Gravity VFX Supe: US Pros Not Young Or Hungry Enough To Compete

timwebber Screen Right: Gravity VFX Supervisor Tim Webber

After last year’s disgraceful presentation during the Oscars some of us in the VFX community we’re relieved to hear that the Academy would do a better job this year. Given that, my jaw dropped to the floor from what someone in our own community had to say about US vfx professionals.

Oscar Nominated Gravity VFX Supervisor Tim Webber was quoted in a recent Guardian article on why “British VFX talent is leading the world“:

We learned to do it significantly cheaper, and used our innovation to be leaner and more flexible operations. In the end, our people are younger and hungrier than they are in the US.

This isn’t the first time that kind of statement has been made by UK film professionals. I hope that quote was taken out of context or else he’ll probably issue a standard mea culpa to avoid a fiasco but think about that last sentence for a second. Could you imagine someone from the US VFX industry saying something similar like:

…there’s still no better place to make movies and television and music than right here in the United States.

Entertainment is one of the bright spots of our economy.  The gap between what we can do and what other countries can do is enormous.

Actually someone did say that: President Obama at Dreamworks and FXGuide’s Jeff Heusser and I discussed how incorrect he was and I even used Gravity as an example. However, if I personally came even remotely near saying what the President said I would be called racist or xenophobic. In fact, I don’t even have to come close to that and I routinely get called racist by respected professionals in the industry with no basis in reality.

For example, a few weeks ago I was alerted to a thread on VFX Solidarity where a Method Studios VFX Supervisor I never met named Sue Rowe labelled me a racist. The accusation was baseless and I wanted to ask her how she came to that wild conclusion. There was no response.

Instead I was sent a private email by her apologizing for calling me a racist and blaming the clumsy words on typing while getting her children ready for school. In another incident, the people behind VFX Progress Group were also accused of racism by another individual because of their site’s old west theme and “circle the wagons” slogan. Again, no basis in reality.

There seems to be a constant theme where US VFX professionals must discount their efforts to avoid disrupting some zen like idea of “global solidarity” while international pros get to make local efforts to give a national identity to the VFX industry in the form of location specific organizations. When US VFX professionals even talk about doing something similar they are routinely accused of jingoism, racism, and xenophobia in social media.

Yet statements like Mr. Webber’s go unchecked and what makes it particularly disappointing is how obviously wrong it is.

This past week the US VFX industry welcomed Mr. Webber and Framestore professionals with praise at the VES Awards. I hope Mr. Webber noticed that a good number of US VFX professionals were also winning many VES awards.

Were the unionized US-based VFX professionals that worked on Frozen not young or hungry enough? What about the US-based VFX artists of Digital Domain (who worked on it while the company was in bankruptcy) and ILM who worked on the other Oscar nominated films like Iron Man 3, Star Trek, and The Lone Ranger. Some of those people are my closest colleagues and friends: They aren’t just hungry, they are tenacious competitors. They are Soldiers.

What Mr. Webber and other critics need to understand is that we are having a demonstration on Oscar Sunday not because we are against work being done in international locations, but it’s because we object to a subsidy race in which the VFX industry expects talent to chase their jobs to the next location offering more free money for US producers. Mr. Webber would be surprised to know that there are a very good number of UK and other international professionals who have donated to our legal effort because like many US VFX artists, they too suffer from a cycle of displacement caused by subsidies.

I’m disappointed that Mr. Webber doesn’t recognize this problem. 20% of Gravity’s VFX costs were paid by the UK taxpayers and subsidies have dominated the UK’s ability to do work there since its infancy. Framestore even had to open a satellite facility in Canada because of larger subsidies and their own CEO admits they would lose up to 75% of the work without UK government assistance for US producers. In fact the UK recently had to increase the amount they offer.

How can you have the audacity to argue how powerful the UK VFX industry is over others when at the same time you need so much help from the government, especially when the vast majority of work would be gone without it. At the same time, so many UK VFX artists demand that UK facilities adhere to better labor conditions, overtime, and EU mandated limits to work hours.

Soldier On.

165 Responses to Gravity VFX Supe: US Pros Not Young Or Hungry Enough To Compete

  1. Andreas Jablonka says:

    Its mind boggling how little the higher up tear of vfx shops wants to fix issues. sure they are in 20 feet of craft service all the time, they don’t care. they don’t worry about overtime as they are salary and they don’t care for where its done as they still go on location or sit in the HQ and cinesync with *insert subside location here*

    • Paul says:

      Who pays overtime anymore?

      • Any company in the US is required to pay OT. If you work in vfx and aren’t being paid OT then your company is operating outside of legal requirements or you are likely misclassified as a contractors.

        Those in most other countries are covered by their respective legal requirements. Many require OT to be paid and have caps on the number of hours worked. Many workers are covered by Fair Labor Assoc. or other groups that are made up of companies like Apple, HP, etc. and are required to pay OT even in places like China.

        Those workers in developed countries who are not getting paid OT should re-think their situation. You and your co-workers are not being paid OT because you allow it happen. If it’s legally required then report it. If it’s not legally required but you and co-workers are putting in a lot of OT then it’s time to unite.

      • polyphemus says:

        Everywhere in the US for one. Some workers don’t understand that and won’t fight for it. I know two cases off hand where VFX companies did or continue to weasel out of overtime. When the Orphanage was in the presideo they claimed since they were based in a US national park, they were not subject to California labor law [while ILM one building over was? Ho ho ho]. Reel FX keeps telling its texas workers the same since TX doesn’t have OT law, but they are still subject to federal law.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        As others have responded already every us studio needs to pay OT.
        If your question was specific:
        DD, SPI, R&H, zoic, method. Those are just some I got paycheques from. That’s why it’s hard for us artist to go to London and be screwed over rate wise.
        I rely hope Bectu has more success rallying artist in the uk
        Than Iatse had here in the us.

      • Paul says:

        Sorry all, I was being sarcastic. We usually get classified as contractors. So no OT.

        Many times, how can you argue when you need the gig.

      • a guy says:

        I’ve been staff at Method, Hydraulx, and Blur. Only Hydraulx paid overtime

      • Unless you were a manager you were being cheated out of wages by your employer. There’s plenty of information on OT pay rates but if people refuse to report it or to speak to management then management will continue to ignore the law.

        See references below.

        Q. Can an employee waive his or her right to overtime compensation?

        A. No, California law requires that an employee be paid all overtime compensation notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage. Consequently, such an agreement or “waiver” will not prevent an employee from recovering the difference between the wages paid the employee and the overtime compensation he or she is entitled to receive. Labor Code Section 1194

        Q. What can I do if my employer doesn’t pay me my overtime wages?

        A. You can either file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the Labor Commissioner’s Office), or you can file a lawsuit in court against your employer in to recover the lost wages. Additionally, if you no longer work for this employer, you can make a claim for the waiting time penalty pursuant to Labor Code Section 203.

        Overtime

        Facts About California Overtime

        California Overtime Violations

        Ten Things Your Boss Doesn’t Want You To Know

        href=”http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20120822/BLOGS05/308229999#/”>Employers beware: More independent contractor misclassification audits are expected

        href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/business/18workers.html”>U.S. cracks down on ‘Contractors’ as tax dodge

        href=”http://www.irs.gov/uac/Employee-vs.-Independent-Contractor-–-Seven-Tips-for-Business-Owners”>Employee vs. Independent Contractor – Seven Tips for Business Owners

      • a guy says:

        my solution was to leave VFX

      • Ex Method says:

        Method in Vancouver pays overtime correctly per BC labour law. Does the LA facility not follow those same OT rules? Do they at least give medical for staff?

  2. Bill Gilman says:

    Will Webber own up to the shameful UK work requirement of no paid overtime, sometimes on 100+ hour weeks? Is that ‘hunger’ or the lack of options? Does ILM’s absolute respect for their artists and their time make them ‘soft,’ or does it create a better life and work experience for those involved, with superlative results nonetheless? Is this his way of ‘inspiring’ the troops that he and the rest of UK VFX management are taking advantage of? I was a fan of you due to your work, Webber, but now I’m only a fan of the work.

    • Matt Wallin says:

      Well said Mr Gillman.

    • Sam says:

      Well let’s how ILM London operate. It’s pretty certain that they won’t be paying O.T ! So much for respecting the artist…mr webber can’t change company policy at Framestore. His job is just to deliver the show. Nothing else .

      • Bill Gilman says:

        Nothing else? Sam, either you’re either a sycophant apologist or too young and hungry to understand that true leaders care about their crew and their company, especially since they have the ability to improve ‘policy.’ Maybe Framestore could be a real leader in the UK market by unilaterally paying OT (with UK taxpayers’ money, that is).

      • kyoseki says:

        If ILM did pay OT, they’d be able to strip all of the serious talent from the other companies overnight.

        It might not be a bad idea.

      • LDNvfx says:

        They won’t. Economics for ILM in London are the same as for everyone else. American imports will all be supervisor level, thus no OT. On top of that, Disney are notoriously cheap!

      • vfxinvan says:

        I don’t know why you’re jumping to those conclusions already. ILM Vancouver has paid OT since day ONE, even though there are companies like MPC Vancouver that use every trick in the book to not pay OT (10 hour “standard” days, etc.) And they pay as well or better than they do at the SFO office. So please don’t assume ILM London is not going to pay OT. You’re just spreading misinformation with no basis in facts.

      • LDNvfx says:

        @vfxinvan: dude, I’m on the ground over here, ILM London took two people out of my team in the last month. They’re not getting OT in their deals. So perhaps you should come over here and find out the real situation, or maybe stay in your BC paradise and leave the rest of us to get in with it, eh?

      • Sam Edwards says:

        For the record, this Sam is not Sam Edwards

      • cgbeers says:

        ILM Singapore does not pay OT.

      • a guy says:

        I’ve been staff at Method, Hydraulx and Blur. Only Hydraulx paid overtime

      • vfxinvan says:

        Hey dude, I’m sorry to hear that you know of people taking non-OT jobs at ILM London. I can tell you that when ILM Vancouver opened there was a feeling out process with recruiting that lasted 6 months or more. They talked to artists, made offers, and saw what the local market would bear. For the most part (and because of labor laws) you need to pay OT to artists in Vancouver. Image Engine and MPC get away with these crappy 10-hour “flex days” where you’re really getting paid for 8 hours, but can be asked to work up to 10 at their “discretion”. Other studios (DD, Sony, ILM) pay full OT after 8 hours. Partly because it’s the law and partly beause they’re going to have a hard time getting artists up here without paying OT and a good wage. Demand far outstrips supply when it comes to mid to senior level talent. And ILM Vancouver couldn’t get senior artists to sign on for those 10 “flex days” that MPC does, so they were FORCED to change their policy to 8 hours +OT just to open the place up.

        Now, if artists in London are willing to work for free OT, then darn right that’s what companies in London are going to do. I personally wouldn’t do it. And if enough artists in places like that refuse to work for free OT, then they’re going to see a huge drain of senior talent out of London. I get that it’s a chicken and egg situation where London is so full of young, junior artists willing to work for free that most of the shops exploit that. That’s unfortunate. That’s what global trade groups and unions would fight for. Maybe if vfxsoldier could pull it’s head out its ass in regards to cvd’s and subsidies they could fight for things that matter to this industry like this.

        In the meantime, you have one option as an artist. If they refuse to pay OT make it VERY clear to the recruiters that you appreciate their offer but you won’t work for free. You demand to be paid for every hour you work the same way they are at the home office in San Francisco. And if not you’ll go work for Weta or Dreamworks or Disney or any of the other myriad of places around the world that pay proper OT for their employees. If enough people do that then these companies HAVE to change or they won’t be able to recruit people.

      • Daniel Jeannette says:

        Mr Webber is also one of the owners of Framestore. So yes he can.

    • Martyn Drake says:

      Framestore were one of the most arrogant companies I have ever dealt with in terms of recruiting. Twice I applied. Got an offer on the second attempt, but they had clearly not listened to a thing I had told them and flat out rejected them. In response I was told that I wasn’t a good negotiator (in other words, they wanted to work for them much cheaper than I had told them I was prepared to accept). Awful company, and clearly it looks as though they haven’t changed.

      • Rob says:

        I second that. Something similar happened to me. And it’s not like I was unreasonable, as another studio was willing to meet what I asked for. But with their insulting offer, Framestore has screwed it forever with me.
        Although it should be noted that even smaller studios can be somewhat exploitative and arrogant too. A reply I once got implied that I should be damn happy if they were willing to accept me instead of making demands. Can you guess whether I bothered to reply again to set up an interview?

      • Jessica Lohse says:

        I had an interview with Framestore Bournemouth. Everyone in there was in their late teens/early 20’s from Bournemouth university. The interviewer had clearly never even read my C.V. nor looked at my showreel. He seemed to think he was hiring someone who had never seen the inside of a VFX studio before. He also seemed impressed that artists work so well doing roto…I’m confused as to why that topic even came up. Anyway, I’m older, married and was one of only a couple who arrived that wasn’t from Bournemouth University…who funded and backed the Framestore Bournemouth studio of under 20 artists “for Roto Prep only”.

  3. Martyn Drake says:

    Interestingly I was contacted not so long ago by somebody in the US recruiting for Method Studios. They want to put their systems/technical team only on contracts, not on a permanent basis in the UK. Said no, obviously. It would take a LOT to get back back into the VFX industry in the UK or anywhere else.

  4. Rob says:

    Wow. I had heard about the BECTU petition but not all the other stuff – kudos soldier, kudos.

    “Young and hungry”. You know, I heard that at a company in Germany once. That had a reputation for paying people less than average (but still paying overtime!). But there, it wasn’t just the artists who complained about it but also supes and producers. Because guess what? They kept losing a lot of talented people over the years due to the greedy leadership and often had to struggle making shows work despite mostly relying on the skills of junior artists.
    If you think it is better to pay somebody half the wage but have them work four times as long on something and having to train new people just to lose them soon after – go ahead.

    Personally, I hope we’ll see a change in leadership instead. Whether it is just the mentality or the people themselves. But considering how it seems that even boutique shops in London usually don’t offer better working conditions than larger studios, I’m not holding my breath and instead keep having one foot out the door.

  5. afraidofpersecution says:

    Whats sad is that he fails to realize the amount of talented US artists that work at Framestore. And the so called “UK” talent is complete bullshit. Framestore has an incredible amout of nationalities working there, greatly outnumbering the UK artists…. So to pat himself on the back and only give credit to people from the UK is hilarious. . Look who received the VES awards on behalf of framestore, they are all mixed nationalities.

    • Foxly says:

      So true! Any UK based studio has an extremely diverse work environment. At Dneg there were folks from all over the world. It’s part of what makes working at a large studio so interesting. To hear the words “UK talent” makes me wonder why they feel it’s necessary. Perhaps to secure further national funding by taking credit?

      • kyoseki says:

        US studios are the same, the big ones are full of people from all over the world, the general ability level across the board is pretty similar because they draw from the same talent pool.

        That’s why idiotic comments like Webber’s draw so much ire, particularly when you consider that the widespread abuse of artists with regard to unpaid overtime is one of the only reasons the studios can continue to operate there.

  6. Greenscreen says:

    This quote is taken out of context and made to enrage people. Read the article from where this quote is from? He is talking about when Framestore started in the 1980’s (early days). Read the full quote that is linked inside the post above.

    “Webber says he has great sympathy, of course, but points out that in the early days UK companies had to undercut Americans to get any work at all. “We learned to do it significantly cheaper, and used our innovation to be leaner and more flexible operations. In the end, our people are younger and hungrier than they are in the US.””

    There are a lot of Americans who come over to the UK to work on these movies. Most of the work force aren’t even from the UK they are mixed nationalities.

    Today the UK and Canada, tomorrow India and China… It will only get worse…..It’s is a race to the bottom

  7. paulherrin says:

    in his defens(ish), i think the pres was referring to content, feature animation, and most (apparently) important: u$d…

    but i think tim’s unfortunate comment underscores a very important point for today:

    if you wanna do vfx, you’re going to have to be young (flexible) and perhaps quite literally… hungry:/

  8. Chris Simmons says:

    UK artists need to unionize. Strike while the spotlight is on and the iron is hot.

  9. Christopher says:

    What if your in your 30’s you can’t work in a CG studio cause your too old ? What if you have the hungry and didn’t follow the status quo ? It seems I might as well go live in a shack !

  10. sick of the arrogance says:

    Well said VFX Soldier- – It is also worth noting that when it comes to the artists in the UK VFX shops, almost all of them are non UK citizens- they’re from all over and a vast minority of them are Brits. there was a time years ago when it was impossible to get work in the UK unless you were a UK citizen. How rapidly that changed when they learned how shallow their talent pool was. Now, most of the artists here are kids from the EU getting the lowest wages, the next largest bunch come from North America and the rest come from Asia and other countries. Picking up the rear are all those incredible British artists who are leading the way for us all, showing us how it’s done… There is nothing boast-worthy about the fact that they get away with not paying actual overtime, lower pay and a culture of fear with short term contracts while an army of animation school graduates line up for your job for half the pay, all the while knowing bloody well that their industry would not be in existence at all if it were not for the tax subsidies. Their arrogance is sickening- especially in the ever growing arena of how they bash the American talent that taught them everything they know. The last time I worked with so many Americans was in L.A. and I have never seen so many junior artists in one place before in my life.

    • Idiot says:

      Sorry but you are incorrect a vast number are British . Then most others are from the eu which is as good as under European open borders.

  11. Ace type says:

    Maybe it’s time to boycott mov

  12. Ace type says:

    I feel that this is NOT just happening to these jobs. Alot of jobs are out of the USA. All our products we buy in stores are 100 percent made from other countries. This is a president responsibility to keep jobs here!!!! Maybe it’s time to boycott movies!!! And start buying only made in USA to get our country back!!!!

    • Christopher says:

      Jobs will return to America if companies and studios can pay lower wages the same they are paying in countries overseas.
      They question why people are going on Welfare or Employment Insurance, yet the answer is in everyone’s face.

      I suppose Tim only thinks the British can do anything correctly, crap on those in North America.

    • Cara Paul says:

      A President can’t bring jobs back without Congress allocating the money for job programs. Congress has no interest in making American lives better as that would put our current President in a positive light and above all, they can’t have that.

  13. peter pansen says:

    vfx pro’s are no soldiers!
    might be true that you are one, but keep in mind that this comparison leads to confusion in other parts of the world than the U.S.
    Pacifist on!

  14. Joey says:

    Obviously the bloke’s a c*nt, so why work for him?

    Second, don’t be fooled by the divide and conquer tactic.

  15. Tim Cunningham says:

    “Younger” and “hungrier” just translates to “more willing to be exploited”. Others have mentioned it, but a good chunk of the Framestore team is imported, and a good chunk of those imported are from The States…This is true of all of the competitive studios outside the US. And if Mr. Webber’s quote was taken out of context and he was simply talking about the early days when they were trying to build the studio, the imported US talent was absolutely critical for building any viable operation in the UK…or anywhere else.

    • Tim Cunningham says:

      I’d like to add that I believe Mr. Webber is the unfortunate victim of not thinking before he answered a potentially leading question and didn’t intend for this comment to be received the way it has been.

  16. deanareeno says:

    The fun way to spin it:

    “Younger” = inexperienced, naive, cheap.
    “Hungrier” = No OT pay, so no time or money for meals, therefore *literally* hungrier.

    Not the most flattering way to describe your co-workers.🙂

    Joking aside, and whatever my opinion about the various industry issues, I still think it was a stupid thing for Webber to say.

    I hope BECTU’s VFX campaign is successful.

  17. david says:

    Is he freaking serious?!

  18. contessa12 says:

    One thing is constant, the world turns and one day it will be Framestore’s turn up at bat, just like it was for R&H, clearly a step up from Framestore’s. Yong and hungry are buzz words for the greedy studio whose money has been capped from the studios! Subsidies will eventually run its course when citizens like those in BC have had enough! The idea of a union is that so the artist will no longer be pushed around and have to adopt the persona of a vagabond dragging his wife and children, chasing the job. His remarks are ethnocentric, the sign of a person who is a moron!

  19. LAskyline says:

    FFS everybody, he’s talking about the 80s and 90s, when the London companies did indeed have to be “hungrier” to get the work. Wind back the clock, if R&H and DD hadn’t put in such huge bids in ’98 then one of them would have won Pitch Black (no subsidy there) and Dneg wouldn’t exist today… Funny thing, hindsight, it’s always 20/20… And if Sony hadn’t made such a shambles of Sorceror’s Stone then Framestore wouldn’t have got a look-in on the non-rebateable Basilisk work on Chamber of Secrets which kick-started their features creature team.

    • kyoseki says:

      If he was talking about the 80s and 90s, why did he use the present tense? – He said our people “ARE” young and hungry, not “were”.

      If he was only talking about having to be “young and hungry” in the past in order for the UK industry to establish itself, why, now that it’s established, do they still stick to the same practices of long hours of unpaid overtime?

      … I’ve worked for most of the big UK FX houses as well as most of the big US ones, attitudes and ability are fairly comparable across the board, anyone who thinks that the differences in the places are down to differences in the level of talent or ambition of the artists is fucking delusional.

      • An American in the UK says:

        Why does everyone slam Tim rather than questioning the intent of the journalist and the potential for a misquote?

      • kyoseki says:

        That’s a fair point, maybe he was misquoted.

        I’ll bet you he wasn’t, though.

      • kyoseki says:

        Ok, looks like I may lose that bet, in which case I say we all start mailing dead pigeons to the person at the Guardian who wrote the piece.

  20. raji kodja says:

    It is only Febuary but I think we have a winner for the head up his own ass award.

  21. Eric says:

    “In the end, our people are younger and hungrier than they are in the US.”

    My, my, my… how wondefully xenophobic of you Mr. Webber.

    Yes, we’re all positively shiftless and lazy over here in the US. We’re also taller. Maybe it’s the rarified air at these lofty heights above 5 feet that make us so tired.

  22. iatse891vfx says:

    Within this article Webber does indicate without a union vfx artists have ‘a tough time’:

    That’s not to say the average VFX artist is now living a life of luxury. “It’s tough for them,” says Webber. “There aren’t guilds or unions or established working practices like more traditional areas of the industry, so they have a tough time.

  23. drew says:

    Young artists are gullible, under paid and over enthusiast the world over? Usually. Older artist are experienced, frugal and pace themselves the world over? Often. Both USA and Europe have older and newer artists? Yes. This industry is a cruel meat grinder for all artists? Definitely.

    After 15 years I can’t say I regret this career. But I can say that the hours are longer, the pay is less, the work harder the find, and the expectations are higher. People who make comments like the above Mr . webber, are typical of a man in his position who has has come into some good fortune and is fool enough to think it will last.

    • hector says:

      Very enthusiastic when you start but when time passes and see all the dirt and garbage inside VFX, curve this enthusiasm, and coupled with fatigue, make it mandatory to leave the scene.
      The elderly who are not leaving are either jaded, or they have large material gains and undeserved.

  24. LG says:

    Anybody who has ever been quoted in publication knows that it’s nigh impossible to have what you say to a lay reporter conveyed properly. More often than not, the final article gives a completely misleading impression compared to what you were trying to say.

    Soldier’s message and words are frequently misquoted and misunderstood, so he should be able to empathize.

    It MIGHT be a stupid thing to say, insensitive, inaccurate, or at least tone-deaf. But I don’t know the guy, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    The article is in a UK publication, in the popular press, and is clearly designed as a rah-rah puff piece for its local audience. This is not investigative journalism. I find it entirely plausible that he could have been quoted out of context, or misquoted entirely, or that the leading and limited questions he was asked gave no room for a proper reply, or that he gave an eloquent and accurate description of the current industry landscape which was omitted from the final article. We just don’t know.

    That doesn’t excuse the reporter and publication for producing a stupidly, inaccurately nationalistic piece that also ignores the elephant in the room of how subsidies dramatically warp the landscape and shove talent and quality from its proper place as the primary determinant of where work goes. Outrage is perfectly reasonable, but the blame may not lay at Webber’s feet.

  25. minoton says:

    Right now the sun is shining on Mr. Webber, Framestore, and ‘Gravity’. They’re the odds favorite for winning the Oscar for best visual effects. And with that comes the likelihood of more attention directed towards Framestore to bid on more projects. Mr. Webber’s statement was a business decision to help seal the deal to land that work. The UK subsidies are a major player in landing work. What Mr. Webber was trying to do to solidify any decision where to award a show was, to paraphrase “we’re faster and cheaper” than the US. It’s funny how US, CA and/or L.A. people are accused of being xenophobic in our comments, and “it’s L.A./CA/US against the world.” It’s clear to me, with government subsidies siphoning US projects, jobs, and artists, and statements such as Mr. Webber’s, it’s the world against L.A./CA/US.

  26. Sam Edwards says:

    It’s a sad comment on our times and industry that youth is more valued than experience, and that it’s better to have a ‘hungry’ workforce than once that’s stable, reliable, and fulfilled.
    If these values are what we’re communicating to our clients as selling points we deserve the race to the bottom that we have.
    I agree that Mr. Webber’s comments are unfortunate, and that directly comparing his employees to those in the US smacks of kicking us when we’re down, but I also believe that Soldier has perpetuated the negative stereotype of senior artists by not questioning the underlying values.
    I’ve spent the last several years of my career coming in on the end of projects, fixing messes that the ‘young and hungry’ create — and that the clients will not final. Seldom is this the most cost effective or efficient way to get the job done.
    I would love for Mr. Webber to have to compete for just one year without his government’s subsidy. I think we’d all see that innovation and efficiency are not uniquely British.

    • patternscanner says:

      “If these values are what we’re communicating to our clients as selling points we deserve the race to the bottom that we have.”

      yes, yes and yes

    • Well said Sam.

      I do hope this was the result of poor newspaper writing (there certainly isn’t much good news writing these days.). I’ve had hatchet interviews where the ‘journalist’ made up my quotes.

      But the underlining premise may not be far off the mark for at least some in UK (I’ve spoken on occasion with William Sargent).

      And when poor managers or accountants wish to lower their costs one of the first things they look to do is hiring the inexperienced and let go of the experienced pros. Little realizing that i their effort to save pennies they are paying dollars to fix the situation they themselves have created. I’ve certainly seen that at a few California shops where they refused to hire knowledgeable and experienced people because their figures showed they could get someone out of school for less. Then later they had to bring in a team of experts at a very high marked rush job rates to fix it, which ended up begin far more than if they had done it right to begin with. And the sad thing is these managers and accountants don’t learn from this. They simply double down and announce they need to save even more money on the next project. Unpaid student interns for production work? ‘Yes please’ they say.

      No matter how great your school the school of experience is always better. Each us learns even more on each project we do. So many changing variables it’s impossible to teach 20 years experience in a class. And many of those getting out of school don’t get this either. They team up with clueless managers as the blind leading the blind. Yet they think they can be vfx supes right out of school.

      And all of this should help to illustrate why the rest of Hollywood is unionized and why the workers from writers, directors to cinematographers and grips are in guilds. A lone individual has little control over their working conditions, basic pay structure or regulations, especially when multiple companies conclude or have similar approaches to poor business practices. People should stop letting themselves be exploited. There are young people or people hungry for work and companies are more than happy to exploit them for their own gain, especially vfx companies.

      Workers forget they are needed to do the work and if they simple united and agreed to stand up for themselves, this wouldn’t be happening. vfx workers all want someone else to fix the problems. They want the ideal solution. Those in the uK should take a look a BECTU if you wish to paid as you should be. As I’ve said before Fair Labor and other groups that oversee work in China and other places requires premium pay for OT. But for some reason those in the UK think not getting paid OT is perfectly acceptable. Which simply encourages the companies and studios to make even more time demands and to not waste time being more time efficient. Companies only do things when it costs them money or makes them money. Those not getting paid OT should calculate their true hourly rate based on all the OT they are not paid. That weekly salary on an hourly basis maybe far less than you think.

      And those in Vancouver and other locations you have the option of signing up with the IA or other union.

      • M Kurt says:

        And the US facilities also can sign those cards. Perhaps we should lead from the front ?

      • Jeff Heusser says:

        The vfx business is not different anywhere on the planet because the same clients are being served. Un-final this, add this preview screening or comicon rush, directors screening, a vfx Supe or studio executive contradicting the director… we’ve all experienced it. Vfx work should be paid on an hourly basis everywhere because we have no control at all and abuses are rampant. At least with financial penalties occasionally someone pays attention and artists are being compensated for insanity. It amazes me here in LA how many companies flagrantly ignore local labor laws as Scott Squires mentions above (should I mention that a large number of those are UK owned companies?). And yet it takes artists accepting it for the abuse to occur. “Well at least they feed us well” is actually something an artist told me. Far past the time for both companies and artists to man up and enact change for the health and benefit of all. Never forget the studios made record profits last year… how did that trickle down to you? If nothing else these asinine comments (even if misquoted or whatever rationalization you’d like to employ) seem to have brought better than the average divisive comments here.

      • Yes, those working in the US can sign cards as well. Hasn’t happened yet but either people will figure it out or the local industry will die away. Many we’re scarred thing the work would go elsewhere. Yes, it went elsewhere even without a union. oops.

      • One of the cleanest solutions would be if vfx workers actually worked directly for the studios. vfx is one of the few areas that involves a middle man company as such. The others that exist (sound mixing, lab, etc) charge by the hour or day. Not fixed bid.

        Because most of us work for a company there is disconnect of the proaction not the vfx. Disconnect from the director. Disconnect from the budget. Nd the vfx company can scream they aren’t maki g any money because they have put themselves into one of poor leverage. If vfx people worked directly for the studios then you’d be negotiating with the people making the profits. And the rest of the crew is hired by the production directly and they are union.

        I know we in vfx think the pipeline is special and we need R&D, etc and yet the camera dept continues to progress with crews and vendors who build cameras and support great. Editors continue to work on more complex systems. Art departments take advantage of 3D printing and 3D modeling as well. We’re at the point where most vfx workers could be employed by the studios. But the companies make it so easy and cost effective the studios have no incentive to do so. And thus the workers are the ones clinging on for dear life.

      • Long Time Post and VFX Producer says:

        Exactly Scott. Bingo. These VFX companies are only there to do the studios dirty work, and the owners of these VFX companies know if they don’t act as the henchmen the studios could just do it themselves. Part of the reason they can do this is because there is no powerful vfx union. If there was a union studios would be locked into scale rates and be scrutinized for OT abuses. At that point they’d just get rid of the middleman.

  27. Oneofmany says:

    In order to compete you must first have a level playing field.

  28. M Kurt says:

    A level playing field would also require everyone to be paid the same. Fact is UK bids generally are lower than those of US facilities and that is before you then factor in the subsidies.

    I worked in the UK many moons ago and always got paid OT.

  29. M Kurt says:

    As for experience, we really need a few less of these 20 year veteran Client supervisors who have no clue on how we create modern VFX. I am all for experience but here people attribute years in the business to valid experience. Fact is many of the current set of Client side vex dupes need to hang up there boots as all they really want to do is Direct and not understand modern VFX and how it is created.

    • peterblood71 says:

      Only someone with a lack of experience would say that. Discounting valuable client side skills communicating with producers and directors which are often steeped in politics is a bit disingenuous. Only experience teaches one how to avoid the mine fields that newbies routinely step in. Our business is changing all the time and is a constant re-education, even for the newbies. I would hire a veteran like Mike Fink, Scott Squires or Rob Legato in a heartbeat before ever considering a “knowledgeable” Gnomon school graduate whose people & set skills are still in their infancy. Don’t underestimate the process.

      And not everyone wants to direct. And if they do, go for it. (Though it’s usually just a one shot deal.)

      • steve a says:

        Sorry but I too have experienced your so called Experienced supes. All to often doing what they want rather than listening to the client.

      • peterblood71 says:

        So a non-experienced Supe is a better idea? You have no idea of the job then. I myself work as a VFX Supe and for me it’s all about the client and what they want, as it’s not my project. It’s theirs to succeed or fail and while giving advice where needed is fine ultimately they are the ones who are given the blame or credit. We are working to achieve someone else’s vision or that’s how I look at it and work our magic to accomplish that. It’s how every VFX professional should look at it. If you want to do your own thing you should be directing or producing. Reminds me though of Orson Welles quote I like – “Why spend your life making other people’s dreams?”

      • steve a says:

        Sorry but I didn’t say no experience but it is true there are far to many VFX vets out there with 20 plus years of experience that are no longer in touch with how we make films. I have worked on several films in the last few years where the client supe has been dismissed from the show. And these are not 2 bit supes often they have an oscar to there name. I do not put everyone in that category but this site all to often relates years in the industry to being the best thing for film making.

        You may listen to your client but I can name at least 10 dupes who have not in the past.

      • peterblood71 says:

        VFX Supes who don’t listen to coiners should be sacked but it depends also on the situation. Most of the VFX guys aI know are pretty like minded so I do believe this sort of renegade Supe is not as common as some would have us believe. These jobs are hard enough to get as it is so why put them in danger unnecessarily?

        20 years goes by in a flash and my own skill level encompasses traditional and digital which I think is far more valuable then just digital alone. Likewise I’ve seen hapless Supes who are just digitally oriented having their own issues and suggesting only what they know. There’s a lot more to Visual Effects than just sitting at a computer,

  30. peterblood71 says:

    The British are completely full of themselves and love to pat themselves on the back. I once sat in on a Camera Operator’s Night at Pinewood Studios and people got up extolling the British camera industry the “finest and very best in the world” to which my British operator friend almost slid under his chair in embarrassment.

    There is a lot of talent there just as there is oodles of talent here in the States and elsewhere. The British have not cornered the market on excellence in filmmaking or visual effects. They have been humbled in the past by a decaying film industry and if they’re not careful and a little more modest it will happen again.

    • Obama says:

      Modest like the Americans😉 Because all I read on here is how they are the ones who keep coming in to save us and we always have to hire the americans to get shit done. Just check this board for that sentiment.

      • kyoseki says:

        There’s plenty of people on both sides of the Atlantic who are full of themselves. I’ve worked with plenty of arrogant cocks both in London and Los Angeles.

    • Lamplighter55 says:

      … some British are indeed full of it – but don’t hold a monopoly stake. As a fellow UK VFX practitioner that news-paper article and Tim Webber’s uterances are just cringe worthy – an embarrassment! Unfortunately it hides the facts and perpetuates a bunch of half truths. Bottom line, we should all be signing up and getting organised – for fair pay and conditions wherever we are currently working. It’s your right as a worker, and don’t let anybody deny you that right.

  31. meanbow says:

    1) “20% of Gravity’s VFX costs were paid by the UK taxpayers”. Wrong. Again you fail to take into account revenue paid back to the state via employee taxes. Who needs facts when bullshit gets people riled?

    2) The guy was obviously asked by some reporter ‘name some reasons why UK VFX are so great as opposed to other countries’ and had to come up some reasons on the spot. Imagine being asked that question of the US and try to think up some answer that don’t end up sounding like dissing other countries.

    3) I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees this post for what it is. A blatant attempt to stir up xenophobia to boost a flagging campaign.

    Worried about numbers for your march?

    Soldier on.

    • VFXTroll says:

      Meanbow… let’s look at your #2 answer: “The guy was obviously asked by some reporter…” Wait, like you were actually there at the press conference? Like you know what is going on inside Tim Webber’s head and can predict how he will answer? Fuck you, guy. Who needs facts when bullshit gets people riled? If you’re going to call people out like that, best to come to the table with more than hearsay and shit you made up.

    • kyoseki says:

      You mean employee taxes that would normally go to roads, bridges, infrastructure etc?

      This drives me bonkers, people pretending the subsidies aren’t as high as they are by deducting income taxes from them, you have an entire class of people who are effectively not paying income taxes because all of that tax AND MORE goes to covering subsidies, the cost of that has to be passed along to the people who ARE paying taxes.

      If I was suddenly able to stop paying income tax, the net cost to everyone sure as hell isn’t 0 is it? Stop trying to pretend that not paying taxes isn’t a zero sum game.

  32. VFXTroll says:

    You know what? If this is taken in context, and Tim Webber actually feels this way? He can eat a bag of dicks. Seriously. And fuck everyone who wants to defend this abhorrent behavior. The most frustrating thing about this entire event is that people will continue to work for this asshole and tolerate this type of nonsense from him and others like him. You know what’s next? Another self-righteous cunt who takes advantage of jurisdictions that offer healthy subsidies and no paid overtime to come out and say: “Artists from Montreal are so much hungrier and more efficient than these folks from the UK.” Replace Montreal with whatever the next in-vogue tax subsidy haven happens to be.

  33. Been to London says:

    First off ‘fuck you’ Tim Webber, you arrogant and condescending prick.

    The London FX business would not exist on the scale it does, if it wasn’t for their massive tax breaks and exemption from UK labor laws (no OT).

    No one in London is paid over time. The industry has an exemption from the UK government.

    Artists are paid a day rate in London. That’s it. Artists at major facilities make between 120 and 300 GBP a day. That’s less than a 8-10 hour day pays in the US. Places like Framestore bring in as many students for ‘internships’ as they can. These positions pay nothing or next to nothing, to perform entry level work like root, paint etc

    You always work many unpaid hours in London and the bottom line is that most shops are run like something out of the industrial revolution. Anyone who complains is finished, not only with that company, but potentially across Soho. The big four are within spitting distance of each other and only a fool would not believe that they collude.

    If the playing field was level US companies would mop the floor with many of the UK shops, whom I found to be disorganized and riddled with an upstairs / downstairs mentality. I’ve been in this business a very long time and during my years in London I never experienced the level of infighting and backstabbing that I witnessed anywhere else. I was amazed to see leads and sups systematically go after talented artists, because they were perceived as a competitive threat, even if this came as a detriment to the company and show. And that went double if you were an American or not English. This sort of behavior occurs everywhere, but in the UK it was on an abnormally high level.

    This is an absurd statement to make. The UK wouldn’t have the projects they’ve landed in recent years, if it wasn’t for the massive tax breaks, exemption from labor laws (no OT) and the greed of the US movie studios.

    • VFXTroll says:

      YES!!!!! This is the type of sentiment we need to start seeing on these blogs!!! WELL PLAYED!

    • Anonymous says:

      This was obviously written by someone who has spent time in the UK, because it is 100% spot on.

    • justbitter? says:

      bang on. every point.
      another thing to consider: Mr. Webber partly runs FS and FS is probably the last company I would work for again. The arrogance they treat their workers with is baffling and the infrastructure is the worst I have ever worked in. If he wanted to change a thing he would be the man to do so. People like him are in charge why london is such a bad place to work.

  34. statix says:

    I’m amazed by the immature responses in this thread. Really.

    1. The Guardian is a British news paper, focusing in this case on the upcoming awards and what it means for the British side of the VFX industry. Of course they’re going to ask leading questions, put the UK in a good light and spin it around to toot its own horn. If you’re ever been interviewed you know how easy it is to be miss-quoted and miss-represented. I know Tim personally, and would never imagine him having any disregard against non-UK employees. Quite the opposite.

    They hired a US supervisor to be the internal supe for Gravity, and he was up on that VES stage with Tim. He’s not an exception either. This is also true for myself, and many of my colleagues at FS. Come to think about it; most of the VES nominees for Gravity are not even from the UK.

    Blame The Guardian.

    I enjoy the hard facts, discussions and positive actions in regards to the problems our industry faces on this blog. But lately this blog have become more and more like vfxhell.com. Not cool.

  35. Hahahaa says:

    You guys are hilarious just showing how fucking stupid you people are.

    If most of you statements are true then Gravity was made by a bunch of students, interns and people with little experience or balls. If that is the case we should all be worried cause the work was fucking outstanding.

    Not bad for a bunch of underpaid interns.

  36. Lamplighter55 says:

    It behoves the management of the ‘vendor’ companies to ‘tug the forelock’ and bow and scrape under the financial whip that the ‘client’ studios weald over them. Like many ‘industries’ a good proportion of upper management tend to show psychopathic tendencies too their employees – somewhat masked these days by the law: but often revealed in passive-aggressive behaviour and the occational clumsy statement. Only those who’ve had a few ‘knock backs’ in life, and picked themselves up – will actually recognise this trait for what it is – a deep rooted state of personal insecurity. If you are a good leader you will bring people with you as you lookout for their interests – as well as your own. A bad leader will wear the hat for a while – but in the end, always gets found out.

  37. seriously... says:

    Am I reading this correctly? He’s saying that the primary reason why the US FX biz is dying has nothing to do with the uneven playing field that has been created by subsidies and labor law exemption, but because American companies have essentially grown old and lazy?

    I know that the US education system isn’t what it used to be, but I do like to think that my reading comprehension skills are at least at a high school level.

    But he still wants the geriatric Yanks to gather up enough motivation to vote for his Academy Award? Seriously?

    • minoton says:

      It’s strictly a business move. Since for all intents and purposes US vfx production is ILM, he’s sending a subliminal message to studio heads who might be deciding whether to send work to the presumably newest Oscar winner, or the staid and true ILM, choose UK/Framestore as they are not old and content like we are in the US.

  38. response says:

    Posted on behalf of Tim Webber:

    “It seems that my beliefs have been seriously misrepresented.

    The “quote” in the original article was an interpretation of my words on one part of a discussion of the vfx industry, where I was specifically referring to the early days of the British VFX industry (getting on for 20 years ago) when it was competing against a much larger more established industry in the US with a huge range of infrastructure and talent. (I don’t think the change in tense in the last sentence was mine but if it was it was unintentional.) And I was referring to how, back then, the British industry (not the individuals) had a massive challenge to compete with the pre-eminent US companies. It was certainly, as some commenters have guessed, in the context of a wider assessment of the global industry. Whilst I may have been encouraged to, I don’t actually feel comfortable comparing countries against each other – after all the fx team on any project is usually pretty international and there are many artists all over the world creating great VFX everyday.

    Much of what I said was inevitably left out of the original article and obviously what remained has been left out here.

    The way that my words were summarised by the original journalist (I’m sure I was not so fluent), in an article that was aimed at celebrating Britain, and then further taken out of context here, with another angle altogether, has resulted in a total distortion of my intentions and certainly in no way represents what I believe.

    I don’t believe anyone who has spoken to me would ever think I have anything but a huge regard for U.S. talent. (I don’t personally believe that Britain is “leading the world” – I am impressed by what British VFX has achieved but ‘leading the world’ would not be my description nor was it my phrase.) And as the original article states I have a lot of sympathy for people in the U.S. who are having a tough time, through no fault of their own and no lack of ability. We have had tough times before in the U.K. and no doubt will have them again.

    I am also a believer that VFX artists have a comparatively tough time in general as mentioned in the article. What is particularly sad is that I have tried to speak in support of VFX artists within the film industry in general. Having my words misinterpreted in this way (and particularly being at the receiving end of the vitriol in some of the comments) makes me feel it is dangerous to open my mouth.

    Wouldn’t it be more productive to celebrate how VFX is starting to become recognised for its contribution to ground breaking films – how, thanks largely to the director, the VFX team on this film are getting more recognition for their work than normal – for example in the position in the credits and attention in the press. And this recognition will hopefully do a small part to help achieve a better position for vfx artists globally.

    I am shocked at some of the vitriol from people who must know that reading quotes in this sort of context is very likely to be misrepresentative. And I would like to thank those who have pointed this out in the comments.”

    • kyoseki says:

      If this indeed the case then he has my sincerest apologies as one of the principal vitriol spewers on this issue.

      I should know better than to trust the Guardian.

    • Disgruntled says:

      Its good to hear he feels that way. Now lets here him speak up for these artists he supports by backing Overtime pay and other things they’re lacking in the UK.

      And its convenient that he leaves out the roll of subsidies in the “Rise” of UK VFX studios.

      Me thinks he is either lying to himself about how the UK has gotten so much work in recent years or he is a little delusional.

      You’re pipelines and productions are so good?

      Then stand on your own two feet without subsidies and see how well you can really “box” in the weight class you claim to be a part of.

  39. Idiot says:

    Wow it’s all gone quiet . Well written mr webber . I look forward to VFX soldiers response if he has the bottle.

    • billgilman says:

      Well I appreciate Mr. Webber’s clear clarification of his position, I stand by my comment and challenge that true leadership would change Framestore policy to respect the artists and pay them overtime. Sympathies ring hollow when one has the power to make actual change, and these are peoples’ livelihoods and families we’re talking about here.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Just saw this comment. I’ve sent mr webbers comments to guardian author andrew pulver. I’ll wait for his response.

      Im on a 3 day weekend so I won’t be blogging until I’m back.

      >

      • Hahahaa says:

        “This article was amended on 16 February 2014. A quote from Tim Webber was used out of context, and was removed.”

  40. vfxmafia says:

    John Webber another dick in VFX like John Textor.

    • Sprookle says:

      Speaking to a subset of the people here: so what I’m seeing here is that for a variety of very angry people your primary source of information is the VFX Solider blog. You don’t even think to take an interested in the original context or source before words of hatred come spewing from your keyboard.

      I read the original article before seeing this post; the context of both the article (a celebration of British talent, on the weekend of the British Academy Awards) was clear. Despite the tense used (by Tim or the journalist, regardless) the context of the quote itself was clear.

      This whole discussion should never have been kicked off by VFX Solider, instead it was a flawless execution of trolling.

      So to those folks writing such hate here, you really do embarrass yourselves. Please don’t claim to represent the (US, UK or worldwide) VFX industry.

      • billgilman says:

        Hi Sprookle,
        I wanted to commend you for your brave and self-assured comments coming from someone hiding behind an anonymous nickname. I take umbrage at your taking umbrage. I think if you’re really looking, you’ll see that the anger is pointed and the resentment is justified. If you don’t think having a response to a quote which, on its face, reads as ugly nationalism, then maybe this isn’t the blog for you. VFX Soldier, from the start, has been very consistent and very clear about his position on subsidies. While it’s easy to agree that everyone has worked extremely hard to get where we are, the British VFX industry would simply not have accelerated to where it is without the subsidies. You called this is an exercise in trolling, but I see it as a call for action. The fact that workers from all over the world are supportive of overtime pay for British workers speaks volumes. At this point it’s painfully evident that management doesn’t listen to individuals, so we need to get together and speak as one voice. Or at the least, one British voice, one California voice, one Vancouver voice, and so on.

      • Hahahaa says:

        “the British VFX industry would simply not have accelerated to where it is without the subsidies”

        Hey Bill, that really is not a true statement. That is purely an assumption on the part of yourself. None of us actually know what the UK industry would be without subsidies and are purely assumptions based on personal opinion.

        We do know there are many talented individuals within the UK that have won several oscars. Even as far back as say Gladiator when subsidies were not even considered a threat to you.

      • billgilman says:

        Hi hahaha

        Please don’t be so sensitive. Opinions are like anything else that everyone has one of. Or is it is one of? Next you’ll be telling me not to end my sentences with a preposition. Or that Wellington, New Zealand would be the perfectly natural hub of world class VFX without Kiwi subsidies. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect Peter Jackson. It just means I just don’t have blinders on when viewing reality.

        Another fact based opinion I have is that the first few Harry Potter movies were done facilities all over the world, but by the fourth or fifth they were being done all in the UK precisely because Warner Bros. dictated that they use the UK subsidies. I have often seen the Potter films credited as have been being a huge milestone for the growth of the UK VFX industry.

        We can get into a fact checking pissing contest (or opinion based ideas of revisionist history), but the truth is people who tend to agree with me on this will continue to, and the doubters will continue to disagree. Usually that comes down to some level of self-interest. But in my defense, I support the UK workers and their quest for sustainable and acceptable working conditions, so I win.

        Come out of your shell, hahaha, and stop hiding behind anonymous posts. Then I’ll engage further in this pedantry.

        Love,

        Bill

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        yes it is true as harry potter put london on the map. if it was not subsidies and forced to be done in london the size of the uk industry would be a lot smaller. please check your facts rather than emotions for posts.
        Am I saying london would never gotten this good? no. am i suggesting it would have failed? no but the amount of work is coming from subsidies first and proximity of filmakers second.

      • tazzman says:

        How can the context be clear if the tense used meant “now” and “today” and you’re saying it meant something else?
        Stop making excuses.
        Either the Guardian’s reporter needs to learn to write, or Webber is a git.

      • In response to this response:
        “”the British VFX industry would simply not have accelerated to where it is without the subsidies”

        Hey Bill, that really is not a true statement. That is purely an assumption on the part of yourself. None of us actually know what the UK industry would be without subsidies and are purely assumptions based on personal opinion.””

        ————
        You’re not really being serious are you? It’s not pure speculation. The studios have said it, in print, in conferences. ILM has said it when they announced they were setting up a shop there. Check the articles.

        The subsidies clearly played a major role in this process. It didn’t create it 100% but it’s clear if there had been no subsidies from the UK government/taxpayers to US studios then the UK vfx industry wouldn’t be the size it is today.

        I knew the UK shops before subsidies. And they were doing good work but it’s not like the studios were all saying ‘hey, let’s send almost all of this work to the UK’.

        I think some of those in the UK refuse to accept any notion that the subsidies played an instrumental role into where they are today. I won’t argue that there’s not great talent there (and everywhere really) but to totally ignore the reality of the business is delusional.

      • Hahahaa says:

        my point being perfectly met and I am not sensitive or in the UK. This whole thread is about things being taken out of contact and reading into it what you will. Your statement has no basis in fact but rather speculation .

        I may even agree with you that the subsidies may have helped grow the industry but without a world with no subsidies can I prove or disprove that argument, NO. Just like how you all decided to sink into Mr Webber with his words or apparent words.

        ILM moving there is rather late in the game and the industry is already established.

        And I can hide behind whatever I like as that was how VFX Soldier decided to start this forum in constant mud slinging.

        And would Weta be where it is without subsidies. We’ll probably not but what if they had large subsidies and no Peter Jackson. I fear if that were the case there would be no industry there even with subsidies. Fact is LOTR cleaned up the oscars way before you all feared subsidies so maybe it would still stand up today. But again I can only speculate because there is no way to prove either side.

        But I am sure you will try

        Peace and Love Bill and co.

  41. Etteriel says:

    Can someone be bothered to pick apart the article’s seemingly unusual switching from present, past and subjunctive tenses in the verbatim quotes? It seems like alot of back tracking and politics after the event, no? Most visual folk are not skilled orators, they don’t have the ambiguity skills and command of language compared to real polticians. At least that is how it seems here?

    • urizen says:

      “Most visual folk are not skilled orators, they don’t have the ambiguity skills and command of language compared to real polticians.”

      True on the face of it.

      But a rigorous command of language, and a sensitivity to punctuation, is actually the only universal prerequisite I can think of for the work we do, in that everything we do is a kind of language with rules that are more often than not esoteric in the extreme. And a keen ear for the political has always been important in navigating the school yard hierarchies of visual effects and movie making in general, no matter what your actual job description may be.

      While there was certainly backtracking and politics in reaction to the quote after the fact, the politics up front were obvious, in what initially appeared to be, as another poster pointed out, essentially a common marketing pitch specifically aimed at American film studios, but delivered in a public forum instead of a conference call or Hollywood lunch or a trade paper puff piece, where this kind of shameless ugliness goes on all the time.

      Its never personal, its just business. ‘Well, we all have to swim in the same water’, after all. So if nothing else, this little mini storm might serve as a barometer for current business conditions at sea.

      I am relieved to hear that Mr. Webber’s true feelings on the matter have been misrepresented in a moment of shoddy journalism courtesy of The Guardian, (is there any other kind of journalism these days?).

      And I look forward to his good works shortly to come in ameliorating the plight of VFX workers in the U.K. with regard to corporate exploitation vis a vis OT and wages on ultra high-end properties that are not commensurate with the cost of living in London, and also to hearing what he has to say on the role that subsidies have played and continue to play in market distortions of VFX in the U.K. and the world over, with their consequent material impact on the lives and families of brilliantly talented ass kicking artists like the ones on his team at Framestore that delivered the historically superlative realization of Cuaron’s intricate vision for Gravity.

      • Disgruntled says:

        Well said…But all these VFX people who talk about how great London FX are or came to the defense of webber suddenly go silent when you ask them to speak up about Overtime and the other poor trade practices taking place in London.

  42. Rick Sander says:

    If the Uk was really full of hungry people they wouldn’t need to hire Americans to do the heavy lifting and wouldn’t need the 30% tax incentives.

    • Hahahaa says:

      No offence Rick but that is simply not true. Yes they hire some Americans but to state it was to do the heavy lifting is laughable. They hire the best people looking to work in London and I can say with some positivity that the number of Americans working in London is small compared to every other nationality that works there.

    • LDNvfx says:

      Rough breakdown of staff in major UK Vfx houses: 50-60% UK, 30-40% other EU and European economic cooperation area, 5-10% other (including Russian, Oz, Kiwi & US). Very difficult to get visas for non-EU/economic cooperation staff these days due to current gov policy. US staff proportionally more significant in the late 90s (think Millfilm’s original incarnation), but less and less as immigration controls tighten relentlessly.

    • John Crane says:

      Simply not true, Struggling to think of all these heavy lifting americans, or even americans at all.

  43. meanbow says:

    Wow, I think a few people owe Mr Webber an apology.

    Shame on Daniela Lay for so blatantly trying to set up a ‘the British dissed us’ angle to whip up outrage. You failed. No-one but the most xenophobic idiots bought that bullshit.

    Will Mr. Lay revise his position now that The Guardian have corrected their article?

    i can’t wait to see the next foreigner are you going to try to set up as an evil overseas bogeyman to get people riled before March 6th.

    • Disgruntled says:

      If you’re gonna blame anyone blame the writer of the article.

      Daniel has said far less here on his blog and gotten much harsher feedback/language thrown at him.

      How about directing more of your rage/focus on real plights of the industry instead of finding a reason to dodge by bashing VfxSoldier.

      How about throwing some harsh words at how UK artists dont get overtime. Or how about addressing the fact that your subsides are a sham and thats whats propping up the UK VFX houses.

      Gravity…12 years a slave….”Culturally British films” to get the subsidies… Gimme a break.

    • billgilman says:

      Aw, meanbow, who’s the troll now? Who’s trying to rile people up?

      Soldier did the right thing; he forwarded Webber’s explanation to the writer of the article who issued a retraction. I think you gotta call bullshit when you see it in this world. From your tone it seems you agree. Now that it’s so obvious that Webber’s remarks were taken out of context, shouldn’t we continue down the path where the discussion has turned?

      The real question is whether any of the apologists in this thread for the UK VFX management structure will respond to the repeated calls for improving working conditions — starting with OT — because I haven’t seen anything so far.

      And if i can offer a little advice about leaning too hard on the concept of shame… it goes both ways.

  44. tk1099 says:

    700 mil at the box office. Winning major awards and breaking records. The film was a huge success.

    Next year, they will give out a brand new set of awards.

    Raises? OT? Do the facilities get to charge more?
    Our top facilities deliver ‘best’ and only bill for ‘done’.

  45. bob says:

    It’s a joke everyone exercise arrogant nationalistic pride but those from the U.S. and dogging the U.S. that actually provides them jobs their countries are incapable of providing themselves is not only respected it’s rewarded. As to the young more hungry and cheaper ways to provide vfx work that comes down to 3 things and 3 things only.
    1. buy the jobs and put them in a country where no employee has a clue what their value is.
    2. get them young so you don’t have to pay them a decent wage.
    3. and in turn that will keep them hungry.

    And the under bidding this has created while their country pays Hollywood for the job. There is your innovation in a nutshell, undermine an entire industry and run it into the ground turning a career into a job that has not future for no one. Well done.

  46. obles says:

    Well, call me cycnical, I’ve just seen too many politicians at election time during my life blantantly say one thing, then deny it, then admit it when the words are pesented, only to say that it is not what was meant or just came out wrong. Everyone just says “oh, well, I see”. I think we are pretty dumb as a species when it comes to someone just saying “I was only joking”.

    Framestore are grinding the industry ever lower. Framestore Bournemouth is unbelievable. Get college students to pretty much pay to work for you company while claiming various educational funding and grants for your bother. Jaysus. You can bet its coming to Montreal soon … Its like strapping a fishing rod with a carrot onto a donkey’s back. Just keep telling him .. keep pulling, keep following the carrot in front, you’ll get it eventually.

    But will you? How old is timmy? mid-50’s? There are plenty of old handers in senior positions at framestore in seniors, leads, supervisor, management, roles. Plenty. And they are the few on contracts. They are not going anywhere. Really don’t understand where this ‘young hungry’ comes from other than freelance temps for short periods. Just dangling the proverbial carrots in the faces of naive students who may as well just blow their government education grants on lottery tickets and scratch cards. Shocking conivement between soho vfx firms, bournemouth and politicians. They should be ashamed… if they weren’t raking in so much money from it. As long as the newer kids are swindled this way and BECTU fails to make a further impact, they seem on pretty much relentless nose dive for the industry until it is no longer viable and maybe production studios need to get into vfx themselves or deal 1-1 with artists.

    • boosh says:

      Just a quick point, I work at Framestore Bournemouth in a Mathcmove position, I graduated in July 2013 (not from Bournemouth Uni).

      I get paid a reasonable salary which is actually allowing me to save money at the moment as opposed to working in London and paying extortionate London rents.

      Cant really comment on the rest of your post but thought I should clear that up as generally, I don’t feel that I am being exploited in any way.

      • Eric says:

        That’s because you have no experience.

        Talk to me in another 20 years when you have a life and responsibilities beyond just taking care of yourself paycheck to paycheck.

        I know people who work for ad agencies doing much less complex work that get paid $75 US per hour as freelancers (roughly 45 pounds). Yet in VFX there doesn’t seem to be enough money even as box office records are being broken.

        Funny how that works.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        are you paid overtime? are you doing more than 8 hours a day? please disclose your salary are you making 30k a year, 50k? I’m curious what an entry level salary is outside london. thank you

  47. Eric says:

    “In the end, our people are younger and hungrier than they are in the US.”

    This was in present tense, he was not talking about the past, which would have looked like this:

    “In the end, our people WERE younger and hungrier than they WERE in the US.”

    Unless this is a total fabrication, I don’t owe anyone an apology for my reaction. This comment smacks of the same attitude that Ang Lee expressed last year that had so many of us pissed off. To add insult to injury, while we were all lamenting the R&H going bankrupt, they with the help of Mr. Lee were in the process of opening a studio in Taiwan.

    In the end if Mr. Webber is blessed with an award, we’ll see what he says during his acceptance speech. For that matter, this goes for anyone else accepting an award for animation or VFX.

    You can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to claim you have been so concerned about the problems in VFX in the past and you squander an opportunity to say anything about it when all eyes are on you, there is no clearer proof as to how you really feel.

    Pay close attention people. These guys don’t make it onto that stage without YOUR hard work and creativity in addition to their own.

    You may need to take a job when there are no alternatives but when you have an option perhaps that factors into what companies and supes you decide to work for in the future.

  48. myComment says:

    That’s twice in two concurrent articles you are gunning for the ‘UK film professionals’.. Your beef with losing the vfx industry and now having to watch other countries produce award winning work once reserved for the USA is a really ugly trait. As it currently happens, right now this happens to be the UK so you are out for them. One individuals comment probably pulled out of context and you jump all over it. You are turning this blog into a second rate gossip magazine.

    The UK realises the benefits of offering subsidies to entice filmmakers over and we’re getting better and better acquainted to this business model.. don’t blame us the USA doesn’t see it that way.

    • minoton says:

      American studio executives thank you for your tax dollars.

      • myComment says:

        … and we thank them for our paychecks and the next film job and the chance to work on high production films.

      • minoton says:

        And thank your mates for paying taxes so you can selfishly do the job you want to do. Because your taxes alone are not enough to cover what is spent providing you a job.

    • myComment says:

      What really frustrates me about your writing is that you pretend to be for the international scene, acting like removing subsidies will mean no one has to up and move sticks, but, you know too well that as the majority of ‘Hollywood films’ are USA based productions, all the work would return to the USA. What then for the other guys in other countries wanting a slice of the pie? It just doesn’t add up. You are masking your true intentions.. always have.

      • minoton says:

        Simple. Bake your own pie.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        That’s a stunning admission. Is it your contention that the younger hungrier international VFX industry wouldn’t be able to compete well on a level playing field?

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

      • myComment says:

        No I feel thats what you are implying from reading all your porevious comments. You want the work back in the USA.. would you deny it?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        If I wanted work back in the US, I would be a huge advocate of increasing subsidies here in the states. The reality is I am not. Not only that, I’ve stood up to the LA Mayor and others in my local film industry who have tried to increase those subsidies here. NPR affiliate KPCC brought me on their show because I am one of the few local film workers against the subsidies offered here.

        Ill also be in attendence for against a panel that wants to increase subsidies in california.

        On Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 11:47 AM, VFX Soldier wrote:

        >

      • myComment says:

        …and yes the uk doesn’t create massive blockbusters so without Hollywood productions it would change.. there’s no denying that I think. No one would argue it. It wouldn’t be a level playing field.

      • myComment says:

        Fairplay to you.

      • minoton says:

        “…and yes the uk doesn’t create massive blockbusters so without Hollywood productions it would change.. there’s no denying that I think. No one would argue it. It wouldn’t be a level playing field.”

        myComment, the obvious solution is for the UK (and other subsidized locations) is to stop sending money to America and invest it locally in a local film industry. They should spend the money building British studios and British production companies, and funding British productions instead of always being a slave to America. Don’t like the sound of that? Look at how Hollywood treated New Zealand like it’s bitch not once, but twice.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Well the reason why is there is a lot of news and discussion about gravity during this time. Again the constant attempt by internationals to play the race card is silly.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  49. […] Someone representing Tim Webber responded in the comments section with a statement by him where he explains he was “misrepresented”. […]

  50. VFX_Boom says:

    I’m reading all these comments and it makes me sad that we can’t stay on topic……….to conintue Bashing Canada!!!! I mean according to the comments last week, Soldier is only interested in bashing Canada, and now this UK crap? I can’t keep up! I’m not sure who to hate/blame this week! So confused………… ; )

  51. WellShoot says:

    I stopped reading the million comments here. So, maybe my comment will also be overlooked like, whoever probably stated what I am now, has been overlooked by me. Especially because it is LONG!

    I started my career working on LOTR, on The Fellowship movie. I had never worked on a film before. I was “young and hungry”. They must have thought that I had promise, but it didn’t mean that I was more talented. It just meant that I was willing to put in a billion hours and was hungry to become as good as the people who were at Weta. So, my ‘promise’ equated to a bet that they were willing to take, as long as they didn’t have to pay me much. I learned a lot. There were a ton of Americans there. (I am an American.) Funny that I broke into what was majorly an American business by going to NZ. At the time, there were more Americans doing the work at Weta. But there were a lot of people from other countries, as well. I learned from people from all over the place. They started hiring Kiwi artists who had less experience than me. I helped train many of them. They are now all very good artists and still at Weta for the most part. All of us, from whichever country, all worked together and our country of origin had no part in our skill level.

    I was paid much less than many of the experienced artist there. But I eventually was outputting work comparable to seasoned artists. In some cases, my inexperience actually helped me to pursue ‘different’ solutions to problems because I didn’t know any better. Some of these solutions are commonplace now. (I am not saying that I am innovative. Someone would have found the solutions.) I hate to say it, but people like me started the downfall of our wages and probably put this ‘race to the bottom’ into motion. I didn’t mean to. I actually got a pay increase from the job that I was working at while in college. And, who would have turned down a chance to work on those movies? Were they taking advantage of me? I didn’t think so. They were taking a risk on me. At the time, LOTR actually had a more limited budget. But, I am pretty sure that they figured out that, if they taxed their experienced artist a little bit more to train the new artists, that it would enable them to do more work and expand their talent-base. Most people were cool. But I could tell that some artists didn’t want to teach me ANYTHING. I didn’t/don’t blame them. Self-preservation make sense to me. But Weta expected us to teach each other and their product became better because of it.

    I compare our business to professional sports. Take the NBA, for example. At one point, it was all Americans. But as it has become more popular, people from all over the world are becoming good at it. The difference is that our profession, unlike the NBA right now, is very portable. If they found that they could make more money moving the NBA to India, I wonder if they would do it. I guess my only point is that it is kinda weird for us to say that one country is better at something than another. I don’t think Mr. Webber’s comment was saying that they are better at anything. It just seems that he recognizes that there are probably more people in the UK who are willing to make major sacrifices(like many of us have) to become part of our industry. But they are succeeding at maintaining quality. Like Weta had done long ago.

    We, in the US, are getting older, have kids, and are more entrenched in our lives. We resent the fact that, in order to maintain our lifestyle, we have to uproot everything or make other major sacrifices that we thought we were done with. I paid my dues!!!!!🙂 Our international counter-parts should feel empathy for us and should recognize that it could be them in the near future. We are all just one tax-incentive away. It is unfortunate for us who have seen our jobs go away and our rates go lower and lower. But it is the way of the world. I am not saying it is good or bad. Fact is that most people are going to pay as little as possible for quality that they believe is acceptable. (Look at your daily life.) We have every right to fight for our jobs. But saying that they suck ‘over there’ or whatever isn’t the way to do it. Because they don’t.

    You darn smart people out there are making our jobs easier and easier to do. If it looks like a robot, it looks like a robot. The only way that any place will be able to compete is to figure out a way to make it cheaper to the client. I know some want to force people to keep work here through higher taxes on imports/exporting work. But, in the long run what good will that do except to drive all of the work away? If we join together and say, “A robot costs ‘X’!” , there will always be another place that says, “Well, WE can make a robot for ‘X’ !” So, either that company will fail for saying that, as they have. Or maybe a robot should cost ‘X’! Younger people, who were like us, will either determine if they are indeed hungry enough to make that robot, or that they would rather go do something else. I know, it sucks. John Knoll and Guillermo del Torro sorta figured out a decent solution for Pacific Rim, I guess.

    What is more sickening to me these days is that some of these schools will convince a kid that he/she HAS to pay a billion dollars in schooling to join our industry without telling them that our professional rates are generally going lower and they won’t be able to pay off their loans.

    Personally, I am in favor of getting rid of all taxes and switch to a consumption tax in the states. (That could include environmental impact as a consumption – don’t go crazy on me, hippies! ;)) So, I am probably all messed up in the head in most of your opinions.🙂

  52. david324 says:

    As a young person looking to soon enter the VFX industry, I can say that I am plenty hungry and dedicated to my work. I really don’t get this statement. However, if Mr. Webber is saying that UK artists go hungry so that projects can come in within budget, then I can understand his point.

    From what I have seen, he is really misrepresenting his case. How much of the ability to do work cheaper is a direct result of subsidies and incentives? Let’s be honest here and give credit where credit is due (or not due).

    • Studios weight many variables but when a government offers 20-50%+ cash coverage, especially when you’re talking millions or even tens of millions, then it has a lot to do with choice of where to go. ILM is setting up in London specifically because Disney wishes to get the subsidies. They and most vfx companies (including some UK ones) have shops set up in Vancouver and/or Montreal due to subsidies.

      It’s very difficult to compete as a company when another company is being funded 20-50%+. Even trimming wages and hiring young people doesn’t make up that difference. Even when a US company matches the quote price from a UK or Canadian company (with their subsidy reductions) the studios do not bother because the subsidies is good as cash in hand and allows even more borrowing. Reduction in terms of price will never compete.

      Yet even those in subsidized areas such as the UK have a tendency of underbidding for work to make sure they get it. Right now there are at least UK companies who have been losing money for at least the last 2 years. With pressure fro mthe studios and competition vfx companies find themselves having to tri max mud has possible. Not paying OT is one of the ways the UK companies take advantage of the workers.

      Warner Brothers paid a large amount ($36 million?) as I recall to the UK vfx schools. As long as you’re getting cheap labor with no OT pay who qualify for subsidies, you might as well keep the schools churning out newbies willing to keep the wages low.

  53. xRTGx says:

    It’s a global talent pool now. Any region that claims their work is better because of some idea of nationalism and local talent is dead wrong. The work force is a nomadic trans-national entity. There are lots of Americans working in the U.K. studios. Half of the people in Vancouver right now are from the U.S., and when I was working in L.A., probably a good 40% of the animators I knew there were from Canada. How many people at Weta are actually born and bred in New Zealand??? To say the workers from one region aren’t “hungry enough for it” is ridiculous. The hungriest ones have had to leave their home countries to follow the work. I’m in Toronto and there are a lot of people who would love to be able to come back home and work in the local industry here, but they’ve made the choice to work on the best projects they can and there are no major studios here. As a result, they’re all in the U.K., Vancouver, New Zealand, L.A., etc. They’re just as hungry for it as anybody else.

  54. justbitter? says:

    FS had (has?) ‘dissapearing’ TOIL records and compensates the lack of infrastructure and proper mangement with ambitious ‘artists’ and is taking unpaid OT for granted. this is a fact. Mr. Webber could change all this because he’s on of 3 persons running FS. I would love to see him changing all this as he has the power (within the company) to go ahead.

    subsidies are are clearly a problem within this industry. but only one of many. We would do our selves a massive favor and stop considering us ‘artists’ and see our work for what it is: it’s a service. Not more. We work in some kind of hi-tech copy shop. and in a copy shop you get what you pay for. flicks like IM3/avengers/THB and even gravity (etc) do not contain a single pixel of art. these movies are produced to generate money (on the back of artistic ambition).

    Without our self entitled ‘artist’ badges we could go ahead and ditch our egos we try to inflate so desperately and make this industry a living. No one would move overseas anymore just to work for established VFX houses and their sweatshops in disguise. We the artists make the subsidies possible by chasing them too. no one would even think to open facilties like Ft. Lauderdale because there wouldn’t be any talent anyways.

    Mind you, I do understand the conflict potential of subsidies. But if we can’t even pull our selves together and stand up for normal work conditions – how are we trying to tackle national laws (and greed)….. ?

  55. Tom Jones says:

    https://www.bectu.org.uk/news/2095
    nine months and only 1000 signatures… As for UK: To have our voices heard we need to have a bigger group of people shouting. How this will ever happen when VFX sector in the UK employs 5K people? Tesco has 530K…

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