The Institutionalization of Displacement In VFX

From the Montreal Gazette:

Britain’s Framestore Inc., a leading supplier of visual special effects and animation for the movie and TV industries, is setting up operations in Montreal and expects to provide 200 new jobs over the next three years. The project is being backed financially by the Quebec government with a repayable grant.

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

Layoffs at Framestore London?

While things are looking up in Montreal with 200 new jobs, rumors are that 100-150 people at Framestore London may lose their jobs. I’ve been unable to verify the authenticity of this email which may have been sent out to Framestore London employees:

As projects approach their final weeks we have been reviewing the crew requirements for confirmed work in London. Whilst we are bidding on a number of projects we don’t expect work in London to pick up again until the Autumn so we need to reduce the headcount across all the VFX teams.

Following an initial review of crew schedules we would like you to attend a group meeting tomorrow at 10am in the Wells Street Cinema. At this meeting we will tell you more about the process we will follow to reach final decisions on which roles and individuals will be impacted by this and answer any questions you may have. There will be an opportunity for individual meetings over the next week or two but it is very important that you attend this group meeting. Your Producer and Supervisor know that they need to spare you for half an hour.

The Institutionalization of Displacement

Sad news. For years this blog has argued that subsidies in the VFX industry hurts professionals. Not only do we work project to project, but now we have to engage in an international job chase around the world as various governments  hand huge amounts of cash to the studios so they can proudly say “we are creating jobs!”

An article came out yesterday from a writer in BC who so eloquently put our struggle into a short sentence. He called the subsidy race the institutionalization of displacement and unemployment. When we allow companies that we work for to do things like coercing of professionals to constantly move or prescribe day rates with no overtime, we institutionalize it where the next set of companies open up and turn the abuse into policy.

So What Should UK VFX Professionals Do?

Look I know this blog isn’t very popular with the folks in the UK but the struggle that has arrived to your shore is nothing new to California (and soon BC) VFX professionals. The subsidy war hurts all of us and there’s a reason why the European Commission is looking to ban or mitigate subsidies for the film industry.

The EC is quite responsive to people who contact them. I’d encourage you to all ban together and challenge the subsidies offered in Canada, US, Australia, and NZ. The UK has world-class VFX talent that resides there and while mitigating subsidies may not turn the UK into the hotspot it once was when it was the leader in the subsidy race, the work will ultimately go to where the talent resides when the playing field is level.

Let’s turn this race to the bottom into a race to the top.

Soldier On.


151 Responses to The Institutionalization of Displacement In VFX

  1. I have heard from people that this email is real and there will be a large number of people leaving Framestore London in the near future.

    However, I have an inkling that the Montreal office will be affected by what is affecting the London one – a big project that has gone on hold, that they were partly hoping to staff the Montreal office for as well. I think the press release was somewhat badly timed.

    It’s not good news for London vfx artists, after the layoffs at DNeg last year.

    Also, if Britain does leave the EU in 2017, UK workers will lose the protection afforded by the EU’s ‘Working Time Agreement’.. not that they’re exercising it anyway. Sigh.

    • Charlie Don't Surf says:

      To be fair, I can’t wait until the UK finally leaves the EU. Chances are higher that the work will flow to another EU country like France or Germany with a decent quality of life. This because the UK vfx industry is built on the backs of large numbers of European workers, many of them on a per project basis. If they exercise visa restrictions in the UK, the work would go where no such visa restrictions applied on the talent.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        Also, the e-mail is real. Just had lunch with a friend from Framestore who attended a meeting there this morning to discuss layoffs. Numbers are 150 artists affected, a lot of seniors and people who had been there for many years. He had just started there less than a month ago, so the layoffs are across the board.

      • VFX Soldier says:


        We agree on a lot of things and disagree on the subsidy issue. In a nutshell you support the subsidies because you enjoy visiting different countries which I don’t have a problem with.

        However for your senior friends at framestore who make London their home, how do you feel about them being unwillingly forced to eventually move to Montreal because the subsidies are larger there?

      • louis says:

        I’m french, and in France there isn’t a lot of vfx companies and the quality of life in paris is so bad.. That’s why I want to leave france to work correctly. France isn’t the future of vfx

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        That’s not going to happen. They’re staying right here. There’s a lot of work in London if you know where to look.
        The guy I was talking to is pissed because he just turned down a 1 year offer elsewhere to take the Framestore role. But he has 3 other companies in London that made him offers. He went right back to the office after lunch to e-mail those companies…
        Also, I don’t support subsidies because I get to visit other countries ( although I do ). It’s because subsidies are a part of the global business environment in many areas and I have no fundamental philosophical problem with state intervention in the mrket economy.
        Anyway fair play to you. I understand your perspective. And I still think you are doing a valuable job as a whistleblowers. There are abuses in this industry in many areas and people should be made aware of them.

    • vfxIntlTraveller says:

      It’s interesting to note that all other posters have ignored this pertinent piece of information: “I have an inkling that the Montreal office will be affected by what is affecting the London one – a big project that has gone on hold” Most everyone in London knows what this “big project” is. Was it canned because of lack/availability of subsidies? No, it’s back on the shelf because the filmmaker has changed his mind. FS were holding onto the staff in anticipation of starting the show, now they’re being let go. However, most of them won’t have to move as they’ll get picked up by Dneg and Cinesite who appear to be hiring in London again like there’s no tomorrow.

      It’s worth noting that if the UK did leave the EU then they’d almost certainly up their subsidies to match/beat Canada and NZ – at the moment they’re constrained by EU rules which is why there’s no specific VFX subsidy (along the lines of BC and NZ)

    • stewartaxton says:

      Everyone in VFX has to opt out of the Working Time Agreement as you should know!

      • no they do not.
        even if a company makes it a condition of the contract, you can on day one of employment tell them you wish to opt in and they cannot, under any law, refuse your request to do so.
        “A worker can cancel their opt-out agreement whenever they want – even if it’s part of their employment contract.

        They must give their employer at least 7 days’ notice. This could be longer (up to 3 months) if the worker previously agreed this in the written opt-out agreement with the employer.

        The employer isn’t allowed to force a worker to cancel their opt-out agreement.”

      • vfxl says:

        easier said than done. opting-in could easily be used against you and could lead to loose your job. in a work enviroment where the first 3 months are probationary it is not safe -i’m afraid- to opt-in.

        i hate to say this, i believe in regular working hours and denying myself a right for fear of loosing my job is bad.

        retaliation includes adding more pressure to you, quietly making your life difficult at work, doubling or trebling the tasks required without the support required, renewing probationary periods on trivial excuses (negative feedbacks such as ‘didn’t bring the notepad in dailies, he surely couldn’t have. noted down all changes’, or ‘he wasn’t at his desk on that occasion’…).

        i’m in the process of deciding whether to accept the opt-out so not to stand out from the crowd ( but still do my regular hours and leave on time no matter what) or opt-in and have my name flagged from hr and production.
        in my particular case, considering the opt-out is part of the contract and not a separate form thus rendering it invalid, i will probably just ignore it

      • vfxl says:

        one more thing. the optout is part of the contract draft i received ( no separate forms to sign ) and the employer requires 3 months notice to opt-in. if you were to optout on day one you would still need to provide three months of notice right? cheeky:)

  2. vfx_dude says:

    I’m not surprised this has happened again. A friend of mine had the same meeting with management at MPC. He was presented with one offer: move to Vancouver or lose the job. I guess the same offer will be presented to framestore’s employees. What a world we live in…Next will be relocation to China.

    • Ron Anderson says:

      When China gets too expensive it will be Rawanda or Somalia. Just a matter of time before all the job are shifted completely away.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I know people want to make that argument but here’s why I disagree.

        Even with huge subsidies in canada offering a 60% discount it has still been significantly cheaper to do the work in India and China. Yet there isn’t a relatively substantial amount of work being done there.

        I know I know… Eventually all the work will go there you say but that’s what you’ve been saying for years now. Imageworks has been in india for 5 years and not much work has gone there. A lot of work has gone to vancouver.

        The name of the game hasn’t been how to send work away, it’s been how to get you to move to a subsidized location.

      • vfx_dude says:

        I was just being sarcastic, China and India won’t be able to compete yet. Even if technically they were amazing and the workfore was really cheap, they still lack western culture awareness and sensibility. They might perform very well for their own local market though. The only way I could see it happen is if you remove the creative part out of the equation where it is just a mindless technical task. Then they have the advantage of volume.

    • stewartaxton says:

      MPC have deliberately set out to wind down London in favour of Vancouver, I’m not sure that that is what William Sargent is planning, sounds to me more like a big project gone wrong.

  3. Eric says:

    Im just wondering: If we stop the subsidies courses. What the industry will look like then ? Could it be worse ?

  4. DesertFoX says:

    If the subsidies stop, then the jobs go to where the talent and skills are. Theoretically anyway.

  5. louis says:

    I’m afraid, I’im a french junior, I thought Uk was my future…. thank you for your post.

    • vfx_dude says:

      You’re one of the lucky few. Canada has a visa for 1st time visitor under 25. You can basically go there to look for a job if you’re french speaking.

      • louis says:

        Thank you for your reply, but for me it’s more easier to go to london wih my wife, business don’t think abou our “family’

      • Rob says:

        But those visas are time-restricted, aren’t they? And what happens after that time is up? Because Canadian studios won’t go through the hassles of arranging work permits. Unless maybe you’re a talented senior artist.

  6. vfx_dude says:

    60$ paid for every 100$, that’s insane! Assuming you have a workforce of 100 people at an average salary of $50k/year. You’re looking at $5M a year of salary of which $3M is paid by the goverment?!

    There must be conditions like, it only applies to canadians and they have to be recent graduates .. So I wouldn’t be so sure about being able to relocate 150 Framestore layoffs to Canada even if it was physically possible. I know also that work visas are also easier to get for French citizens because the province of Quebec needs an influx of french speaking workers to keep the language alive. So if you’re not canadian or french, you’re f****d. Btw, I do believe subsidies ARE evil.

    • P-Fi says:

      They will try to fill most of those positions locally from Canada. It’s cheaper to hire a local then to relocate someone from the UK and hassle with work Visa’s.

      I’d say only 15% or so of the key positions will be relocated. Junior talent will fill in the rest.

    • Scott Squires says:

      Restrictions vary depending on the region offering the subsidies. Quebec is very open. I spoke to a Quebec vfx company and was told I could bring people from the US (how many I wanted) and that they too would be covered under their subsidiaries. Never followed up so not sure how correct that was but don’t assume every subsidy has logical restrictions.

  7. VFX_Boom says:

    I’d be curious to hear from the artists that have been moving country to country, city to city, having to chase the studios that chase the subsidies. How do they feel?

    I know some folks believe they are “Show Savers’, and it feeds their ego. And some just like to travel (ie. getting wasted each night because the parents aren’t around).

    Others just find it easy to get work. This in mainly in part that the studios just need warm bodies filling the seats so they can look busy and fully staffed up, meanwhile the shots themselves are all finished back in the main offices. Those in the main offices know this to be true.

    I suppose if the amount of willing and able bodies are available to travel, and do so, this trend will continue. But, a breaking point might only be a few years away, where this lifestyle is no longer deemed acceptable, and artists either start leaving the industry in large numbers, or, artists settle in a few areas and the work must come to them. It’s not really that far fetched. It all ends with the artists. Hopefully some point soon, it can begin with the artists as well.

    Fight the good fight.

    • Jen says:

      Me, I’m wondering how many traveling VFX artists are able to pursue home ownership or raise families.

      I know many VFX artists who do both, but these artists work in Los Angeles and do not bounce from country to country.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        Let me tell you that I bought a house in LA after coming back from Weta. I have not live din this house for more than 4 months combined in the last 1.5 years as im constantly forced to move elsewhere (Vancouver currently). Its very annoying and makes it hard to plan a life.

    • LMP says:

      Unfortunately the majority of “artists” are young in age, no social skills or a life besides going out with their peers to drink after endless hours of working together. I am sure some are “helping each other out” as well 😉

      They don’t understand what they are doing to their body and mind and at the beginning they are exited about going to different places.

      Then suddenly they are in their late thirties and have no life. No money, no nest; 100lb overweight, sick. So they start opening “schools” and or teaching online…

      The reason the Union has not taken shape is that most people are unable to think beyond themselves and have no idea of the consequences of a constantly unstable, unhealthy lifestyle.

      And the one person that doesn’t have a reason to be against subsidies (in general), let me explain it to you: subsidies (of all and many kinds) are the reason why whole countries are poor and the big and powerful hold all the wealth. China anyone? All manufacturing jobs in the US have gone abroad because of subsidies, government (damaging) interventions…

      • Kyle Gray says:

        1st part of the post is very on point.

      • Andreas says:

        Being one of the people you speak of, I cannot say that I recognize the picture you’re painting. I’m 36 years old and have been a professional VFX artist for the last 13. I have always preferred working as a freelancer, picking what film to do next, and never signing up for more than one film at a time. I travel the world, and go where I feel like. Not chasing work mind you, but picking the most fun project. Normally, I’d take a month or two off between jobs to relax properly.

        I do own a home (although I only live there some 3 months out of the year), I do have a life and friends outside of the industry, and I have heaps of money. And I don’t see much of all that drinking you refer to either. Sure, some people in London go out for a pint on Fridays, but you guys make it seem like we’re all raving alcoholics.

        I do of course agree that the industry is not very mature or particularly healthy, but as a smart and responsible adult I take advantage of the situation as best I can. I’d even go so far as to say that the current situation suits me just fine. The only real concern as I see it is having a family. Girlfriends can work, but wife and kids are tricker. Not impossible, but definately trickier. In my case, I’ll be economically independent in a few years (because of the money I’ve earned doing VFX, nothing else), and can settle down then. Not sure if I’ll want to though. Just having too much fun 🙂

        To all you complainers, warranted though your complaints may be, things are not likely to change soon. You should just get out. Change careers while you can, and leave the work for people who actually enjoy it. Why do you all put up with a career you obviously hate do much? I just don’t get it.

        Once you’ve all gone, supply and demand will turn in my favour, and I can get richer quicker 🙂

      • Zippy says:

        @Andreas what you are saying is all relative to your own interests/needs and not a refection of what is actually going for many others out there. Trolling rubbish to be honest!

        On the subject of the financials, like many people your age in VFX, you started at a time when the industry was still somewhat lucrative and when there were nowhere near as many people working in it as there are now.

        Do you know what is like for the junior artists and TDs these days during the first 5 years? Especially those who work in the likes of the UK?

        In one team I supervised in London between 2010-2012, 50% of who were juniors (under 3 years experience), I struggled to get the studio to pay them over £16K per year with some of them having no pay increases in their first 2 years. As for the more senior Artists/TDs in the team, well, none of them were making over £30K!

  8. Caleb Howard says:

    Just my (tiersome, I’m sure) constant counterpoint:

    It’s good for the province. It’s good for the City. It’s good for the workers. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the industry:

    “For instance, in 2012 the total spent by the film industry in Langley alone was $24 million. The direct economic benefit was $67 million. Do the math.

    Another statistic mentioned was that there are over 85,000 film, TV and media workers in B.C. generating in excess of $4 billion per year.”

    • VFX_Boom says:

      Caleb, will you still feel it’s good for the workers if say in 6 months time, you have to pack up and relocate to a new city, and then 8 months after that, relocate again?

      I’m just very curious of what your idea of “good” is here?

      This is merely a theoretical to get your feelings on how others are having to deal with this Bullshit.

    • Ashes says:

      Yes, it is tiresome because you keep saying the same thing without backing it up with actual facts. What you linked to is basically an op-ed piece not a unbiased report with actual facts. It merely states vague numbers with no documentation proving them.

      As VFX Soldier has linked to, even the government’s own research shows the incentives cost them more than they get back. Thus their reaction to people asking them to raise the incentives.

      As for the $4B number, what gets generated is NOT what the government collects.

      We get it, you moved your family up to VC, ended up liking it, and don’t feel like moving again. Welcome to how a ton of other people feel except they are living elsewhere. I’m sure you’ll start hearing people over in London saying the same thing now that their jobs are in danger.

      How about everyone gets rid of the tax incentives and then none of us will have to move?

      • Caleb Howard says:

        It blows my mind that people think it will be good for people to reduce the amount of money coming into the industry which pays our rent.

        In FLA, kids were willing to *pay* to work to get the experience. That’s what supply and demand economics is doing to our value, as more and more people are available to do the work. (To those who bray about how talent is innate, and can’t be learned – get over yourselves. Talent is learned. It’s called skill.)

        In a free market, our pay goes way down. Incentives add to the money going to making films. Globally, incentives increase the money being paid to workers to make films.

        It is beyond reason to insist that removing this cashflow from our industry will help us get paid better. “More fairly” sometimes means that everyone gets less. That’s pretty basic economics – What we get paid comes from what money goes into production. Globally, a significant part of that comes from incentives. You should argue for more, not less. (I know – CA is in the shitter, and so more seems unlikely. Sorry about that. It’s a good time to leave the US, anyway. That’s just the facts. I *loved* L.A., but it wasn’t viable anymore. It’s bubble deflated.)

        Be well. Please be aware that I have little at stake in this. I just argue for reasoned thinking. More money == more money.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        Caleb you have at much at stakes as everybody. your job in Vancouver is in jeopardy as everybody elses. If the incentives go, workers will be asked to move to montreal or wherever.

        also talent is not skill. Skill can be learned, software knowledge, talent is there or is not. not to say bc/india/china has no talent of course they do.

        the workers dont see any of the incentive money, only the studios do.

      • Marcus says:

        Come on, you don’t honestly believe that any of those handouts trickle their way down to the worker?! VFX shops weren’t making a lot of money even before this whole subsidy thing started going out of control. Subsidies are just another tool to lower the facilities bid and/or the costs on the books for the studios.
        Our average wages are still on a pretty clear downward trend, no matter the subsidies (and really an entirely different discussion altogether). I have yet to hear from someone making more in Vancouver or London than in Los Angeles, not even counting the overhead of setting up a new life in a different country. If anything, your rate takes a double whammy when a company abuses loopholes in the labor code and doesn’t pay overtime.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        Andreas – Talent is skill. The talented are driven to practice, perhaps, but there is nothing in talent that cannot be learned, if the will to learn and practice is there. Those who excel, are those who start young, and practice constantly. Talent is skill. I’ve been doing this for decades, I have trained up about 300 young artists in that time, and it quite clear that this is truth. Further, most of the real talents I have known in my work – those with Academy Awards, and those with much credibility besides, will tell you the same thing. Practice, practice, practice.

        Marcus – my day rate is 30% higher because of incentives. It’s handed directly to me, and those signing the checks say, hey – no problem, the government is paying the top third of your rate. I *know* it doesn’t just trickle down, it lands on my desk with a thump.

        …and I am making more in Vancouver than I made in L.A. And more now, than I did in the better years of L.A. And I was doing alright in L.A. And my relocation was paid when I moved. And I work a 45 hour week. And my kids have better health care. And they go to a better school. And I live in a better house.

        I also made more in London when I was there than I did in L.A.

        Subsidies make it better. It’s a fact.

        So, now you’ve heard from someone.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        …and Ashes – The “actual facts” I’m backing up my position with, are the actual facts of me direct experience of the situation, working in Vancouver, and seeing – directly – the benefits of the incentives to workers.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Aka Anecdotal evidence

      • Andreas Jablonka says:


        you seem very dense in reading these comments. YOU seem to be fed a golden spoon, maybe your boasting or maybe not. even if I believe you making more, I dont know ANYBODY else (having worked in 2 facilities an talking to many artist across all Vancouver facilities) that make more here than in LA or London.

        So unless your posts are whats good for YOU. please do us all a favor and stop from repeating the same dribble that nobody else seems to affirm. I have yet to read anybody confirm you or have similar experience.

        Your relocation was paid 10 years ago? Im sure it was. ILM used to pay 10k$ relocation to SF. IS that still the case? If you can get into SF and not getting pawned off to Singapore.

        Your reality is not the common one for many artist. so keep your facts because they dont matter to the majority!

        Skill = Talent is not the truth. I dont argue that practice makes mastery. at all. But your telling me that EVERYBODY that trains enough could be Einstein, Edison, Jobs, Carmack or Lasseter? I just dont see this being confirmed in the real world.

      • Ashes says:

        No, Caleb, they aren’t fact, they are your limited experience. The fact is the BC government doesn’t collect more than the going tax rate on whatever money is being earned or spent in their area and the going tax rate is way below the percentage they are paying out to the studios. Their own reports says this. It blows *my* mind that people don’t seem to grasp this.

        I have just as much experience as you and I don’t agree with you. You have no more or less to lose than anyone else. I’m actually in the position that I could easily travel to where and whenever I want. Yet I still think it’s bad for people to have to move and that the subsidies are not good for the industry. Just because it doesn’t necessarily hurt me doesn’t mean I will close my eyes to what is happening to everyone else. And I can say I have seen people get SCREWED in terms of pay in BC, so, no not everyone is getting a 30% increase in their pay.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        I’ve seen people screwed as well… going back to my first years in post-production. It had more to do with the relationships between the studios and the post facilities then, however. Now as well.

        As I have said elsewhere. I can certainly see the basis for your opinion. My point is just that, in seeking to reduce government incentives, you are seeking to negatively impact many of your peers who’s livelihood is improved greatly by that money. This is not a black and white world.

        More money == more money. It’s pretty straight-forward. Just because there’s now more money in Montreal doesn’t mean people have to chase it. There’s still work in L.A., in Vancouver, in Toronto. As more people enter the market, the salaries will be driven down. This has more impact on your pay, (and on the ability of studios to move from place to place) than incentives.

        Supply and demand is like that.

      • Dave Rand says:

        If one thinks hard enough will they become the next Einstein? I mean like REALLY REALLLY concentrate. How much will power does it take to be taller? Can a little person out run a full size man? These things are all relevant to the mind as well, to every aspect of the human experience.

      • Ymir says:

        I’m wondering where all this free money is coming from that BC is pumping into the subsidies? If 60% subsidies are so wonderful, why doesn’t BC just ‘nationalize’ the industry and just pay in full. If 60% is great for the economy, then 100% would be down right Nirvana! The truth is, the money is not there to sustain this type of behavior. What’s going into the film/vfx industry is being taken away from other areas. Sooner or later, average Joe taxpayers are going to get tired of their tax dollars doing nothing more that making sure you stay employed.

  9. Caleb Howard says:

    as apposed to cherry-picked abstractions. I’ll take the word of people I know in the industry over the musings of people who have no direct experience any day. Having majored in math, I know that – in statistics, with the singular exception of particle mechanics, numbers generally *do* lie. People, with full bellies, and rents paid, are generally more reliable.

    Believe what you like, however. Clearly actual events – as you say, “anecdotal evidence”, doesn’t sufficiently support your preconceptions to be worthy of consideration.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      “People, with full bellies, and rents paid, are generally more reliable.”
      yeah right, they have no reason to bicker and starving artist bicker too much. Numbers dont lie because your number (1) seems to trump national studies (*****). Nobody doubts your experience, well we do, but thats besides the point, w ejust say its NOT the norm right now. so your side of the story is grandpa telling us about the glorious past….its no use to us now.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        Actually, I’m speaking of the present, and I’m speaking of the many people I know working all over town in the industry… today.

        Clearly, you are predisposed to discount the actual present-day experiences of people with favourable opinions of government money coming into the industry. I can see that. I can also see the motivation for the opinions counter to my own.

        My only hope is to present the fact that, as you seek to reduce money coming into the industry, your desires would have very real and very negative impact on real-life people with jobs much like your own.

        Perhaps your world is black and white, however. feh.

    • Phineas Johnson says:

      Caleb, I find it odd that your voice is so loud on this website when it comes to VFX Industry subsidies, but the fact remains that you left it years ago to pursue a career in the Games Industry.

      You have no stake in it, just a big mouth. I’d think that you would have more to do Supervising at EA than troll on the internet all day.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        I’m not trolling, and the industries are closely related. Also, I still have a hand in VFX. You’re right, though. I’ve said it elsewhere, I don’t have that much at stake in this particular issue. Friends of mine, do, however, and they’re not so connected to the L.A. market as I am.

        Personal attacks aside, this doesn’t take much of my time, and it’s important. You wouldn’t want to just steep all day in an echo-chamber, would you? Personally, I like to refine my understanding in the context of a forum of people with similar interests. I have benefited greatly by hearing the responses to my position, and it is only to my regret that no one seems to be interested in the truth in what I’m saying. Differing views can all be valid, even while not agreeing.

        It seems like the more vocal folks here believe that I am alone in my perspective – trolling, as you put it, or mad, or something. Few seem interested in the fact that my views are not mine alone. Others on this forum have chimed in in support of similar positions to my own (largely from outside the US, not surprisingly). Perhaps I have greater fortitude in the face of a unified perspective that I happen to be not in alignment with.

        I am losing interest, though. No matter how often I make just a couple of points, nor in how many different ways, few here seem interested in even acknowledging them. It’s a shame. I have much respect for the folks here, and broadly with anyone willing to fight for what they believe. The unwillingness to engage, or even to recognize other perspectives, however, is disheartening.

        Good job with the google, though! You’re the first to bother, it seems. 🙂

  10. The Dark Knight says:

    Caleb: No offense, but every rebuttal that you provide seems to be very selfish in nature. You aren’t looking at the big picture when it comes to this subsidy issue, which is what vfxsoldier is trying to do.

    You’ve made it very clear that you are for subsidies when they are in your own benefit. How will you feel about them when your job is taken away and sent to Montreal? Have you asked other people how they feel about this?

    You mentioned that your rate is 30% higher directly because of incentives. What about other artists that work in the same room as you? Have you ever stopped to wonder if you were a special case and not the norm? I know several people in a major Vancouver studio that are on the verge of starving themselves because their rate is so low and they can’t afford to eat proper meals.

    My point is that there are two ends of the spectrum and you are only representing one side. Even though you may be living the good life in Vancouver, I know plenty of people that are only there because they were forced to move. As a matter of fact, most of the people I know in Vancouver aren’t even from Canada.

    • Caleb Howard says:

      I know I have said much, and perhaps it seems like I am opposing the broader seeming-consensus. If so, then that is specifically *because* I am intending to point out that it is *not* one-sided. As I have repeatedly said, I *understand* the position of VFX Soldier. My point is to show that that perspective is very one sided, and to represent *another* perspective.

      My case is *not* unique. However, I am perhaps unusual in acknowledging that the nature of this industry (post-production VFX) is run of razor-thin margins, and has always been unstable.

      My Job *was* taken away from me in L.A., but that was because the economy was no longer able to support my mortgage in L.A. That had more to do with my mortgage than with my salary. At that point (in 2008), incentives saved my ass. If not for incentives, my job in L.A. would still have been insufficient to pay my mortgage, and I would have had no place else to go. You can say I was forced to move by incentives, I say I only had an option of someplace to go because of incentives.

      My rate is slightly better than my peers, but only slightly better. People with similar experience, and skills make similar pay. (Of course, I’ve practiced my craft for a long time, and with great enthusiasm, so perhaps I have unusual talent 😉

      *my* point is that there are two ends of the spectrum, and VFX soldier, (and others) are only representing one side.

      *Because* most of the people you know in Vancouver aren’t from Canada, you have that bias in your perspective.

      I have another point of view. *That* is my point – there are many perspectives, and many of them benefit from the incentives you would quash in the misguided idea that doing so will somehow make people working in the US have better prospects. The problems in VFX in the US have to do with razor-thin margins, a surplus of under-experienced, and cheap workers, and a recessed economy caused by fraud at a biblical scale.

      The paycheques of those of us getting by in Vancouver are not the root cause of the difficulties of people who are facing challenges in the US.

  11. The Dark Knight says:

    I agree that you do represent another side of the spectrum that needs to be heard. However, the flaw with your perspective is that you begin with the pre-conceived and ill-advised notion that vfxsoldier and those in this blog are primarily setting out to return vfx jobs back to LA. That has clearly been stated to not be the case, yet you keep referring back to it as if it were a secret agenda.

    Yes, incentives may have “saved your ass” this time, but they will also “kick you in the ass” if they go against your favor in the future. Then you’ll have the “option” to move yet again to another city and uproot the life that you had here in Vancouver. That is the main point that me and others are trying to reiterate. Incentives come and go. Point, blank, period.

  12. vfx says:

    then stop trying to “savebcfilms” and your job b/c it will follow the incentive to go to Montreal. Just relocate

    • Caleb Howard says:

      Not really, no.

      SaveBC Films is a movement to get the BC government to increase incentives for *Production*. I’ve never worked in production. I work in post-production (as do all VFX soldiers), and the post-production incentives are in fine shape, and no one (here) is calling for them to be changed. I am supporting my friends in production, and trying to present the perspective of those who benefit from incentives in general.

      Also, as Phineas noted above, while I work as a consultant on some VFX productions, when I became tired of the instability that has always plagued digital VFX (well, since the mid 90’s, anyway), I chose a more stable (for the time being) career in games.

      Should games become less stable, I have other plans. I have had other plans since I began, and I have always counseled my peers to be looking around for options as well. When your job uses computers to accomplish any task, you can expect your job to become less and less labour-intensive, and your skills to be less and less richly rewarded. There’s always room for some level of experience and skill, but what ran on a $150,000 workstation, and warranted a highly-paid expert on “Jurassic Park” can now be done by a kid on his Mom’s kitchen computer in his spare time after school. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that demand, and pay is going down.

      VFX is a tenuous business. VFX houses don’t make much money. VFX workers are overworked, and unreasonable demands are made on them. The money of films is in the distribution. If you want stability in your career, look elsewhere than VFX. If you want to fight, fight to make VFX more profitable. (Hint, the profits are in the efficiency of the artistry, more than in the artistry itself). If you want equatability, fight to unionize.

      Fighting the money that other countries put into making better conditions for your peers is counterproductive, in the long run.

      • vfx says:

        since a kid can do jurassic park on his mom’s computer after school, that kid can also make games on his mom’s computer after school. if post production incentives are fine in shape, why are the vfx jobs being lured away to montreal? Production and post production goes hand in hand:
        Post production money comes from the production companies and what they get back are reflected in that form

        Like you said, it’s not like it didn’t happen before. You moved back there due to the incentives. Ppl moved to London for jobs b/c of the incentives two/three years ago, next hot spot was vancouver, and now the next one is montreal. This will just keep happening. I’m just surprised at how fast vancouver burnt out as the hot spot.

        Incentives are not making work a better condition. It just forces people to move temporarily. Just ask thousands of people that had to move to vancouver temporarily due to the incentives.

  13. Ashes says:

    Honestly Caleb, basically you sound like 1950s house wife who just takes money from her husband without asking where it’s coming from and then is totally shocked when the repo guys show up when it turns out he was borrowing money to pay for her spending.

    The BC government is going into debt. They have no more money to spend. They commissioned studies to see if the tax incentives were working because if $1.5B was coming in, it seemed that they should be making some profit off of it. Turned out, they weren’t. So, they don’t want to keep investing the taxpayers money into a losing investment.

    Why is this so hard for you to grasp? I get that you want to stick your head into the sand and keep your hand out to receive money, but really, the madness has to stop. I

    It’s in everyone’s best interest to stop giving US studios money and not making them pay for the actual cost of work. No one is say all the work needs to come to LA. Hell, there’s no way all the work could even be done in LA. The vfx industry is global and it needs to be global. The BC government would be better off putting that money into Canadian studios to get an actual film industry that wouldn’t have to rely on the US industry.

    In the long run, it would be better for everyone. You are suggesting an unstable, unattainable, short-term fix. Simply put, you want to give a man a fish, we want to teach him to fish.

  14. meinvan says:

    I think its funny how everybody commenting on here is out to trash caleb. That said no i dont agree with everything that he has said, or matter of fact what most people have said on this and many other threads found here on vfx soldier. First off, all the people that I work with and have connections too, in a bunch of vancouver studios are getting compensated very well. Atleast at the rate that they would be getting in LA. I myself am getting paid what I would have charged as a freelancer in LA, without the job security I have here. (which btw is substantially more than in london)

    That aside whether incentives/sudsides or not, all the jobs will not be going back to LA, and theres many reasons for that…. this as almost every business, has gone through a phase of globalization, the internet, hardware advances….companies being bought and sold. Its not just Hollywood anymore, and who ever thinks or believes that is pretty ignorant.

    As caleb points out, the US has an economy which is shockingly bad, run by banks and big buisness….all aspects of the economy are run on subsides and incentives; and no most of them are not for the people, but big corporations becoming richer and richer.
    For me that certainly is a big part of why I am happy here in BC, thats not to say canada does not have the some of the same issues…but all in all quality of life here, is alot better, for eveyone across the board.

    The immigration reform that would have to happen to get that many people, even working in a tiny sector as VFX (compared to the bigger picture), into the country on visa is not going to happen. And even if some people from europe, asia…. get a H2 visa in the states, they are at the mercy of the company and 90% of them will never feel like they have real job security. Specially when you look at this industry, a industry that cannot keep everybody employed all the time…shows ramping up and down.
    That is sadly the nature of the business…if you dont like it get out.

    When I go around the studio here, I can say with confidence that most people are not from the US….so were are all the people that have been “forced” to move up here. And the few americans that sorround me are generally happy, and for the time being dont intend to go back south.

    So is the problem that so many “foreigners” are getting “US” jobs in canada or london….if that is what you think then again you must be very ignorant to how the world works and functions.

    Of course I also understand that there is no point in US film studios to try to drive down the budgets further and further, so that they make the bigger win….but it is a business after all, and sadly they are in control. And the subsides are not going to change that. Push comes to shove, we are all going to get a pay cut and thats that.

    I think we can all agree that the studios should stop fucking around and pay what the products are worth. But as long as they think we are to expensive thats not going to happen. Theres no reason why a tom cruise can get a 40 mil. paycheck and the the fx budget is a little higher than that (split out over hundreds of people and companies)…but that will only change when they fall flat on there face. And subsides certainly do not play a role in that.

    • Caleb Howard says:

      you mean I’m *not* a crazy, self-absorbed, 1950’s housewife loud-mouth troll? that’s a relief! I was beginning to worry that all my happy friends up here were imaginary.

      Well, Thanks for the acknowledgement, meinvan. I’m in my car, myself. waiting to get my kids from piano.

      I feel a great deal of love for you all, just now. My joy in working in VFX in L.A. was mostly in the fine folks I got to know and love.

      I am sorry, always, for friends in dire straits. My efforts here have been to prevent such outcomes, not to promote them. That even one person has seen even part of my point lets me sleep easier.


    • blah says:

      Yes subsidies DO play a role because they are a way to drive the bids down. They factor subsidies into bids to make it seem like that is how low projects may cost, thus creating an artificial price tag studios then use as leverage with vendors to not pay what the product is worth. How is it possible for you to not realize this?

      • meinvan says:

        of course i realize that, but that is how free market economy works. There will always be one company outbidding the other, and that will go to the point were either the company is takeing a loss for the prestige or, it will reflect in the pay stub of the employee. The subsides are therefore a life saver otherwise we would all walk away with less money. I see your point that they are distorting the value of what we do, our time, passion and involvement. But say the subsides are gone, the studios will continue to drive each other into the ground, as they still want to get the next big show. Only now there is no more money to compensate for the lower bid….and now who do you think is going to pay the price……..

        That said, I reiterate the fact that I dont believe that huge hollywood corporations should be subsidized…but not at the cost of thousands of artist all over the world. yes including the us.

      • vfxPeon says:

        @meinvan….that theoretical free market economy you are talking about wouldn’t have subsidies in it and so prices would not be driven down that way. they would be driven by who can deliver the best work at the lowest cost, not who is located in a part of the world where the government gives the most handouts to corporations.

      • meinvan says:

        thats correct they wouldnt be driven down by the subsides they would be driven down by the competing studios, no matter where they are. Wether there are subsidies or not, the same films are still going to be made, and the same studios will bid for them.

        Before there were any subsidese in place, vfx companys were outbidding each other constantly. Driving there own price down, way beyond a point were it would make financial sense. Of course the idea is to give the work to the company who thinks they can get it done for the lowqest price, but that again means that a senior will be replaced with a junior, or half the work will be shipped to ……(fill in the blank), or everybody takes a pay cut, just as it happened at DD a couple months ago.

        By stopping subsides, i wish we could stop the hollywood corps. from getting what they want, I just dont believe that this is going to work, I think itll backfire onto us…..sadly

        I agree unionize, get artist together, talk to the VFX studios and get them to organize. Organize artists to kick the VES guys in the ass. But dont try to stop the money that is keeping salaries up and people in their homes.

  15. Paul says:

    “The beautiful life of Caleb Howard”

    Directed, written, photographed and vfx’ed by guess who? That’s right, Caleb Howard!

    PS: Shot in Vancouver B.C. with the help of the locals.

  16. Scott Ross says:

    I don’t have a horse in this race. But subsidies clearly harm the industry. They might benefit individuals in the short term, they definitely benefit the movie studios and producers in the long run… but they clearly harm the VFX industry… for many reasons.

    • Caleb Howard says:

      Scott! you’ll be able to answer this (though I posed the question to you elsewhere). How does more money coming into the industry hurt it? You say it’s clear, but I’ve only seen people (and VFX studios) benefit. People talk about a “race to the bottom”, but the studios I’ve worked with speak only of the benefits, and the workers are faring well. What do you see? What are these many reasons? The problems you’ve described in the past have to do with thin margins. The incentives fatten them, in my experience. Please, help me out. How is all this extra money hurting?



      • VFX Soldier says:

        The VFX facility doesn’t benefit. They still have to provide the low bid. It’s the film studio that claims the benefit or else demand the facility reduce their price.

        It’s the opposite of your argument, it’s less money, not more.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        Not, you know, like, in reality – at the studios that have been paying me, and living in nice digs, and making money, and smiling, and such. You’re saying that I’m lying? I don’t know how your assertions are supposed to counter actual, you now, things that happen in reality.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        Scott has a broader perspective, and may be able to put my experience, and that of the people I speak with, working, and running studios in Vancouver, into a broader context which will help me put what I know to be true – that studios and people benefit, into alignment with a bigger picture in which, somehow, the industry truly suffers from all these incentive millions. I’m not against the idea of having my perspective broadened, and Scott has helped me in the past, but so far all I’ve heard has been vitriol.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Yes, yes Caleb. The facilities are making money. Loads of it… Scott, want to clean this one up for me? thx.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        So, you’re saying the fancy workspace, and effortless payments, and smiles are a front? Your Sarcasm is low, but I have to wonder why you’re not cleaning it up yourself? I’m sure Scott will be civil, as he’s familiar with my deficiencies, and has been kind to me in the past… but why would you defer so, if you’re capable yourself? Tell me why I should doubt the assertions of those who speak glowingly of incentives, and tell me that the government pays a chunk of my salary, and that’s why they can meet my demands?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I’m kinda like Kobe Bryant. Sometimes when you’ve dunked the ball on someone so many times you feel the need to dish a pass for an assist every now and then. 😉 Jk just having fun. I appreciate your comments and welcome everyone’s opinion… even the wrong ones.

      • vfxPeon says:

        @Caleb, aren’t you the guy who admitted you don’t make your living in vfx anymore? How are you telling us your experience is so great if you left the industry? When I look at the job boards today I see a bunch of studios based in LA but only hiring in places like Canada, Australia, Singapore. Did they open facilities in those places because of the talent base there? No. They opened because of temporary subsidies that will eventually dry up. Now, if I want to get those jobs I have to pick up and move to one of those far off places. Then when the subsidies dry up I will have to pick up and move somewhere else. How does this benefit me? I would be better off if the subsidies did not exist and I could just stay where I am.


        Guy Who Still Works in VFX

      • Scott Ross says:

        Well…. I am assuming you are speaking of Scott ROSS, not Scott Squires. Scott Squires is an incredibly talented well intentioned, very intelligent Visual Effects Supervisor that is deeply involved with and I believe sits on the board of the VES. I, on the other hand, have a lot to say about a bunch of stuff and at times, though rarely, have insight. I am not a VES member and have not been involved with the VES since its inception.

        Regarding Tax incentives and subsidies… they are completely detrimental to the long term health of the visual effects industry, they are, IMHO, indeed the core reason why the VFX industry is in the sorry state that it finds itself in today.

        These subsidies only benefit the motion picture studios as governments ultimately offer rebates, incentives and tax subsidies to the producers of films, which are usually the motion picture studios. These studios are incredibly profitable, generally bloated institutions that wind up taking these government programs to further their profitability.

        As to the VFX facilities/studios, these government programs do not benefit the likes of DD,R&H etc. In fact, they force these facilities to open up/build out/manage new operations ( which are costly to build out and operate) in the territories where these gov’t sponsored programs exist . The good news for the VFX facilities is that they continue to get the projects as they now operate in areas where govt’s incentivize the motions picture studios, the bad news is that they get the projects as they now operate in areas where govt’s incentivize the motion picture studios! The VFX facility sees no upside except to work on projects with little to no margins. Additionally as we are now seeing BC lose work to Ontario, the VFX facilities will now have to migrate to Eastern Canada, building yet more studio infrastructure to work on projects with NO MARGINS. Ultimately this “race to the bottom” will catch up to the globe trotting VFX facilities as margins will continue to erode but the cost of doing business will continue to rise.

        As to the VFX worker… in the long run, this will continue to put great stress on an aging artist population. It’s one thing to be 25 and have no roots, traveling the world as a digital gypsy. It’s something else when one wants a semblance of a real life, with spouses, children, homes etc. Given that benefits are not portable, labor laws ( if they even exist) vary radically from country to country, this too will take a toll on the well being of the men and women that have become vagabonds.

        As to the efficacy of these programs and if they are indeed valuable to the govt’s that sponsor them…time will tell and stats will vary, but IMHO, these programs are farcical and offer little if any advantage to building an industry that will stay and prosper.

        So… it seems to me that the only benefactors of these ill conceived programs are….. The Motion Picture Studio.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        Thanks for taking the time, Scott (and yes, I was asking you).

        I accept what you tell me completely. You know, where I may only speculate. Without any argument, or disrespect, I’d sure love it if you could continue for just a bit longer, and bring me to full understanding on a couple of lingering thoughts.

        I am approaching this question as I do anything – preferring understanding to acceptance, and looking at multiple perspectives to get that understanding. Now I’m trying to ratify what you say against what local shop-owners have told me. I don’t believe that either position is wrong within its own context, but perhaps you can help me get to the broader context which accommodates both.

        The problems you describe for the VFX companies seem to me to more affect the studios not based in the areas with the subsidies. DD, R&H, etc are L.A. studios, and so bear the expenses you mention (of building out to the new locations). What of the studios based in Vancouver?

        Forgive me, as my perspective is clearly not a popular one here, but it still seems like you’re saying “the industry” but principally meaning the L.A. industry. I’m not saying that this is what you mean, but I’m looking to understand the discrepancy between the opinion voiced here (in the main), and that voiced by studio owners, and workers who say the incentives are good for them. Are they just wrong for thinking of their own benefit, and not that of their competition coming in from L.A.?

        My perspective on the advantages of these incentives is informed by the operators of smaller, Vancouver-based studios (not by falsely smiling HR lackeys of the bigger studios, as someone suggested) – and also by the Canadian workers who populate them, in the main. I am told, directly by the owners, that the incentives allow domestic VFX studios to compete with the much larger foreign studios.

        Perhaps, (as has also been suggested), this is a very self-centered attitude to present – that Canadian taxes benefiting Canadian studios in Canada are wicked because of the strain they put on L.A. studios and workers. I’ll concede that, from the perspective that supports a global market unprotected by government interference, the subsidies do protect Canadian interests more than American. Doesn’t that same global philosophy also support the global marketplace which allows work to travel to places with cheaper labour, subsidies notwithstanding?

        I see the point that BC is also competing with Ontario and Quebec, but still – the operators of BC facilities are not suggesting that the incentives are wicked, as many on this forum are (yourself included, it seems).

        Is it not possible that there are other factors besides foreign incentives causing more of the strain in the US? I’ll certainly cop to the fact that I don’t have as broad a perspective as you, Scott. I sincerely appreciate the benefit of your understanding, and even more, your civil and honest answers to my remaining questions. The general response to my line of inquiry here has missed my few points rather badly, and taken a seemingly hostile and defensive stance to the gall I’ve shown in asking the questions. Doubtless I bear much of the blame for this in my own demeanor. You have known me longer, and perhaps can see past whatever dysfunction in style I am struggling with. I am sincere, and completely open to learning where I am mistaken. I believe deeply that people all have valid perspectives.

        I really have only a small stake, having fled VFX for kinder seas (in the main) a few years ago , but I truly believe that the opinions of the owners of the smaller studios in Vancouver, and elsewhere, who claim benefit from the incentives, come from a sincere place as well. I do not believe these people are wicked, and so I try to present another perspective on this forum – lest people here miss the fact that theirs is not the only possible view, and leap in to destroy the wicked incentives thinking their cause to be without negative shades of impact.

        So far, to many, I have largely failed to convey much of anything, except perhaps that I am a self-involved and self-serving dick. (Which I don’t happen to believe myself. Though I speak in the first person, I actually don’t have much of a horse in this race either. I never expected the gravy train of VFX to last, and I can see the horizon for games as well. I like Vancouver, so I’ll stay, but I expect to move careers, if not locales.)

        I hope that at least you can understand that I do sincerely care deeply for the industry in L.A., and the many excellent people with whom I have lived and worked over many years there.

        Long before any incentives from BC were causing any concern in L.A., We could see that VFX was a young-person’s nomadic game. We could also see that once-rare skills and experience in digital were becoming increasingly commonly available. We spoke of this almost as soon as I started working for you a way back when.

        I’ve always advised anyone who would listen that salaries will drop as competition increases. In 1994, you yourself taught me that, without owning the content, VFX was not a money-making proposition. You were right. I don’t see how the manifestation of razor thin margins, and cheaper, abundant labour is not at least as much of the root of the issue as are the greater incentives being paid outside of L.A.

        I an *not* denying what you say. I want to understand better. I accept gratefully your answers, and respect your perspective very highly indeed. I would merely ask for a bit more of your perspective in a followup, or two, if you would continue your kindness.

        …and maybe tell these other folks here that maybe I’m not the asshole that my style seems to have portrayed me as. I have always been open in my broad love, and enthusiasm for the people around me. I’m a pretty straightforward guy. I hope at least you know that, Scott. I appreciate your friendship greatly.

      • Mike parsons says:

        The way they hurt long term is this – they create unsustainable pockets of endeavor. If at full price there is enough money to support 200 artists but through subsidies the industry temporarily supports 400 what happens when the subsidies end? That’s right 200 people get fired. But which 200 is what makes it an interesting game…

        But worse they screw anyone setting up or established in a market not offering the same incentives. But this isn’t new. If someone elsewhere will do a job to the quality needed cheaper they will get the business. Your car’s brake lights probably came from Taiwan… What we are seeing is simply the next stage of globalization. It’s not pleasant and we don’t have to like it but its inevitable. The plastics guys hated it when it happened to them in the 70s too.

        What’s driving the round the world trips we are all on isn’t just subsidies either. Currency fluctuations literally drive Australia up and down – strong us$ great year in oz, weak us$ goodbye Fuel.

        As for individuals benefiting, the single young guys benefit most and that’s as it’s always been, whether going west on a cattle run, laying the railroads or expanding the Indian tea business single young men travel and reap the rewards.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        That’s about my take on it. Thanks.

  17. andrei gheorghiu says:

    Hi Scott,
    With all the respect due , I think it is the moment VES should stand up and stop , or at least , try to stop this race to the bottom.
    What is the official opinion of VES regarding this phenomenon?
    For what I’ve heard from CBC ( about taxes in Vancouver) seems like BC lost a lot of money due to subsidies.
    Could someone explain me how exactly this extra money is generated and from where?
    Oh – MPC is going for Montreal too – middle of summer 2013
    Seems like Canada is doing extremely well.
    “People talk about a “race to the bottom”, but the studios I’ve worked with speak only of the benefits, and the workers are faring well.”
    It might be – just go for these 2 companies Framestore and MPC – last one made a ridiculous offers to one of my friend – senior with more than 7 years experience – 60000/ year.
    I think Caleb , you are the only one ( except the guys behind the money bags) who sees the things in such a bright and wonderfully pantone grid.
    And so far, it seems you have some secret recipe that makes you happy and rest of the people are just not able to pick it up with you.

    • Caleb Howard says:

      well, me… and meinvan, and most of the people I know up here, and meinvan’s coworkers… but yeah, I guess you’re right. It must be a delusion I suffer (with my friends, and frequent employers).

      …or you’re picking up on only the perspectives that fit your view.

      one or the other.

      • urizen says:

        “…or you’re picking up on only the perspectives that fit your view.”


        O.K., words fail me.

        Well, not really, (as you’ll see), but the mind does come close to boggling.

        And this is from someone who’s seen his share of intellectual carrots.

        I suppose looking at numbers rather than personal anecdote, could be one solution to the question, if people like Caleb are really going to insist on going down to the mat with this kind of stuff-

        -Ah, but I forgot, numbers are only for questions of particle mechanics, not for issues touching on the rarefied creatures of the air such as ourselves, dear reader.

        Not for creatures such as we, who can intuit the vast currents of labor and industry by merely turning to those within our circle- the only ones who really matter anyway- and conducting a gentleman’s survey before luncheon-

        Not for creatures such as we, there is no need of no stinking badges.

        No, not for creatures such as we, who have after all come by our lucrative talents through sheer effort of will- you betchya!

        Not for creatures such as we who put our trust in the H.R. smile because the H.R. smile is so-

        is so-

        -so smiley!!!!!!!

        Not for creatures such as we, who are untroubled and serene as the devil takes the hindmost, because after all, we got ours jack, and don’t you even think about messing with it.

        Because America is a corrupt monster. And if we can live well by feeding duped Canadian taxpayers into the maw of a corrupt monster, even for a little while, then who’s to say that Bog isn’t in his heaven and all’s not right with the world?

        Who will stand and say we have not beat the American Monster at its own game, and claimed our revenge for the housing bubble it made, and that exploded in our surprised faces?

        Because creatures such as we have quality anecdote on our side, not the whining complaints that liars bring to the table. Why the noyv of some people!

        And if creatures such as we have to move someday soon, then like locusts we will move. In a cloud. On happy wings. Munching all the way. Following the moths and the bugs to the next candle. In the bosom of reaction, untroubled by thought or care.

        Devil take the hindmost! Fly baby, fly! Its a race!

        Our families, our friends, our lovers, the friendships of our growing children, in a life that only goes around once, these are small things compared to the freedom of creatures such as we to migrate en mass to where ever Americans are gang raping- I mean gaming- the system at the moment-

        Because what’s of first and what’s of last importance, is that creatures such as we get a piece of the action, where ever the action goes.

        Because even though the world is not fair, only the suckers ever loose.

        Not creatures such as we.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        God. That was beautiful. 🙂

      • Caleb Howard says:

        That is beautiful, and I recognize many of my words – if not my intent – in yours.

        So, I defer – bested by eloquence, I shall go, saying only: that is not what I said. That is not what I meant.

        Be well, all. Good luck.


        (that really was beautiful. I wish it wasn’t aimed at me.)

      • Caleb Howard says:

        …and perhaps this… While I have been presented as selfish in my language – even within your well-crafted words – never have I been so smug as you clearly intend to be. I have been sincere in my good intentions, if, perhaps, not so skilled in telegraphing them.

        You, sir, are clearly and intentionally intent on being hurtful.

        …and you are clearly practiced, as well. I hope your sharp wit brings you comfort.

    • Scott Squires says:

      I’m assuming you’re talking to Scott Ross? Scott has plenty to say but he’s not on the board of the VES. The VES is a global organization and as such can not take a regional attitude regarding subsidies specifically. The VES did get many companies together to talk about possibly a trade association. The VES did the same for the union and artists. In both cases the VES was a neutral host and was not pushing an agenda. Just helping a conversation to happen and for information to be available.

      • andrei gheorghiu says:

        The VES is a global organization and as such can not take a regional attitude regarding subsidies specifically.”
        Well – I think this is an international issue…

  18. Caleb Howard says:

    …or perhaps you’re forgetting about the VFX incentives, you know, which go to the VFX studios directly, and from them, to me? DAVE, I think they’re called. Anyway, they seem to help.

    • Caleb Howard says:

      damn… lost the thread. “even the wrong ones”. gotta love it when everything’s black and white, eh? Only one right perspective, and everyone else wrong? Nice.

    • Ymir says:

      Everybody loves free money. Especially where there’s just so much of it lying on the ground to be picked up and funneled into subsidies.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      It doesn’t work that way. The studios claim the dave subsidy directly OR the vfx facility claims it but the studio asks them to lower the price by that amount. This is part of the reason many VFX contracts required facilities to open in BC so they could take full advantage of the credit. The ones that couldn’t make the jump went out of business… more money == more money huh?

    • Caleb Howard says:

      well yes, more money == more money, it’s kind of axiomatic. The studios I have worked with have been making money, and great fx as well… *and* paying top dollar. They claim it’s the incentives. More money == more money. More for the industry, more for the vfx house, more for me. It seems difficult to believe that these guys were really suffering, but putting on a brave face (and expensive front) so that they could mislead me while paying my rate with no negotiation.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Caleb, the vfx companies don’t have to reduce their rates and don’t have to underbid as often when they’re in a subsidized area. They still need to compete with others in the same region and still do some underbidding but any other area (such as US) has to underbid by 40% just to be in the running with a place in Vancouver. Some of the politicians in BC are wising up and deciding in this time of belt tightening that it’s not a money making way for them and the actual people in Vancouver. It’s a short term means of looking like something is happening but they aren’t helping any body in the long term. The studios go to the places with the highest subsidiaries where they can get reasonable work. Your job will be moving sooner than later. Areas try to out bid each other to provide more incentives ,which in turn causes the region’s tax payers to lose even more money.
        Contrary to your belief which seems to be money grows on trees and all studios are passing of this savings on to the vfx companies which in turn are passing it all directly to all artists.

        So you’d better fill your pockets with that money that seems to be floating around up there while you can and thank the people of BC who effectively pay a large portion of your salary.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        Agreed, the incentives can’t last forever. When they go, R&H India will be a mature studio. the jobs will go there, or China, or Korea. Not all will go, but the ones that stay will have a lot of competition for them. I’ve been telling my friends in VFX to flee since I left. I figure games has another decade, anyway. After that, there are other jobs. Definitely. Have a plan. Absolutely. For a while, though – incentives!

      • vfxPeon says:

        Wait, you think that subsidies are great for artists and yet you are telling your friends to leave the industry just like you did? That’s interesting. If the subsidies are so great for artists you’d think you’d want your friends to stick around in the biz and reap the benefits.

  19. andrei gheorghiu says:

    Please stop saying – “more money = more money”.

  20. Zapf says:

    Caleb, have you ever thought that the reason a lot of your comments aren’t being well received here might actually have something to do with you and your presentation? And not just because everyone else is rude? Seriously. Let’s re-examine the first comment you’ve ever posted on this blog (at least the first to my knowledge).

    “You’re talking about *my* paycheck. Please address the failures of the US government within the US borders. The VFX industry is not the sole right of L.A. or the US, and a free market includes things like government investment. That’s *my* tax dollars helping to build *my* industry in *my* country. If you want *your* country to compete, talk to *your* government. *Don’t* start interfering in how my tax dollars are spent in Canada.

    Frankly, attacking other countries that invest in the industry because your country prefers to invest in banking, and military industries is disingenuous. Please don’t give me this ‘race to the bottom’ stuff, either. I am better paid and treated in Canada than I was in 15 years and 30 productions in L.A., and I was doing well in L.A.

    If you want the industry in California to compete, lobby your government to compete. Don’t, please, try to interfere with how *my* government chooses to invest in *my* industry outside of US borders.”

    What is the common word being repeated here? *My*, *my*, *my*, *my*. Yes, you’ve made it abundantly clear to all of us it’s all about *you*. And all of the rest of your posts have simply been a variation on your first post. The subsidies mean more money for *me,* *my* life is better now, *my* paycheck is bigger now, *my* family is happy, oh as I’m writing this I’m about to pick up my kids from piano lessons, etc. Then every once in a while you try to sugarcoat it with ‘love to all my LA friends, I feel bad for those who are struggling’ etc. None of that strikes you as being remotely disingenuous? And you accuse others here of being disingenuous?

    You may have some reasonable points in defense of the subsidies, but you’re not helping anyone see your perspective with your presentation and making it all about you. To be honest, you don’t even sound like any of the Canadian colleagues I’ve met here in Vancouver. They tend to be humble and the opposite of self-aggrandizing. They see the problems with the subsidies and realize they’re getting a preferential deal. It was a Canadian who told me that studios are reimbursed up to 50% of salaries they pay to Canadians, but no reimbursement for non-Canadians. Might explain why Canadians tend to be retained while non-Canadians get pink slips at the end of projects. Could even help explain why *you* have a bigger paycheck. But it kind of sucks for the rest of us who have taken a pay cut to work here — which happens to be every non-Canadian artist I know in Vancouver.

    So you post *me me me* incessantly, pay lip service to the suffering of others, and then wonder why your comments aren’t being well-received and decide it must be because others here are just “rude.”

    Whatever helps you sleep better.

    • andrei gheorghiu says:

      I was trying to say almost all the time that, VFX industry is going down.
      There is no respect and ethics for the people involved in this business , for the films ( witch they are 90% craps – subculture) and generally speaking we can clearly see – from a wonderful dream , it will soon become the worst nightmare ever.
      My question is and it will always be – In the absence of a union ( witch I don’t believe it is possible to exist ), what exactly can be done?

    • Caleb Howard says:

      I see your point. I am a Canadian who lived in the states for a long time, and I learned the virtue of speaking up when a foreign interest is attempting to coerce the laws of a country outside its borders. Even from our direct quote, however, it’s clear that I am speaking of my country, my compatriots. As an American, I would expect you to speak in defence of your nation and citizenry. I would not represent such speech as being self-centered, so much as nationalistic.

      “my industry” is not “me”.
      “my country” is not “me”.
      “my paycheck” is principally of concern to me, but I was intending by context to be clear in speaking, by extension, of my compatriots.

      “my, my, my” is decidedly *not* “me, me, me” in this case.

      Also, as a Canadian who worked as a foreigner in the US for 15 years, I hope you can see the irony in complaining that Canadians working in Canada experience preferential treatment over those who come in from South of the border to take jobs from Canadians. 😉

      … and I have infinite love for L.A., and my friends there. I am amongst the diaspora, and sadly, many of my friends aren’t there anymore. Mostly, those who have moved on are doing OK, though. Incentives are to thank for many.

      • Zapf says:

        You may believe that all of the me’s and my’s you are using in your posts are in a broad nationalistic context, but that is not how it is reading to us. You’re still coming off as self-absorbed regardless, hence why you’re not being well-received. And there are plenty of other comments you’ve made here where you are clearly talking about yourself and how great you have it now. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing.

        I’ll take your comment about preferential treatment along with the wink as a “see how you like it” gloat. Fine, a few of you have it great for now. And maybe once there are enough Canadian artists qualified to fill all of the positions currently occupied by foreigners, you can even kick the rest of us foreigners out. There’s just one catch — government welfare is never permanent and one day it will be retracted or outbid by another government. You claim you’ll be fine with it if BC’s subsidies were either withdrawn or outbid and you were out of a job. But from everything you’ve written about yourself, I somehow doubt it.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        Well, I regret it if in my fervour, I have come off poorly. I don’t work in VFX much any more, so, in fact, I’ve not been speaking for myself in most cases. I’ve been speaking of my limited work that I’ve maintained in VFX (which has shown me the good side of incentives, yes), but more for my friends (and at their request in a couple of cases – and at their explicit prompting – because they are benefiting as well.).

        Games has another decade at least, I’m guessing. There’s no reason for anyone to be left hanging, but it’s prudent to look beyond one’s current situation. I believe anyone who is looking ahead to their next career will be fine, and I believe there are new markets opening up for our skills, if we plan ahead a bit.

        I don’t see VFX remaining anything like it is currently for those of us has who have been lucky enough to experience it in the last 20 years. Incentives are drawing it out a bit, but I agree, it can’t last. In the meantime, they aren’t a bad thing, I maintain. They aren’t the cause of our woes, but a temporary relief from them.

      • Caleb Howard says:

        …and less of a gloat, and more of a nod to the richness of the irony. Are you of the opinion that foreign workers should enjoy the same protections in their jobs as citizens?

  21. andrei gheorghiu says:

    Gotcha Caleb – you have an infinite love for LA and for your friends from there, who are not there any more.
    But they are doing OK – thankfully to the Canadian taxpayers – witch if I clearly understand – you are among them.
    More money = more money and less money = less money.
    Simple as that

    • Caleb Howard says:

      many are there. many aren’t. I have a lot of love. As you point out, VFX is a sunk ship. I can love my friends on the sinking boat, and I can love my friends on the lifeboat.

      As you say, the industry is going down. In the long run, we *all* lose as the globalization equalizes compensation worldwide. (well, those of us outside of Asia). Calling for the end of incentives will hasten that great coming-of-fairness. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

      What *is* your plan, though, when you’re competing with people in China who will pay to work to get their first three years experience, and then will work for a tenth of what you can afford to take?

      I’m not just worried about my income. I’m worried about everybody’s. Kill the protections, and none of us will be protected. Better have a plan. Do you?

  22. Sarah Alan says:

    You guys seriously need a union. There is a long history in the benefits to employees of a union. Such an industry with so may talented, committed and passionate employees certainly needs it. VFX people love what they do.. But they deserve recognition, respect and rights as employees whilst they do it.

    • andrei gheorghiu says:

      right Sarah….but I think this is impossible.

      • 839spi says:

        We got volunteers to hand out hundreds of union cards at Imageworks. Until artists are ready to take a stand, nothing is going to change.

    • Ashes says:

      Unfortunately, the union has already said they don’t plan on addressing the the tax incentive problems. That in a nut shell is one of the biggest reasons people are not automatically flocking to join. At this point, anything that will add any cost, even something as low as .5%, to a vfx bid might cause a US vfx house to lose said bid.

      I love the idea of a union and even voiced support for it at various companies when IASTE was talking about putting us in with the cameramen. However, I’m still on the fence about signing that card. If we don’t have jobs to accrue hours, then the whole health insurance and pension is a moot point.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I agree this one of the legitmately strongest arguments against the union. The reason why they are reluctant to take a stand on the issue is because many of their members are in subsidized locations.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • 839spi says:

        Independent houses are struggling to survive. This is not true for large studio owned facilities that make their own IP , and are partially unionized in other divisions (Imageworks and PDI/Redwood City for example). Gotta start somewhere.

      • Ashes says:

        @839spi, not all big studios with their own IP are doing well. I’m going to assume you know more about Imageworks than me, but for what have heard is that they are losing a ton of money for Sony. Imageworks doesn’t own any of the IP, as far as I know, but Sony does. Different books and different operating budgets. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

        Dreamworks, Disney run into the same problem. Their vfx branches don’t own anything.

        As I said, I love the idea of a union, but I just don’t know how houses like DD, R&H, etc. can stay a float if they have to increase a bid because of it. If the tax incentives start going away, then I think it’ll be full steam ahead on the union.

  23. Guzrda says:

    I would really like to answer me, how to avoid subsides? I really like to work and live in Canada, no matter, in Vancouver or Montreal, well Vancouver is good more VFX studios are there. But how to get full time and work longer than couple of months or a year, and then do it again?

    I don’t really like to leave Canada.

  24. Candice says:

    I believe you should leave our Save BC film site to the people that know what they are doing. There are a group of individuals that are working hard to fight for all of us working in film in BC. Please do not ruin it by posting false information.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Hi Candice,

      What info did I present is false? I cited my sources. In fact the video above was originally taken down because they got the numbers wrong.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Candice says:

        They may have got numbers wrong at the begging and are currently working on the specifics. We have a large group of professionals and representatives working on it, so unless you are one of those people, I would just stay out of it. I don’t know the numbers or do I care, It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the film industry in BC is essential.

      • Ymir says:

        Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, right? Belief in the subsidy wizard is essential.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        Nobody argues its not essential its just a waste of taxpayers money and based on an illegal subsidy Candice, maybe you should stay out of this discussion if you cant see that or know the facts.

  25. Candice says:

    No just looking at the big picture.

    • Zapf says:

      The big picture is that corporate welfare never lasts. Even our resident BC subsidies champion Caleb here realizes that. And like it or not, it seems there is already an internal movement to cut back on the subsidies. Sooner or later the subsidies will be reduced, vanish altogether, or be outbid by another province or another world government.

      THAT is the big picture.

  26. inDailies says:

    This site has changed from being an advocate to VFX workers to a special interest group, lobbying for their one particular interest – i.e. killing subsidies. It feels a lot like the main goal here – “levelling the playing field” – actually means reviving the industry in LA. It feels like a group nostalgic oldtimers want the good old times back and demand so with a peculiar sense of entitlement, as if they inherently had a right to VFX and to keeping jobs in LA. How can you choose to work in film and complain about the specific circumstances that come with it? You’re free to choose a different niche, after all. Just like you would not choose on-set work – and then complain about having to travel and work long days. And the audacity of this “campaign to end subsidies”, telling other states and countries how they are supposed to run their economy? Being from Europe I can just shrug it off as the typically ignorant, self-centered American world view. By the way, I don’t like how the US subsidizes industries like oil and big-business agriculture either. I wonder how the US would react to foreigners coming to tell them how they need to run their economy??

    • Ashes says:

      The biggest threat to the vfx workers are the tax incentives that create a false industry, force people to have to move around the world, and ruins economies.

      Never once has VFX Soldier said all work should be in LA.

      Oh yeah, how’s Framestore doing over there? Bet they love the tax incentives in Ontario right about now. Welcome to the NWO.

  27. John Athayde says:

    The web software industry has gone through this and it’s actually become something better (at least in the Ruby on Rails Community). At LivingSocial, where I work designing internal tools, we have people all over the world. Some are in small offices, some do co-working, so work from home. But we are able to capture talent because they don’t have to move. GitHub works in a similar fashion.

    This also allows people to NOT live in London, or NYC, or San Francisco, and instead live somewhere where the cost of living is much lower, and still make a similar salary to what they’d make in the big city.

    This hasn’t been a reality in the past due to lack of bandwidth, but now, most of our meetings occur in a Google Hangout. We have a VPN to a central server where our source code is maintained. Our internal tools are web apps, either developed by us or licensed from third parties. Some are SaaS, but many are firewall installed (on our systems).

    Also look at new systems coming online, such as Renderman On Demand and other virtual server systems. Why would you, as a business, sink so much into a capital expense of a renderfarm when you can have someone else do that and you only pay for what you need? (obviously, there are cases where the CBI works out in favor of building your own).

    We did a short in 2005 on laptops with people distributed. We rendered on a friend’s farm after hours. The “office” was my apartment for mail purposes. The director was in SF, I was in DC, my sister (other producer) was in LA. This was long before things like GoogleDocs, etc. It’s definitely easier today.

    I do a lot of audio post work as well as some 3d/2d work, and with audio, we’ve started using Gobbler to send sessions back and forth. When a post shop can hire people all over the world and have them work from wherever (as long as they can have a fast network connection) then I think we’ll see this frustration go away.

    In the meantime, the likelihood of getting rid of tax incentives is low. If a State or other government wants to offer them, it will be difficult to beat, but those can only go on for so long until citizens realize they’re not getting much benefit out of them and they pull them back. I would say tariffs and things of that nature will NOT help (look at California’s reduction in taxable income AFTER increasing taxes on the uber wealthy in the last constitutional referendum round).

    Does anyone know of any shops that have a remote work setup?

    • Many people, including the facilities themselves, would love to have a network of remote workers. I think it would be fabulous. Unfortunately, the incredibly stringent regulations set by the MPAA on protection of data mean that most facilities cannot even deal with having data stored or sent to remote locations for fear that they’ll fail one of the famous ‘audits’ that are periodically run to ensure that the facilities are conforming. This is the biggest barrier to the world you describe.

      • John Athayde says:

        Ah thanks, I wasn’t aware of the MPAA stuff (as I haven’t done any work for studios). That’s unfortunate. Is there anyway to get around that with VPN or is it more a concern of footage leaks to various web properties, etc?

      • meinvan says:

        its easily circumvented by using something like PCoIP, no data ever leaves the facility, and bandwidth isnt really a big issue. Aswell as the added bonus to being able to work on the companies network, giving you all the same resources and computing power as if you were physically sitting there.

        Thats what I work on everyday and its pretty great.

        And hoping that in the near future I could be sitting at home (wherever that might be) and the company you work for just sends over a preconfigured PCoIP box.

        Not only is it good for the artists, but also great for the company. as they dont need to have open seats at the studio.(which in hindsight is certainly not a huge overhead compared to the artist cost)

  28. Wallawalla says:

    Does anyone think this subsidy war will end completely?

    It seems more realistic to me that we might one day be able to limit the amount of subsidies a state can offer, than be able to eliminate them completely.

    What do you think?

    • VFX_Boom says:

      The Subsidy Wars WILL end, when all of the States, Countries, etc, go so far into the red, they can no longer afford to hand them out.

      This will some point. It’s completely unsustainable.

      • andrei gheorghiu says:

        If it’s up to Caleb , I was thinking – just because of incentives, people will earn more.
        In fact, artists were payed way much more before this phenomenon has started.

        Isn’t it?

  29. uk subsidies says:

    Just to address whats happing in the UK. One main reason there is a current lul in the UK is because RoboAppocalypse was put on hold because it was to expensive to make and that was with the UK tax credits for both the shoot and vfx. With that one film gone there is a huge gap for both vfx and shoot crews. So when we scrap subsidies what will happen ????

    • VFX_Boom says:

      If subsidies get scrapped, Hollywood would no longer have this artificial market to use as leverage to screw over the industry as a whole. It would be scary at first, but once the dust settles, and the VFX centered areas regroup, London, Vancouver, Cali, NZ, and such, the work will come to them because Hollywood is ADDICTED to visual effects work now. It can’t survive without it.

      Hollywood knows it’s addicted, and tries it’s best to put on a happy face and tell you it’s not and everything is cool. And it needs it’s fix at a cheaper price. But, those days hopefully will slow, and Hollywood will have to start paying full price to get it’s fix.

  30. deanareeno says:

    For some reason Yannick’s post about Prime Focus has no ‘Reply’ link, so I’ll put this in the main thread.

    If you read what is written at the London Stock Exchange link provided, it’s Prime Focus “wholly owned subsidiary company, PF Broadcast and Commercials Limited” that has gone into administration, not the parent company.

    Further, it states that Prime Focus “other trading operations in independent film and television VFX are unaffected and continue to trade as normal”.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      True but to be clear, prime focus London will cease to exist? Or are you implying that a film unit in London will continue?

      • vfxIntl says:

        The commercials and broadcast business is in admin. film & TV vfx continues. Saying that PF in London “will cease to exist” is inaccurate verging on irresponsible.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Well that’s why Im asking. To get the facts.

      • vfxIntl says:

        From the LSE statement: “The Group’s other trading operations in independent film and television VFX are unaffected and continue to trade as normal.”

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Yes but the reason for my clarifying question was that could have meant the india, van, and la operations will continue but London will cease to exist. Ive been asking the same question on twitter and it seems most are saying other parts of PF london will continue.

      • vfxIntl says:

        As the LSE statement reads, it’s just Prime Focus Broadcast and Commercials Ltd that’s in administration, not the rest of the UK group. VFX is busy delivering White House Down for Roland Emmerich as well as other things.

      • vfxIntl says:

        it’s also worth bearing in mind that administration, whilst far from good, is not necessarily the end of the line as a buyer for the business might yet be found, or restructuring of the debt may yet return them to solvency.

      • deanareeno says:

        @vfxIntl has covered this, but when I said “the parent company” in my post, I meant exactly what is clearly stated at the LSE link – Prime Focus London PLC.

        Prime Focus London PLC continues, its subsidiary company PF Broadcast and Commercials Limited goes into administration.

        To @vfxIntl’s point about administration not necessarily being the end, one only has to look at Fuel VFX in Australia. They went into administration, and then were rescued by Animal Logic.

      • vfxIntlTraveller says:

        Just had confirmation from inside PF – features VFX continues in London. Fingers crossed that PF commercials/broadcast can find a way out. By all accounts the broadcast work was going well – but UK commercials biz is down across the board for everyone.

  31. Yannick says:

    Sorry for the confusion, I was on the move when sending the link.
    It looks like the broadcast is actually doing alright, it is just the commercial division. However they are under the same comapny.

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