Digital Domain & Vancouver

A few years ago before this blog started, the narrative presented by many in the media about the VFX industry was that it was suffering the same fate as companies that were outsourcing all the work to cheap labor locations like India and China.

At the time I didn’t really see that. What I did see was that VFX work was instead going to expensive locations like Vancouver and London. How could that be possible I thought. London for example has the highest office rents in the world. So I decided to start this blog to write about the main reason VFX goes to these locations: Subsidies.

US studios were demanding that work be done in locations like the UK and Vancouver because their governments offered huge amounts of free taxpayer money. For example, in Vancouver, for every $100 paid to a VFX worker, US studios could get a $60 rebate back from the government. Soon they would require facilities do the work there even though the VFX facilities rarely saw the savings from the rebates.

Fast forward a few years later and now Rhythm & Hues, which did an abundant amount of offshoring in Asia, has gone bankrupt while other facilities are being forced to go to Vancouver, not India or China. Just to give you an example, this week I get a bunch of emails about a meeting that took place at the recently Chinese/Indian owned Digital Domain about moving work away from California. So was the work going to India or China? No, it was Vancouver.

Now don’t get me wrong, Vancouver is a lovely place I’m certain. However, that isn’t the point. The problem is that the only reason for work to go to that region is because of massive subsidies. Once they’re gone or some other place offers more, it’s game over.

The recent elections in BC were a big shocker. The NDP was promising larger subsidies for the BC film industry after it was losing out to Ontario and Quebec which were handing out more money to US studios. The NDP was way ahead in the polls and surprisingly lost.

Now there is an ongoing legitimate debate about the costs of these subsidy programs. The current BC Liberal government is acknowledging that these programs are “unaffordable” and that they “are being played” by the US studios. Their hope is to end the race to the bottom by getting other provinces to agree not to outbid each other.

I’ve been predicting this disaster for quite a while. However, I’ve also been working hard on a solution. As many of you know, subsidies distort global markets and violate many international trade agreements which ban subsidies. Last December we successfully raised funds to hire counsel to help challenge these programs. We hope to get the results out by the end of the month.

In other DD news, the Palm Beach Post’s Jeff Ostroski has an in-depth and excellent report on how Florida lost over $100 million in subsidies for Digital Domain. FXGuide also did an interview with former DD CEO John Textor.

Just to compare, Finance Canada’s John Lester estimates British Columbia is losing about $200 million a year for it’s subsidy program while Florida took a one time hit of $100 million on it’s DD gamble. However Florida is a big state with a $750 billion GDP. BC on the other hand is much smaller at around $200 billion GDP. Yet this year alone BC has budgeted $437 million in subsidies for the film industry!

In other words, a nuclear bomb is armed in BC and it’s only a matter of time until it goes off. As I’ve always said:

You live by the subsidy, you die by the subsidy.

Soldier On.

207 Responses to Digital Domain & Vancouver

  1. vfxGhost says:

    Did you see this article?

    Where Hal Hickle of ILM specifically says about their vancouver location: “It’s a sort of pop-up studio. It’s not a facility we intend to keep forever – only as long as it’s useful to have,”

    He does go on to say: “We’ve very honest with the artists we employ that it’s not a permanent situation. We’re there for the tax rebate… we like everyone else are swimming in the same waters and trying to figure out how to make it work.”

    But still, its very telling.

  2. VFXHungryneck says:

    This is encouraging to hear. can’t wait to hear what info comes at the end of the month. Thanks for all your good info.

  3. FXGUY42 says:

    How many disgruntled people have actually written to the British Columbia Film commission? I have. It should be short and polite, but I think its a big mistake to not directly confront the agency ruining so many people’s lives.

    VFX Soldier – have you ever written to the film tax commission? (If thats a naive statement, apologies).

    The email on the web site is:

    • Contacting the BC film commission is a futile effort even if you are a local, never mind a worker competing for the same jobs. (Im in Vancouver)

      The countervailing measures VFXSoldier has been hinting for a long time now is LA’s best attack to counter subsidies. (Kinda like a fuck you subsidies tariff.) It’s been tried before and failed (FTAC), but it might have more support this time around. It will be interesting to see the speed and severity when it likely goes through.

      I just hope whatever the outcome, its done slowly enough that workers are able to adapt. Giving Intl seniors better access to H-1B’s would be nice. (Increased caps?)

      For some good bathroom reading, google “countervailing measures” and “FTAC” to see what happened before and why it failed.

    • vfxmafia says:

      to FXGUY42:

      I don’t see how writing an angry email to the BC film commission will do anything. The commission made the laws for a reason. The whole purpose of the BC subsidy is to bring jobs to Vancouver………(its working and putting a nail in the coffin for Los Angeles)…..The BC politicians couldnt give two shits about any other citizens but that of Vancouver residence…..

      Whats worse ….The BC politicians are so niave that the companies that are flocking to take their money are only there for the short term…..and alot of the new jobs created are people coming from another country….and what worse they are creating a subsidy war against other provences in their own country…

      and im sure if you follow the money….some of the pennies that came from the $437 million coffer fell into the pockets of those who wrote the subsidy…..

      • fxguy42 says:

        Ok…fair enough…

        Siggraph 2014 is in Vancouver…and while all our jobs will be gone by then…I wonder how many people would be up for a protest at Vancouver City Hall Aug 11th?

        Seems otherwise a waste of a good opportunity. 🙂

      • @fxguy42 “I wonder how many people would be up for a protest at Vancouver City Hall Aug 11th?”

        Probably more than were protesting outside the California Film Commission on June 5th. :o) Still, here is my prediction: Some studios/venders/artists will boycott Vancouver Siggraph altogether.

      • vfxmafia says:


        (even if it is a quote from other postings)

    • J_animator says:

      Why is BC not entitled to strengthen it’s economy?

      If you have a problem with subsidies and want to protest start at home, in what I assume is CA, California offers film/vfx subsidies as well (however pathetic compared to BC and London). At this point you just think their subsidies are too much then, is that it?

      Where is line? 1% 10% 50%?

      For argument’s sake, let’s take a away subsidies. Now think of currency conversion and economies. Sure, BC might be out of the picture now that their 30% kickback is gone, but how do you fight the Chinese or Indians whose currency and pay is a fraction of ours even without subsidies?

      • Shhh. We don’t talk about the Californian Tax breaks here. I am a worker currently in a subsidized city, and even I can see the subsidy war is screwing everyone up. The thing is, it’s hard to listen to the Anti-subsidy message when no-one in LA is talking about their own lottery. VFXSoldier and most of the other big LA-based #VFX people I follow were all but completely silent on lottery day. VFXSoldier had a celebratory re-tweet for a show that won the lottery bid and was being pulled (back) from Vancouver


        It looks hypocritical to wag your finger at everyone else, and stay quiet on the day the state throws 100 million dollars at studios.

        Personally, I’m all for a slow reduction of caps across the board. I predict, however, that the WTO’s “countervailing measures” will be evoked. No word on if that will effect flat out cheap labor in the East

      • vfxmafia says:

        To J-animator:

        You really need to read this blog more….try watching this…

        Why is BC not entitled to strengthen its economy with subsidys?

        Because Subsidys dont work. It causes short term bubbles and distortions in the market, wastes BC tax payer money….the money doesnt go into the economy it goes into the studios pockets……..and when the money runs out…..the companies leave …..and BC is left with a big smoldering hole called an economy…….but you assumed it was gonna “strengthening your economy.”

      • @vfxmafia Subsidies are screwing the industry for sure. Did you personally protest the $100 million California subsidy lottery a couple of weeks ago? Is it a surprise that workers in subsidized areas ignore your pleas when most of LA is almost completely silent on their own subsidies?

      • Whoa says:

        Ooooo yea you guys are so clever. Yea what about that California rebate right? What hypocrites!
        Only 57.5 mil has been awarded on average per year because of restrictions not being met. Its also geared towards lower budget films and indi projects.

        You whine about helping to support mostly fledgling film makers as if it matters next to 100s of millions being spent annually on big budget films uprooting thousands of families and in clear violation of WTO regulations all padding pockets of multi billion dollar studios.
        Please … spare me.

      • @Whoa – Still didn’t hear a single peep from LA. A simple tweet would have said volumes. “But no, those are OUR subsidies”. King & Maxwell are CBS, not indy.

        I’m saying my part about subsidies in MY subsidized region; My motivation drops when you’re not doing it in yours.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To greenriverthriller:

        I didnt know about the California subsidy lottery for FILM PRODUCTION. It wasnt a subsidy concerning VFX.

        For the last 25 years Canada has been sucking film productions out Los Angeles…..are you really gonna cry about one freaking TV show???……most of what that lottery funds is super Indy low budget tv shows….like MTVs Teenwolf. You can have the shows back IMO….

        Maybe if Canada threw money at film productions you would have a more developed film hub….. “Maplewood” instead of trying to steal Hollywood.

        and I can speak for 1,000 out of work Los Angeles VFX workers…….if BC is accusing LA having VFX subsidys you are sadly mistaken.

        It has been the opinion of most people on this website…that subsidys are wrong….cause distortions in the market…and only benifit the studios….I can thank my unemployment for that……….so STFU

      • Studio_Spotter says:

        “Why is BC not entitled to strengthen it’s economy?”

        “Why is BC not entitled to break the WTO agreement?”


      • Studio_Spotter says:

        The line, as defined by the WTO, is when a subsidy for a like good does damage to a fellow WTO member’s industry. There is 0 argument as to whether the VC subsidies are over the line.

      • @vfxmafia You might be surprised to know there are plenty of unemployed artists in Vancouver right now as well. Everyone is hurting. Truthfully, the subsidies are not here to stay. There is going to be a major event: Either it will be a political hot-potato in BC, or the WTO “countervailing measures” will negate them. The one thing you can count on: The big 6 will not be spending more money than they already are. Either less productions, or send the VFX work East.

      • J_animator says:

        @studio_spotter and @vfxmafia: I read this blog plenty, so calm down. I never said I was pro-subsidy either. I just find it ironic to get upset about subsidies when California, and the US in general engages in it too (according to you, it’s a small amount, so now we are just arguing about amounts…)
        Like I said, and everyone fails to recognize. Remove subsidies altogether, if only for argument’s sake. There is no fair playing field, other nations have lower economies, lower wages, and a lower currency. I have been in bid meetings where a shot the US would do for $3,000, Canada will do for $1,800 after kickback, and India will do for $25. Yes $25, so even if you claim their work is crap, and they have no skill level they can be paid 120 times for our one time.
        So un-bunch your panties, I never said I support subsides, just be clear on what you are asking for.

      • scathie says:

        Dude, this blog is anti-BC, not anti-California. Get your facts straight.

      • Ymir says:

        I would say this blog is anti-subsidy, and right now Canada is the king of subsidies, to expect it to take a few arrows.

      • vfxmafia says:


        eloquently well put……..

      • scathie says:

        “I would say this blog is anti-subsidy, and right now Canada is the king of subsidies, to expect it to take a few arrows”

        So? We want the film industry. If we have to buy it using subsidies, that’s the weapon we should use to fight and we reserve the right to do so. We’ll also use cheaper currency, state-backed health care, more flexible visa and immigration policies and government subsidized electricity grids. If it’s a war, why not put up a fight?

      • vfxmafia says:


        It’s clear you have problems with the US that go far beyond the VFX industry so I’m not sure where to go from here in this discussion.

        Maybe is more your speed…..

      • Ymir says:

        @Scathie; What I read was “We reserve the right to take whatever we want, from whoever we want, regardless of whose or how many lives we destroy to get it.” Classy.

        I certainly hope you are not representative of all Canadians.

      • scathie says:

        Ymir says:

        @Scathie; What I read was “We reserve the right to take whatever we want, from whoever we want, regardless of whose or how many lives we destroy to get it.” Classy.

        Guess you should learn to read then.

      • Ymir says:

        Ha! Nice comeback. Maybe you should learn to understand your own ramblings.

      • @scathie: “So? We want the film industry. If we have to buy it using subsidies, that’s the weapon we should use to fight and we reserve the right to do so.”

        You’re not buying the film industry, you’re renting it. The studios aren’t relocating to BC (or the rest of Canada), they are only sending their productions to you while you are foolish enough to cover a huge chunk of their budgets. Once you decide to stop paying, Hollywood will be gone. All of the major studios are still in California and 3 of the big six are just starting multi-billion expansions in LA.

      • Whoa says:

        you didnt hear a peep or you didnt listen for one? A google search returns tons of aeguments for and against ca subsidies. I prefer not to have any at all. But a relative drop in the bucket geared towards lower budget projects isnt exactly a priority over the almost half billion being used to divert big ticket blockbusters and in direct violation of our trade agreement.

        Also j animator, i get handed work from India on a daily basis. theres a reason its 25 bucks. And when they can get away with charging more, they will.
        If I’m wrong, why are fx houses going to Canada instead of India?

        All those latter factors are fair play as long as currency isn’t being artificially manipulated.

        And scathie,
        I don’t know what you think Canada is buying but you are soon to be hilariously rudely awakened. Those studios don’t care one turd about Canada. All they care about is the temporary influx of tax revenue canda is willing to divert from social services for their bank accounts. And when canda is done coughing it up, they’ll move their fx vendors to the next starry eyed country. You can’t buy the film industry for 425 mil! Hahaha you’d need 10s of billions or more. You have to convince all the celebrities the snow aint that bad too. Use more money, thatll work! Go ahead, cough up billions per year. They don’t have enough. The studios want your k-12 grammar school funding too. You say you want the film industry. So go for it, tell them about your health care. These people make 10s and 100s of millions. They cant wait to hear the financial benefits of your subsidized electricity grids…. douche.

      • J_animator says:

        @Adrian_H_McDonald “You’re not buying the film industry, you’re renting it. The studios aren’t relocating to BC”

        For now.

        LA Mayor Elect, Garcetti vows to institute a film czar, intended to protect LA film by penalizing companies that are based here but take work elsewhere. My guess is that plan will backfire and companies will just move to a friendlier state or country.

      • Canada has been trying to relocate the studios for almost 30 years. None have. Louisiana, Georgia and so on have been at it for about a decade. Again, no studio has uprooted.

        Disney, Paramount and Universal are all in the middle of 20-year expansion projects in So Cal. They aren’t leaving for now….or the foreseeable future either.

        Garcetti’s film czar idea is just that–an idea. And even if such a position is created (unlikely), the intent is to make filming easier in LA, not penalize anyone. I have no idea where you came up with that idea, but as someone who works hands on with the Mayor’s Office and the Council Members, your claim is not grounded in reality. Hostility perhaps, but not reality.

      • FXGUY42 says:

        You know what a tariff is and why it is usually made illegal in trade such as….say NAFTA? A subsidy is the same thing just for services…and should be illegal.

        California jobs have not gone to China or India…they have gone to Vancouver (ILM, Pixar, Sony, DD, Image Engine exist only there and not China).

  4. Michael says:

    My field has been game development primarily, so I am not as in tune to the daily goings on in VFX. But I do have a question I’m curious about:
    With all of these subsidies causing havoc, what is the situation for ILM or Weta Digital regarding getting work. It seems they have abundant amounts of work. So do studios like DD and R&H seriously affect these studios or are they getting more of the scraps that the big boys don’t want to take.
    -Thank in advance for your feedback.
    PS: Just noticed vfxGhost article above but would still like additional insight from those on the inside.

    • Dun unda says:

      ILM is in a very similar situation as Sony, DD, RH, they are moving most of the work outside of California to Vancouver, Singapore, etc. They have just been slightly more stable than DD or RH.

      New Zealand is giving a ton of money to Weta to keep making their features down there through incentives. On top of an incentive, film companies get large multi-million dollar gifts from New Zealand to film and do post production down there.

  5. Dave Rand says:

    My feelings on this are best described in this short video. It is a positive message

  6. unhuman says:


    Some facilities are owned or co-owned by studios and directors, (eg Peter Jackson has a huge stake in WETA afaik, and ILM are owned by Disney, same goes for Sony), and so they will get work from these studios.

    I’d be interested to see what happens with the new StarWars, how much will post in LA ?

    • vFX_Reckoning says:

      unlikely, why would it? There is no incentive or competitive market here.

      • vfxmafia says:

        to VFX reckoning…

        You are correct about incentives. Lets just say there is no Subsidy incentive for Star Wars to come to Los Angeles…

        However their is a COMPETITIVE MARKET…..they can get a 1,000 unemployed Top Veteran workers here at 15% cut on there rates….(but hey that doesn’t count next to the -60% cut they get in Vancouver or London)

      • Dave Rand says:

        The Director is here. You can raise you kids by video conference too, but you’d pay a price ..further you distance the decision maker from the story…the faster you lose money. The greatest cost in VFX is not labor it’s waste due to lack of focus and direction, like directing a live action set from your iPhone.

  7. A says:

    None. It’s all being done in London, to get the UK subsidy.

    • tazzman says:

      What is all being done in London? The work on the new SW?

      No, some of it will be done in London. Most will be done in the states and Van/Singapore, along with a TON of models/miniatures.

  8. Philippe says:

    I am of European descent, in LA, unemployed after losing my job because the studio where I was at wasted money on opening a office in Canada which never took off, so they had to let go some of their people. It’s hard as fuck to find a new job because nobody wants to sponsor me (even if I end up paying my visa), and with this shitty situation outside of US (in terms of “I can’t move anywhere because studios abroad might close at any damn moment since they live of state money”) I can’t plan anything for my future.
    It’s so frustrating, I so hope this subsidies shit dies soon and VFX work comes back to the States.
    There is no more American Dream for immigrants. So sad.

    • J_animator says:

      Perhaps the subsidies may die, but that still leaves foreign currency exchange and labor costs. The US and Canada would have a hard time competing with the fractional cost of doing business in China or India even without subsidies; which believe it or not their skill level is rising by the minute.

    • mattD says:

      Yes, but if you read up on these issues, you will find that China and India are massive maipulators of there economies and currency exchanges. They will not allow ‘free trade’ as such. And also read up on factory locks-ins, worker threats, the like, involving many US firms infact like Apple and Microsoft. Maybe they can keep it going forever? But there are plenty of serious commentators who also have been banging a warning drum about india and china for a decade, that economic manipulation is causing economic side effects everywhere, rampant inflation, endemic corruption and black economies.

      Are resources cheaper in India or China? Is wood, concrete, rubber, glass, electricity generation, inherintly cheaper in those countries because ‘its different?’ No! Money ‘costs’ are a fictional idea placed on the earth’s resources by politicians and bankers. If free markets really existed, there may be no reason why L.A. should be more expensive than Bangalore. Apart from a hundred years of built up debts in the US. But wars and economic slumps go a good way to wiping out debts a couple of times a century. Maybe proximity to good filming locations or (for CG vfx) cheap electrical generation from Hydro or nuclear power. But nothing to do with ‘cheap people’. Cheap people are a result of politicans and financiers fighting market forces. But markets and people eventually go toward a natural trend in the long run.

      Infact, LA does have an inherent advantage for movie production because of climate and filming possibilities. Situating VFX close to production could then be very cost efficient if subsidies and intervention didn’t cloud issues. Maybe even Vancouver or Montreal could compete on a fair basis if abundant, cheap hydro electricity were used for large scale CG VFX render farms power needs. Places like Iceland maybe more so. Guess we’ll never know while the subsidy game and politics is the main game in town.

      So India and China are cheap for now because of economic manipulation and oppression. Its a mirage that requires globalisation policies from Wall Street and the City of London to operate. Filling shipper containers full of diesel oil to regularly cross the pacific or atlantic and lay optic fibre cable on the ocean beds, to enable India and China to trade with the West, is all financed by the same globalist folk mostly at your taxpayer expense. That cannot carry on forever.

      In an ideal world, if subsidies and political grease were removed across the industry, maybe VFX production could be situated in places more convenient to those doing the work. ie., maybe artists could build vfx communities in more convenient locations, with better living possibilites, instead of having to go to eye watering expensive places like vancouver and london, or boom and bust towns like Montreal and Toronto.

      • J_animator says:

        The US has long engaged in economic manipulation as well, this is not unique to China and India. The US is doing it right now, shall we call it “quantitative easing.” As you have stated, the flux in these markets is nothing more government manipulation as the cost of resources, including human labor is relative and tied to that single factor. But what is government but that body of people deciding this is the way they will do things in the location. Wishing for government intervention to be gone is a nice ideal, but it’s not going to happen in the near future until globalization hits its maximum and we are all one country.
        It’s funny to claim that LA is best “suited” for vfx, especially since you bring up climates. Have a look at a climate map and nearly all of south east China and much of India is considered “temperate” in the same way the California is, so there is no reason for the work to be situated here other than the fact that this is were Hollywood happened to plant itself which is nothing more than claiming we got here first. As borders do begin to thin and other film markets emerge, like China is already doing, you can no longer claim “production” or the “clients” are based in LA.
        The fact of the matter is this happens in a cycle, and this event is nothing new. As work spreads to other places due to lower economies or subsidies their wages slowly rise and their subsidies slowly disappear while the prior location’s economy tanks, causing it to become the lowest bidder once again. The US has been on the upside of that cycle for a long time, gaining all the work, with strong incentives to bring work here (government forced or not) and now with a tanked economy and others quickly taking out spot, everyone refuses to admit we are no longer the hot spot and we blame others for our plight.
        The only thing that the US can offer is either “quality” if all the experience stays here, or wait for our economy to hit bottom so we can begin offering the lowest price once again. Some day China will hit their peak and they will begin to fall as well, but right now they are on the upside of the cycle and all of this only gets amplified with more cross border companies and partnerships.

      • mattD says:

        There is also the cultural aspect. The concept of ‘Americain’ culture, equality, freedom, relaxed people, ‘americain dream’ all has sold well across the world for cultural reasons. Now, before you point it out – yes, the ‘Amercain Dream’ was probably only a reality for a couple of brief periods in history. And with all the increasing regulations, homeland security and economic problems in the US now, its a cute idea only now with no basis in reality.

        But for many folk in the work who lived in oppressive, brutal, poverty stricken places like India, China, Communist Europe and Russia, or the very rigid conformist societies of old europen countries like Britain, Germany, France. so on, for some of those folk, the myth of the Americain dream is still strong as an inspiring idea in movies. Even if it is just a fairystory.

        I have found that most amercain cinema obsessed folk from Communist Europe, old Europe, India and China, you setup in the US, are trying to escape their countries and cultures. But where is that going to go now? The Hollywood VFX industry seems in terminal decline now, so if you are sitting in a studio in Bangalore or Beijing, or maybe from communist europe located now in Vancouver or Toronto, and you are dreaming of using your 100 hours a week as a stepping stone to end up somewhere like the set of baywatch living the americain dream, well, you have just participated in destroying this destination by working for whore-master globalists. Any vague idea of popping up in Hollywood and living the high life .. is just that .. a vague idea that is not real. It’ll be interesting to see now when factory CG firms like RH, DD, PF are chugging out their movies, just how motivated the artists will be. Because, its just another factory job now. When that reality sinks in, people may just realise that those corporate factory whore-house operations are not going to fulfill the dreams you had for your career or maybe even those vague notions of Amercain dreams in the movies that inspired you.

      • jackadullboy says:

        My view on this is that the concept of a perfect free market is a fantasy.. it can never be realised, even in principle. A perfect marketplace would place a value on all components of the system, down to the air we breathe.

        The reality is that we can’t ever know the true cost of all components in the system, due to externalities. We don’t know the ‘real’ cost of burning vast amounts of fossil fuels and then burning them in the atmosphere.

        And what about abstractions such as human happiness? How do you place a monetary value on such things?

        The point is, anything short of this perfection inevitably results in instability and inequality, hence the constant (sometimes violent) oscillations in the world economy.

        Why do we think the film industry became rooted in Hollywood in the first place? Surely economic incentives played their part.

        I’m no fan of subsidies, but I think we as artists need to concentrate on the constants we can actually take action on – universal factors independant of trade borders.. namely labour standards and ethics. This is a minuimum requirement, whatever way the global economy chooses to unfold.

        This means taking steps to organize, so that we can establish some universal standards.

      • J_animator says:

        @mattD, on your “dream” analysis, I fully agree. An interesting breakdown.

        @jackadullboy, you said it brother.

      • tazzman says:

        “Why do we think the film industry became rooted in Hollywood in the first place? Surely economic incentives played their part.”

        Actually it had much to do with the weather and the mostly year round shooting available on the backlots as a result.

      • mattD says:

        yeah, saying China has the same climate advantages is just stupid. Hollywood pretty well has a unique climate suited to photography, allowing year round shooting and cheap interior shooting at twighlights – if you have ever setup a shoot, you may be aware how much power a single 10K spot draws (will be more in hour than your entire house does in a week). And you need a whole bank of 10Ks, 5Ks, on a movie lot. Natural light is very cheap. SoCal get abouts 340-350 sunny days per year. It is a desert climate with a thin strip of subtropical environment along the coast. And the only reason it was able to support a large city around the LA basin was because of manmade irrigation systems that diverted the eastern flows of some Colorado rivers and Lake Mead through the mountains westward, into Socal. (ever heard of Mulholland drive? Well now you know a little bit about the history of LA). I’ve lived in sub-arctic and tropical climates, LA is a pretty unique climate in terms of being nearly bone dry but with sufficient water to support industry and large populations. There aren’t the widespread droughts regularly that you get in the drier areas of southern china.

        It also becomes very difficult and expensive to have to keep rescheduling shoots due to weather conditions. That is why most shooting in Vancouver is crammed into two months during summer, when tradtionally VFX artists are short of work for 3-6 months waiting for shoots. You can do it all year long in LA.

        Also, in the early days, the dry climate was useful for film storage. You put in a vault underground, it is dry and cool and will store for a long time without expensive climatic controls. Humidity is a killer for film stock storage, as is extremes of hot and cold. If you have ever lived in LA nearer the coast, you’ll know its not actually that warm, its just pretty temperate most of the year. Same goes for video stock and digital medium – they all use a similar substrate material.

        Of course, we have globalisation now so we can just keep pumping oil out the ground to fill cargo ships tanks full of diesel oil and lay fibre optics and plastic cables millions of miles long, on the ocean floor, in order to subsidise China and India slave factories to destroy the industries we built up. Hummm, I can see no problem in oil running out or any environmental issues with all this. But if this super oil-hungry globalisation trade ever hit a snag, hollywood would retain all the natural advantages it had when it started mass movie production.

      • jackadullboy says:

        No question, environmental factors were the main reason for Hollywood being the location of choice. There were some economic advantages too, as moviemakers were able to avoid Edison’s motion picture patents. Granted, I’m not so sure how significant that was.

        Just looking ahead though, it seems that technology will generally make the natural climatic advantages, and (in the vfx field) geographic proximity less of a consideration rather than more.

        As things go digital, and photosensitive devices improve, natural light will surely be less of an issue, not more. Celluloid has been remarkable in that it remained the unassailable medium of choice for over a century, but that now seems to be changing.

        There’s no question that California’s infrastructure and talent base is currently unmatched, and it would be great to think removal of subsidies would fix everything.

        But as J_animator stated, even with subsidies taken out of the equation, all those other economic factors (cheap labour, currency fluctuations etc) will remain in place. In a globalised economic system such as we have, built entirely on the monetary profit motive, and where giant corporations are unbounded by political borders, it seems unlikely that we can compete with countries that don’t share are views on labour ethics.

        We can at least try and improve the conditions under which we work in our own countries (a known quantity), and let the chips fall where they will.

      • scathie says:

        “Why do we think the film industry became rooted in Hollywood in the first place? Surely economic incentives played their part.”

        “Actually it had much to do with the weather and the mostly year round shooting available on the backlots as a result.”

        Don’t forget that at the time, Jews in New York were largely discriminated or barred from professions such as law and medicine, so getting out of dodge with this unregulated new industry, was very appealing. Land out there was cheap, weather was good, no one was telling them they couldn’t work, so off they packed their bags and moved.

        Many of those early Jewish filmmakers came from Europe, and moving to New York and then again to LA at the beginning of the 20th century was not an easy thing to do. For all the whining about relocation in the VFX industry today, imagine yourself almost a century ago, where you couldn’t hire a moving company, take a plane, and within a week be set up in a completely new part of the world in an industry that had virtually no track record.

      • Look at the big picture says:

        scathie: “Many of those early Jewish filmmakers came from Europe, and moving to New York and then again to LA at the beginning of the 20th century was not an easy thing to do. For all the whining about relocation in the VFX industry today, imagine yourself almost a century ago, where you couldn’t hire a moving company, take a plane, and within a week be set up in a completely new part of the world in an industry that had virtually no track record.”

        There is a huge difference between moving to a new location to start a new industry that creates new jobs and having to move locations because an industry and the jobs that already existed were moved there. Subsidies are not creating jobs they are simply artificially and temporarily transferring them to a different location for political reasons.

        Has the global economy really devolved to the point where new jobs aren’t being created but instead local governments fight over who can lure existing jobs to their location via bribery? If so, we are in big trouble.

      • scathie says:

        Look at the big picture says:

        “There is a huge difference between moving to a new location to start a new industry that creates new jobs”

        At the time, they didn’t know that. They created the industry. It was a huge gamble. To stand up against Edison and try to compete against him was infinitely more challenging than simply moving to take a job.

        “Subsidies are not creating jobs”

        Who claimed they were?

        “Has the global economy really devolved to the point where new jobs aren’t being created but instead local governments fight over who can lure existing jobs to their location via bribery? If so, we are in big trouble.”

        What in the world are you talking about?!?! The United States INVADED IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN to secure cheap oil and terrify any potential rivals to succumb to it’s political and economic demands, and eavesdropping on it’s own allies at G8 meetings. Has the “global economy” “devolved” to subsidies?!? Compared to what? War? Espionage?

        Get off your high horse. All Canada does is honestly buy a piece of the industry we’re very much invested in. At least we don’t lie, cheat and steal.

      • Look at the big picture says:


        “All Canada does is honestly buy a piece of the industry we’re very much invested in. At least we don’t lie, cheat and steal.”

        And here comes the anti-Americanism. Many in this country didn’t want to invade anyone yet that appears to be all the justification you require to support whatever policies help Canada and especially hurt the US. How one relates to the other I can’t imagine but it’s clear you have problems with the US that go far beyond the VFX industry so I’m not sure where to go from here in this discussion.

      • scathie says:

        Look at the big picture says:

        “And here comes the anti-Americanism. Many in this country didn’t want to invade anyone yet that appears to be all the justification you require to support whatever policies help Canada and especially hurt the US. How one relates to the other I can’t imagine but it’s clear you have problems with the US that go far beyond the VFX industry so I’m not sure where to go from here in this discussion.”

        Oh, so it’s fine for you to point out how unjust Canadian policies are that adversely affect you, but as soon as someone points out the unjustness of American policies that benefit you, they’re Anti-American. Yeah, what a low-blow, pointing out “facts” with an argument that’s contrary to yours.

        I don’t know how you keep a straight face when you type out this sort of nonsense.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To Scathie:

        You sound like a really young kid, with a chip on his shoulder that supports a massive insecurity complex.

        Among your hobbies are trolling on websites for fellow artists who are having Life discussions about being laid off……..but do you steal candy from babies as well? or maybe tripping blind people is more your thing when your not poking your fellow artists (if I can call you one)….when they are down…?

        I bet the people that work next to you in the studio are SOooo lucky…..what do any of your posts have to do with VFX?

      • Look at the big picture says:


        “Oh, so it’s fine for you to point out how unjust Canadian policies are that adversely affect you, but as soon as someone points out the unjustness of American policies that benefit you, they’re Anti-American. Yeah, what a low-blow, pointing out “facts” with an argument that’s contrary to yours.

        I don’t know how you keep a straight face when you type out this sort of nonsense.”

        I didn’t mention Canada in my original post. These policies don’t affect me. I’m still not sure what Afghanistan has to do with refundable tax credits in feature films. My face is straight.

      • Hector says:

        scathie = red neck!

  9. vfxmafia says:

    Los Angeles VFX workers…..brace yourselves for more unemployment…

    The $437 million dropped by BC Vancouver this year…which resulted in this summers drought of no work….WILL CONTINUE into next year….more subsidies will hit next year as well…which means the continuation of this lack of work…..will last another year and half….

    plan your finances accordingly…..

    • VFX_Reckoning says:

      What finances? I’m not sure how everyone else is fairing, but I’m almost tapped.

      If you need a 3D artist, I’ll be the guy in front of Grauman’s Theatre with a desk and computer, modeling family portraits for tips.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Im sorry VFX_reckoning I know how you feel….Im out of work right now…too….I thought the summer would be the end of the drought….but its clear LA will be dead till the end of the year or longer….

      • Hector says:

        Well ..this is it. So no matter how long you work or where or how much you earn.
        One day – you’re broke.
        This is the beauty of this job. They give you some money , in very expensive locations, for couple of months or years – and then – stop.

  10. DarkEnergy says:

    The situation in L.A. is probably the worst I have seen it in my brief 9 years in the biz. With whats happened at R&H and who knows what will happen to the DD crew, there is just a lot more people in this town looking for work. This just adds to the mess.

    • Caleb says:

      At this point, WE are partly responsible for the current conditions. WE are letting it happen. The time for real action has long passed. I thought for sure people would take to the streets after DDMG, nope, Then I thought, ok, after the new owners cut peoples pay, nope, then, RH is the straw that broke the camels back, NOPE!! I watched Life of Pi for the first time a few weeks ago. It was the first vfx I’ve seen in 10 years that made my jaw drop, The tiger was hands down stunning! It made me angry. If I worked on that project at R&H, I would now be sitting in a jail cell, because I would have either left the building with a truck load of computers, or bolted my self to the main servers till either my team got paid or they cut me off and hauled me out after tassing me. (sp)

      The vfx community, has NO SPINE, and the studios know it. VFX folks are getting bitch slapped and taking it, over and over and over again. What do we do, wear a fucking T shirt to a fucking movie that perpetuates the problems! CRAZY!!!

      Keep up the apathy and placating, its worked so well so far!

      • mattD says:

      • mattD says:

        If you are an artist, the next time you catch yourself throwing around buzzwords and puffing your chest out about how your brain is the size of a planet and your talent deeper than an ocean, STFU! Just go about your business quietly and efficiently and let your work speak for itself. Some do, many don’t. Unfortunately, artists are big on ego and self agrandissement, particularly when the exec producers or owners are within earshot. Artists themselves often indulge in slippery office politics by their own efforts – I think some of the more obnoxious studios and management teams are cleverer at office politics than you will ever be. They just let you divide and conquer yourselves and can sit back and watch you slip into increasingly s**tier working conditions and pay by your own efforts. Maybe you aren’t as smart as you think?

        I await your considered opinions.

      • Get Real Soldier says:

        “bitch slapped”

        When an industry, especially California based, publicly decries the evil of its employers while simultaneously taking credit for the visual effects influence on box office success often indicating that none of this would be possible without visual effects…what do you expect?

        There are often many ways to communicate a point. For example, you mention the extraordinary work on the tiger in Pi. It is elegant and so incredibly seamlessly believable. Truly, it speaks for itself.

        Yet, Scott Squires and Scott Ross at NAB, maybe accurately, but with great insensitivity proceeded to make it abundantly clear that the cinematography Oscar was due to the visual effects and voted by an Academy which does not know or see this. Of course, they proceeded to illustrate this with blue screen images.

        How much better would this be if it were presented as a team of filmmakers, rather than the importance of just one ‘at the expense’ of another?

        The visual effects industry has rarely trusted nor spoken with each other to find a realistic ways to work together as a union or as a trade organization or whatever. It has been mostly power playing even if done with good intentions. Hence, little or no progress has ever really been made in the many areas of concern.

        It is not a question of spine. It has always been a question of working together, and yet somehow, the ‘noise’ always gets in the way of anything really good being accomplished certainly for the California model.

        And, in the meantime, for the past 20 years the business and attitude and organization and politics of the visual effects industry have compelled a globalization which will only continue to grow.

        What is most probably going on now is the very sad realization that time may have already run out for ‘a future once envisioned’.

        Truly, right at this moment in time, what has been accomplished except talking and talking and talking?

        The world just keeps adapting and moving on…

  11. Scott Ross says:

    The work will go to the least expensive highest quality provider. That’s just business, as they say.

    Today the high quality work will be moving to the lowest cost providers that do great work. To get the lowest cost on high quality work will necessitate subsidies… places like Vancouver.

    To get the lowest cost non quality work ( for now ) the work will go to India and China. Therefore we will see quality artists move to tax subsidized locations and we will see commoditized work go to India/China.

    DD might be an example of what might happen. Move their A team and A work to Vancouver and their B work to Beijing, while keeping their core creative and sales in LA.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Soon we’ll be able to raise our kids by video conference !

      • Dave Rand says:

        We can take the human right out of it…..I wonder how much comunication wll be lost though. The greatest cost in VFX is not labor …it’s waste. Distance, the wire, only makes it worse.

    • Get Real Soldier says:

      Hey Scott (and Scott),

      Your NAB presentation received a well deserved standing ovation. Truly, both of you were really great and well prepared.

      Please, accept this praise with the deepest sincerity. And, also please, accept this. Both of your frustration levels are maxed out while both of you have given max efforts for your beliefs. For that, you are most honorable.

      In your frustration along with the rest of the ‘voices for visual effects’…just remember always…visual effects are part of the filmmaking story process. For sure, visual effects especially with its relative ‘newness’ in filmmaking have huge influence and impact. But, I have never felt or believed that meant visual effects had the right to ‘jump the line’.

      Again, I have the most appreciation for your long and dedicated hours to advance the industry. Kudos…and, thank you.

      • Dave Rand says:

        49 of the top 50 grossing films …

      • Scott Squires says:

        I’ve never said visual effects had the right to jump the line but lets be honest. Visual effects has a profound effect on the Hollywood bottom line and yet vfx are rarely asked to participate in full creative and equal terms on many projects.

        And the point Scott Ross was making is that quite a few people even the film business don’t know what we do or how much we’ve done. I’m not putting down the DPs of some of these great projects but the voters in many cases were voting on overall visuals, of which visual effects filled up 80-90% of the screen. And it’s just so strange that the vfx are so linked yet those winning the awards can’t thank the vfx team.

        I see the same old tired arguments in these comments. “Well if it’s not the subsidies then it’s all going China and India.” And for that reason they don’t think anything should be done about subsidies. Well China and India are cheaper even today than the subsidies so why isn’t work going there now? The fact of the matter is there will always be some imbalance of cost of living and other factors. But it would be good to remove the major and easily controlled subsidies. And no, if yo stopped the subsidies tomorrow then they would not immediately all go to China and India.

        In regard to California subsidies- These are a drop in the bucket compared to other locations. There are caps on the size of the projects ( <$75 million) and these are not transferrable like many tax 'credits' and rebates used in most other film subsidies. So the bottom line is there is very little impact of the California subsidies on the vfx industry in California.

      • Get Real Soldier says:


        Again, it is the tone in which you presented the materials at NAB. I do not argue that all your points were valid, just the specific images and you/Scott were knowingly creating laughs at the expense the Academy Award winning Pi DOP. This is merely a suggestion that some team work courtesy with your fellow filmmakers might get more support.

        With reference to subsidies, I agree that California is way behind the curve, and much of this is due to wasting so many years going nowhere. The impact of subsidies has been going on long before ‘the tipping point’ of R&H. By the way. it was VES and others who chose to make this “their tipping point”. So far, it appears that the industry is still in tact along with R&H…wobbly as it may be. The point is that this was chosen to be the ‘line in the sand’. and much like Obama and Syria, what can the visual effects industry do to help the rebellion???

        The answer is take responsibility for the past many years running around in circles with no plan or consensus around which to rally. Take responsibility for the fact that the industry has been waving a RED FLAG for many years compelling the studios to plan and to take the work outside Hollywood. Of course, the economics play the major role in this decision making, but I don’t think studios are going out of their way to be of assistance to the folks in California who have spent years blaming all their woes on them because it was convenient.

        The problem is that the ‘same old problems’ still exist. There appears to be no individual, group, or entity that visual effects folks are able and comfortable to support…and, most importantly…trust. Lots of talk…lots of posturing…lots of press about the horrible life of visual effects artists…and lots of other stuff…show me any real significant progress on anything…please.

        I wish I had the magic wand to waive and all these problems would be resolved. What can I say again and have said for many years…is get a plan and a consensus. And, do it quietly…and when it is done…announce it.

        Actions always speak louder than words.

        When it comes to actions, whether in agreement or not, everyone should applaud the effort by you and Dr. Scott Ross.
        Question: where did the Dr. come from for Scott Ross?

      • Scott Ross says:

        I agree, but sometimes, I get angry and frustrated and I gotta call it the way I sees it. The fact is that while VFX are the most important part of marketing and selling movies it is the segment of filmmaking that is least respected ( by the studios and many others in film, not the consumer).

        As for the Doctor… I got a PhD (Honorary) from my undergrad alma mater, Hofstra University.

      • Tom Atkin says:

        Hey Dr. Scott,

        Being a New York state upstart, i appreciate the honor from Hofstra.

        On a personal note, I am letting go from caring about the visual effects industry. This would mean nothing in most cases…but, as I am the only person who ever brought the visual effects industry to consensus and agreement…perhaps, those reading this will understand…this is torture at a level unknown to me.

        I can no longer share the pain, confusion and disillusion of what I consider to be the greatest filmmakers on the planet.

        With all the greatest respect for the wonderful craftsmanship of visual effects storytellers…I wish you the best in every way.

        Tom Atkin
        Founder of VES

        For the past several years people would ask me how I am doing, and I would respond that I was 99% over VES. And, my wise friends always responded…it is that 1% that will kill you.

        With all due respect to all…that 1% is now finally gone.

  12. Not until you tell us but thanks for the site says:

    Sorry but your article is not accurate. The news is that work will shift to Vancouver and other places. That means China and India as fast as they can move it there. Reliance has a big studio built for DD from the last deal. They think they are ready now and they need to fill THEIR building before they grow elsewhere like vancouver. And Galloping Horse really believes that they have quality now. They think that DD is late to China. That’s a fact. They just have no reason to publicly announce to their customers that they will move shots to India and China until they are fully set up. So Vancouver is the place for now. Scott is right about the lack of quality but I swear that the India owner already thinks he has quality and the China owner thinks the same. That’s the problem in China. They look at a shot and can’t believe it when we say it’s not final.

    • mattD says:

      “We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.”

      The company mission statement.

    • @Not until…”That’s the problem in China. They look at a shot and can’t believe it when we say it’s not final.”

      Quite true, but I think they are enticing Westerners that have worked on the big movies to help setup, train, (and run?) the facilities out there. Training our replacements so-to-speak.

      An unconfirmed story, but I have heard that a lot of these artists have been leaving these Eastern training grounds and are moving West once they have the skill.

      • What? says:

        There are stupid people everywhere, but the quality is rising

        Prana(who now owns R&H) did all this work for Disney, plus much more. Coming to theaters this summer.

        New work coming out of china

        The quality debate is soon to be over.

      • vfxmafia says:

        to What?:

        A knock off of cars…with planes movie? really???? (talk about straight to DVD..) Leave it to Disney to piss on everything Pixar made…

        Do you know that Pixar would take 5 years to create a movie premise? 3 years they would work on the script and 2 to do the actual production. What did it take Disney all of 2 seconds to come up with planes? Whats next ? CG planes, trains, and cars the marvel version?

        and monkey boy movie is gonna go over REAL well……

        Im sorry VFX is NOT like an assembly line auto factory…….

      • What? says:

        Actually planes will be in theaters, and last time I check VFX artist are not creating the story. we aren’t the writers so no one is commenting on story here, just quality of images. People shit on china and India’s quality, but that’s changing.

        Also how many years have you worked at Pixar or Disney? From your statement I would say none, I would becareful to spout numbers about production schedules that you are not a part of 🙂 .

        Also who said anything about VFX being an assembly line? But if you want to start that conversation a “Pipeline” is a white collar term for assembly line (blue collar). Rarely are VFX artist doing entire shots by them selves, you sit at your desking and wait for the department before you to do thier part so you can do yours. Yes every shot is different, and you need to be skilled, and creative. But then again if it was an assembly line we would be getting better benefits at least in the US.

    • Get Real Soldier says:

      @Dave Rand,

      Again, using the 49 out of 50 highest grossing films serves no purpose. First, it would be only fair to also list the top 50 box office losers (in the same time frame) and what relationship visual effects had on those films…but, that would just be more ‘noise’. And, you could say the same thing about writing, directing, cinematography, production design, etc for the same 49 films.

      The point is that a multi billion dollar visual effects industry has also certainly benefitted from this as more and more money is put into visual effects. How this industry worked together to collectively nurture this industry is a completely different discussion.

      Does that mean providers deserve or will get participation…doubtful?

      Dave, if a union is formed, I would guess the obvious is the obvious. There might be more ‘secured’ jobs with benefits and overtime…but, at the end of the day…only a very few compared to the current talent employed…will still be employed especially if union means adding another 35% plus in union fringe on top of salaries.

      Perhaps, this may very well be the reason union traction has not taken even though its process has been in play for over 20 years.

      Globalization is not and has not been a ‘flavor of the month’. It has been in development for years and years especially while “Hollywood” burns.

      You cannot come to a gun fight with a knife and hope to win.

      • Hector says:

        what do you need in order to win?

      • Dave Rand says:

        49 of 50 was in response to your comment

        “…I have never felt or believed that meant visual effects had the right to ‘jump the line”

        Seeing as we agree in the stats, we are the most profitable part of the show……How about we just stop the practice of not paying the artists…repeatedly….recently again in Montreal.

        We like the rest in the credit list above us, almost all of whom are ….union, would benefit from the same leverage that has brought balance to the rest of the industry.

        The vintage anit union aruements you float are the same ones the IA, SAG, DGA, and the rest encounterd a long time ago…..along…..and were defeated.

        I think we can also agree we’ve had just about enough of our right of passage, our hazing, our paying our dues…or any other cliche one would apply to our situation, a situation I think we can all agree upon as dire .

        Contemorary union contracts do not have to break anyone’s bank..that would be ridiculous. A smart shop owner or studio would benefit form early acceptance though as the first contracts willl be very much in their favor.

        I’d settle for just knowing I’m being paid according to the law, and that it’s forever understood by evey shop, studio, and artists that if the checks stop so does the work.

        Our organizing is inevitable and our efforts to bring it about have already gained up ground.

        Fuck jumping the line, we are being walked over..

      • tazzman says:

        Its not jumping the line to recognize vfx play a critical role in today’s most successful films. It’s acknowledging the reality of it and putting the vfx artists and companies in their rightful place.

        There is a huge disparity between the critical role these people and companies play in a film’s success and the way an vfx artist is treated, paid, and recognized.

      • FXGUY42 says:

        When a company originating in India or China does something like Davy Jones…then I’ll be worried….until then, its subsidies from governments like Canada and the UK who I am afraid of. The only reason this is occurring is because there is no union or trade organization since this would otherwise be illegal.

  13. vfxguy says:

    You know you could bring the work back to LA if you all banded together and agreed to a 30% pay cut.

    Just sayin.

    • Ymir says:

      How about agreeing to a 30% pay INCREASE if you have to travel to a subsidized location?

      • If you are moving someone that you don’t want to, damn straight you should be compensated for it. On the flip side, VFX-ers are all still pretty young, so subsidy chasing travels are often appealing. If you have a family, things get magnitudes harder.

      • vfxguy says:

        Sure that’d be real nice. On the downside you wouldnt have a job for long as your employer would go under pretty quickly.

      • Ymir says:

        It would require employers to grow a set of stones and demand a percentage of the subsidies from the studios. Or join a trade association . . .

      • I’ve spoken with a pair of studio owners about a trade org, and my impression was: “No thanks”

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        Is there a way to distribute a film nationally or internationally without the big 6? I’m wondering why do we need these companies anyway? With the right investors, VFX artist’s can pretty much build their own film industry and create their own content.

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        If VFX artists stopping being vendors, and started being their own producers as well, would that cripple the Hollywood standard and boost VFX run production companies?

      • @VFX_Reckoning Its coming. Google and Amazon are entering the mix. Canada used to have a chance to stand on its own, but aggressive lobbying from the MPAA during NAFTA talks killed any chance at that. That’s a huge reason why Canadian distributors struggle.

        Saying that, I just hope the shit away from theatres, and more on-demand options come before the whole bottom falls out of the industry. We need another Mirimax.

    • vfxGhost says:

      I would agree to 10-15%. But one, at 30% you probably couldn’t afford to live in LA. Two, why would a 30% lure anybody back when the subsidies are 40-50% in Canada?

      There is this belief that everyone in the vfx industry in LA is making 100K or more, which is bogus. Sure there are plenty, but there are way more who don’t. And even those who do many are working crazy overtime to get there.

    • vfxmafia says:

      To VFXGUY:

      Its obvious you are a rather young and immature person….making comments like people should forceably take a 30% pay cut…

      The fact that LA has a 1,000 plus VETERAN artists …who areout of work…..who are trying to support familys and mortgages and just trying to make a living for themselves….

      its a pretty serious issue with a lot peoples lives hanging the balance…….if you want to troll the internet please take it to another website…….I might suggest is more your speed.

      • I agree – No one could eat a 30% pay cut. I’m a veteran working towards my exit from VFX. EVERYONE needs to have a plan B right now.

      • vfxmafia says:

        to gRiverThriller:

        Alot of this blog stuff can be interpreted funny or just read wrong. If I can ask a favor for the BC guys to cut down on the Anti-Los Angeles remarks…..I would be very grateful…

        LA just had its intestines ripped out this summer…..and it probably wont recover… please dont piss on the grave (its still fresh) ….with that said…as a fellow vfx artist

        I wish you well ……and all the best in all your future endeavors….

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Have I been missing something? I see no evidence of anyone being disrespectful in the way you describe, so no need to create division where there needn’t be any.

        You are right.. We are ALL VFX artists and we are all suffering. BC is dead right now, with hordes if artists out of work, and many more about to be. And yes.. Among those are a great many “veterans”. (they too are an international phenomenon nowadays)..

        Let’s acknowledge our shared plight as an INTERNATIONAL community and keep the conversation in that vein.

      • vfxmafia says:

        to Jackadullboy:

        I was responding to some callous comments about supposed california subsidies (which was for film production not VFX production…..someone was making the preposterous presumption that LA was receiving subsidys equal to the $437 million BC was handing out.

        ….and comments like “why dont you LA guys take a 30% pay cut” (to keep your jobs)……not a cool comment with over 1,000+ unemployed LA worker wondering if their career is over…..

        and also there is this misconceived notion that Vancouver has it “Just as bad as Los Angeles” idea.

        Im sorry BC does NOT have it as bad……the very idea is insulting to all the people that just got the axe in LA…

        BC may have some people out of work….but you have movies coming in for the rest of the year AND all of next year…trust me you guys have work……to the point one producer told me “Some VFX shops wont even get a chance to bid on a job unless they had a Vancouver office.”

        Los Angeles is looking at THE END of 75% of production….. the systematic destruction of entire industry citywide…..and how will jobs come back to LA after a year and half of no work? They wont…

        How can I put this in perspective for how lucky you BC guys are right now…..?

        R&H was a 500-700 man shop, DD was 500-700 shop at the height of florida, Asylum was 300 man shop, Cafe FX was 150 man shop at the end (if you count Santa Barbara), you mix layoffs at Dreamworks (350) and SOny (250 at least)…and then top it all off with Pixo ramping down and another 400 guys hit the street……even Scanline has a bigger Vancouver office now….

        Anywhere from 1,000-2,000 people fired no matter how many years they had on the job….. no matter how talented they are…no matter if they had no money saved….no matter if they have familys

        75% of Los Angeles VFX is getting ready to move or look for a different career…..this is NOT SIMPLE LACK OF WORK……

        Im not looking for any sympathy for LA….

        I just wish people would stop making lame comments like “Why dont you take a 30% paycut to keep your jobs in LA”.

        I appreciate the International sympathy…..but thats not gonna help me pay my rent….the sad fact is London and Vancouver have work right now and for another year. We dont….and I’ll probably be in another field in a couple of months. I sit on this website every night….hoping to read something different…. wondering what im gonna do….

        Im just asking BC people to show a little sensitivity….cause LA is a warm corpse….

        Jackadullboy…i wish you well….and respect your comments…..I hope people have fun on star wars…..i would have liked to work on it…..

      • Hector says:

        “I sit on this website every night….hoping to read something different…. ”
        you waist you time and better start to think either to relocate or to quit.
        I am against all this shit ( subsidies , Montreal, London Vancouver) but believe me – there is not much to do.
        People are the main reason why this bullshit is happening – race to the bottom is open. Companies are cheating BIG TIME today.
        Do not expect to see in LA the same salaries or amount of work as in 1990 – 2000.
        It’s over.
        I quit. Better to quit now, when you can switch to something else than latter when you are burnet out by these so called VFX companies – in fact “crooks”.

      • vfxmafia says:


        Im well on my way of making of other career plans….but the question that plagues me…..if I go back to school or train myself in another path taking years to gain status of where im at now…..”What US professions are safe from outsourcing?”

        seems like I should have been a cop or a doctor….the only jobs that can’t be outsourced.

        and your right …I see no difference between banksters and the studio heads…….they are “crooks” making money off the backs of artists…….they can have their shitty movies…..I quit as well….

        Seriously does Transformers 9 impress anybody anymore?

      • Hector says:

        well…you will be surprised – The McDonald of movie industry is going well.
        Gone the days of Orson Wells – or Godard. Long live Godzilla 4, and Superman 7 – endless sequels for illiterates.
        The middle(?!) class consumer. Very good movies – like video games, will contribute to a new generation of mutants – those who are ready to be lead by corporations ( like Monsanto) – the BIG monster of our Century.
        You will be surprise to see how many mutants are still interested in last Superman movie.
        So better go to a sector witch will give you some stability in the future.I know it’s hard to find…very hard – but use your instincts.
        VFX is nothing what it was when you start.
        It degenerates into a mafia/governments issue.You can see countries attracting studios using taxpayers money.
        YOU CANNOT and NOBODY can fight against this.
        it’s just too big.

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        @Jackadullboy, how can you say: “Let’s acknowledge our shared plight as an INTERNATIONAL community and keep the conversation in that vein.” When in fact, the artist pride clouds the minds of those who are working? Do you honestly think VFX artist in the UK really give a shit about the plights going on in North America, while they are swimming in the overflow of work? Hell no.

        That has been an issue from the beginning! That is why VFX artist’s will NEVER gain international solidarity. Working on hollywood films comes with a disease, a disease of flash and glamour. If you are working, and partaking of the glory, that’s all you care about.

        Trying to get the current set of “starry eyed” people on board is not possible. The only thing we can REALISTICALLY do is band together by city and country and make small changes one at a time until we build something for ourselves.

        Why are people so stuck on thinking this is something that can be tackled internationally? Like Hector mentioned above, It’s to big for that.

      • Dave Rand says:

        These massive imbalances never last. One politician can unwind the whole thing. History will show that there was once a house of cards. The smartest growth comes from balance. Playoffs are just tools that keep the fences up, keep entire industries on the nipple of those that want to keep control.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Precisely… I’m confident that people in the industry are not stupid. We need to see beyond our immediate plight and our immediate advantage.. I’m believe that people ( yes, even the less-experienced and starry-eyed) are capable of taking the longer view and seeing the writing on the wall.

        If we can organize, that can override all the transient economic crap. By analogy, when the economy is in recession, you don’t stop Investing in infrastructure. Some would argue that’s exactly the time to invest more, and make things better.

        Desperation and fear, on the one hand, and short-term I’ve-got-mine-ism on the other, should not be allowed to derail a move towards solidarity, in my view.

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        Well, L.A. is almost at a place where there is nothing left to lose. Maybe it time for another union push? Do we know how many people have signed VFX union rep cards? How many more are needed to get a something underway?

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Thought you’d never ask 🙂 Here’s a good place to start:

      • meinvan says:

        so first off, nobody is swimming in work. neither uk, la or vancouver.

        at nearly all the studios worldwide we have seen massive layoff, uk hasnt had much going for them since about a year, and vancouver has dried up in the last months too.

        and then this never-ending chit chat from the la folks, how everybody is stealing their jobs. seriously people, finger pointing is the way to go ?!?

        whenever an industry grows that large in one area, and there is a shift of consciousness, regardless by what factor, that geographical area will be hit hardest, and in a globalized world we live in, its naive to think that you are at the center off it.

        la has reached a point of oversaturation, of studios, clients, people who think they want to be actors…..and lots and lots of vfx folks working/veterans and wanabees.

        vancouver and london are following closely. london was in the same shit hole situation not long ago. there was pretty much nothing. so the people that didnt have families there or are not good enough or cheap enough had to find something else. some people lay low for a few months, others find jobs else where.

        this is the movie industry, we are like seasonal workers, without the advantage of being able to plan ahead with the seasons (except for pilot season when you work in tv, or the summer drought when working in movie fx). lean and mean is the way most studios need to operate in the pressent climate. untill a huge show comes, they hire, hire, hire….but what comes up must go back down, so they fire, fire, fire.

        again, all of this is just facts, im not saying yay to subsidies, or yay that la is having issues, or yay to the tons of studios that are failing badly in this situation. but finger pointing (you know who you are) is not gonna change jack shit.

        as sad as it is, as i love this industry, we are pawns from the mega corps, union or not, trade organization or not…(allthough both willl make a small difference, for a short period), these guys know how to maximize their profits, and are legally obliged to do so as public companys. if you cant handle it find a different field where your skill set is needed, valid….amd you are not, even by 2 degress of seperations, liked to the mega corps that basically rule the US and partly the world. wake up.

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        Uh, wasn’t ‘google hang-out’ used during the Collider town-hall? Because that was a catastrophe. I’ve never seen such a disaster, most of the time was spent trying to fix the ‘technical’ issues instead of actually talking about the issues…and it’s going to be used again for the VFX Town Hall? WTF.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Yeah, that was painful. Here’s hoping this one’s more successful. I got hold of a link to an edited version which is apparently more bearable (although I haven’t watched it through yet):

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        Thanks. That one was much better!

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        So after watching that, what do you people think is the collective cause that will bring the VFX community together, like Jay Van Bavel was mentioning in his VFX social perception results?

        If it can’t be a union, and if it can’t be subsidies, what is a cause we call can agree on? What can bring the liberal minded and conservative minded together to actually stand up and act?

    • VFXguy — it turns out that isn’t true.

      It’s not just the subsidy money, it’s the way it’s structured that is so addictive to the producers (and studios, to some extent). Matching a price to the subsidised overseas price just doesn’t work — we tried it a bunch of times.

      It’s no accident, either. People have been developing the kickback mechanism hundreds of years…because it works.

  14. Scott Ross says:

    Denial is not a river in Egypt..

    Textor and what really happened inside Digital Domain Media Group… … via @fxguidenews

  15. Caleb says:

    What will it take for you to walk out? It’s a simple question. Seeing your friend die in his seat? Seeing family members lose their homes while studios and others collect massive paychecks?

    A Union is desperately over due, but even if it does happen, it will take years for it to develop any real footing. What will you be doing a few years from now?
    Why are you paying money to go see vfx films? Why are you sending money to the VES? Why? For what? Do you hope you will be the next big thing? You hope you’ll be a VFX Sup, and later a director so you can’t ruffle feathers? What? Why?

    Simple question. What will it take for YOU to walk off a job and really say something?

    • Jackadullboy says:

      You think that’s an easier call than signing a rep card?

      • cro says:

        What has signing the rep card done for you so far?

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Nothing in and of itself (of course)..

        It’s the start of a process of organizing. Once there is a formal union membership, then there is the leverage to, for example, walk out en masse if needs be and bargain for better conditions. The card signing process can happen over time. It’s gradual (and will indeed take time).

        In truth, it’s hard enough to get people to have the gumption and confidence even to enter into the card signing process. Staging a walkout en masse at short notice without any framework will be next to impossible. Good luck…

        Any other suggestions, go for it. I can’t think of any, but would LOVE to hear some. Let’s get started.. The clock is ticking…

      • cro says:

        Yeah, your right. Let’s sign the card, sit around and wait for others to get the union going, THEN, we have leverage. What, maybe 5 years?, 10? BTW, I signed a card, a LONG time ago. I went to two meetings for union support, the turnout was so depressing I thought I was early, turns out, I was late.

        We already have leverage, people are just way to concerned with self preservation that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Most people in the biz think they are smarter than the next guy and they are the next big thing if they just play their cards right and don’t ruffle the feathers. “Wouldn’t want to make that producer upset, they could hire me as the big cheese on the next movie.”

        Ego, and apathy among the workforce in this biz are just as responsible for it’s decline as corporate greed from the studios.

        The writing was on the wall 5+ years ago. Have an exit plan.

      • Jackadullby says:

        Well, that’s certainly one approach.. Anyone got any other ideas besides defeatism?

        I don’t think signing a card and then “sitting around” is how it’s meant to work, but I may be wrong… Yes, I’ve been to some disheartening union meetings too. Is that really an argument against it in principle?

        Have we learned nothing from the Hollywood movies we’ve worked on.. You know, the little guy triumphing in the face of adversity, strength in numbers, etc. etc…? Or have we become too anesthetized by said movies to be enact any kind of change in the real world?

  16. Hector says:

    “There’s a view of the world that the vfx industry is defunct and doesn’t work and no financial group in the world is interested in putting money in it,” said Malhotra. “And I think what we are presenting is quite the opposite. What we believe is there is good opportunity if you have the right business model, financial partners and strategic players on board to boost this industry to be operating on a more globalized basis.”

    what a bullshit!!!!

    • vfxmafia says:

      to Hector:

      Namit Malhotra (CEO of Prime Focus) is starting sound alot like John Textor with statements like that……….

      • mattD says:

        Yeah, its kinda interesting that despite some pretty dire treatment of staff in India and e reputation as being the WallMart of visual effects, they don’t really make much money. Or infact have that much money in the Bank – see the court’s opinion on PF finances in the recent RH bancruptcy bidding attempt – where all told, they only had about 500,000 dollars worth of real assets or cash in the US (not even the cost of a decent house in West L.A.). I think its a myth that these companies are sitting on piles of ready cash and Americain firms are all on the edge. They seem just as bad. Have a look as well at some of dealings of their overseas divisions as well. There is some funny business for sure. This was a couple of years ago :

        They register themselves as separate companies in each territory, in London they went through a share trading suspension and bankcruptcy motion. So maybe the analogies to John Textor aren’t that far off the mark. Bit like his tupac coachella hologram, just a mirage, and not even a real hologram. If you just get at the right angle, you can see through the illusion .quite easily …

      • vfxmafia says:

        And this is the skinny on the investment group that put up the $53 million for Prime Focus….sounds like a scam wrapped in a scam wrapped in a John Textor fart….Prime Focus is about to be the next “DD media group”

        (introducing the new $53 million dollar investors in Prime Focus)

        Introducing the Macquarie Group: (feel free to google Macquarie Group and “Scam”. “The Millionaire Factory” was at the heart of Australia’s sub prime loan scandal…is facing accusations of encouraging the use of rubbery figures in loan applications…..also

        ANZ Banking Group and Macquarie Bank will have to set aside up to $S300 million ($250 million) each after being caught up in Singapore’s rate-rigging scandal….also…

        Macquarie Group through its subsidiary Macquarie Equipment Rentals has allegedly been perpetrating a Telco finance scam.

        Macquarie Equipment Rentals has sued over 300 victims of the scam which involves bundling a finance equipment contract with a contract from a small telecommunications company, often obscuring that the finance contract exists.[7]

        MACQUARIE Group needs a dramatic restructure and should amputate key businesses if it is to prosper in the new age of thrift.

        And the investment bank once known as “the millionaires’ factory” will suffer deep losses in some divisions without an overhaul, leading analysts believe.

      • vfxmafia says:

        here is another one from the Financial Review….

        Macquarie Private Wealth is embroiled in allegations that it used a report by one of the nation’s biggest accounting firms, Ernst & Young, to gloss over serious compliance failures by its stockbrokers.

        Fucking John Textor eat your heart out…….

      • vfxmafia says:

        and Standard Chartered who put up the most cash $70 million…..for the Prime Focus deal……

        On 6 August 2012, the New York Department of Financial Services led by Benjamin Lawsky accused Standard Chartered of hiding $250 billion in transactions involving Iran, labeling it a “rogue institution”. The bank was ordered to appear and defend its actions, or risk losing its license to operate in the state of New York.

        The New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) claimed to have documents showing a cover up of transactions allegedly used to fund terrorist groups in the Middle East.

        you can catch a disease from that investment money……

    • mattD says:

      well, this is the two main business models at on the moment – either large studios intent on gloabalising work to crush wages and grease political connections to raid the tax-payer. Or it is a hotchpotch of small or smaller firms who typically hire people on 2-6 week contracts with virtually no rights and good luck if you even get paid by what in effect are just marketing store fronts – they bid on jobs without the expertise to complete it because they’ll get some burn-out (desparately portfolio building and dreaming of when it ‘all falls into place some day’) or some experienced dude who is just trying to keep money in to pay the bills. King of this category is a small facility in L.A. that is the satellite of a large firm involved in advertising work in London, who have an outsourcing payroll firm and word their job postings as “our scheduling department is seeking” .. few here have posted on not just them but one or two others who use ‘payroll firms’. So the couple of market trader clowns who run the place will get people to do all the work they do not have the expertise for with lots of overtime .. only for the payroll frm to start all sorts of deductions and non-payments “because you weren’t actually employed by them”. Despite being sued both in LA and NY, it still goes on.

      Its a complete ***ing mess now. That’s your choice – gobalised factories or backstreet market traders. Its just like the early hollywood cliches 1920’s and 30’s where you had to lay on the casting couch to even consider working. Artists have to get up and walk away from this crap. That’s why its so dire, because people act like hollywood startlets and have no dignity. I once overheard a film investor at a function say to another guy “you know, they’d probably work for nothing if we could work out the logistics” True story!

  17. Sic! says:

    Hey guys
    Let me know please if you think i am the only one who beleive investing his time in the wrong business
    Seems it’ s sucks big time!

    • vfxmafia says:

      not kidding ….i started in the 1990’s and the biz was glamorous and we made SHITLOADS of money…

      now surviving one VFX bankruptcy….and several other vendors just not pay you……..and watching LA shut down……I can honestly say drug deals are more proffessional than this business is now….*(not that i would know anything about drug deals)….

      please listen to me….if you are under 30 go be a doctor……and retire when your 45……(and youd have health care!)

      • Hector says:

        well…it’s not so easy to be a doctor..better an artist – much more confortable.

      • vfxmafia says:

        second choice is x-ray technician…..:)

      • Paul says:

        What do you call SHITLOADS of money?

        I never heard of anyone in the VFX industry making SHITLOADS of money. To me SHITLOADS of money would start @ $1 Million every 4 seasons, did you make $1Mil a year?

  18. Hector says:

    55..and sucks!

  19. vfxmafia says:

    This one goes out to all the unemployed out there…..

    in case you missed it….this is the latest VFX Extravaganza coming out of China. This is not a spoof….with an all star cast…and i believe its even shot in IMAX. Enjoy!

    although the one with Voice Over might be better…

    • Look at the big picture says:


      I’m not so sure posts like this are helpful. This is a completely different issue than moving jobs around with subsidies. China is building it’s very own film industry making their own movies and the quality of VFX there is improving. It is GOOD for the VFX industry and artists all over the world if China can build it’s movie biz up to the quality level, high budgets and quantity of US films someday.

      • vfxmafia says:

        I actually like this story better….Chinese factory workers being screwed out of pay when the American owner decided to move production to even cheaper Mumbai India. The factory made up entirely of women started holding the American CEO hostage till they get there back pay. Maybe Montreal can learn a lesson.

        I guess my point was too an earlier post about how Chinese VFX companies tend to “Final” shots that are premature. The monkey boy movie, i thought exemplified that point.

        I also have to say this website is NOT just about subsidies. Its also about worker rights. China is hailed as a production powerhouse because of the low Yen (which is inflated and manipulated) and lax labor rules. There is a perpetuated Myth that China can do shots as good as the west but cheaper. Inflation and China’s soon to exploded realestate bubble, are about to through China into there own 2008 housing scandal.

        I dont mind pointing flaws in a country that has suicide nets outside their factories. I have the utmost respect for the artists in China……who at this time could get shot for having a townhall metting……I guess my sarcastic finger is ultimately pointed at the profiteers of China VFX who try to make money pawing off bad work….at the expense of good artists…..

        VFX is not like making products in Wallmart

      • vfxmafia says:

        To Look at the big picture:
        Your point was well taken. Last thing i wanted to imply I was bashing Chinese artists.

      • mattD says:

        yes, plenty of Indians and Chinese folk have ended up in the hollywood movie industry over the years and done very well, humans have potential anywhere on this earth. it is specifically the business and human rights approaches of the people who run those countries that has traditionally been the problem.

        We are all meant to swallow the narrative that the US is lazy and overpaid and that the East is hardworking and cheaper. You’re own fault! Of course, that is not really the case. Cheaper costs come from trade manipulation and government sanctioned near-slavery treatment of the people – yes, including safety jump nets and factory lock-ins of workers, workers sleeping in factories. If anything kicks off in a western owned factory, the government will kindly send in armed police squads to crack a few heads.

        Instead of deploring this, US politicians encourage it because they get paid off by the firms engaged in it. US firms are taking advantage of slave treatment of folk there.

        But like any artifical situation in history, humans don’t continue down this road forever. If continual trade, suppression and economic manipulation were a good idea, then I guess the Soviet Union should have won out in the end. You get that? The US is hitching itself to centrally planned economies and starting to lose the very thing that gave it economic power.

        Anyways, for those not up to speed on the real situation, here are some alternative views on Indian and chinese economies from people paid to do it by investors.

        The Reasons For China’s Imminent Bust

        Inefficiency eventually catches up with every economy. They have a semi-closed system so that they are not necessarily subject to the principles of economics in the same way that we are, but they can only delay the inevitable. They cannot prevent it entirely, and that is really going to be their problem. Because they have done a lot which just does not make economic sense. I mean it might make sense in terms of rapid buildup of an economy, but they have to pay a price. And they have not paid their price yet.

        The one thing that people say is “These Chinese leaders are so great at economic management because they got through 2008-2009 and they had enormous double-digit growth while the rest of us were suffering.” Well yes, they did that but they did that at great cost.

        And so for instance in 2009, the first full year of their stimulus plan, they dumped something like $1.1 trillion into a then $4.3 trillion economy. And so did they create growth? Yes, they did, but they also created a stock market bubble, a property market bubble, and inflation. And they have yet to deal with the property market and the inflation problems. Those are dislocations that they do not have the answers to. I would rather have our economic problems than theirs any day of the week.

        The Shanghai Composite opened down today, crossing the 20% drop level from the recent Feb highs (and -16.5% in the last 16 days!)

        The recent slowdown is not a temporary cyclical blip or solely the knockoff effect of the tepid global recovery. China’s growth model is broken and can’t be so easily fixed. Since the start of capitalist reforms in the 1980s, China excelled by throwing tons of resources into a modernizing economy — mountains of cash to build factories, roads and apartment towers, and millions of poor people into making iPads, blue jeans and cars. Under China’s “state capitalism,” bureaucrats often directed the cash into massive infrastructure projects or favored industries. However, this growth engine can’t keep purring indefinitely. The pools of idle labor that filled Foxconn’s assembly lines are drying up — China’s one-child policy made sure of that, by aging the population more rapidly. The workforce has already started to shrink. Even more worrying, the state-led, investment-obsessed system spawns too much debt and too many factories, leading to wasted resources and a debased financial sector.

        Here are two figures for you. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was down by more than 1.5 percent (as was the Dow Jones Industrial Average) in early Monday trading, and U.S. 10-year Treasury notes were up by over 2.6 percent.

        Here are two more figures for you. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 5.3 percent at the same time, and the Hang Seng lost 2.2 percent.

        Separated by half a world, these two trends are intimately connected in ways that explain a steadily rising concern on the part of American investors for what’s going on in China right now. The reason for concern? American banks encountered roughly the same sequence of events a short while back.

        You know it better as the 2008 financial crisis.

        “When India was being run comparatively well in 2008, they seemed to cope with these external shocks, at least from a financial perspective,” said Glenn Levine, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in Sydney, Australia. “I think people are starting to question the long-term Indian story. That is the difference now.”

        Leo Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina that “… every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Yet, the Indian macroeconomic constellation today has an eerie feel of Mexico in 1994.

        The exchange rate is overvalued, economic growth has slowed to a crawl, and banks, with accumulating balance sheet strains, may struggle to withstand a large shock.

        If the horizon for continued inaction is the next general election, there is enough time for these vulnerabilities to morph into a full-blown crisis.

        Consider the exchange rate. Fuelled by large budget deficits, especially since 2009, the Indian inflation rate has galloped while inflation elsewhere has been subdued.

        For Indian companies to be competitive when their domestic costs are rising much faster than in competitor countries requires the exchange rate to depreciate.

        However, since early 2009, although the accumulated price differential relative to the United States has grown to about 35 per cent, the exchange rate has depreciated by only around 10 per cent, creating an appreciation of about 25 per cent.

        The fiscal deficit still over 6% of GDP if we include off-budget items like oil bonds. A deficit of this level has historically sufficed to bankrupt economies across the globe. Keynesians argue that deficits to finance public investment can spur an economy and so is good, but has led to disasters in many developing countries. And in India public spending focuses regrettably more on subsidies than investment — the Centre and states still have revenue deficits.

        Subsidies remain a whopping 14% of GDP, as large as in the spendthrift 1980s. Merit subsidies (basic education and health) are fully warranted, but non-merit subsidies are not. Off-budget items like oil bonds are new non-merit subsidies.

        So not to go on a diatribe, just everytime you get this narrative rammed down your throat by some US media that you are lazy and overpaid and everyone in Indian and China is harderworking and cheaper, just be aware that you are only getting one view ever on this. There are plenty of other views. Do you ever remember the evening news telling you about the current near-collapse situations for the chinese and indian economies? Because all the data is there – even though they sugar coat them, they still can’t hide the awful economic problems there. Just like VFX subsidies in Montreal or London, this is more of the same, on a bigger scale across many industries there. Work maybe cheaper as a result of massive, unsustainable governement manipulation of the economy and false economic stories. Read the final days of the Roman or Soviet Empires if you want to know where this always goes in the end. And the US hitches it’s wagon to this basket case?? So when your politicians sell off your jobs and industries on this basis, just be aware that you are not the one profiting from it – but someone else certainly is.

      • vfxmafia says:


        Great essay on China and India’s economy.!

        The only thing I have to add is maybe pictures to your analysis. The following is HBO’s Vice teaser episode on China’s “Ghost Cities”……its like a scene from 28 days…after watching this make sure to hide your 401 Ks…..because China crisis is coming! (as you pointed out)

      • mattD says:

        And not forgetting that Galloping Horse borrowed most of the money to buy DD from the Chinese Communist Party. As has Base-fx borrowed heavily. And that PF is backed by a ‘funny money’ investment fund that has been heavily involved in mortgage bond fraud and all maaner of unsavoury international finance activities across the globe. And god knows about Reliance.

        Centrally planned economies are paying for US jobs through economic and trade manipulation. You are sitting at the poker table but the only one not aware that the cards are marked.

  20. Mike says:

    lol. Everyone thinks Canadians in Vancouver are taking all the jobs. I live in Vancouver and Canadians are the minority in any vfx studio here. The last department I worked in had 18 artists. Only 2 of us were Canadian.

    • vfxmafia says:


      Great point…

      thanks for being honest…..and it sounds like you have a good sense of humor too.

      To put all this in perspective…..
      US population 315 million
      Canada’s entire population 35 million
      California’s population 38.5 million
      BC entire population 5 million

      there is no way you could staff all the jobs you are getting with BC people….your population isnt big enough. Take it from the US (one of the most corrupt countries) if you follow the money you will find someone profiting from subsidies. Behind that $437 million there is someone in your government laughing to the bank.

      • Absolutely true.

        That’s the problem that hit Canadian film during NAFTA negotiations. Heavy Lobbying from the MPAA weakened Canada’s already small hold within Canada. Now the film industry here is almost completely run by the USA. We can’t even distribute our own films without the blessing of Hollywood.

        Not a single Canadian company.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Not so fast….

        You want to know whats even more ironic? China has been slowly buying out distribution chains in the US and Canada……

        Multinational Chinese company Dalian Wanda Group made the biggest acquisition of a U.S. company by China in purchasing AMC Entertainment Inc. for $2.6 billion last year.

        The takeover means ownership over the 5,034 screens in 346 multiplex locations that AMC owns in the U.S. and Canada.

        American studios may produce the films but Chinese are slowly starting to control distribution.

        China prohibits U.S. investors from owning entertainment distribution companies in the PRC, effectively neutering their ability to capture value there. U.S. rules present few such prohibitions to Chinese investors, so it is entirely conceivable—and even probable—that more and more of the U.S. entertainment production and distribution infrastructure will come under the control of Chinese owners.

      • vfxmafia says:

        If you ask me instead of BC giving $437 million (this year alone) …..and gift wrapping it to studios to force BC VFX companies to hire foreign workers…to create phony BC job numbers….

        a better investment might have been to take over US distribution companies like the Chinese are doing….

    • Ymir says:

      Mike, Canadians themselves are not taking all the jobs, but the Canadian or provincial governments are just relocating them, finding out they don’t have the Canadians to fill them, and then importing people from America, Europe, Asia, etc. to fill them, while giving the FX facilities tax deductions for foreign workers they import. This whole process is not benefiting true Canadians one bit. It’s just sending tax payer money out of the country and Canadian citizens get no benefit from it. Sad.

      • Hector says:

        I know. This is the true. And the Canadians, some of the who are very happy to have some shitty movies to work on, they pay the price.

  21. grailpuffin says:

    Imagine all subsidies went away September 1, 2013.

    Work would immediately flood back into California because:
    1) labor costs are lower.
    2) taxes are lower.
    3) health care benefits are less expensive for employers.
    4) overhead costs are lower.

    Oh. Wait. None of those are true. Level playing field? Dream on. Those jobs are *not* coming back. Realistically, either be willing to follow your job to another location or start retraining for a new career.

    Sorry, I know its painful. Subsidies are only one issue of many.

    • vfxmafia says:

      BC gives 40% extra of the budget right to the studio execs.

      You’re not buying the film industry, you’re renting it. The studios aren’t relocating to BC (or the rest of Canada), they are only sending their productions to you while you are foolish enough to cover a huge chunk of their budgets. All of the major studios are still in California and 3 of the big six are just starting multi-billion expansions in LA.

      1) Labor costs are lower in BC?

      We may have 10-20% higher pay rate as veteran artists (or at least we used to )….but your dealing with alot of experienced artists who usually get it right on the first couple iterations…we don’t have start up out of the box pipelines…..we have proven infastructure and well written tools and well seasoned artists.

      Alot of times we get our shots done cause we are sick of the suicide OT death walks. We want to do our jobs well and go home to our familys. Labor cost iss not the problem its fucking mismanagement and inexpirience……your subsidies end up importing the veterans from London or LA… many Canadians are really on your crew?

      2) taxes are lower in BC?

      Actually taxes are higher in Canada. In US its 35% in Canada its much higher. Subsidies are payouts to the studio execs….they do not translate to the film, the films production company, the VFX company nor the artist. VFX Payrolll taxes have nothing to do with Subsidys.

      3) Health care benefits are less expensive for employers in BC?

      What fucking health benefits? In LA we usually get 10 month freelance contracts… they don’t give us health care anymore…they dont give us fucking paid sick leave….they dont give us paid vacation. If you do get a contract that has health care …its so cheap of a plan you can wipe your ass with it…..and it doesnt cover your family…..

      besides there are no staff jobs in LA anymore….they fire you when the shows over…and ramp down anyway…there are so many unempoyed here…..we all took mandatory paycuts just to keep work for part of the year.

      And if we are lucky enough to get our rate….the fucking VFX companies go bankrupt and dont pay us anyway….

      4) Overhead costs are lower…..?

      BC rent is just as inflated as LA…..and what is more expensive ramping up a green studio? or a company thats been doing movies for 20 years complete with tools, veterans who make little mistakes, and infastructure?

      Besides who wants to work in the fucking BC snow…..

      BC has a population of 4 million people….Canada as a whole has 35 million people……California alone has a population of 38 million more than your entire country….but yet BC wants to have an equal economy as the entire US….?

      The BC government cannot sustain these payouts……and when it crashes…I wish Canadian VFX workers the best…..

      This Venomous Anti LA…Anti US shit really has to stop….we are all artists just trying to survive. All we ask is a level playing field.

      • meinvan says:

        start your own blog if you like, but keep your toxic bullshit of this page. you are talking about “venomous Anti LA…Anti US” nobody is nearly as trashy as you are. read your own words before you make a statement like that and you might be taken seriously….but like this, good fucking luck…..

      • Hector says:

        He s right. Why does he has to start a new blog?
        Is this one finished? The guy is fed up, and i understand him totally

        Today is LA, next will be BC and Montreal.
        The whole industry is in a big shit but LA IS THE WORST

        If he starts his own blog, i bet you will be there as well

      • Hector says:

        …the think is:In BC is the rain and Montreal the snow.
        You don’t see the sun in Vancouver for 10 months/year and in Montreal you have 7 months winter.
        But this is not about the weather – it’s more about the fact that companies/governments are screwing people big time. Canadians are screwed as well.
        As they refuse to work in shitty conditions, the companies are searching for cheap labor from abroad, so they forget one of the reasons why the government allow them to be opened there – to provide jobs.

      • hopium says:

        Not sure why any foreigner would move to either Vancouver (completely unaffordable and rains nearly all year) or Montreal (small town one of the coldest places you could ever live). Equally grim. Both have reputation of paying low.

        10-15 years ago some europeans and australians would use canada as a stepping stone into hollywood. Get residency, easier to jump over to LA. But that is long gone. Hollywood no longer has any jobs and immigration is harder.

        And you are sure right. Most canadians would not work in VFX because of the crazy hours and lowish pay. Most would prefer to have a family life or are ambitious to earn money to have a nice life. Not living like some sort of permanent student type. So it means lots of foreigners coming over to fill the jobs canadians won’t. Toilet clearners, refuse collectors, vfx artists, all undesirabe jobs to the average canadian. But we have already established there is no longer a stepping stone to a high paid staff job in hollywood, because that no longer exists. And there is no way you will ever afford to live in Vancouver. And if you are footloose and fancy-free to chase a job anywhere in the world, are you really wanting to work for low-to-average money in expensive cities, sitting in dark rooms 10-12 hours a day, in bleak climates, when you coud be almost anywhere elase in the world? Is that called ‘living the dream’?

        The eye opener for me was a really well established VFX supervisor I knew in one of the big london studios, who originally was from the US, then went on to some VFX management position in Vancouver afterwards. He lived in a scruffy part of town in London, in an area where most people leave school at 15-16 to work in construction. Nothing wrong with that, but not really a glamarous, ‘hollywood’ type of environment. The difference between him and them is that they usually running their own little building firm with a house paid by age 30. This is a guy doing movies for 20 years, in management, renting a house next door, in an unsecure job that could go to China any day.

        I think artists have been sniffing ‘hopium’ for too long.

      • >This Venomous Anti LA…Anti US

        Some of the only truth I’ve read from any posters here. There is a shit-ton of BC hate on here, and a ton of anti-US sentiment. Both sides are pissed off, and the fingers are pointing everywhere. The big 6 are watching from the shadows to see what happens just like they did with the last BC election. One things for sure, no matter where the industry settle, NO ONE is going to be happy. Everyone needs to start thinking plan B; There is no-one else out there that is thinking about anyone but themselves.

        The 20 year veteran from BC? Fuck him, he stole our job!

        The fresh-out-of-for-profit VFX student? Fuck him, he’s a dime a dozen!

        The late 90’s Flame artist that used to make $400/hr? Fuck him, he’s from a bygone era!

        gRiverThriller Prediction: Subsidies aren’t going away. VFXSoldier will lead the WTO Countervailing measures charge, partially/mostly negating the effect of subsidies OUTSIDE of the USA. That’s within 6 years. (New York etc still a threat) More work will move back East, but not all. The distribution model is changing, so more players will be in the game (Amazon, Google). China will want a piece of the pie, might send some VFX to out-of-work-but-highly-skilled Canadians. Canada is done film-wise for blockbusters (Cant compete even within it’s own borders. NAFTA, MPAA Canada etc). England will fare well without subsidies, but will be off its peak. European countries will have a few English titles inside of 10 years that do well: Keep your eyes on Denmark, Belgium. Unionization will happen: UK first, then USA slowly. BC/Canada might not join at all. Watch #vfxtownhall to see why.

        Saying all this, everyone would do well to think of the OTHER side before they post. Everyone is suffering.

      • grailpuffin says:

        I don’t know where you’re getting your numbers. Most of your responses are a long ways from accurate.
        -Animators I know personally make ~$600/week on average in Vancouver. Its shocking. Not a difference in 10%-20%, try 30%-60%.
        -Corporate taxes are now substantially lower in Canada than in the US in general. Overall the tax burden is lower for businesses in Canada. Tax Burden: Canada ranked 9, USA ranked 45 in the world.
        -Overhead costs are lower. “Off the shelf” does not carry the R&D costs associated with the development big shops carry.
        -Canada has universal mandated health care. Despite what you may assume about the quality, everyone gets it so the survival rate is better. Even with Obamacare, health care costs in this country are way out of control.

        You make a wrong assumption as well:
        I’m not nor have I ever been Anti-LA/Anti-US. I’m a US Citizen, and I happen to live in the USA. but if you think jobs are ever coming back to CA based on subsidies alone, your head is in the sand. If it feels better for anyone to lobby to end them, my best to you, but it feels akin to being a luddite to me.

  22. M says:

    @Hector and others who seem to suggest that Vancouver is a terrible place to live.

    The fact is it is ranked 5th in the world as most livable cities according to Mercer. Far higher than any US City. So for quality of life we have it down.

    As for cost of living if you live 20 mins or more commute from downtown then property becomes far cheaper. Most of my friends in LA drive from 30-60 mins every morning.

    You can live in Washington and be downtown in 45mins if you wanted to be super cheap.

    But I do not want to bash LA as I have many friends still working there and I hope can continue to do so in the coming years.

    • hopium says:

      Who are mercer? What is the nature of this organisation? Why woud their opinion be particularly valuable? Are they involved in real estate sales? Do they have any connections to BC local government or real estate planners? Do they provide investment consultancy to eastern inverstors? That is to say, do they have vested interests in saying things? It is usually very common for anybody that has involvement with real estate or regional governments. It’s like people who watch the evening news or read something on wikipedia then say …. but it must be true, they said it on telly! (even though court cases brought against TV and newspapers, verdicts have returned before that they do not need to tell the truth in their reporting, only avoid libel.)

      Vancouver is OK if you bought a house there about 20 years ago. When it was an area similar in price to Washington now, over the border. Sad fact that the only options for many BC residents is to get US residency to be able to buy a home over the border, where it is possible to afford. Still, you can choose to rent all your life, that should work well for your retirement or family security. And most freinds I have up there live way out of vancouver, places like delta, and so spend 60-90 mins each way each day sitting in traffic as well. Just like LA! Or you can cram on to the woeful trains, crushed up aginst each other like Tokyo with someone’s armpit in your face all the way.

      LA can be infuriating sometimes. Vancouver is very similar, just more expensive and continually raining. Planning a nice weekend? Well, it’s horizontal rain outside and chilly .. better stay in doors I guess. The same ski runs or muddy beaches around the sea wall must get very tiring after a few months. And it’s hardly a city, more a large town. So most of it closes down early at night. So not much entertainment. And even more when people have to get home because of long commutes to their tower block homes. There is something very sterile and cold about vancouver, lots of people from all over the world who hardly speak each other’s languages and never talk to their neighbours. Nope, you can give me small town america (or even village life in England), where at least you know your neighbours and say hello in the morning.

      If it was affordable, you could carve out a nice piece of paradise in some corner of Vancouver, I am sure. But is is just hell on earth from my perspective. Some areas of toronto are far better. And the Atlantic coasts of canada are gorgeous in summer (they get proper summer over there). But vancouver? Yuk! I don’t know why any vfx worker would go there. You are just wasting your time! Why not go to Toronto, Wellington, London. At least you may be able to stay there longer term without dying or boredom or getting poor in the meantime.

      Anyway, don’t take my word, have a read og this from vancouver residents.

    • hopium says:

      Nice post on page 2 from a born-and-bred Vancouverite. I’ll take his opinion over mercer – he’s honest and not getting paid by some property developer or eastern investment bank ;

      Ive lived in Vancouver my whole life (unfortunetly). Im 31 yrs old and making the best of it. However, Ive reached the point now where Im thinking…what’s the point? Here’s why: It rains 10 months out of the year, in that 10 months, you’ll never see more than 3 consecutive days of sun. Everybody here is from somewhere else, are these people running away from something? Whatever it is I think they brought it with them. The cost of living is ridiculous, according to a recent study released by RBC–73% of your net income will go to paying taxes and mortgage alone (unless your content with renting your whole life). Multiculturalism my ass!! Instead of a melting pot, you get an Asian sess pool. Why do you think car insurance premiums are so high here, hmmmm? The city is riddled with homeless people, junkies, crack heads and the mentally disturbed (fact:Vancouver has the highest rate of people with mental illness’ per capita than any other city in Canada. Europeans are leaving, except those from the Eastern bloc, and more and more Asians are coming to take advantage of Vancouver’s lax immigration laws to people with criminal intentions (Vancouver has become a drug pusher’s Mecca) because after all in true blue liberal fashion denying these people entry would stink of racism, not to mention they’re feeding the economy. As a result Vancouver, the city of takers, suffers culturally and artistically unless of course you consider Chinese flea markets, gay pride parades, so-called new age lifestyle’s and landmarks named after one of the many decimated native tribes then Vancouver is the city for you. Vancouverites are some of the most stuck up, insecure, anal, uptight, passive-aggressive, pretentious, spiteful, boring, ingenuine, intellectually and spiritually shallow people on the planet and that’s the best I can say about Vancouver. Mind you there are some nice things to say about Vancouver but it merits no mentioning here simply because the people, the government, the economy and culture have nothing to do with it, so for that we owe to God.

      • vfxmafia says:

        For the record…I wasn’t bashing Vancouver or Canadian artists. I wasnt aware i was being Anti-BC….didnt mean to offend our friends up north. I thought I was bashing Subsidys from ALL countries….

        Also I was pissed at a couple of comments that made LA artists out to be Lazy …… overpaid …ungrateful people..that dont work hard enough…or comments that made fun of the current plight of Los Angeles VFX unemployment…

        For the record

        i never suggested Vancouver is a terrible place to live….nor was I bashing Canada. I really dont think most LA artists feel that Vancouver is that bad. But after slugging it out in LA for 10-20 years you get roots…your kids develop friends at schools…you build a nice little nest for yourself….and you really get tired of moving (*yes i have moved SEVERAL times in my career)…..

        Im sure Vancouver aint that bad. I dont think i will like hockey…and the CFL still sucks….but hey, I here you got some good medical marijuanna up there (that counts for something)….and I hear there are alot of hot asian chics up there….and im sure the air is much cleaner… this is positive. And you guys recently got beaten out for highest suicide rates in Canada by Alberta!

        Im sure Canada will have great LA climate once global warming kicks in a couple more..years too…..I guess Ill be up there soon enough after all…

      • Ymir says:

        An oldie but a goody:


      • chexmix says:


        That crack shack CAN’T be right……am I reading that correctly $1.3 million? This is what you get in Los Feliz township (one of the richest zip codes in the US) and in the heart of the Hollywood Hills….for $700K….

        Is Vancouver real estate THAT ridiculous?

      • Ymir says:

        I have no verification for the listings as whoever put the ‘game’ together doesn’t list their sources. But based on the huge influx of immigrants with money to BC, and stories such as the next one, it doesn’t surprise me one bit.

      • hopium says:

        Yes, it is pretty correct. I’ve lived in both. Vancouver is waaaay more pricey than fancy parts of west LA (except you don’t get nice spanish style homes built well in a nice climate, you get plasterboard walls and drywall starting at $1M not even downtown for that. Downtown starts about $2-3M.). What is the point? If you have 1-2M, go live somewhere cheaper like Florida or Southern Europe and retire NOW with the money leftover. Rat-race is an insult to rats when you apply it to vancouver. Even rats would move on under those impossible conditions. Vancouver is pretty much the same living costs as Monaco (without the same tax-haven status, billionaires and sunshine as monaco. Apart from that, very similar).

        Of course, you can rent all your life and make a chinese landlord rich, when you are old and pushing a trolley along collecting plastic bottles for refunds to get money to eat. I always wondered why so many old folk seem to be doing this in Vancouver to survive. Then I looked at real estate prices. I am pretty sure that’s what happens, they get too old to work and can no longer pay rent. So become dumpster divers. They are freakin everywhere! I never give money to beggars but when I lived up there, I did used to give 5-10 dollars to some because when you see a little old lady in that situation, too proud to ask and struggling to survive scavaging garbage, it just breaks your heart into ***kin pieces! And BC health care does not actually cover you for diddly squat, if you stop listening to the BS about how great free Canadian health care and you try to use it. Then you realise it isn’t really there. The politicians say you pay all this tax for the healthcare because they know most people will never use it. And for many that do, they’ll just pump you full of cheap pain killers until you die of your ilness. Shocking. The numbers of people in Canada who die waiting for drugs or operations on waiting lists. And it’s not like the US or many european countries where private hospitals open free doctor-dentist-surgeon clinic weekends for the communities every month, for those who can’t pay and for the homeless. The people who run BC really are souless and heartless.

        No, it’s BS, vancouverites are brainwashed by the car plates – most beautiful place in the world! LoL! Why not be honest, most miserable damp grey place in the world for 80% of the year. Talk about goldfish memories! 2 sunny days together and the rest of the bleak year is forgotten about!! Just madness. Utter madness.

        Also, did you know that Vancouver Island to Anchorage is about the most voilent spur of the ‘ring of fire’ (the pacific earthquake fault line). Even more so than Chile. The earthquakes are less frequent but much larger in this part of the ring. Most of the world’s largest earthquakes in history have occurred in this region. Geoligical analysis has shown Vancouver bay has been dumped into the pacific or slammed into the rockies a few dozen times in the past. There has been more than a few 8+ magnitude quakes in last hundred years in lower BC. Your $2-3M condo is sitting on a geological timebomb that makes southern california or southern Italy look like a ride on the teacups at disneyland! And no worries about ever seeing me again in Vancouver. It will be a snowy day in hell when that happens. You’d have to prize the gun from my cold dead hand, ‘cos even at gun point I would fight with my last breath before boarding a plane to that butthole of satan!

        Infact, I wonder if I could sue the BC goverment for stealing some of my life? Is that possible? Maybe some no-win-no-fee lawyer could look into for me. Because my time in vancouver felt like an alien abduction. I lost a preiod of time from my life but I have no memories or feelings from it. Maybe Vancouver is just some huge Area51 experiment? Whatever it is, there is just something bad about that place. I once heard that downtown vancouver was built on First Nations sacred burial grounds. And the areas south of downtown were spiritual hunting grounds. So when the land was descreated to built rows and rows of tower blocks, it brought with it a shamen curse, and that this dead, decaying feeling of modern day vancouver is caused by the dark energy of a ancient native tribal curse.

        All that aside, Vancouver coud actually be a nice place to live if the living costs (housing) were not just stupid.

  23. Hector says:

    “Is Vancouver, BC really The best place on Earth? I doubt it! “read more here please:

    • Jackadullboy says:

      33 degrees in Vancouver today. A weekend spent kayaking in English Bay, partying on boats, drinking beer and having an awesome time! And no let-up in sight. I’m not from here, but I love this place.

      So.. Haters can suck it!!! ;-D

      • Hector says:

        there’s no haters – moron…

      • Jackadullby says:

        Oh, come now, hector. My statement was tongue-in-cheek.. By all means talk about subsidies etc., and other economic distortions relevant to the issue.

        But bringing in matters of taste (cultural, climatic, racial, or whatever), as somehow representing solid arguments for or against moving to Vancouver or anywhere else, comes across as arrogant at best. It just fires a gigantic red herring into the mix, and does not add to the argument.

        That was my point. ( and yes, I consider myself a moron, but no more than the average joe 😉 ). Thanks for pointing it out, though!

      • Jackadullby says:

        Oops, I should clarify: I meant ” matters of taste as ‘absolute’ measures of the validity of moving to a place”… perfectly reasonable to avoid a place you don’t like, but don’t assume everyone else to be wrong if they don’t share your dislike… Ahem. sorry…

  24. ha says:

    I generally never take the word of locals as often people never like where they were born. You think Im kidding but how many of your friends moved away from home when they could?

    Mercer has nothing to do with BC or Vancouver. It is based on surveys on many elements about quality of living. Including crime, infrastructure and so on. A link is provided below.

    Crime in LA alone makes it a daunting place to live. If I had my choice of raising a family in LA or VAncouver I would choose Vancouver.

    And that born and bred local seems to have a slight problem with foreigners . Perhaps he should move to LA where it is mainly white speaking Americans .. Oh wait I think Spanish is the most talked language in LA right ..

    Anyway Hopium we are glad you will not be moving to Vancouver. PS it was a nice sunny day today.

  25. ha says:

    I have lived in London, Vancouver, Wellington, LA, Chicago and few other places, Every place has great things about it but I did laugh when you think that Wellington is more exciting. I love New Zealand but it has far less to do than Vancouver. And wellington rain is far worse as it trully is sideways. We have little wind in Van.

    For me Van has a great balance of everything I love. Thats why we all choose to live in different places. I know people who think London is the greatest city in the world but for me its a dirty rat race with poor transport. I love to visit but will never live there.

    I love the freedom to choose. God bless America … Oh wait no Canada, or was it New Zealand.

  26. VFX_Reckoning says:

    It’s July 1st, any news on the subsidies battle front Soldier?

  27. skz says:

    China crisis is NOT coming. Foxxcon is replacing workers with robots. And that’s just the start. And for the ones who things about the people remaining out of job. Do you really think the government care?

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