Life After Pi Documentary Released

Rhythm & Hues India’s Prashant Buyyala at the 7:40 mark:

We’ve had to chase a price point that’s been dropping very rapidly and the reason why the prices have been dropping quite a bit, one of the fundamental reasons is the tax subsidies that are being provided in Canada, in the UK, and other places.

Soldier On.


76 Responses to Life After Pi Documentary Released

  1. Disgruntled says:

    Great documentary. Glad, but not in a mean way, to see John Hues (i.e. Rhythm Corporate) take some responsibility for their failure/mismanagement.

    But back on to the larger issue of the oscars and the march.

    Many of us are going to attend and try to bring along whatever people we can.

    But has there been any interest or movement for other groups to possibly join? The same subsidies that negatively affect us also affect Gaffers, Drivers, Cameramen, etc.

    If the march included other branches of the film industry it would be huge. Has there been any attempted outreach to those groups?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      absolutely. That’s why I was at the IATSE event and City Council. Many people in other parts of the film industry are very interested in what we are doing. I’ll be at the KPCC/Milken institute talk to distribute information about our effort.

      On Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 12:26 AM, VFX Soldier wrote:


    • Long Time Post and VFX Producer says:

      The only concession Mr. Hughes made was not making the company leaner sooner (for the love of the artists). Otherwise I found him to come off as personally blameless for his companies bankruptcy. And bad management at R&H has been discussed in the community for years. It finally caught up with them cause the industry went dead around the Oscars last year and he could no longer rob Peter to pay Paul.

      He did blame fixed bids and delays but did not blame subsidies. And he packed up his office wearing a Canada hoodie.

  2. Andreas jablonka says:

    To everybody who plans to come please wear something green.
    We will have more green shirts there as well for you! Bring along your friends, let’s make this huge!

  3. Adrien says:

    Thank you for this Documentary guys

  4. Mdoz says:

    Was a good piece, if not a touch too sentimental. It does however outline very succinctly what I have said before. R&H went under due to poor management. They knew they were trading insolvently for months, maybe years, and instead of making necessary cuts to a few, everyone lost their jobs. Fixed bids, subsidies whatever, management took on those jobs and hired a million dollars of payroll per month and continued to do so until they bit the dust. It was pure insanity. Whether or not john hues and management had the best of intentions or not they failed to manage both their clients and their artists. This meant that ultimately they killed a great company. A sad waste.

    • Dave Rand says:

      So should the dozens of other shops that could not make it as far as R&H did also take the blame for “bad management” and not “Fixed bids, Subsidies, whatever?”

      Of course not. Rhythm & Hues should be praised for lasting as long as they did. The longest run of any free standing VFX shop in California.

      Don’t mistake John Hughes modesty for failure.

      Love to see you or anyone do a better job in today’s VFX world.

      • Mdoz says:

        Dave, they didn’t close up shop, call it a day and thank everyone for their service. They went bust! They filed chapter 11. That is corporate failure. No one praised Enron, General Motors or the myriad investment companies for lasting as long as they did until the GFC hit. I’m sorry you’ve had a tough run of it but you have got it so wrong. As for doing better in the space I’m moving with the times and doing fine

    • usfilmguy says:

      Mdoz: You nailed it! I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote.Thank you.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Describe for me as best you can you think would happen if all subsidies word and abruptly? I doubt your answer would include anything to do with bad management.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Describe for me as best you can what you believe would happen if all subsidies were two end abruptly. I doubt that anywhere in your description with the words “bad management” be used.

      • Mdoz says:

        End subsidies, you kill off half the worlds tv and film production. Without the subsidies and incentives most films are not viable. Tax credits and gap financing are a big part of every production these days.

        So in the sudden death to subsidies scenario you propose the budget is immediately under pressure. However as the majority of all films are bonded production is guaranteed. So the subsidy disappears, either the producer works it out or the completion guarantor steps in and cuts the shit out of the production budget. So who do you think will have their budget cut first? It won’t be the above the line costs. It will be the caboose at the end of the train. Vfx and post.

        So the race to the bottom quickens. Your subsidy ban/CVD just screwed you on that gig. Furthermore fewer productions are now getting up so there is less work.

        Know the business!

      • polyphemus says:


        Let it die off, why are taxpayers on the hook for paying the big six to make movies? They have plenty of money for production costs. Movies, TV shows will always continue to get made.

        Unless you are suggesting that Warner Bros will be out cup in hand begging for change on the corner of Olive and Riverside if subsidies go away.

      • Mdoz says:

        @Polyphemus… Um yeah. That’s kinda exactly what will happen. The studios are always borrowing or attracting private investment for films. It’s called OPM…other peoples money Walking with dinosaurs 3d had massive private backing. That private backer will likely not see all of his investment returned for a very long time if at all.

        You guys are arguing blind. I’m sure some of you have done your homework but the majority here just really aren’t qualified to jump on this bandwagon

      • minoton says:

        Mdoz, it’ll never happen. There’s too much money to be made. 48 of the top 50 money making movies are include heavy use of visual effects or digital animation. The studios are just taking advantage of free money. They be stupid not to take free money waved in their faces.

  5. vfxguy says:

    “We’ve had to chase a price point that’s been dropping very rapidly and the reason why the prices have been dropping quite a bit, one of the fundamental reasons is the tax subsidies that are being provided in Canada, in the UK, and other places.”

    Of course you would focus on this instead of john hughes explaining exactly why r&h folded 30 seconds earlier in the video.

    If subsidies are the main reason for prices dropping then why do prices continue to drop year on year even in subsidized locations? If subsidies were the main factor driving price erosion then everyone whose in a subsidized location should have stable prices shouldnt they?

    • Dave Rand says:

      No, in the race to the bottom the only stability will be when we all hit the bottom of the pit.

      Just recently New Zealand had to up the anti from 15% to 25% that is not an example of stability.

      As BC climbs to 60% how does Montreal complete….by going higher…that is not price stability. It’s an artificial market driven by artificial injections of cash instead of being driven by talent, branding and stability.

      • Steven M says:

        “It’s an artificial market driven by artificial injections of cash”

        If that’s your attitude, then congratulations, so is the entire US economy. Your exact point?

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Well, yours seems to be that two wrongs make a right.

      • vfxguy says:

        Yeah you didn’t answer my question or even try to address my point.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Yes I did. I’ll put it another way. As subsidies increase and the race continues only two things can counter the increase in subsidies from one location over another……increase your subsidies or decrease your price. This was explained even graphically in the documentary.

      • Dave Rand says:

        The way the US controls it’s money supply via the federal reserve and the adjustment of interest rates, treasury auctions, or the federal reserve requirement has nothing to do with or is similar in any way to subsidies in VFX. The bailouts of our auto industry and the banks were one time cash infusions …not continuous and increasingly competitive flows of money.

      • vfxguy says:

        For the last few years Vancouver has offered the best subsidies in a place that has companies that can actually compete for top level work. Those companies are only bidding against each other or against people who have lower subsidies to back them. So why are their prices continuing to drop?

      • Dave Rand says:

        According to Peter Mitchel the BC film commissioner the competition from Canada’s other provinces via subsidies has been pulling business away from all areas of film production. You may recall this was a pivot-able issue in the last election in BC.

        Montreal for example has lured several productions away from BC along with a new surge in companies opening there.

        There was even an effort to get the provinces of Canada to stop “stealing” from each other.

        It is the same in video games

    • Dave Rand says:

      Meanwhile …everyone keeps “renting” their industry from the Americans. Our efforts against subsidies are not “all about the Americans” but if you want it to stay “all about the Americans” then keep renting from them.

      • Steven M says:

        “Meanwhile …everyone keeps “renting” their industry from the Americans”

        Does that include Sony? Or should that studio only provide jobs in Japan?

      • polyphemus says:

        Considering that Sony has a separate Sony Pictures division for just Japan for making cartoons, it’s a whole separate division from the US pictures side using the same Hollywood financing system to pay for work.

        So yeah, lets take your argument to the extreme and force Sony SPI/Pictures to do all of its work 100% in house in Tokyo. Since we’re talking fantasy, I’ll take losing sony and gaining the rest of the majors for work in that case.

        Sony Pictures is in Culver City for a reason, even if the VFX artists are being kicked up to Vancouver.

      • Dave Rand says:

        All six of the film divisions of the studios that control most of the screens in the world are all incorporated in California and are withing 20 miles of each other. This maximizes leverage for an oligopoly that enjoys the fact that their best asset, the VFX artists and professionals, fight each other on these pages keeping up weak and separated.

        We are trying to break that cycle. In the long run we’d all be far better off competing over talent and branding than a political hustle. We’ll never see a true Maplewood, Englishwood, Kiwiwood, Chinawood, or Englishwood if we all keep renting from Hollywood.

        I understand why so many VfX professionals or other anonymous parties are patrolling this blog…..because it makes sense and invokes change…and that can be frightening and fear separates everyone and ruins any chance of lasting creative cultures from forming.

        If you were here in the VFX wasteland of LA right now you’d have an insight to what will eventually happen everywhere if we keep this same system in place.

        Daniel has been clear about our intentions and our goals. We are in favor of true growth globally. We are against all subsidies for VFX both in the states and abroad. We can not and will not try to fix subsidies in all industries. It’s a big enough battle to just focus on our own issues.

    • vfxrealist says:

      But there’s the rub, and the problem with the whole idea that Subisidies are the evil end all and be all problem that is killing our industry. It ignores everything else that are the REAL problems in our industry for this fake boogeyman. It makes for a handy slogan on signs, and everyone in Los Angeles can get behind it because it SOUNDS like it’s THE big issue if you hear enough people say it. It’s scary. It’s OFFSHORING our jobs, which gets people all riled up in any industry. The problem is that it’s also a complete fallacy that A) subsidies are what are destroying our industry and B) That subsidies aren’t sustainable.

      A) What is destroying the VFX industry are lack of a global union which means we have NO leverage for working conditions, pay scales, etc. If other parts of the film industry didn’t have global unions that had effective leverage with the Studios those fields would have been wiped out decades ago. Period. Additionally, because we have no global representation this has led to predatory bidding, forced free OT, and horrible business models. THAT is what has destroyed the industry. Not the fact that NZ gave Weta X $ to make Lord of the Rings/Avatar/Hobbit.

      B) The whole argument that subsidies are a race to the bottom and aren’t sustainable is 100% negated by facts. Weta has been going fine for over 20 YEARS with tax breaks and government subsidies. London over 30 years, and with extra injections ever since the Harry Potter series. Vancouver and Canada didn’t just start making movies when Sony/DD/R&H relocated staff there a couple years ago. Vancouver CREATED CG animation on television with Reboot and Mainframe/Rainmaker Studios. Many of the big CG software companies started in Canada (SoftImage, Alias, etc.). The NFB has been funding and making animated films for a long, long time. The point is that all of these places have industries that were helped by subsidies, that really on subsidies to various degrees and have been sustainable for DECADES. So this whole mantra that subsidies aren’t sustainable and we’re in a race to the bottom is a complete fallacy. Subsidies aren’t sustainable for keeping work in Los Angeles. They work just fine in other parts of the world.

      • VFX_Boom says:

        @vfxrealist When Vancouver is gutted over the next 1.5 years, will you change your tune then about subsidies?

        I completely agree a global union vfx would be the amazing thing ever. But sadly, that can’t happen. Just getting a hand full of global studios to pull their heads out of their ass is asking to much.

        But solidarity among ALL vfx artists should be at the forefront of the issues. Subsidies just make us all look like cheap products to the American Studios.

      • vfxrealist says:

        @VFX_Boom Scare tactics don’t help anyone. So Vancouver is going to be gutted huh? Has Weta been gutted in the last 20 years? London? Why are all these examples I can give you of vfx industries in subsidized locations that have been able to sustain work for 20+ years not relevant? There has been work in and around Vancouver for a lot longer than any of these companies that have moved here in the last 2-3 years, and there will be plenty of work after. Pixar shut down and left. Is Vancouver gutted? No, those people ALL got jobs at other studios. Sony and R&H have shrunk to almost nothing in Vancouver. So? Work will come and go. Companies will come and go. Trying to scare everyone into thinking that we’re sitting on this shaky foundation of subsidies and it’s all about to collapse is a load of crap. The industry may collapse for a number of different reasons that get worse by the day. But subsidies are not the reason. That’s a smokescreen and not the real problem with the vfx industry.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Print out that statement and well talk in 2 years!

        Why is London upping its subsidies? Because they are loosing work aka being gutted. Why is framestore going to Montreal?

        Also you still don’t understand subsidies. Weta does not get a dime, the studios (fox and Warner) are getting the rebate cheque not weta.
        Has it been profitable? It’s partial owned by the director! It’s a write off. Weta would never sustain the 100 hoyr weeks on OT if they were concerned about money.

        We don’t use scare tactics, it’s the facts that are scary. You on the other hand don’t ignore facts and make a happy utopia.

      • VFX_Boom says:

        The so-called 20 year runs of success and work in area like London and Vancouver are purely a result of subsidies being increased on a yearly bases to support them. And over the last 5-6 years, those subsidy amounts have SKYROCKETED just to keep it going. So yes, it will end because this model of increased spending can not last much longer.

        It’s just like the real estate/financial bubble that burst in 2008, everyone thought there was no risk with the huge spike in spending and housing values, everyone was making money right? *High fives all around. And then…………..BOOM!!!

        The Party ended because it was all based on smoke and mirror pricing/financing. We are already repeating those same mistakes, but those benefiting directly only care to look inwards at the party, not outwards to the impending storm.

      • NZTD says:

        And here we go. Where the disinformation starts and everyone who isn’t in LA tunes you guys out.

        Subsidies have NOT skyrocketed in the last 5-6 years. That’s just plain untrue. The Post Production Tax credit in BC hasn’t changed significantly in over a decade. And no, it’s nowhere close to 60% but I gave up having that debate with people on here because you quote theoretical numbers instead of real production data. NO ONE in BC gets 60% tax rebates on qualified post-production workers, but that’s another story.

        But this idea that subsidies have suddenly shot up in the last few years is another invented story you’re using to try to explain jobs leaving LA. Have there been varying negotiations and some changes over the years? Sure. Have there been widespread, massive increases in subsidies? NO. That’s plain false. Sorry. Rebates on post work have always been in the 20-35% range outside of the States for over a decade and they still are. Montreal may offer 33% and BC offer 25%. Ok, sure. But if you hadn’t noticed that hasn’t forced any of the established Vancouver companies to relocate en masse to Montreal. It’s just not happening.

        Sorry guys, but saying that rebates just keep going up year after year in places like NZ, London, and Vancouver is false. You can keep making up stories to support your predetermined conclusion (that subsidies are THE problem with the entire industry). But guess what? I have many friends at Weta, and Dneg, and Framestore, and on and on. And none of them are worried about their job going away because of subsidies being unsustainable. They’re worried about the overall state of our industry and working conditions/bidding models.

      • Big$exxy says:


        Subsidies worked for the last 10,20,30 years because there wasnt as much competition subsidy-wise.

        Now MOST US-States have started to offer significant subsidies, along with Quebec, Ontario, and a few other random cities across the globe. Meanwhile, established subsidy havens have had to INCREASE their subsidies due to outside pressure.

        Vancouver also has a very-well established VFX industry (all stolen from California). They didnt have this 10-20-30 years ago, neither did WETA (which is partially owned by Peter Jackson who funnels work/cash into the studio).

        The current climate of subsidies TODAY is far different from the climate 20 years ago, and it is indeed a race to the bottom.

      • richfallatjr says:

        The types of people who argue for subsidies in VFX
        1. Studios wanting to make big budget pictures smaller
        2. VFX workers living in subsidized areas
        3. Citizens of highly subsidized areas who get to tell their friends “They made Hollywood picture in MY city”

        It doesn’t take a degree in economics. When governments give 30-60% to fund worker salaries, my 10 year old niece can comprehend how this devalues visual effects work for everyone.

    • QWERTY says:

      Vfxguy, ELI5(explain it to me like I’m 5), ” why are prices falling in a subsidized market.” Because there are 6 major studios, a limited amount of movies released per year, and global competition.

      • Long Time Post & VFX Producer says:

        This is another lie perpetuated by the doc and green shirted leaders: “There are only 6 buyers of VFX”. Not true. In addition to the six film studios, there are loads of smaller studios and production companies who finance their own films, some that get distributed to the majors. Lionsgate, Dreamworks, Legendary, Relativity, MRC and Alcon are but a few. They often own their movies and license them to the studios. They decide where the money is spent, not the studios. You have filmmakers like Cameron, Abrams, Jackson and the Coen Brothers who get no studio inference in their productions. You have IMAX movies, you have the BBC, AMC, HBO, Showtime, all making movies that get international releases theatrically.

        The amount of buyers is actually vast. The problem is their spending patterns are not consistent and they have no loyalties. Finding these projects to bid on is time consuming and expensive for VFX vendors.

        If there were only six buyers finding the projects would be easy and there would be less competition amongst VFX vendors cause it would be harder for smaller companies to start up. Then the rates for artists would drop cause their would be less competition for their services.

  6. Peter Greenaway says:

    “And none of them are worried about their job going away because of subsidies being unsustainable. They’re worried about the overall state of our industry and working conditions/bidding models.”

    “You wanna put some extra hours, because you wanna go some extra miles, and you’re trying to push things as far as you can as an “Artist”. Even if the project, and the money for that project do not require or facilitate that happening.” – Walt Jones-CG Supervisor.

    I think this is one of the problems facing the industry right now.
    Artist should stop, and have to stop once the 8h/day is done. He has to leave the building. If you love to work fore the sake of the art, go home, and work for your reel, painting, music or whatever art form you might want to dig into it.
    A JOB IS A JOB. Worker is pushed all the time to show what he can do the best, in the shortest amount of time and payed peanuts.

    Show me please another job in which the individual is treated so.

    But I know very well this issue. I am sure you do as well.
    And BTW. Subsidies and work conditions, are in a way different topics, but see?, both of them prove the absence of regulations in this business.

  7. Nick says:

    “British Columbia offers a 17.5% tax credit for digital animation or visual effects work, alongside its basic British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit, which is worth 33% of eligible labour expenditure. ”

    That’s 50+% right there. DAVE was introduced in 2003, it has raised the rate of return from 15 to 17.5% in 2010.

    “Angry Birds producers John Cohen and Catherine Winder explained that they spent time “searching the world to find the best animation facility” and clearly British Columbia’s digital animation incentive was a major factor in their final decision.

    Australia offers a competing 30% Post, Digital and Visual Effects Offset that helped secure massively successful animated feature The Lego Movie for Sydney-based digital studio Animal Logic.

    The UK is also hoping to attract more animated features, having introduced corporation tax relief in mid-2013. In related news, London is set to host a new branch of Industrial Light & Magic – the visual effects wing of Lucasfilm – to cater for upcoming productions like the new Star Wars film and Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, both of which will be based in London.”

  8. urizen says:

    “The NFB has been funding and making animated films for a long, long time.” -vfxrealist

    The accusation you throw in the faces of the wonderful NFB artists, Canadian and not, by attempting to link them and their art with our ongoing world wide vfx scam, is an .insult I never thought I’d ever hear, much less see committed to print. Even from a ‘realist’.

    Or did I miss the very sober and realistic Variety article announcing that the heads of the American Six are shutting down their studios in preparation to repatriate themselves and their families to set up new Canadian corporations-?

    -With “Neighbors II: The Evil That Toons Do” first up on the 2015’s slate of the new and improved Canadian product, in tribute to the NFB and Norman McLaren?

    If that’s actually the case, then the natural question that follows is whether the brave new business ventures of the formerly American but soon to be Canadian Six, come with a guarantee to protect the local taxpayer’s ‘investment’.

    Or will the Canadian citizenry be obliged to bend over and sweeten the deal every so often in order to remain worthy of the sheer honor it-

    As we have all lately witnessed with the lovely and talented Miss South Pacific, forking over not only even more of her cash to the happy Americans, but also, as a bonus just to show she really cares, her civil rights.

    Consider that.

    Nope, no world-wide race to the bottom to see here.

  9. Long Time Post and VFX Producer says:

    It was reported today that Sandra Bullock is going to make $70 million on Gravity, and you guys still think subsidies are the problem in our industry? If VFX companies recognized their values the way Sandra recognizes her own we wouldn’t have this squabbling.

    VFX companies need better agents and lawyers.

    And there are just too many VFX companies. It does not serve the VFX industry well. It only serves the Producers.

    • minoton says:

      So you’re saying Sandra got $70 million because she underbid Scarlett Johansen or some other actress who wanted $80 million?

    • Brett says:

      Terrible analogy. You tell me how many different people are capable of filling acting roles? It’s a much higher skilled profession. Not saying VFX doesn’t require skill, but there are many more capable of doing it versus acting especially when it comes to certain roles.

      • Joshua Briggs says:

        Brett you are completely missing the point. It is not comparing a single VFX artist to Sandra Bullock, its comparing VFX companies to Sandra Bullock.

        Why is Sandra set to make over 70 million? Because the movie was successful. She got paid an up front cost, then makes more money on the back end when the movie makes money. Would she have had to give any of that money back if the movie was a flop? No. her up front fee was set.

        We have to ask ourselves the same question. High end VFX, like everything else, should be at a premium. When you hire ILM, or R&H for characters, you get the full breadth of their experience they start from a higher baseline of quality. When you pay them the up front cost and the movie makes a killing, they don’t see any more money, unlike actors, directors, producers etc…

        I would argue with you on the point that Sandra Bullock was one of the few that could do a part like that. It is simply not true. There are more actresses that could play that part then there are VFX studios that could make that world. To prove my point the actor in Life of Pi completely new to the industry and had never acted before. Could you say that the Tiger, ocean and everything else could have been done by a new VFX shop? I don’t think so. The technology was built up over many years and many jobs.

        Gravity and Life of Pi would be nothing without VFX. Not to mention the other 100’s of movies that feature VFX. Sandra Bullock is actually quite a good analogy.

    • Brett says:

      Joshua, you missed my point then. I never compared a single VFX artist to a single actor.

      You are partially right on why she is set to make over $70 million. The other reason you are missing is the fact that actors can have contracts that include incentives and not just fixed bids is because they are fewer that can fill those roles the way the studio wants it filled.

      VFX studios don’t have that luxury because some other company can come in and underbid. Gone is the days that name only gets you something. There are so many up and coming VFX artists that a company can hire this guy or that to fill their line up.

      And you can make a point about the Life Of Pi actor all you want, but there are numerous new actors that don’t make it as well. If there weren’t numerous VFX companies that could underbid and still make the a movie happen, then VFX would have some leverage like actors do. If these things could only be done by very few companies, then they would hold the cards, not the other way around. That’s simply how economics work.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Certain shows can only be done by very few companies so you are not totally correct.

        For instance when wb threatened NZ with moving the hobbit offshore and when fox did the same with avatar they knew only weta and ILM, maybe sony could do the whole show. No other shop.

      • Brett says:

        I understand that a few shows might be that way, but a few shows don’t make an industry. Most VFX isn’t your fancy Avatar, Gravity, Life Of Pi type VFX.

        Second, the big companies such as WETA and ILM aren’t the ones being affected as much. They do hold more cards than anyone.

        Also, Avatar had many VFX companies on it, and saying only WETA, ILM and maybe Sony could do it is a bit naive considering R&H did Life Of Pi, and Framestore (which worked on Avatar) just did Gravity.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        It’s not naive. Different challenges man.
        Gravity was a completely different render load than avatar. Much less complex (don’t read less good or well executed here).

        Also avatar had other shops in it yes but they did mostly the live action stuff, holograms etc. the bulk of the cg work was weta with help from ILM.
        So compare apples not oranges man. Be precise and know your intel.
        These kind of discussions are useless if you guys just throw out imdb findings.

      • Brett says:

        I do think it is naive. The big companies have the ability to go out of the gate with their resources and are much more tested, but to tell me that some of these other companies couldn’t come in and do it and be willing to do it is naive.

        I understand the difference between renderings of the two, but that’s not talent/skill, that’s merely resources. Different challenges just means that some VFX companies are better suited for the task, but better suited doesn’t mean only ones capable.

      • Joshua Briggs says:

        Brett, I can see you are not going to change your mind no matter how wrong you are here. Again, there are many more A-list actresses that could have done the roll than there are VFX companies that could do the work. The difference is actors are represented properly ( agents, SAG etc..) VFX is not. You are also putting way too much emphasis on “underbidding” as if that is the reason all VFX shops go out of business. If your shop is more efficient or your management chooses to bid lower to get the work, the fine, that is the way every business out for a contract works. The difference here is the client holds ALL the power, and simply will not sign any contract you put in front of them… if you try make them.. they take away the work. No one would dream of that for any actor, director etc.. you want them? you sign a “pay or play” contract. You fire them, you pay anyway. And if you do take the contract for a lower cost… then they delay the work, expect changes for free or any other BS that these studios pull, in addition to putting a completely inept VFX supervisor in charge that ends up costing you even more…. The other part you are missing is its quite easy to move VFX from one company to another, again because of contracts, not so much if you have spent millions on a production shoot and you have to replace the actor… We can go on an on about the differences here, and you can continue to teach me “how economics work” but normal rules don’t apply, and until such time as ALL the studios get together and come up with a set of rules that ALL studios have to follow the Big 6 will continue to take advantage of us.

      • Joshua Briggs says:

        I forgot to mention, I understand that actors, directors etc.. have a box office draw that VFX studios do not, so to studios they are worth the cost because they will make it up by the draw. My point not that actors should not be paid, but they are simply better represented and have the option to get back end money. It’s clearly not a 1 to 1 comparison, but there are parallels and lessons to be learned. We need to stop letting ourselves be taken advantage of for the “glitz and glamor” of working on movies. We have to brand ourselves, we have value, and should be paid properly for it.

      • Brett says:

        First of all, you make many assumptions based upon my argument of one comment. I’m not arguing everything you are making a point of just the analogy of comparing an actress to a VFX company.

        But you just made a great point that actually backs me. “The other part you are missing is its quite easy to move VFX from one company to another, again because of contracts.” That means a newer company can sprout and hire people that have loads of experience. Or a smaller company can come in and temp hire guys to fulfill a job that they normally couldn’t.

        And never once did I say subsidies/underbidding is the cause of companies going out of business. That alone is a problem. Just as fixed bidding alone is not a problem. Its when they start combining the two that it starts to be a problem (along with tons of other issues).

        And you are right when it comes to Gravity that maybe there are more actresses that could do the job than VFX companies, but the issue isn’t with one movie. It’s with the industry and a majority of VFX in the industry are subtle and not over the top. ILM, WETA, and the likes aren’t going to be hurting because of underbidding. But for every Gravity there are tons of other movies like 12 Years A Slave that still have some VFX and don’t need the big VFX companies.

        Also, yes, actors/actresses are overvalued at times, but the talent pool is still limited comparatively. Especially since you can’t necessarily draw from the entire world for every part.

        And I will agree with representation as well. But that isn’t necessarily on the VFX community. When governments are giving subsidies and changing labor laws for the movie industry so they can get them to come to that nation, it already is a disadvantage to the VFX communities negotiations. They aren’t fighting just studios now, but also governments.

  10. Mdoz says:


    If subsidies end then half if all the film and television production worldwide will dissappear overnight.

    Have any of you ever tried to finance a film? Do you know that the majority of independent films rely heavily on offsets and subsidies just to make a project look even vaguely viable. Keep in mind that I’m not referring to your run n gun slasher fils here. I’m talking anything produced outside of the studio system. Hunger games, expendables etc. you kill off film subsidies you kill off film. This is the most fundamental aspect of the argument that most artsts do not get.

    Let’s say you manage to kill the subsidies and producers get don’t get that money. Where do they get it from? Those subsidies don’t line producers pockets they help get the projects off the ground to start with.

    Do you guys know how many film producers actually make money on films? Not many.

    Before you all rant at me for being a producer. I’m not I’m primarily an fx artist with over 20 years in the industry. But I’m also an independent film maker who knows how this game works.

    Knowledge is power. Attend a film market. Talk to producers. Educate yourself on the big picture.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      not buying it. the films were made for years without those huge subsidies. also they projects were longer. studios got greedy and rush productions to the release date in 9 months when it used to be 12 or 16. time – money – quality. slow down. give us time and you dont need to bleed 125 mio in vfx work. no forced overtime.

      also the boxoffice is bigger than ever. they MAKE tons of profit. you think they would STOP making avengers 2 and 3 just because they make LESS profit not NONE.


      • Mdoz says:

        Andreas, For every profitable movie ther are ten that flop horribly. That trend is set to intensify. Box office returns need to be close to three times the production budget to return dividends. You gotta know the business before you cry foul.
        Everyone is getting squeezed.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Avengers alone ruins your scheme. 250 for 1.12billion.

        Also 10 flop due to shit stories so it’s in their interest to not release crap.

        Again if you don’t release any no profit. I doubt they would want to do less as it’s still less profit. The budget doubled in the last 10 years. Why? Because they are rushed.

      • kyoseki says:

        Maybe they should stop bending us over to plaster VFX over shitty scripts then?

        Most of the big movies of last year tanked because people saw them for exactly what they were, disaster porn with massed of CGI to make up for lousy stories.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Agreed. But my point is that they still made profit. Not breaking even. So they will still do them without subsidies. It’s scare tactics.

      • kyoseki says:

        ^ “massed” should obviously be “masses”

      • kyoseki says:

        The limited level of nesting makes replies confusing.

        Yes, the industry will do fine without subsidies, they’ll do even better if they focus on making non shitty films.

      • Mdoz says:

        Sorry Andreas,

        You a fixating on one very profitable film only which is endemic to the arguments put forth here. You adapt guys grab one aspect of the truth ignoring everything else to support you IMHO I’ll thought out arguments. No one said that marvel studios wasn’t making profit on avengers. Out of 500 to 1000 films that got released that year that’s 1 of them that cleaned up at box office.

      • minoton says:

        Mdoz, as I said in another thread, 48 of the top 50 grossing films rely on visual effects or digital animation. Nobody is going to stop making vfx/animated movies any time soon. Too much money to be made. Movies also get infusions of cash from pre-sales to television and pay per view, home video sales, and marketing tie-ins. Not to mention any potential toys, etc.

      • Mdoz says:

        Minton, I didn’t say that vfx movies were going away???

        What I said was that studios currently borrow money to make these films. If the subsidies go, the budgets will get smaller. The free money doesn’t give studios profits! It gets the films made. Profits come when the movie returns both the production budget and the P&A and in some cases the MG as well. Considering that P&A is often more than the production budget, these movies have to make a truck load of money just to cover costs. Check out the budget of each of your top grossing films. Double it and then check to see how much they took in world wide grosses, pull out additional fees per territory’s approx 15% plus talent residuals and then you start to see what the real returns are. Then look at every film produced by that studio for that year, do the same figures on each film and tell me just how much profit there is.

      • minoton says:

        Mdoz, as our friends in the UK have pointed out, they were working on the big budget Harry Potter films without subsidies. The Lord of the Rings movies were also made without subsidies, but based on the favorable exchange rates in NZ at the time.
        Studios will make big budget movies without subsidies. They have, and they will. It won’t stop because these movies are their best bet at big box office receipts. Claiming that getting rid of subsidies will decrease work is nothing but a straw man scare tactic. The studios are just doing what anyone would do when winning the lottery . . . take the cash.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        You are correct. But they should start looking at their above the line cost and adjust accordingly. Don’t pay 20mio$ to will smith but give 10mio to Vfx. We make them money nowadays not the stars alone.
        I don’t feel bad or responsible if less tax money makes them analyses more where they spent their money.

  11. VFXNomad says:

    I think this quote from the movie was overlooked. “All of us, I think, at the end of the day are driven to create and that is what really gets us excited and drives us. The challenge with that, is that in many cases that can take over or at least that can cloud your judgement. You are going to put in extra hours becuase you want to go the extra mile and you are going to try to push things as far as you can as an artist, even if the project and the money for that project do not facilitate that.” Walt Jones, CG Supervisor for Rhythm and Hues

    • Long Time Post & VFX Producer says:

      Someone wants a Buick and you insist on giving them a Cadillac cause it gets you excited and drives you? Who’s problem is that? Un-cloud your judgement and just stop and go home, or stay a few extra hours to satisfy your own OCD and expectations.

      If the extra hours are done because meeting the clients expectations can’t be done in the allotted time, THEN we have a management problem that is typical of the business today. If you can’t stop as an artist don’t come crying to me.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Not quite the right analogy: it would be more correct to say that as artists you think we should be content to turn in a shitty Cadillac part rather than a decent Cadillac part.

        But since we value our craftsmanship ( and that’s what customers value in their completed Cadillac) a better way to protect ourselves would be to put proper labour rules in place to ensure there’s a cut-off point.

        This way the ultimate burden of responsibility for producing a superior product is shared with management, and workers get to stay physically healthily ‘and’ creatively nourished.

        Management may have begun to forget this, but this is what made the Cadillac such a great product in the first place… regulated enthusiasm rather than institutionalised mediocrity.

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        I hate Cadillac…Better a Mini Cooper.

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