Campaign to End VFX Subsidies 60% Funded After Two Days

Great start to the campaign. After 2 days we are 60% funded for our first stage. I’m incredibly thankful to everyone who has contributed. There was a lot of news generated from the start and a lot of questions.

The campaign has been featured on other sites:

Surviving Post Production: 5 Simple Clicks to Safeguard Your Future in Film VFX

Animation World Network: VFX Trade Subsidy Campaign Launches

Animaton Guild: VFX Soldier launches campaign against entertainment subsidies

and finally a new site called VFX Los Angeles has started: So, it begins.

and now to the questions:

How long will the feasibility study take?

It will probably take 2-3 months. Much of this will depend upon the law firm consulting with contacts in the industry so they can prescribe the route of action.

Who is the law firm and why won’t you reveal them?

We have chosen not to reveal the law firm at this time because it may reveal their contacts in the government which opponents of this measure will try to lobby. You’re going to have to believe in us on this one. We’re running a bit of a high wire act: We need to spread info to encourage support but at the same time we also need to conceal important information from the opposition or else the integrity of our campaign will be compromised. If we go on to the second stage that leads to a course of action, the law firm will divulge their identity.

How did you find this law firm?

I’ve been in contact with various officials in the government about the trade issues harming the VFX industry. It became quite apparent that I would need counsel to go further. I was referred to various law firms that specialize in international trade law. I was able to put together a list of over 50 international trade law firms which I contacted. Some recused themselves, some did not answer, some expressed interest, and some were just looking to rip me off.

After getting in contact with those who were interested, I personally booked a flight on my own dime and went out to meet each one. They were all very good candidates with incredible expertise. I chose this particular law firm for a few reasons:

Expertise: This was a law firm that had attorneys that worked in the Office of US Trade Representative. The team was highly experienced. One of the attorneys served for decades as a former partner at one of the premier international law firms.

Cases: This law firm has had a history of helping smaller industries that were being adversely affected by subsidies being taken advantage of by larger domestic producers. This was important because this is a situation most of us are in given the relationship between the VFX industry and US Studios.

Realistic: The final reason I chose this particular law firm was because they were realistic. They understood the challenge we faced as an ad hoc group of VFX professionals. They’ve worked with similar groups before. Instead of trying to charge a huge amount up front they were receptive to a pay-as-we-go plan where we crowd-fund their plan.

Isn’t VFX Soldier running a scam to get rich quick?

As silly as this accusation is, it must be addressed. Do a search on my blog. For years, countless hours, days and nights I have religiously posted on issues affecting my colleagues, my friends, and their families in the VFX industry. As of write now it’s 4:30am and I’m writing this post. All of this while working full time. I haven’t received one dime out of this blog and we’ve engineered this campaign so if we reach our goal the funding goes directly to the law firm. No money enters my hands. For years naysayers came to my blog and complained that there was no action from anyone in the industry. I took my time, worked the channels to arrive to this moment for action.

Do you really think after all this that my intent was to cash out by starting a crowd-funded campaign for $16K?

Many of the people who donated to this campaign and have supported this website have never met me. All I can say is that I’ve been here before. I remember not knowing anyone trying to get into this industry. I remember so many opposed to me becoming a VFX professional. They said I would lose. They said I would fail. Yet for some reason I kept going. The reason why was because the costs of doing nothing was far greater than trying my best.

That’s the situation we’re in right now. I know many of you are skeptical but again, I ask you to consider the costs of doing nothing. The status quo of chasing the industry as it moves to each subsidized locale cannot continue. I look forward to your support.

Soldier On.

37 Responses to Campaign to End VFX Subsidies 60% Funded After Two Days

  1. Devin Fairbairn says:

    Thank you. You are doing an incredible thing. Big shout outs to Scott Squires and Dave Rand as well. You guys are a shining example of how we should all keep this conversation going and fight.

  2. Andreas Jablonka says:

    Great followup Post soldier! thank you for addressing these questions

  3. jaded_DD_artist says:

    Get ready for the tinfoil-hat contingent to doubly proclaim their suspicions and outrage!

  4. anonymous says:

    I don’t know where to put this but, I’m following the DD Auction in Florida. JTextor has been bidding competitively. He put an opening, unchallenged, bid of 1million on all equipment. He’s been winning many of the lot by lot auctions as well

  5. VFX_Boom says:

    You have to love that most folks in the industry sit on their ass and do nothing when it comes to the dismantling of our industry. But, when some one comes along and makes an effort, those on the side line WILL get off their asses, but only to challenge those that ARE doing something. WTF?

    And, what’s up with all these folks demanding to know who the law film is, so they can “Research” them. Like anyone on this board has a background in Law Firms that challenge international trade law. Watching Judge Judy does not qualify you to do shit.

    If you are happy with the status quo, the keep on keeping on. Meanwhile, the rest of the folks that give crap will be putting on our game faces.

    • Dull says:

      You forgot where you coming from. Remember when start in this business! All the guys, which wimp about industry, it your fault. All this so called seniors and old school artists dud nothing against it 10-15 years ago. And now you bad-mouth about young artists? Yiu missed it to get union going when industry was quite small!

      You guys send youtube ilm-videos about good old times when people worked in own garages. This time nobody give a grap about endless overtime. Because you had passion for movie and care about money and you just talk money etc.

      So. Show a little respect!

  6. JoStacey says:

    perhaps people should identify themselves as American – or non-American. It seems that’s where the divide lies.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Actually I’ve received quite a few donations from people in the UK for example. The issue isn’t where we want the work done, the issue is the market distortion that continually forces us to uproot and move.

      • vfxscrub says:

        Brit here.

        I can’t stand the subsidy wars. If this puts a dent in it will be a step in the right direction.

        It will also give VFX houses an even bigger incentive to grow some and demand Studios to simply pay more. They have all the leverage in the world, just write a list of the highest grossing movies of all time.

        And your telling me that margins are at 5% at best. If you want to prove we are not interchangeable/disposable etc you will have a tough time because well, we are. Some ambitious small shop would take the work and the results will speak for themselves, along with box office numbers.

        Just look at the other units of film production, its such a joke vfx is literally the slum dweller where as catering is a protected and handsomely paid ….. crucial ….. part of the production.

        So if this gets those vfx houses a reason to stand up im for it, just as long as we don’t forget what is the real problem.

    • Anon says:

      The divide may more properly lie between those who aspire to live in California (and maybe L.A. in particular) and those who would prefer to live somewhere else. I know plenty of Americans who jumped at the chance to move to Vancouver, London, or Wellington for the sake of their lifestyle and their family, as well as many non-Americans who would really like the excuse to stay in Southern California for the rest of their life.

    • Anon says:

      It would be interesting to know how many people are against subsidies for the inherent market distortions, versus how many are just masking a desire to live in California, and whether that correlates at all to nationality.

  7. Oz VFX says:

    It’s a shame the attitude from LA artists toward those in subsidized locations seems to be quite dismissive. This may also be a huge strategic mistake, because right from the outset you have alienated 80% of the worlds VFX workers. So even if you deliver a perfect pitch to the 20% left in LA (or who want to be), you are only tapping a fraction of the potential support you could have got for this. Perhaps it’s not too late to change direction and create a campaign that could rally VFX workers globally? You’re going to need all the help you can get on this one…

    Challenging subsidies means challenging profits in California at a time when Cali and the national economy are facing a fiscal crisis. That makes it doubly difficult to do because it’s politically poisonous, especially for the Democrats. No’one will want to touch this. Making it doubly difficult again is that fact Canada, Oz, UK, NZ and everyone else will fight it if you get even close to succeeding. I predict you would see every big name actor and politician from all those countries appearing on TV talking about how great the subsidies have been for their industries, how much they have contributed to Hollywood (true), and how they should not be removed. The big hollywood studios will back up every word, and they are way more connected than we will ever be. We are not talking about cheap chinese tyres here…

    I admire VFX soliders tenacity and guts. I know many others who do too, but who still won’t be contributing to this campaign. I don’t post this to be a jerk, I post it to let you know why you probably won’t get huge support for this outside the US. There are good reasons. If you observe a divide between US and non-US artists emerge over this as you move forwards, don’t be surprised. When that happens, resist the urge to caricature our motivations into something easily dismissed or ignored, that will only make it worse.

    You get the feeling that many LA artists on this blog feel like California owns the VFX work, and the rest of the world just rents it, would that be about right? Perhaps there is some historical truth to this, but don’t forget non-US VFX artists are the majority now, not the minority. It’s very risky to disregard such a huge group of people, and some of the comments here in the last week along the lines of “if you want to do VFX, you should have to move to LA” are not helping one bit. It’s hard to rally people behind someone else’s sense of entitlement…

    People on this blog have preached a mantra of Unite! Unite! for so long, but this campaign is not something that many outside of LA can unite behind. Who would financially contribute to their own industries suicide?

    Please don’t misunderstand me, I see the damage the race to the bottom is having on this industry and it’s people. I’m one of them after all. I would contribute to a campaign to dismantle them if it would do that in a more balanced way that offered a softer landing for subsidized locations. But asking everyone outside of LA to take one for the team and watch their industries die along with the subsidies is simply asking too much…

    • Dave Rand says:

      It becomes painfully clear when the shit end of this stick comes your way…and it will eventually. All it will take is a politician to change his mind in your country or a neighboring one, and minds have been changing lately. It’s not hard to figure out where all the work is coming from. Sadly this stucture has put a fence up keeping new content providers from standing a chance in this warped market. You’d think by now that the six American Studios controlling this game would have had some competition from all that infrastructure and talent popping up all around the world…but they have not..ask youself why. We are not fighting you, we are fighting them. All that global spreading of VFX is artificial and incredably insecure. Now ask yourself which of your country’s industries you’d feel comfortable putting up on ebay for the highest government bidder to move it to their backyard and take the jobs away from your family and friends. Maybe Fosters is a good start, I used to like that beer. I think the Canucks in Vancouver would be better off in Los Angeles. I wonder if the Yankees or NASA will ever be up for sale. That’s not a free market. Put your fear aside and trust your talent, we all had to…. visual fx is here to stay. Real growth comes from free markets….just ask Russia or China. Personally I’d love to tent pole movies come from OZ from OZ money…what’s keeping them out of the club? Could it be a monopoly with of wich subsidy deals is only one tool keeping the fencce up? NZ is learning this now apparently, One subsidy in a one player market http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-04/kill-the-hobbit-subsidies-to-save-regular-earth.html

      • Oz VFX says:

        I do get it man. I’m not fighting you either, I’m just telling you what many others are thinking, but won’t ever bother to post. I could be wrong, this is just my perspective. I know for sure that if I didn’t care about VFX and it’s workers (myself included) I wouldn’t bother spending hours of my time writing these posts, even if it’s not the most uplifting contribution.

        You don’t want to lose our jobs, and we don’t want to lose ours. Now where are we? The LA old guard point out that they developed the industry, have the expertise and are ideally located (true) and the new guys point out that if they want to spend taxpayer money getting in the game, that’s their call (also true).

        I think VFX unity would be a wonderful thing. The reason I posted my first reply here in a previous VFX solider article was that I was hoping to hear all the reasons this would be great for VFX globally. I didn’t get much along those lines, but it’s not too late. Pitch it guys! – pitch it so we can understand how things will be better for everyone if this is successful, is that so much to ask? Does it need to be pointed out that this is necessary? The LA centric nature of the discussion so far is not in your best interests.

        If the reality is simply that subsidies must go by any means possible, that’s terrible for us if it succeeds. We won’t see contraction and instability like LA has seen, we’ll see the industry disappear in 12 months with 90%+ job losses. We fear losing our jobs same as you do. I understand that our industry is not your priority, but I’m surprised that you guys didn’t think through how you were going to sell this to VFX workers globally… People from all over the world read and talk about this blog! If the number of non-english speakers who’ve been posting in the last 6 months is any indication, it’s reach is growing wider than ever before.

        I’m not a fan of what subsidies are doing to studios and workers, I don’t know anyone who is. The heart of my point here is that they may be other ways to oppose subsidies that brings the global VFX worker along for the ride, and it would be in your interest to look into that. I’m not an international trade lawyer and I don’t know what those other ways might be. But what I do know is if you knock out the subsidies in one location, that location will die and the work will just flood somewhere else in 3 months. Even assuming you could legally knock out one foreign location a year, you would still be entering a 10 year game of cat and mouse for any true victory and that’s assuming you didn’t lose any locations along the way. Meanwhile the studios will simply work harder to prepare places that don’t need subsidies to undercut LA like India and China.

        The best legal avenue for reducing the subsidy race to the bottom, and rallying VFX workers worldwide, is probably going to involve blocking US studios from accepting foreign subsidies, (or capping the percentages they can accept!), rather than killing the subsides themselves. That way you only fight a legal battle in one country- not 10. You will also offer confidence to the global VFX worker than you’re not targeting individual countries for demolition, and if you’re successful you would probably see a much softer landing for global VFX studios because their infrastructure and product would still be worth something. Also they could see the blow coming from a year or two away. LA would end up in a better position than it’s in right now, and everyone else still gets to play.

        Maybe that’s all pipe-dream rubbish, as I said I’m no lawyer. Maybe someone will tell me that’s insane, it may be. But I am confident there are ways you can pursue this that will rally the VFX world behind you, and ways that will do the opposite. It would be worthwhile thinking through which road you want to take, because this could be a long war and you’ll need all the help (VFX soldiers?) you can get.

        As you guys are still at the feasibility study stage, it doesn’t seem too late to at least look for a legal avenue that works for global VFX… right?

      • Dave Rand says:

        Oz I can only re-iterate that you trust your talent. We all had to when the incentives started. We hoped that it would build foreign infrastructure and growth but soon realized the monopolistic tool that it became instead. I’ve never sat in a room in the United States since 1997 where all the artists were Americans. Fact is there’s not enough talent to fill the need. There’s lots of warm bodies coming out of school but they can’t be taught the most important component of all. There’s no course for it an there’s no pill for it.

        It’s not magically sprouting up in our societies from some accelerated evolution either.

        Sure almost anyone can roto…but I’ve seen the shittiest roto to.

        I’ve seen people with massive technical skills that could not final a shot to save their lives, and I’ve seen great artists have Houdini come at them like a wall.

        We are not common, and the work, although done best while you’re in the same breathing space as the director, can still be done on a wire. My hope is that new storytellers get to rise up and their work allowed to get into theaters, letting theater owners get profits from the movie rather than the 12 dollar popcorn.

        There’s still not enough quality films for my appetite. I find myself going to endless prequels and sequels. Franchises that are magical in their visuals but lacking in real story telling. They done by investment companies where the quality takes a backseat to the dollar.

        But it’s still and always will be about talent eventually..we are just trying to give that a chance and that has to be something you can stand behind.

    • Dave Rand says:

      As the Barron’s piece indicated…they don’t need handouts and should repay loans instead (the people of NZ should at least all get executive producer credits…imagine that list, it would be longer than the movie.) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-04/kill-the-hobbit-subsidies-to-save-regular-earth.html We are at a place where conglomerates are larger than governments and dictate laws that tip the playing field towards their wide open mouths, tossing would be story tellers and fresh ideas off like crumbs.

      • Mr Reality says:

        The fact of the matter is that the trickle down effect in Wellington has been huge. I laugh when I read articles about the poor people of NZ from people who have no idea of what it has done for the economy from taxi drivers, restuarnts, real estate let alone the tax the government will collect from al the workers far exceeds what they paid.

        I know you hate subsides but saying it has been bad for the local population is crazy

  8. P-Fi says:

    Hey Oz,

    I’ve been too and worked at a shop in Australia, fantastic country and a great work experience. However, I do know that Oz is having the same problem as the people in California and London. You can no longer compete with the cost of labor due to incentives in Vancouver. Nobody can, it’s currently cheaper to do work in Vancouver than it is in India.

    If you don’t oppose incentives your work will dry up anyway, it will go to some place with better incentives.

    • Oz VFX says:

      Hey P-Fi

      Yeah Oz is having the exact same problems, part of that is because our economy and dollar are so strong, but of course Canadian subsidies are a big reason too…

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        Actually the biggest problem seems to me to be the lack of subsidies in Oz. The Wolverine subsidy was a one-off and the government is refusing to extend that to other productions which have come knocking like the Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending and Fincher’s 20,000 leagues Under the Sea.
        Or Fury Road that had to be shot in Namibia…
        Of course the currency fluctuations are a big part also, part of the reason why they had to push the subsidies up for The Hobbit in NZ ( Nz dollar went up 30-50 per cent since Lord of the Rings ).

      • Oz2 says:

        Charlie Don’t Surf:
        Fury Road being shot in Namibia had nothing to do with subsidies. It had to do with the fact that the outback experienced some of the greatest amounts of rainfall over the winter, leading to a desert that was blooming with wildflowers and lot’s of green sprouting everywhere.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        I stand corrected.

  9. Oz VFX says:

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for the reply, it may seem as though we’re at odds but I think we are both of the same mind, the biggest difference seems to be where we live. I do believe and trust in talent, and actually don’t mind that much which country I work in. It’s not fear of moving that motivates me to post here.

    Let me say again I very much respect the drive you, VFX solider and others here have to do something about subsides. I understand it, I would just ideally like to see the maximum number of our fellow VFX workers come along for the ride.

  10. Dave Rand says:

    Anatomy of a tax credit scam

    Where a politician passes legislation that enables her (and later her daughter) to do a reality show after she steps down from office.

    Although not VFX related it explains how these productions pay very little in tax and sell the rebates through a broker for 80-90 cents on the dollar to a wealthy resident who then used them against their own taxes. The broker also collects a commission.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/21/sarah-palins-alaska-taxpayer-subsidies_n_826079.html

    What I find fascinating is that Palin marches around yaking it up about he evil of entitlement programs, like most republicans do, yet she’s grabbing at a handout that would feed hundreds of families of truly needy folks to do a bullshit reality show in order to promote here misbegotten fame to the next level.

  11. Yeah, you buddy! says:

    Can you also stop central bank owners and too-big-to-fail bank owners controlling politicians across every industry in our nation? Did you know US tax payer money has been sent over to China and India for around thirty years now, to subsidise factories that are relocated from the US (and usually partly or whowly owned by other US and international idustrialists). If you can be bothered to put down the video games or logoff youtube for just a day or two, you will find all the details of US tax payer subsidy of industrial off-shoring in the WTO trade agreements, starting with the Lima accord in 1976. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, they all work for the same boss, they never tell you what they are really going to do when they are in the office. Obama? Lol? I admire your faith there, because he sure keeps his elections promises, right? Never judge politicians by what they say, you judge then by what they actually do. They are always two entirely different things.

    I admire this stand you are making here. The reason offshoring was covertly done behind tax payer’s backs, using tax payers money, for over thirty years, was precisely because nobody gives a damn to get off their ass and say “No!” and because nobody holds the presidents and prime ministers to account when they openly lie and do completely opposite things when in office. 90% of television is bullcrap. Switch it off for 90% of the time. Facebook, videos games, all bullcrap for 90% of the time. Switch off and start getting involved in your own life. Good luck.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Since I weaned myself from “The Patriot Nurse” on youtube I’ve embraced a brighter attitude towards our future. Granted it’s a tough game coming off that nipple, but it had to be done.

  12. Kerry says:

    I think you might not like what i have to say…I’m not being positive that you’ll win.

    This is all too much about big $. Studios, producers and even directors, like Cameron and Jackson, will get their slice of the cake, and you wont even get a crumb.

    You see they dont give a shit, Cameron has and is know to have ripped of scripts, writers and everyone else in between.And at the same time he espouses the plight of vfx workers, make no mistake he’s dealing with China now, for the cheapest of labor going.

    Jackson is he any better? You can bet he wont be worse off.

    Consider that Warner Bros. got a revision of New Zealand’s labor laws to forbid collective bargaining among film-production contractors.

    If a –Country– is willing to sell out its own people, then what chance do you have?

    I dont blame you for trying I really dont, but I think you have to be realistic, even if you win, there will be other loop holes to be exploited.

    I think that as long as countries are willing to sell out their own people, and cave in to demands, you wont win, you cant win, these deals are not about movies, but money.

    I’d suggest the only think, and Christ I really do support your efforts, is really to unite, not playing the US vs non-US game, but unite as an industry, that’s the only way you’ll ever have a chance of changing anything.

    Its strange to me that vfx workers, who are mobile and internet savvy cant figure out a way for them all to be a band of brothers.

    Because until you do, in a real and meaningful way, countries like NZ, every, and I REALLY MEAN EVERY, Studio and Producer, and Director, Politician, Prime Minister, President and everyone in-between WILL just pull the rug out from under you, any chance they get.

    Your only chance of real and lasting and positive change is to think and act globally.

    Because they do.

    • Jen says:

      Two weeks ago I honestly thought that poor treatment and poorer compensation would drive the best and brightest away from the VFX industry. I thought that would be the end of top-flight VFX like Richard Parker and the Great Goblin.

      I forgot about the anime industry, running on magnificent artwork drawn by artists making about $30,000/year. Source: http://animationguildblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/sticking-to-hand-drawn.html

      So that could be one outcome of our race-to-the-bottom. Artists could still choose to keep the VFX industry going, even if those artists earn no credit or profits.

  13. missing_page says:

    Where did the donation page go?

  14. Paul says:

    Indiegogo “The world’s funding platform. Go fund yourself.”

    Indeed…

  15. deanareeno says:

    Looks like the campaign page is still down two days later…I get “Invalid page – The page you are looking for is no longer available or has been moved.”

    You should’ve gone the http://selfstarter.us/ route, then you wouldn’t have to pay indiegogo fees or be subject to their whims.

  16. VFX Traveller says:

    The subsidy nut is an exceedingly tough one to crack in my opinion and without a lot of support behind it from a large organised group I don’t think it will have much chance of success. Very much admire VFXSoldier’s efforts in this area.

    But in my opinion the best way to really change this industry is to form a trade guild and a union. I know people have been working hard in this area and that’s where vfx artists money should be going, in my humble opinion. Once the vfx studios have formed a guild and the workers are unionised then we would have the clout to stand up to the studios and sort out the subsidy issue.

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