Last summer a number of readers emailed me about a college in Buffalo, New York partnering up with a subsidy induced VFX startup called Empire VFX. I largely ignored the story because if you knew the intimate details of NY’s subsidy program, you’d realize it was actually a woefully ineffective program.
Well, now the President of Daemen College, Gary A. Olson, has written an article in The Huffington Post piggybacking on ADAPT’s Oscar March to proclaim they have a solution to the problem. We Can Keep the Visual Effects Industry Here in the U.S.:
The college has signed formal agreements with several community colleges in the region agreeing to enroll those of their students who graduate with a two-year digital media degree into our certificate program in visual effects. Once enrolled, these students have the unique opportunity to work side-by-side with professionals in our partner company on actual projects for the film and advertising industries. A Daemen student intern, for example, just helped resurrect Charlie the Tuna for StarKist.
Unfortunately Mr. Olson is on a road to hell paved with good intentions. If you’re a reader of my blog you’ve known about the Digital Domain Institute fiasco where Florida State University tried a similar student program that bankrupted Digital Domain that left Florida taxpayers with a $100 million hole in their pockets.
Secondly, Mr. Olson wrongfully believes he is saving the VFX industry by utilizing a tool that is actually destroying it: Subsidies. The Oscar march was not about protesting foreign outsourcing, it was a demonstration for an end to the subsidy race that causes an infinite cycle of displacement and to generate support for our legal effort against subsidies.
Mr. Olson also fails to recognize how unattractive his school’s program is for VFX. Does anyone seriously think a company that employs students that just learned roto, paint, and matchmoving is somehow going to even compete with New Zealand powerhouse Weta Digital?
New York’s film subsidy program is also very unattractive for VFX. In Canada, they have a permanent uncapped subsidy program that pays 60% of resident salaries. The program in NY is capped at a measly $7M a year going up to $25M in 2015. Why would a producer want to do their VFX work there when you get more bang for your buck and more free money across the border?
The real reason why Governor Cuomo is giving away NY taxpayer money to the movie studios based in Los Angeles (even though his own tax commission seriously questioned it) is because he and other NY politicians have received so much money from the film industry.
Last January I had the pleasure to meet with NY VFX pros and I said I hope to work together more often on these issues. If you are a NY VFX pro with the same concerns I have about this program, please send any comments to Thomas Regan, Associate Counsel at firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Monday, March 31, 2014 as they are reviewing the program.