save $.

    I don’t feel the VFX studios actually enjoy the tactics they are now employing to keep costs really low. But, in order to “Stay Competitive” in this spiraling market some do it as a survival tactic. A few are just plain assholes though.

    I do recall a time of really good treatment of artists that bust their asses for a VFX studio. It’s pretty funny how the films we work on make more and more $ than ever, and we get the shorter and shorter end of the stick.

    Gotta stick together.

  31. Dave Rand says:

    ““You watched the debates and heard both President Obama and Gov. Romney talking about how it’s all about jobs, and they talked about how the manufacturing industry has basically been lost to overseas,” Chianese told TheWrap. “Well, we’re looking at the same sort of situation with the TV and film industry if something isn’t done.”

    As he spoke to TheWrap, Chianese was about to set off for Japan, where government and film-industry officials were considering an incentive program that would align them with the more than 30 foreign countries trying to lure U.S. entertainment productions..”


  32. Eric Rosenthal says:

    Great idea! I’ll pledge $500 (It would be $1000 but my stocks are in the toilet right now :(. ) It’s odd that some of the posters here from Vancouver and England are so defensive, us LA folks just want a somewhat level playing field for the companies here. We’re not migrant workers, and I’m not a masochist (some people take pride in living somewhere where they don’t want to be??).

    I’m also happy to see a lot of non-pussies in our industry; I’ve seen too many people bend over and take it from companies like MBO partners and Ring of Fire. But that’s another story….

    • alex says:

      Atleast some people are standing up to Yucor.

      Its progress but I agree we need to step up our game and stand up for our selfs.

      I wish more people would use glassdoor.com and rate these studios that are screwing people over like ring of fire.

      • Eric Rosenthal says:

        That’s great what the Union is doing with those Yucor scumbags; that’s one of the reason I support the Union 100%. MBO has been driven out of our industry but I still occasionally harass them on yelp and youtube because it’s fun, and they deserve it 🙂

  33. Dull says:

    I think you tackle the problem. So you get all jobs back to California. Than what, you same stupid work condition in us with crappy healthcare.

    Why blame Hollywood? If you wanna buy new bmw car, you buy in store which the best deal, price.

    And if price every high, you spend less money. And you can forbid other countries for love work on movies even if thier is cheaper than great California.
    With way you fxxk somebody else ans many artists will cry again. Its more complex ti fair solutions than this black and white thinking.

    • Ashes says:

      No one is saying other countries can’t work on films. We are saying that tax incentives hurt the ENTIRE vfx industry and should be abolished ANYWHERE. That includes various states in the US.

  34. frankie wilde says:

    VFX Soldier your energy is misdirected. Governments all over the world subsidise various industries for various reasons. The US government provided 123 billion USD in tax subsidies to corporations in 2010. The US video game industry which makes sales of 15 billion USD a year is one of the most heavily subsidised industries in the US despite being a mature and profitable business. Subsidies are a fact of life and no amount of lobbying is going to get rid of them, especiallly subsidies provided by foreign governments. What I don’t understand is that rather than trying to tear down foreign subsidies which will clearly be a total waste of your time & money, why not lobby your own government to provide incentives for the Studios to keep VFX work in the US?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I am against subsidies in the US also. All the subsidies do is artificialize the price of vfx and it becomes a game of which govt is willing to throw more money at the studios while we live out of our suitcase to make a living.

      Many trade agreements have banned subsidies and are trying to eliminate them. Case in point: European commission.

      • vfx usa says:

        frankie – Soldier is right. Think about your proposed solution — lobby U.S. and state governments to offer subsidies that are as good as or better than what foreign gov’ts are offering. We have an enormous deficit at the federal level, and the majority of states are facing the same problem. Having to throw millions in taxpayer money at studios to lure/maintain operations will do more fiscal harm. The solution is to change the environment so that real market factors dictate where studios do business. Otherwise, it’s just a race to the bottom, and 9 times out of 10, some foreign gov’t will be willing to go lower than the U.S./states.

        Also, since you mention the video game industry, look at where subsidies in that industry get you (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gmf6hA_8FlBeugSw8rQPo7hDx9Mg?docId=264ed609bac3431bb2834db976648ea0) — with a state holding a $100 million bag of poo. Subsidies are not only bad for this industry, they are bad for the U.S. and the various states.

    • Ymir says:

      Frankie, in the current world economic climate, governments are strapped. The money used to fund these subsidies is your tax dollars. There’s a point where income in taxes from jobs created by the subsidies can not sustain the subsidy. By paying taxes that go into a subsidy, you are paying for your job, you are paying to work. It’s all just a series of kickbacks given the more palatable names of ‘incentive’ and ‘subsidy’.

    • Clickito Bandido says:

      Game Studios have closed in parts of Canada because other towns in Canada gave them more money. http://www.bcbusinessonline.ca/media-arts-and-entertainment/vancouvers-game-studio-brain-drain

      That’s just another example of how this hurts companies, employees, and cities who bet their industry growth on tax credits. Just as BC is losing game jobs, it could just as easily hit VFX and animation.

      If X city just decided to give a 1% bigger tax credit then Y city, there’s nothing saying that R city won’t double down and give 2% more in a month. In creasing subsidies is a short sighted solution that just creates more nomads running around the globe trying to chase a job. Studios still make millions (both in games and film), vfx houses struggle just to stay afloat and have to cut on benefits and rates (a lot of the times underbidding and taking a hit just so they can have work for the employees), and employees just get burnt out from the chase.

      Or people can begin to charge a fair rate, vfx houses, animation studios, and game developers can charge what the product is really worth, and big parent companies, publishers, and studios still turn a profit. And the industry gets to stay in town! Imagine that.

  35. Dull says:

    I don’t think a small lawyer company will be able to tell all countries in the would what to do with thier tax money.

    • Clicking Bandido says:

      We still have to try. 🙂 The era of complaining and doing nothing is over. Go VFX Soldier!

    • scottsquires says:

      Dull said “I think there better ways to do it.”

      Those who don’t like the proposals are welcome to propose their own solutions. Always amazing the amount of grumbling and the lack of other proposals and solutions. Criticizing ideas or not doing anything is easy. Coming up with useful ideas and putting time and effort into them is much more difficult.

      • vfxlies says:

        How is it useful to pursue something that was legally rejected 5 years ago by the USTR? This is a waste of time and money. We would be better off lobbying for larger film subsidies in the U.S. than trying to squash subsidies worldwide.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        You are more than welcomed to create a group and get funding to lobby for subsidies. If you don’t like my route of action the don’t fund it. Simple.

      • scottsquires says:

        “How is it useful to pursue something that was legally rejected 5 years ago by the USTR?”

        Seems to me that would be the first question to be asked. Many things have changed in the last 5 years. Administration, attitude, global markets, etc. The tricky part is to get a lawyer to confess to that. Most lawyers love to stretch out any legal work as much as possible since they’re on a time and materials basis.

      • Dull says:

        First unite artist in london or Vancouver and rest will not afraid anymore and the rest will follow. I think its easier than attack tax and laws of the world. A g big union of artist have more power, then you get to next level.
        Criticism of methods and way is not bad, try see different ways and viewpoints. For best the solution!

        At end we all want the same!

    • When can I contribute?? says:

      The goal would be to impose a levy on any US studio that had gained a tax break abroad if they wanted their film to be shown to an American audience. The levy being the same amount as the tax break(s).This would level the playing field.

      • Paul says:

        I like this idea. In effect it works like anti-dumping laws, subsituting post-production services for automobiles or solar panels. Although in this case, the tarif is levied on the buyer, rather than the seller.

  36. who dat?! says:

    RIght now could possibly be a perfect opportunity to drop the vfxsoldier front and actually reveal to the world who you are. I trust you as far as the penis enlargement spam I get in my Inbox. Ill get serious when you get serious.

    • Clicking Bandit says:

      We are all VFX Soldier.

      • frankie wilde says:

        No we are not my friend. There are many of us who love this industry and are very happy working in it.

      • Ymir says:

        Frankie, if you love the industry, then you should want to do what makes it stronger, not weaker.

      • Zapf says:

        frankie: That’s great you feel that way my friend, we all love what we do as well. But do you really believe your current satisfaction with the industry will be permanent? Go through enough layoffs, benefit reductions, and forced relocation and you’ll eventually be singing a different tune. The industry is not improving and the people calling the shots right now do NOT have your best interests in mind.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Doesn’t that imply that you actually go through the trouble of reading those penis enlargement spam mails? Hmm. 😉

  37. Junkie VFX says:

    So my friends at Digital Domain told me that DD announced a big pay cut today for all departments.. almost 30% of the artists and management are quitting in the next month or so.They said take the pay cut or leave the job.. across all branches, Venice, Larkspur, San Fran, Vancouver. Digital Domain in now officially the studio no artist wants to work for ? horrible work ethics for sure and they going to loose the best and world class artists to other facilities….

  38. So, where do I sign up, and how can we find some more people?Subsidies in ANY industry are senseless, just look at oil.

  39. frankie wilde says:

    America only ever acts in it’s own best interests, other countries are doing the same. The fact that the US government is unable to provide an attractive economic environment for VFX production is it’s own fault. The UK subsidy is part of UK economic policy that provides 12 GBP for the UK economy for every 1GBP of subsidy money provided. That’s good policy. The UK creative industries are the pride of it’s current administration. Obviously the US studios do not want the subsidies removed, that’s some entrenched power with serious political clout. The UK government certainly won’t let such a powerful economic engine be removed. The Canadian Government ? Even if you got subsidies removed, what do you think would happen? Governments would take swift action to keep the incentive the same by some other means. You are acting in the interests of California based VFX artists, which is fine and I understand why, but don’t fool yourself into thinking your acting in the best interests of “the industry” because you’re not. This is a globalised industry now and the best way to secure your future in this (or any other business) is to do great work and be a nice guy.

    • scottsquires says:

      Can someone provide links to the return on UK and Canadian return on investments? Hopefully with information about how they came to the conclusions they did. I’ve seen quite a few numbers posted elsewhere and celebrated in the news but there always seems to be a lack of an actual study.

      Here in the US you can find every state with incentives has a study that finds that it’s producing huge returns. That’s how they sell it to other politicians and to the public. However when it’s done by a real non-partial research group, the numbers are typically backwards. Since it’s difficult to access how much indirect spending is happening so someone usually makes up those numbers assuming all money will remain in the area and be spent accordingly. They are in fact losing money but with enough fudging, politics and wishful thinking they can be made to look like they’re worthwhile. Studios lobby for incentives everywhere. Don’t fool yourself that they have the areas interest in mind when doing so. In many cases they’d be better off giving out the money directly to their own people rather than the studios or other receiving them that leave with most of the cash. When people find out their tax dollars are being used to line the pockets of the rich in other countries or states they don’t tend to like it.

      Reminder – most of the major studios are based here in California. This is where the money flows through and where most of the key creatives are involved. And that tends to be why we think of this as outsourcing. And because we’re paid by the studios, we’re not paid by other tax payers. The industry built here is not having to be kept alive by government intervention. Imagine if one of your main industries in your country that thousands of people work at, Now imagine another country offering that industry 50% discount to do it there. And thousands of people losing jobs in the area that built its own industry. The people owning those companies are now doing great but the people actually doing the jobs, not so much.

      In regarding best interests – At some point the incentives will end in a particular country or somewhere else will have better incentives. Lower price alternatives are also making great strides. (India, China, Korea, Malaysia, etc) So what do you do when that happens? Right now some in the UK are concerned that select Canadian incentives are even better and they have to now try to match or beat those incentives. It’s a race to the bottom and it’s built on the backs of the people in the area paying taxes. What happens to all of those students and newcomers who were funded and pushed by lobbyist and governments to get education in these areas (even though there are plenty of other available). What will they do?

      Those in areas with incentives are simply trying to fool themselves into thinking they will always be on top and that things will never change. What will they actually do when the work goes away?

      Think about if all companies had to compete on a level field and they weren’t relying on local governments to bail them out or to prop them up. The industry could be strong and viable. The huge profits that the studios make could help to build up a real industry instead of being used to milk governments for more money and profits for themselves. Think about governments pushing to actually build new industries (energy, silicon valley, etc)in their areas instead of just trying to ‘borrow’ jobs from elsewhere. Or actually building self supported entertainment businesses that don’t require government moneys.

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        “The industry built here is not having to be kept alive by government intervention.” But that’s just not true: California offers film production incentives equivalent to the *total* financial value of the UK rebate. Gerry Brown just extended that. True, the money is not directly available for VFX, but the cross-subsidation of Cali-based VFX is undeniable – if a show that shoots in Cali with subsidies posts in Cali then the saving from the rebate is going towards offsetting the cost of any VFX work done there. The Californian production industry is just as deep into subsidy as everyone else – one of many reasons why IATSE and all the rest aren’t lining up behind any efforts to lobby the WTO.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Sorry, no, the california incentives are no where near the same as incentives elsewhere. They have caps, limits and the amount of money is much lower. They have many restrictions that rule out tent pole Vfx movies and other large projects. Obviously if they were identical then many more projects would be done in california but there is a huge difference in incentives, both e amount offered and the terms of those offers.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        First of all, Scott, much respect to you, personally and all you have done and continue to do for the vfx community.
        I have to respectfully disagree with some of your points, though. I can only speak for what I know of the UK ( but I suspect it’s much the same in Canada ) but a large proportion of the talent here is from other countries in the EU. I work with Spanish, Italian, English, Dutch, Portuguese, Indian, American, German, French, Japanese, etc, etc, etc.
        Including many British people not from London that had to move here.
        ALL of these people have accepted that to sustain work in this industry they had to move to the location where the work was, even if they had no particular attraction for the place.
        Just like anyone that wanted to make it in film in the past century in the U.S. would have had to move from their home state to California.
        So, I really don’t think that anyone is really fooled that they will always be on top. They might just be more willing to embrace change, and seek opportunity wherever it may be.
        Second point, the free market conception of capitalism is very American – and something that is not shared by large parts of the world.
        Many countries in the world are very happy to embrace government intervention in the economy, and otherss have completely different conceptions of capitalism ( state capitalism, welfare capitalism, the social-market economy, etc ).
        Now, I am not defending a particular conception of capitalism, I am merely pointing out that what you consider to be the most efficient form of capitalism, might not be what other industry professionals consider to be the most efficient form of capitalism.
        I definitely understand the plight of California based vfx pros, and in an ideal world, people would not have to move for work, but that is simply not the reality in many industries in 2012.
        Unless we were working in something that is not outsourceable ( which is not the case ) then I really don’t see how the globalization effect can be averted.
        What I can see is that this iniciative will alienate many vfx soldier supporters ( and no doubt, garner a few others ), and further divide vfx professionals – because the interests of international based vfx artists are not represented, whatever you might think – at a time when we should be seeking union globally.
        You have pointed out that people have not sought out solutions, but I can tell you what I think would be a more effective course of action. Seek union representation in all locations where vfx is present and enforce a similar code of conduct internationally for vfx professionals ( including overtime pay regulation, baseline benefits and health care provision ).
        This may be a tall order but I am willing to join union wherever I might be working in the world. Maybe others will too.

      • scottsquires says:

        Thanks for the response.

        A few comments:
        You may not be aware but there is a real push to get more vfx artists locally grown in the UK. The UK is being lobbied to provide even more education (with incentives) specifically aimed at vfx and to encourage more people to get into this industry. How will that work out for those who moved from other locations to the UK? Will they end up displacing a certain amount of people from outside the UK simply because they help to qualify for more specific film incentives?

        Yes, people moved to California if they wanted to work in film. That’s where most of the film work in the US was based. And it’s still the base for most of the world. Many areas have their specialties that developed in their own area and that you move to if that’s what you’re interested in. Theater people in the US go to New York. Those who wish to learn and do French pastries go to Paris. Silicon Valley was the place to go for high tech software jobs in the US. etc. Not to say those are the only places but these are places that developed and became known for a specific industry. And most of these developed somewhat naturally over time and people accepted that. What we’re seeing know is governments temporarily trying to create industries in locations that didn’t have them and in areas where those industries can not support themselves. That’s a very precarious position to be in.

        As I said incentives are simply shifting from place to place. Some may be more than fine moving constantly around the world but is that a career? Is that a life? Is there a reason to be in that location? If we were moving because of growing seasons in different areas then that would be a natural reason. If we worked in the oil industry or mining we’d have to move to areas where those existed or new ones were found. But we work in offices so there’s no advantage or reason for us as workers to have to move around the world to places that can’t sustain us long term. The only reason why we have to do this is because the politicians and the people with money want us to. It has nothing to do with real requirements or resources. And those who want it to happen there may decide they no longer wish for that area to be the mecca. Maybe they make more money somewhere else or are removed from office.

        For a long time Hollywood has been by and large self funded and it allowed for many craftspeople to lead normal lives and to refine their skills. There are many reasons why a self sustaining industry located in a small number of locations is a good thing for both the industries and the workers. Workers actually had full careers and people could own homes and raise children for extended periods of time. Having to move every 6 months may be the new normal but that doesn’t mean it’s right and certainly doesn’t mean there’s a reason for it.

        And what happens when places like China put on the full push to dominate the industry? Are they going to be willing to hire those from other countries at reasonable rates? Not likely. So much for visual effects as a career even if you’re willing to move.

        So what do all of those people who focused on learning Maya and Nuke do at that point? We’re very skilled specialists with a lot of experience and we have a lot to offer. There’s more and more visual effects work required, studios are making a lot of money from visual effects and the quality level is going up but at times it seems like companies, studios and governments are focused on making it more and more difficult for the people actually doing the work. They want to commotize it and fool themselves it’s something that can be shipped anywhere to the lowest bidder. And we as visual effects artists seem more than happy to help them do just that.

        As I say I think it would be much more productive for governments to try to create new industries and new opportunities, not to rely on simply siphoning jobs from other locations to do the same thing.

        Code of Conduct for companies –
        See one of my posts here:
        Global Visual Effects Workers

        The idea is to get companies to agree to a base code of conduct and make that known so workers can make better choices where to work.This would encourage companies to have a minimum level of working conditions that is reasonable for workers. The VES is working on a certification process for companies. What the final results will be or how long it would take I couldn’t say but any VES member could consider joining that committee.

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        @ ScottSquires – and the US film and TV industries get through in excess of $1.5billion every year in domestic subsidies available across the entire nation through state and federal funding. One thousand, five hundred million dollars of government funding per year for the US film and TV industry. Have any of you stopped to think for one moment what it would mean if your wishes come true and $1.5billion of funding is pulled out of your domestic industry? Do you honestly think that source of revenue would be replaced by some new cash stream in anything like the kind of time frame needed for you to keep paying your rent/medical/school fees? If “all the subsidies everywhere” got stopped how many of you all would be able to sit out the years – perhaps a decade – of “realignment” waiting for your jobs to come back?

      • scottsquires says:

        Curious. Keep seeing numbers and figures thrown out about everything but not a single factual source to actually follow. Are people just plucking these numbers out of the air? Is the Murdoch news corp publishing numbers, PR people with numbers or is there actual independent data from somewhere with their methodologies?

        I have a few links and articles here
        Film Incentives Most are for US states.

        I also think some people are confused about what I expect vfxsoldier’s scope is and what’s it’s dealing with. I assume he/she will post details once more is known.

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        US subsidies available in 2010 – check out the New York figures


      • Scott Squires says:

        Thanks for the great references. I’ve only skimmed this so far. The US study shows the problems with film incentives. The UK study is ‘supported’ by a UK studio and UK vfx companies. I’m sure it’s totally unbiased in any numbers and methodologies used, like the state incentive programs here.

      • VFX_Boom says:


        You gotta love a study that’s sponsored by the companies that directly benefit from the study findings. At least they were kind enough to list the sponsors on the front page, so everyone is well aware of the desired outcome, thus saving reading time.

        I love on page 94 – £950 mn generated in TOURISM From the UK film fund. Seriously? Unless they consider all the artists on working Visas in the UK tourists, then multiplied that by 10. Maybe?

      • Scott Squires says:

        Be sure to read the US report. Points out the flaws of adding in tourism and other numbers. Myth: Statistics never lie

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        @ScottSquires The point is that regardless of the tone of the report the subsidy money is there in the US. A lot of money. It is very hard to believe that if that funding was pulled that film and TV production activity in the US would continue at current levels in the short or even medium-long term. Film and TV production in the US has never been subsidy-free in the modern era.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Subsidies specific to film has not always happened and certainly not to the same levels. Most of this ‘modern age’ have been in the last 1-2 decades. Would loss of all subsidies change things? Yes. How much of that money is actually used to make the projects versus how much is paid out as ‘extra profits’ for people and companies?

        Here in the US many corporations now make even more money and they plead poverty for the workers while paying their CEOs and management 10x more than 20-30 years ago.

        Is it possible that movies can be made for less and done so more efficiently and that any movie might make a profit if the accounting were above board? Yes.

    • Zapf says:

      “The best way to secure your future in this (or any other business) is to do great work and be a nice guy.”

      Of course everyone should strive for this and in a perfect world it would be that simple, but it is not. I’ve been doing that for fifteen years and my “secure future” is that of a nomad chasing work across the globe while living out of suitcases. I haven’t lived in my own house in nearly three years. I’ve seen countless worthy artists who do great work and are the nicest people you could hope to meet get rewarded for their devotion and labor with pink slips, pay cuts, slashed benefits, and forced relocation, over and over and over again. Others have been forced to quit the industry because they couldn’t sustain personal relationships or raise families while maintaining their chosen profession. They were all nice people who did great work. Most of what happens to us is completely beyond our control, and the way our industry is going, it will only get worse.

    • Charlie Don't Surf says:

      Thanks for the response Scott.
      A few brief comments.
      I was aware of the effort of the UK government ( and some UK companies ) for locally grown talent. They are completely within their right to encourage this. The effect this will have will be disruptive of course. Not only for artists from other locations working in the UK, but also for senior British ones, who might find their wages stagnate or go down.
      There are also other developments, going on at a macro scale that may influence this. A large portion of the UK public now wants to leave the EU, and the PM has promised a referendum on the issue. If this goes through, a disruption in where CG is made in Europe is inevitable.
      France has had a vibrant CG industry which has all but disappeared. There is no reason for it to not pop back up again.
      Germany is making strides to becoming an attractive location. There is no reason why working in London has to be a fatality for EU citizens. It just is that way, momentarily. A German vfx company with offices in 11 international locations won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects last year.
      Further, I was not aware of the VES code of conduct for companies but I applaud that.
      Obviously artists already talk amongst themselves and discuss which are the best companies to work for internationally already, but seeing a standard applied and a charter followed by all companies will certainly be a positive development.
      As for China, they are making massive inroads and as I am sure you are aware, they are one of the largest untapped markets for film in the world. They will also shortly overtake the US as the worlds largest economy. How this will affect us precisely is certainly hard to pinpoint. On the short term, I personally know many vfx artists from different nationalities who have benefitted directly by the huge investment going on there. If the same willingness to absorb foreign talent ( and reward it handsomely ) will be there in 10 years, I don’t know. Who does?
      I am also following advances in remote working with interest.
      The keyword in all of this, is there will be a lot of disruption, this has become a global industry and we have to roll with the punches. There is a lot of opportunity, if you look closely, too.
      I can completely understand the frustration at living out of a suitcase, and chasing our job around the globe ( and even relate, since I personally have had to do that ). But it’s an unavoidable reality of working in this industry.
      Like it would be for anyone who works in production and has to go on location. Or army personnel. Or volunteers in foreign aid. Or journalists. We work in film, for vfx firms that have to cate to film studios with international distribution, we have to go where the work is. If we ever want to quit the blockbuster vfx business, there are are other industries that would benefit from our skills and expertise. It’s certainly frustrating but people change careers everyday.
      I know you may not want to do this, personally, but what professionals from other locations hear when someone says they want to remove their competitive advantage ( subsidies ) is that they will be forced to move for work or change industries, if their local industry falters when exposed to completely free market conditions, and they wish to remain employed in their fields. You can’t expect the rest of the world to accept this passively… Especially if these other international locations don’t share the same notion of capitalism that the U.S. does.
      Bottom line, I personally think that what will make a better, positive contribution to the lives of vfx artists globally is joining unions, potentially creating a trade union between the major vfx firms, and embracing disruption, as there will be a lot of it happening over the next few years, especially on the business side. Not creating divisive iniciatives that will favour one group of vfx pros over others.

      • Ymir says:

        Charlie, what you say is good advice in general, in that artists do need to be flexible. But ‘rolling with the punches’ actually means someone else is in control of your career and how you live your life. Your example that we are like live action film crews on location, or journalists, or military personnel is misguided. In all of those examples, the jobs are limited term where the ’employees’ are housed and taken care of by their employers, transported to the location from a home office or base of operation. A place that the employees will return to when the job is done. If the studios or effects facilities were to pay round trip transportation to and from the project, and cover housing, I would be much more willing to live out of a suitcase as I would always have a home to come back to. But this is not the case. Maybe it’s time that artists start demanding this for international project contracts rather than being expected to pick up and relocate? Live action film crews (union) also get a higher pay rate the further they work from a specific location in Los Angeles. Effects artists should set up a similar pay structure: a local rate (1.0x) and an international rate (1.5x their local rate) if they are expected to work or relocate to a subsidized location. Why shouldn’t effects artists get a cut of the subsidy, too?

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:


        I agree with some of your points, but disagree that you are not in control of your career. If you don’t care for relocating, then don’t do it. But be prepared to accept the consequences. After all, if you lived in Iowa, would you complain that your reel was amazing but you weren’t getting any local offers to work on blockbusters?
        Seems to me the reason why production and other personnel are able to demand this sort of treatment is because they are unionized. Which bring us to my original point: We should unionize locally to demand the best working conditions possible, rather than create divisive iniciatives that will alienate pros in subsidized locations.
        PS: I am not sure about other locations but I have already had an offer from a vfx company in another country that covered housing for the first month and round trip flights, as well as offering a relocation expenses package. It was a short term contract ( 5 months ) so I could have conceivably asked that instead of having relocation expenses covered that they could have used that money to pay for my accomodation over the course of my stay, and I wouldn’t have expected any problems.
        I’m not saying this is the norm, but some vfx companies already treat their employees well in this regard.
        Obviously this will also come down to individual negotiation skills and leverage. But it is certainly possible.

      • Ymir says:

        Charlie, you pretty much described my situation perfectly. I don’t live in Iowa, but I don’t live in California, either. I have traveled around the US for work; sometimes housing is provided, sometimes just a relocation ‘bonus’, and other times I footed the whole bill. But I wouldn’t have taken any job if at the end I didn’t come out somewhat ahead financially. That’s the ultimate determining factor for any job, that you earn money and not end up paying money in the end.
        When you decide to relocate internationally, whether permanently or temporarily, you are doing that for the benefit of the effects facility or production. You are giving them access to your experience, talent, and skills in a location other than where you live that is advantageous for them. They are not you as a favor to you. They are asking you to jump through hoops and go through the hassles of international employment. This is something artists need to understand . . . the companies need to get talent to these subsidized locations as the local talent pool just isn’t sufficient. The demand is greater than the local supply. The company should either offer a guaranteed long term contract to make a permanent relocation justifiable, or if the company has no intention of keeping an artist on beyond a Run-Of-Picture (with the option of another ROP) pay for transportation and housing, as again, the artist is going to wherever to help the company get the show done. Or the company can have the option of paying a higher rate at the foreign location, or a lower rate if the artist is employed locally.

  40. deanareeno says:

    vfxsoldier: You might want to look at Selfstarter, which is “an open source starting point for building your own ad-hoc crowdfunding site.”


  41. amVFX says:

    Are non US folks really concerned they’d not have Any work if there were no subsidies? For one, if the industry demanded it, California would certainly demand more visa if they needed them. But for another, there are plenty of pools of talent in places and shops that should continue to get work regardless.

    Are folks forgetting many of the larger shops are already global? I feel like everyday I hear another satellite is opening somewhere. I’ve been in several places that take advantage of this, one satellite gets pulled on to help another one with a influx of work. In the right situations it can be effective and actually employ a bunch of folks from all over without running people too ragged or dragging them all over the world.

    But more, even as a US citizen, I’m not overly worried about Where the work is. I just want it to stop moving all over the place! And I’d like to be able to keep doing it.

    My partner and I talk about having kids, but we both find it an impossible idea right now, between the hours, inconstant work contracts, and the fact that at any time I might be headed off to work some place else for who knows how long. We want to buy a home or a condo, but have no idea where we want to settle.

    If the industry really leaves LA (which I’m still a bit sceptical about) then fine, I just want to make a home, have a family, and do the work I love doing. I should think this is ultimately what everyone wants.

  42. eee says:

    I guess what scares people outside the US is how hard work visa are to get. Defacto it would make it much harder for any non US citizen (Canadians apart) to find work in the industry if all the work is done in California.

  43. Scott Squires says:

    ILM had quite a number of people from other countries even before incentives. R&H and other companies did as well. Don’t see this as changing unless the Visa requirements are changing as well.

  44. AB/CD says:

    I doubt the visa requirements have changed that much, but with all the students being pumped out by US schools every year I imagine it would be real difficult for an HR person to prove they could not find a US Citizen to do the job.

  45. raphael says:

    I applaud this endeavor and will contribute when I see the project in place. It’s an investment in my immediate work future. However I think an even better way to fight this is for artists to get together and start their own guerrilla studios and put the larger studios out of business. Put the execs and middle managers out of a job and see what else they have to fall back on to feed their families. Then they might be more inclined to foster healthy communities rather than chase dollars. Its only fair competition after all, and it goes more in line with adaptation to current market trends. Let the ones who rely on subsidies eat each other out, too… I realize this represents a huge sacrifice many aren’t willing to make, but It’s probably coming, ultimately.

    Spending resources to block subsidies in other countries might fend off current projects, but studios can still migrate offices abroad to take advantage of cheaper labor. Even subsidies aren’t going to be enough in the current economic climate. With most countries in Europe tackling horrible deficits, how long with the subsidies last? London, with it’s high costs and living standards, will be the first to collapse, especially against a falling US dollar. As the US economy also grinds to a halt and the dollar devalues, US labor could become relatively cheaper. Those in the US who are currently making ends meet without government handouts are posed to take the lead again…IMO

    • joey says:

      Are you kidding me, Raphael?

      “Start their own guerrilla studio’s and put the larger studio’s out of business” and “put the execs and middle manager’s out of job and see what else they have to fall back on to feed their families”

      Do you really think that’s where all the profit is going in a VFX company?

      Fact #1: Typically these days 65% of a jobs cost is in artist and production salaries in a typical western economy VFX company.

      Fact #2: To support that you will spend another 30% of cost on people for technical support, pipeline, finance and operational management that doesn’t contribute directly to generating revenue but you will need to get the work done, get paid and keep the bathrooms clean.

      Wow! I can make $50K on a $1M project. But wait I still need to re-invest continually in new workstations, disk space, network infrastructure, software and the list goes on. You also have to pay the rent, carry insurance, taxes and the like. Also projects simply don’t line up and start and finish in perfect sync so I have to be able to carry people when it’s not busy without laying them off and losing all the intellectual IP I have invested in previously.

      Not much left at the end to make it worth while for a shareholder that has invested to keep a business running in the present climate considering the risk. One project that loses money and they are wiped. It’s a fact….IMHO

  46. NZer says:

    US Visa’s are more difficult to get. Ever since 9/11 it has been much tighter. It’s also much more difficult to get a Greencard/Permanent residence in the US.

    But I do look forward to the California VFX workers fighting tax subsidies for film offered by:

    – Alabama
    – Alaska
    – Arkansas
    – Colorado
    – Connecticut
    – District of Columbia
    – Florida
    – Georgia
    – Hawaii
    – Idaho
    – Illinois
    – Kansas
    – Kentucky
    – Louisiana
    – Maine
    – Maryland
    – Massachusetts
    – Michigan
    – Minnesota
    – Mississippi
    – Missouri
    – Montana
    – New Jersey
    – New Mexico
    – New York
    – North Carolina
    – Ohio
    – Oklahoma
    – Oregon
    – Pennsylvania
    – Puerto Rico
    – Rhode Island
    – South Carolina
    – Tennessee
    – Texas
    – UtahVirginia
    – Washington
    – West Virginia
    – Wisconsin
    – Wyoming

    Source – http://www.mpaa.org/policy/state-by-state

    Once you have defeated those subsidies, best of luck launching the complaint with the WTO against:

    – Australia
    – Belgium
    – Brazil
    – Canada
    – Fiji Islands
    – France
    – Germany
    – Hungary
    – Iceland
    – Ireland
    – Isle of Man
    – Italy
    – Luxembourg
    – Malta
    – Mexico
    – New Zealand
    – Singapore
    – South Africa
    – South Korea
    – Spain / Canary Islands
    – United Kingdom

    Source – http://www.blg.com/en/home/publications/Documents/publication_1520.pdf

    In the end, we’ll just have to deal with Government owned VFX/Animation/Film companies that have started Public/Private partnerships with companies like DreamWorks and Rhythm and Hues



    I suppose a government job doing VFX work would offer the stability and union protection we’ve all wanted?

    • atlas says:

      You’re confused, international trade regulations and state trade policy have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Enforcing current international trade laws that are in fact being broken has absolutely nothing to do with state trade laws and is so far removed from big government that it is retarded you would even draw a conclusion to such a matter. I suppose the world should go without laws cause you can’t wrap your head around what a government does.

      • atlas says:

        And honestly nobody cares if China or India or anywhere else opens a vfx studio, go for it, challenge that supposed free market. Make YOUR films and stop working on ours, all this bullshit pride about how foreigners deserve to be working on Hollywood block busters. Make your own market already. Then you can stop complaining about whining American’s wanting their jobs back. Or how American companies like Nike exploit workers, which it does, well stop buying the products, I am American and I don’t buy them, vote with your dollars. Put your money where your mouth is and stop working on American films, stop feeding industries that exploit people and grow up and make some of your own films. What Hollywood really needs is ACTUAL competition not job buying. It needs someone to step up and create an industry of their own where they don’t need HW to feed them. Hell, India has Bollywood, ITS ENORMOUS, where is your’s?

      • globalConspiracyRus says:

        That’s awesome – the state subsidies in the US have nothing to do with this? They’re available to anyone that turns up, including overseas producers who just have to open up a US office to qualify for them. You know, the rest of the world just looks at the US and sees it awash in media subsidies and thinks to itself “fuck you, we’ll do what we want”.

      • NZer says:

        Atlas: when just about every state in the US offers film tax subsidies, it’s going to be hard to argue that by having similar subsidies, districts in other countries are at an unfair advantage.

        Please, pursue tariffs instead. I’m sure that if the US were to impose tariffs on all use of foreign subsidized labour in film that the reactionary tariffs imposed on exported US films would please everyone.

  47. frankie wilde says:

    So what have we learned? That subsidies are a part of the Global Business environment. That they are offered to the Film industry (among many others) by The US Government, almost every US state and every Nation on Earth. That there has not, nor will there ever be a “level playing field” what does that even mean? That Governments play a huge role in manipulating the Business Environment. That the only people against subsidies (despite being in receipt of them) are some California based VFX artists. Do you really believe that Government shouldn’t intervene in anything and that there is such a thing as a completely free market economy? You guys have got to get over this “small government” myth.

  48. […] Monday I’ll be launching the crowdfunding campaign to end VFX subsidies. The timing is coincidentally quite good given a fair number of articles on the subsidy issue in […]

  49. Right away I am going away to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast coming yet
    again to read further news.

  50. […] Taking Action On #VFX Subsidies In December /by @VFXSoldier […]

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