AP VFX Story

I’m working on a post about the latest development in New Zealand. However, I did an interview with an Associated Press reporter who was interested in hearing stories about displacement caused by subsidies. If you are interested, send your story to me: vfxsoldier on gmail.

Soldier On.

28 Responses to AP VFX Story

  1. valerie delahaye says:

    First of all I would like to thank you for what you are doing. It is so commendable and wonderful, we are very grateful to you.

    Here is our story, 10 years ago after the birth of our first son we decided to open a VFX boutique. My husband and I had a lot of contacts, good friends and satisfied clients that the first four years of our creation we had no, website, business cards, or even a demo reel, and frankly jumped from one project to the other and never had the time to truly put one together. Then around 2006 we started to get more time on our hands and also needed a place to showcase our work so we built a website. 2006 was a very trying year, this is the year we had to take on a company health insurance policy, this is the year that the studios demanded our company to take on huge business insurance, this is the pivotal year when my insurance started to make more money than we did. The small business insurance got to be so expensive we had to opt for an emergency insurance only a few years back as it was all we were able to afford. Over the years it became harder and harder to book jobs as the subsidies enticed studio to work abroad, we got work but just enough to stay open, we were no longer making a living. We tried to get involved and I joined the board of the VES but the results were grim and the board ineffective. The studios recommended we become gateways for companies abroad and help them navigate the American system. We were both offered jobs all over the world but with 2 kids, and one of them on the Autistic spectrum, you cannot just pick up your life and transfer it to wherever the work is. The results from the States of California Film commission were ridiculous, so I took a job with a Canadian company, representing them for the US market and introducing them to all the major studios here in L.A. We were wildly successful in bringing them work, but sadly a year later I am still waiting to get paid. I am owed close to $100,000.00 in commissions and had to take/pay a lawyer in Canada to represent me and might never see a dime of what is owed to me, with no recourses. Today because of my younger son’s health and the lack of work, my family is looking into relocating to Hawaii. We hope to be able to benefit from the tax incentive there, the lower health ins. cost and the wonderful free schools. We are not looking to get rich we just want to work and raise our family.

    The sad thing is I moved to America 20 years ago to work in Hollywood. Today Hollywood is everywhere but here. Below is my son last year at the Oscar VFX soldier walk and below that a little poster my husband made for Facebook.

    Once again thank you for being so instrumental in making a change. Valerie

    valerie delahaye | make inc | 131 south wilton place | los angeles | california | 90004 tel 323.463 22 88 | cell 323.599 18 88 | valerie@makevfx.com | http://www.makevfx.com | http://vimeo.com/makevfx/videos OM AH HUM VAJRA GURU PADME SIDDHI HUM

  2. Steve says:

    It’s time to drop the whole displacement argument thing.

    People have been displacing themselves to move to LA in order to work in the film industry for decades.

    Upping sticks, leaving behind families and friends to live in the dubious environs of Los Angeles to follow their chosen profession.

    Why? ‘Cause that is where the work is.

    Hollywood was built on, and continues to rely on the displacement of people TO it.

    Displacement to LA is acceptable so displacement to anywhere else should be too.

    • Eric Rosenthal says:

      Troll.

    • polyphemus says:

      That is the worst argument I’ve heard in a long time. The big 5 is based in LA, and generally if you wanted a career in television or film you would need to be in the greater Los Angeles area. Remove the subsidies and guess where the majority of the work would end up?

      I’ll give you 3 guesses and the first 3 won’t count.

    • vfxmafia says:

      I have to agree with Steve,,,,,,,

      If you know my posts…I would be calling Steve “A Fucking Troll” 6 months ago…..

      now…i followed the BC money up from LA….and the very same thought crossed my mind…..(I have alot of English VFX friends who moved here 20 years ago)……

      And Polyphemus….im sorry….the arguement that LA is the capitol of the world started decaying in 1999 when WETA was formed…..Im up here in Van and there is talent …and quality of shots…..and pipelines……and all the myths I told myself……as month after month creeped by and there were no movies in LA…..so after 6 months of no work…..and that PATHETIC display by Dreamworks employees……..(los Angeles died that day for me and i realized we were all on our own)….

      As far as work returning to LA..its not for the next 3 years…(a timeframe that is NOT talked about on this website)…..question is can the Los Angeles remnants survive with out work…(Or on commercials) for 3 years…….(Its kind of like Voldamort in the woods feeding off of unicorn blood…you can survive…but its a cursed life)….I would not want to work on a spot 2 weeks out of the month…….and plan my economic future that way.

      • Qwerty says:

        Can say for other nationals relocating to the US or Canada. But relocating for US citizens is not very viable when we have to pay dual taxes working abroad.

    • Dan says:

      While I don’t have numbers, my experience has been that I and most of my colleagues in LA, including Americans, are generally not from LA. We all moved to LA because it had a large and self-sustaining VFX industry with a solid foundation. An industry not tied to an influx of fickle government cash.

      The problem is not displacement to where the work is. The problem is displacement to an inherently unstable location. For as long as the subsidy race continues, the industry is more unstable in all parts of the world. Everyone is subject to feast or famine based on the willingness of governments, which is fickle, and the demands of the studios, which are ever-increasing.

      A family moves to chase a subsidy. A few years later some other nation offers a bigger subsidy and the family must move there. And then again. And then again. Each time creating real, legitimate hardship for industry workers, spouses, and children alike. Even those with no family to relocate still lose their social circles and relationships and are forced to start again, building a new and equally ephemeral life. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, be it the UK, NZ, CA, the US, or elsewhere — that is everyone’s future in a subsidy-driven industry.

      Per the news out of NZ, even in the relatively brief time that the government waffled on whether or not to give in to the demands by Hollywood to increase their subsidies, jobs were lost and people suffered. Does anyone think that won’t happen again? In other countries too? Market forces do change, but not with the same degree of fickleness as government representatives. We can almost certainly expect more of that and with increasing frequency.

      And who pays when these subsidies send us around the world every few years (or less)? Hollywood studios? No. VFX companies pay to open new offices, shutter old ones, ramp down here, hire there. They absorb that part of the cost. And we pay, you and I and all our colleagues. We pay the cost of moving from place to place, renting everywhere or risking buying property in a place that we might not be able to live in for very long. And taxpayers everywhere pay. Money that could go to education of infrastructure or wherever else instead goes to the never-ending, ever-worsening race to the bottom, all to build an industry that can have the legs kicked out from under it at any moment, in any city.

      Opposition to subsidies is about creating a more tenable, market-based industry. Places that currently are larger than they would be without subsidies would shrink. Places that have built a truly sustainable industry would grow or hold steady. And no doubt it would be a challenging realignment as many of us move to the places where the work settles. But we’d be moving to locations that have strong foundations, giving us all a fair chance at a more stable life.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        @Dan: wow this should be a “sticky” somewhere on this blog Soldier, very well written Dan. Thank you you are 1000% correct.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Dan,

        Really well said. I grew up and went to art school in NYC in the 1990s doing VFX for commercials. I moved to California over 10 years ago to transition to film. I now have just moved to Vancouver. Nothing can be more important than a permanent VFX hub. What i can say is Van subsidies will last 3-5 years….(which is more of a future than LA)….but im not keeping the suitcase to far from the door……ALL VFX artists need to be opposed to subsidies.

      • minoton says:

        Mafia, I have to say you are a hypocrite. Yes, all vfx artists need to be opposed to subsidies, but thanks for going to Van and helping to make subsidies seem like a viable business model.

      • David Carlson says:

        @minoton
        Not to be a pain in the ass, but lots of people that are opposed to subsidies have been forced to find work in subsidized areas, as I’m sure you’re aware. Effectively fighting the subsidies will take a good 2-3 years, if not longer. How long do you expect everyone down here to hold out? Who do you know who has that much savings and is willing to piss through it for that long until we MIGHT get work back here on home turf again?

        I would have done the same if I weren’t so lucky stumbling on some steady commercial work here in LA. Plus, quitting your day job before you’re ready to change careers just isn’t a smart move… unless I’m missing something?

      • minoton says:

        David, I understand where you are coming from. I do have some savings, though, no, I’d rather not piss through it, but there are things called ‘other jobs’. See: screenwriters, and actors. As vfxmafia stated, “Life is not fair.” Where is it written that we’re guaranteed to have a job available to us that we want to do? Sometimes you need to take a little temporary sacrifice to make things better. Would it not be better to take action to see that the effects of subsidies don’t succeed? Hasn’t that been one of the mantras of people in this blog, “Somebody needs to DO something.” Well, I will posit that running off and feeding the monster is counter productive. Every one keeps complaining that we need a union to stop this stuff. Well, we ‘are’ a union of artists. We may not have a local office, or the benefits set up and all that stuff, but we are unified in that we agree that the use of these subsidies is damaging our industry. We say it, but for it to work, actions need to speak louder than words. Maybe I just put a higher price on my words than picking up and moving my life (or family’s, if that were the case) to another country than for my L.A. rate, and feeling tickled that I got that.

      • David Carlson says:

        @minoton
        “David, I understand where you are coming from. I do have some savings, though, no, I’d rather not piss through it, but there are things called ‘other jobs’. See: screenwriters, and actors.”

        That just conjured up an image of a bunch of us artists walking other people’s dogs, waiting on tables and tending bar until the work comes back. 🙂

        Seriously though, in a bad economy, there aren’t a lot of other choices. My advice would be to jump on commercials work if you want to stay in town. But, even if there was enough work to go around, commercials work isn’t for everyone other than strong generalists, lighters and comp artists with good camera and lighting knowledge and the flexibility to be nimble enough for the turbulent commercial schedules.

  3. David Carlson says:

    “time to drop the whole displacement argument thing.”

    Yeah. This makes sense… given that this is one of the biggest reasons why we’re fighting the subsidies and runaway productions in the first place. :-/

    The philosophy of “jobs can go anywhere – me too me too” applies better with younger, single folks who don’t care to settle yet, and don’t care that their hard work earns them less and less as the years scream by. (The big 6tudios certainly won’t disagree with you, as long as it’s not THEM it’s happening to.)

    Some don’t mind shrugging their shoulders and constantly re-calibrating their perspective on the food chain to make themselves feel better about their marathon to the bottom, but don’t expect the rest of us to agree with that. Especially from some who are faced with the threat of losing insurance and a diminishing income while caring for their kids… unless they pack up and move, right?

    Phhhshh!

    Clearly, that same philosophy does NOT apply with families and individuals who’ve helped build this town’s infrastructure and thriving industry. You know… those same folks who migrated to this town when it made sense to be here.

    Why? ‘Cause that was where the work WAS!

    It’s one thing to want to move to another area because YOU want to… but another one entirely when it’s forced on you, else you leave the industry outright.

    Fuck… that!

    It’s time to step UP the whole displacement argument thing.

    Sorry for sounding harsh, but as a husband and father of two young kids (and someone who has worked with and respects Valeria Delahaye and her family) your post struck a nerve, Steve.

    • vfxmafia says:

      Dave,

      The bottom line is the industry has changed. Life is not fair…and we have to accept that….

      however….

      We should be angry at the politicians and the government who …1 sold us this bullshit american dream….2 be mad as hell at a government that is impotent and sells out domestic industries for the highest bidder….with no Tariff protection.

      My father who at the age of 30 had a house, a wife,2 cars, and a baby on the way in the early 1960s…..he made a comfortable living at $30K a year job…..on an 8 hour day (with a paid lunch)….does anyone remember 9 to 5 work day? Not any more. Our own government sells out the middle class every day……we are on the fast track to becoming a 3rd world country…..like Mexico…were the politicians are openly corrupt.

      We now live in a world of predatory capitalism…..it is no longer in “their” best interest to pay you a $100K salary give you a house..and raise a family, They want your pension….they want your Social security to be privatized….they want your 401K and worst of all they won’t let you pay for you kids higher education….they don’t want your kids to be better than their parents…

      The US has slipped beyond the days of Rockefeller…..the days before unions….when people flocked to this country (like my grand parents)……and they used common labor like animals.

      Dave should be angry at the six studio heads….that rule over us like royalty…..be angry at 1%……who force wages down…and be angry at any working class stiff that doesn’;t stand up for Unions…..or labor rights…..or your childrens future…

      don’t be made at Canada……who spends their tax dollars on their own people.

      Fact is………….1/3 of food stamp money recipients are veterans…….social welfare makes up $40 billion a year. The Iraq war at its height spent $10 billion a month……the war bill is $1 Trillion a year.of the annual budget…US subsidies corporations like Exxon, Bank of America, and GE……get $80 billion a year in US subsidies……(twice as much as food stamp subsidies)…..not too mention how little they pay in taxes…..

      GE did not pay taxes in 2012…..

      can you really bitch at Canada?….that spends $500 million on film on developing industries in its own borders…..and your own government pisses away 1 trillion a year away in US tax dollars….to the most profitable corporations in world history?..

      We should be mad at ourselves. Americans want to point fingers at everyone but themselves….

      That day that no one wore a green shirt at Dreamworks…….was the day the american spirit died. The US is an idea….that people fight for…..

      in the depression….my grandparents fought for me to have a better life……and I have less than my parents have…as your kids will have less that you have……

      The american dream is something that all of us need to fight for….and the only one who seems to have his heart in the right place is Daniel Lay…

      I feel for your family…….I do…

      But the VFX industry is not as it was in the 1990’s…….it was a specialized industry…..and now their is gnomon schools in every country. The original VFX pioneers have to adapt……or do something else…….or move or do something else…

      the days of doing nothing are over……..if your a US VFX worker you …need to understand its a global industry and people want your job…..

      that and your own government is selling you and your jobs out…..

      • David Carlson says:

        Well said, maf. Let’s be clear I’m not mad at other countries, per se. I’m also not mad at people migrating to wherever they need to go to get work… not at all! Half of my friends are now “displaced”. I get it. The work is leaving because of clever bureaucrats and money architects… and I can’t even blame them. Sharks do what they do… but if I swam in shark-infested waters, KNOWING their behavior, and I realized that I had the power to remove my ass from being chewed, I’m certainly not going to shrug my shoulders and take it… all the while discovering new levels of complacency. Oh… and while I’m on this admittedly half-assed analogy, let’s not forget that most folks are either choosing to ignore the lifeline cast at us from Daniel and the rest of the ADAPT team… or folks don’t think it’ll work… or they think it will make the sharks angry because we didn’t let them gnaw on our femurs some more. (Oh you poor, fat sharks. You can’t see anything through all that artist chum!)

        I’m more mad at the deteriorations that we all let fester over the years without acting on it until recently. We let ourselves get pushed way too far. It is the nature of most artists. We just want to make cool shit and keep out of the drama. How can I blame them? I share that same goal! But we can’t continue being so complacent and “accept” the shit-sandwich that’s being handed to us. Enough’s enough already.

        Fortunately for me I have a staff job working on commercials at a good place that turns a profit and is good to their employees. (Fuckin’-A… imagine THAT!?) But if I didn’t have this job or at least access to some commercial gigs here, you can bet lots of that subsidized Canadian money that I’d be making the move to where the work is. Because I’d HAVE to! Hell, I’m sure I’d probably be up there tilting back a few Molsons with you at a local pub while bitching about our condition (unless I worked at MPC, where I probably couldn’t even afford Keystone, but I digress) … and I STILL wouldn’t agree that this subsidizing behavior should continue without intervention by a shit-ton of us artists with outlandish goals of staying right-the-fuck where we decided to settle in the first place!

      • vfxmafia says:

        Dave,

        if your ever up here in Van….i’ll buy you a Molson eh…..

      • Qwerty says:

        And below the fat sharks were the fat walruses. The senior staff members of their respective vfx studios with their cushy “permanent” job positions, higher pay, and health insurance. Their disregard towards the lack of benefits lower ranked junior artists lacked. Now they’re the first to cry foul, “my family, I can’t move cause of my kids”.

      • David Carlson says:

        @qwerty “And below the fat sharks were the fat walruses. The senior staff members of their respective vfx studios with their cushy “permanent” job positions, higher pay, and health insurance. Their disregard towards the lack of benefits lower ranked junior artists lacked. Now they’re the first to cry foul, “my family, I can’t move cause of my kids”.”

        Well… People will naturally try to move UP the food chain, not down. This might sound crazy but I think we’re ALL after some semblance of a stable, cushy “permanent” position! How we get there is a different matter altogether.

        Most do it with hard work and will try to do it in a manner that generally won’t harm others. (those of you in this category: You earned your position! Keep going!)

        Some step on others to get there. (those of you in this category: Go fuck yourselves and make it a love story.)

        Some will fall by the wayside from lack of trying. (those of you in this category: don’t blame those who are doing a better job than you. Strike a better deal and/or increase your worth somehow by trying harder.)

        Not all walruses are the same. Naturally, families with kids are looking out for their own tribe. Don’t blame them for crying foul. Focus on the foul, not the cry.

      • David Carlson says:

        @vfxmafia:
        “Dave,
        if your ever up here in Van….i’ll buy you a Molson eh…..”

        You’re on, ya hoser! 😀

  4. David Rand says:

    The rest of the talent in the film industry did not join hands and spontaneously combust into leveraged groups overnight either, it took years. It took years of abuse followed by years of additive steps towards getting organized. The whole time there was a wind in their faces. They met in conquered many obstacles one by one. At one point the Screen Actors Guild almost completely fell apart, the studios refusing to recognize them. Finally they formed in films got better.

    All of the things that happened in recent history in the world of VFX have been additive. Like the rest of history it will eventually come down to talent and branding …it always does.

    As Steve mentioned people need to be ready to move and accept change. When the artificial industry returns the talented branding that will be the case then as well.

    It will not mean that everybody moves back to Los Angeles.

    If I ADAPT is successful, and I believe it will be, we will head down the road of return to an environment based on talent and branding, instead of political whims and favors.

    It is a better way to work and everyone will benefit including the studios in existence now, and the new ones that will be able to form once the barriers to entry have been removed.

    Film executives that stood by the old ways of doing things will be replaced by those willing to do it a better way.

    We will finally begin to develop centers of creativity that are both nurtured and lasting. People will be able to have futures and homes, raise their families and do the things that are very important to form a basis before any creativity evolves. That’s very asset that is so important to film production these days will finally be taken care of. Only then will new levels of creativity evolve, as should the the quality and thereby the profits from the films they create.

    None of this will happen overnight but I believe it is all inevitable. The success of the entire film industry depends on it.

    • David Rand says:

      Sorry for typos. Dictated this while traveling

    • vfxmafia says:

      Dave,

      I know change is hard…and i know the labor movment came slowly…..It actually came at the expense of alot of BLOOD and alot of people died.

      Before Unions companies would send unikon breakers….people would show up at a town hall meetings with bats and beat people. People would die on film sets all the time…at least 6 people die each year still in the US……grips falling from scissor lifts…lights exploding…or simply falling asleep at the wheel after an 18 hour day…..

      It a shame people forget that…..(i know i don’t have to tell Soldier and yourself these things)….but your right it is a long battle….and the CVD fight could be 2-3 years before it actually effects production…and people need to plan accordingly….

      I wish i had a little more of your patients…

  5. David says:

    Couple things here people don’t seem to ever consider.

    Caveat – I’m a displaced American, living and working in London. I’m pro union ( though a union for VFX won’t work under the vendor system ). I’m anti subsidy. I’m pro CVD.

    But the work simply won’t be returning to SoCal anytime soon. Even in expensive places like London, wages are far lower, living standards are lower, there is no legally required overtime. People just live differently. Young kids don’t have student loan debt like Americans do. No car payment. In my observations, people get married and have kids later. What is considered middle class needs less.

    Canada is similar from what I’ve heard.

    Look around. It’s not just our industry. Jobs and industries are more mobile. You need to be mobile too.

    You might not get to have the career you want, with the family you want, with the lifestyle you want, where you want.

    Do you see a lot of sixty year old baseball players? Construction workers? Coffeehouse musicians? Nope. They’re jobs for the young. Maybe VFX is now too. You either have to give up parts of the rest of your life you want, or give up your career.

    Fair? No. But who ever told you life was fair was lying.

    Displacement sucks. I miss good weather. I miss personal space. I miss not having to pay $18 for a decent cheeseburger. But it’s here to stay.

    Life is about choices. You can choose to live in LA or you can choose to work in feature film VFX. With a few notable exceptions, you can’t do both. So choose which is important to you.

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