There’s been a ton of news on the Rhythm & Hues situation and these days I can’t even keep up. One of the surprising stories is about Rhythm & Hues opening in Taiwan while in bankruptcy.
In early 2012, Ang Lee introduced R+H to government officials which led both to announce they would each match a $21 million investment into a film development fund that would help lure US studio work to the region and open a 200-person VFX facility.
R+H filed for bankruptcy in 2013 leaving many without jobs and pay. So, imagine everyones surprise to read an announcement that the Taiwan facility would continue forward unaffected by the bankruptcy.
Twitter and Facebook chatter went viral with posts linking to an announced job fair in Taiwan looking to hire 200 people. This led to wild and dubious speculation that Rhythm was using the bankruptcy to finally rid themselves of the shackles placed on them by evil California VFX artists for the freedom of $250-a-month cheap labor in Taiwan.
However one story that many have missed shortly after Rhythm’s bankruptcy filing was an announcement by the Taiwanese government clarifying that it has yet to give any of the $21 million it promised because R+H has failed to match its end of the bargain.
Furthermore, the government of Taiwan has also announced the end of many film subsidies because of budget woes:
The government is also abolishing exhibition subsidies, which had been instrumental in securing screenings Taiwan films, as well as ending rebates for foreign films that come to Taiwan to shoot. Life of Pi received more than NT$300 million (US$10.1 million) from the local and central government to shoot in Taiwan, and single-handedly wiped out the fund’s budget.
Even with all this grim news, Rhythm’s Taiwan manager is upbeat:
“Everything is working fine on track,” Mike Yang, manager of Rhythm & Hues Studios Taiwan Co., told CNA.
Here’s my analysis of the situation:
In VFX, when a manager says everything is working fine and on track, that usually means it isn’t. Last time something similar was said I was correct in assuming the opposite was true. Did this deal with Taiwan cost Rhythm a substantial amount of money?
It seems to me the bold announcements coming from Rhythm’s Taiwan branch are to send assurances to someone even though Rhythm is in bankruptcy and the government is withdrawing subsidies for the film industry. Someone has to pay for the facility being built in Taiwan. If it isn’t Rhythm or the government then who?