There was considerable discussion caused by my post on a Guardian article where Gravity’s Oscar Nominated VFX Supervisor Tim Webber was asked to comment on our demonstration for an end to VFX subsidies and why the “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.
Someone representing Tim Webber responded in the comments section with a statement by him where he explains he was “misrepresented”.
I contacted Guardian reporter Andrew Pulver on Twitter to show him Mr. Webber’s statement asking if it was true. Later on, the article was updated with the younger hungrier quote removed and an amendment at the bottom of the article:
This article was amended on 16 February 2014. A quote from Tim Webber was used out of context, and was removed.
I have yet to receive a response from Mr. Pulver. In Mr. Webber’s statement, he doesn’t actually say he was misquoted but claims the quote was taken out of context and was about when the UK VFX industry first started. I’m not sure how that changes the effect of the quote under any different context. Furthermore, even without that quote, I still think the argument in the article that the UK is significantly cheaper, leaner, and more innovative than the US as Mr. Webber argues is incorrect.
My contention is that there exists parity between the UK, NZ, US, and other international VFX industries. As I mentioned in the first post, I admonished the President for wrongly saying the gap the US film industry had over others was enormous. As I’ve said before the only reason the playing field has tilted in the UK’s favor are because of massive bubble inducing government subsidies. Framestore’s own CEO has acknowledged this when he said they would lose up to 75% of the work without those subsidies and a study commissioned by the UK film industry also said film production would fall around 71%. It’s great to get sympathy but there has been a lot of denial about the dominating force of subsidies. The first step to solving the problem is acknowledging it exists.
Mr. Webber also expressed his shock at the vitriol by some of the commenters on this blog and social media. While it is unfortunate, I think my post was pretty matter of fact without vitriol. Most commenters were civil and were rightfully dissapointed by the quote regardless of whether the context was about the past instead of the present. They also found the nationalistic anti-US tone of the Guardian article distasteful which Mr. Webber rightly denounces. If he’s shocked by the vitriol of some by what he said, he should see what has happened to me for things I have never said but get accused of anyway.
As I pointed out in my last post, I have strongly argued against any form of national identity for VFX but international artists outraged at my objection to subsidies have routinely accused me of racism and xenophobia. The vitriol was even worse than that when this past summer a forum frequented by UK artists somehow got a hold of work emails and authorship comparison software to try to determine who was the writer behind VFX Soldier. While I was on the list of possible writers, others that had nothing to do with this blog were wrongly accused and discussions began on how to blacklist them. Even with me coming forward, the UK forum still continues to have discussions attacking my character in the hopes of trying to make me quiet or ruin my career. It’s important for me to let them know that we are making great progress in our efforts on subsidies and last week a legal announcement was made that swings the pendulum in our direction. More to come when the time is right.
Over the years I’ve sprung into action whenever I learned of someone in VFX was being wronged: An artist in Singapore terminated for tending to pregnant wife. Artists in India experiencing exploitation. Pixomondo artists going unpaid. Dave Rand who has also been accused of the same things I have been accused of and still fights to this day for unpaid artists in Montreal after 4 years. So when BECTU recently made their efforts to help UK artists unionize I was ready to go. I was ready to write what I felt was a very powerful post why we should all be helping the UK artists and BECTU with some really good info. But I didn’t.
I recently received an email from a UK artist asking me why I haven’t posted on BECTU’s effort in the UK. To be honest, I’ve become a bit more reluctant to jump to help not because of the smears but because many of them were content when I extended my hand to help international artists but the instance I tried to help US-based artists at home, they gave me the backhand. When I tried to fight for adequate health insurance for US VFX artists many internationals objected because it was strictly “an American issue”.
Perhaps I should adopt the same position for UK artists that Mr. Webber has: Acknowledge that times are tough and send them my sympathies.