Casualties Of The Subsidy Trade War: Prime Focus London


Tuesday morning I woke up early to do an interview with the BBC about the VFX industry. I argued that while the UK is benefiting from recent increases in subsidies for the film industry, I warned that Canada was offering much larger subsidies that pay 60% of labor wages.

A few hours later I get contacted by some people in the UK with indications that Prime Focus would shut down their London office after the email above was sent to employees. One would suspect the reason why an Indian VFX firm like Prime Focus would shut down operations in London was to ship more work to India but that was not the case. The email clearly confirms what I told the BBC earlier that morning: The subsidies in Canada are larger and US studios that receive them have demanded more VFX work be sent there.

For films that pass an EU mandated cultural test, productions can take advantage of a government subsidy that pays 25% on the first £20M and  20% on the rest of expenses in the UK that are capped at 80% of the total qualified expenses. What makes the UK subsidy very special is that it covers above the line talent salaries such as actors. So it’s quite probable that 20% of Sandra Bullocks $70M payday for Gravity may have been paid by UK taxpayers.

What’s not so nice for VFX is that the above the line talent and physical production costs can quickly hit that 80% expense cap which the Prime Focus email alludes to. While Canada doesn’t offer to pay above the line costs, they offer to pay the wages of VFX labor that have established residency. No caps, no cultural test, no other requirement that could be a big hurdle. So you can see why it makes sense to do your shoots in Louisiana, Georgia, and the UK where above the line talent is subsidized and go to Canada for VFX.

The Freight Train Mentality

In another part of my interview with the BBC I explained that many artists in the industry suffer from what I call the “Freight Train Mentality”. I’ve found that when it comes to subsidies many people ignore my predictions because it initially benefits them but when they finally get run over by the reality that some other location is willing to offer more or their subsidy program falls apart, they change their tune on subsidies.

That realization became very apparent for a few people at Prime Focus London who were very much against my efforts. Just last week an artist called me out on twitter which I’ve posted a few snippets. I think it’s an important teachable moment:

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.26.42 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.31.14 AM
It turned out the artist above was a PFL employee and admitted he had no idea how quickly things could have turned and retracted his statement. I told him no hard feelings. There were also staunch opponents who may have changed their tune also. If you remember some people were so motivated in derailing my efforts that they tried to find out who I was when I was blogging anonymously. The hope was that a threat of blacklisting would somehow intimidate me. Well even some of those people have come around after yesterday.

Some of them were people who not only acknowledged the subsidy race but endorsed it a while ago:

I am in London, and benefitting directly from these subsidies. I plan on going to Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Canada for work.
I chose this industry precisely because it allows for international mobility.
If the susbsidies are stopped what reason do California located film studios have for outsourcing work to far off lands like London or Sydney, with massive time zone differences and no appreciable gain in quality? None.
So don´t count on my support for this anytime soon.

The person who made the statement above was also a PFL employee. My guess is things quickly change when you fall in love and marry. Sorry that this happened to any of you but I hope you understand why I feel passionately about this issue and why it’s practically impossible to continue working in this industry with an expensive and permanent cycle of displacement.

A Facebook friend said it best:

You can tap dance around sympathy until empathy punches you in the face.

Soldier On.


112 Responses to Casualties Of The Subsidy Trade War: Prime Focus London

  1. thumb says:

    Funnily enough, I used to support your views until you made it clear that you’re only willing to discuss solutions that keep the work in LA. Very few people here in London are under any illusion that everything is fine or that the shitstorm would pass us by. But you’re not interested in helping us. Why would we support you for that?

    Solidarity isn’t just us on your side. It’s also you on ours.

    • vfxer says:

      I think we should remain united internationally. Now in the uk we can do something about it. Join the union so there is protection for situations just like this and collective bargining

    • Dave Rand says:

      HIs views have never changed and have never drawn that conclusion. I challenge you post a link to a any piece where Daniel is claiming all the work should return to California.

      Drawing that conclusion is based on the misconceptoin that subsidies are the only reason there is a VFX business anywhere but in California, and that one location will forever be the center of the film universe without them.

      We should be chasing talent and branding and not political bribes that actually helping keep one place in power and everyone else on that nipple.

      It is my personal belief that productions are the most profitable when the entire production is done in the same location allowing the director to direct keeping the meter running, the direction live and immediate while working in human space, not cyberspace. UK, BC, NZ, OZ, and every other country all have great locations and great stories to tell.

      We can never have any solidarity as long as one of the worst side effect of subsidies prevails, that is, keeping us forever at each other’s throats.

      • King of Mt. Pixel says:

        “It is my personal belief that productions are the most profitable when the entire production is done in the same location allowing the director to direct keeping the meter running, the direction live and immediate while working in human space, not cyberspace.

        Some people used to also personally believe that the world was flat, that television would be the end of cinema, that the VCR would be the end of cinema and that women in Salem were witches.

      • Thomas says:

        Your personal belief does not alter reality. Reality should alter your belief though.

    • Don't Pick On The Little Guy says:

      This is exactly what I’ve been saying 🙂 When he points his fingers at those of us in other areas, he starts pitting people against each other rather than uniting us. He’d be better off just asking us to support him to help raise California up, rather than tearing the rest of us down.

      • minoton says:

        I believe in a united industry. I believe we all should be united in ending subsidies. Subsidies is what divides us. Always will. Everyone will always grumble against the place with the largest subsidies. The only solution is eliminate subsidies. United in that we should stand.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      And you are doing what to support yourselves? Unpaid overtime, slow union movement (faster than the us at least) and collusion. Yet uk workers don’t feel the should do something….
      Now Montreal is threatening jobs and it’s STILL poor daniel who is to blame…wake up guys we all need to stop this race to the bottom! Together!

      • Charlie says:

        Some of us her in the UK refuse to work unpaid overtime but then you’ll get called into an office with the sups asking you if you like your job (aka threatening you).

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        That is terrible to here. I would being that to HR attention as this is grounds for law suits. Union or no union.
        It seems even in Montreal some artist get OT while some don’t. How is that fair?

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        I am blacklisted from every single company just because I was against the abuses in VFX.
        I found something else to do until, “hopefully” normality will be the word of the day.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Peter: I feel you. I’m blacklisted from some for being vocal as well.

      • Rob says:

        “I would being that to HR attention as this is grounds for law suits.”

        HR told me that they would have to cancel my contract due to my unwillingness regarding unpaid overtime. They put it a bit differently, probably to avoid a possible legal backlash but it was still clear as day.
        In London, there’s only one thing one can do if one doesn’t want to be treated like that: Move abroad.

      • Charlie says:

        I actually asked the HoD why they weren’t pleased with my perfomance and he/she couldn’t give me a straight answer.

        After a lot of back and forward it turned out that it was because I didn’t want to stay to 9pm every night working for free.

        They always go on about how privilege we are working on these films and how we should be grateful.

  2. James says:

    Very well put, as a PFL employee (temporarily, I am a freelancer who has enjoyed the fun of Pixomondo collapse, Molinare shrinks and general wage squeeze) I have been warning people for some time that the industry as it stands is doomed to boom bust in ever shrinking cycles. The resistance you have been getting from PFL and others is from staff members. People on contracts who have been safe and secure in the same job for 4 or 5 years and have no first hand experience of quite how cut throat its getting out there in freelance world. It has gotten to the point for me that I have decided to leave the industry I love, go back to school and get myself into something a little more secure. I hate that this has become my only option for future security but this most recent closure is not where it ends. In 10 years time the industry could well be moving from Canada (where the subsidies are very unpopular with a lot of local people) to some where else. In 20 years maybe moving again. Production companies and studios may wake up one morning and find that the sector of the industry that they rely on so much, and value so little, is in utter disarray.

    • Easy says:

      I read this as I get ready for my classes for today. I’m getting off this rollercoaster sometime this year by learning something new. I had fun but it’s time to stop being a sucker. You are all smart, capable people. Stop being stupid and take a good look at what you’re doing. Have a look at people you know in other industries. Who else puts up with this garbage? Those that do are paid a fortune to run all over the world. You are just a political whim and a signature away from having to pack up again. Good luck with that.

  3. LAskyline says:

    “The email clearly confirms what I told the BBC earlier that morning: The subsidies in Canada are larger and US studios that receive them have demanded more VFX work be sent there.”

    No, it just confirms that the management there will blame anyone except themselves for their failures. This is the same outfit that couldn’t manage to make their UK commercials division work whilst MPC, the Mill, Framestore and everyone else are all making out like bandits.

  4. tough says:

    I think there is more to this than subsidies. Word on the street is a takeover of DNEG so they dont need two VFX facilities in one location.

    • Cold Water says:

      If DNeg is in a situation that they are willing to sell to Prime Focus, what does that say about the state of DNeg’s business?

    • Jim O'Hagan says:

      I work at Dneg and I’d like to know from what street that word came. The only place I’m hearing that rumor is out of the US/Canada. That’s a pretty big deal if true and would be very hard to keep secret in London.

      • itot says:

        I heard this a month ago from PF Indian headoffice, they were curious buying out Dneg. It will be really unethical on PF if they do that and not accommodate migration of the team to Dneg.

      • Jim O'Hagan says:

        Word at Dneg is that this is a flat-out lie. It’s not happening.

      • curious says:

        OK, Jim. So what’s the word at Dneg on the new Vancouver office? I mean that’s a barely kept secret, right?
        Funny thing is, I’ve had people ask me why Dneg were opening into Prime Focus’s existing Vancouver office and using their accounting team.
        Also PF execs have been visiting Dneg Soho offices.
        Stay tuned.

      • Jim O'Hagan says:

        The only word I have about Dneg Vancouver is that it’s happening.

        As for your other statements, I haven’t heard anything regarding those. Except, on a nit-picky-technicality note, Dneg moved out of Soho 18 months ago, so if your sources specifically said “Soho offices,” they don’t have all the info they think they do.

        With only hearsay and without hard evidence, this is all nothing. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. As you said, stay tuned.

      • Jim O'Hagan says:

        Well, apparently, it’s true. I stand corrected. Dneg has merged with Prime Focus World. My internal sources were as surprised as I am. Dneg is visual effects and PFW is stereo conversion under the umbrella of PFW corporate. Dneg Van will open in the same building as PFW, but will not share office space – considered separate companies. We’re told that Dneg will retain financial and creative control over itself, meaning nothing should change day-to-day. No word on migration between the companies.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        So much for inside sources lol..,

      • Joe VFX says:

        People closest to a problem situation are usually the ones least able to see it, and are most vulnerable to believing lies from management. I’d be willing to bet that whatever info led you to say “Word at Dneg is that this is a flat-out lie. It’s not happening.” was at least indirectly trickled down from management hoping to prevent leaks of info. Of course you shouldn’t have believed them. You and your internal sources may have been surprised, but none of us outside of it were, even without any inside info. The rumor agreed with repeated stories over many years, including ones reported here (see the link to DNeg financial statement), about how DNeg isn’t in a good financial situation and was looking for a buyer, and also about Prime Focus’ financial situation and strategy. Only time will tell how this all plays out …

  5. Ortiz says:

    PF have no money. It’s insanity. Even if they cobble together some new debt packages to finance the purchase, the bigger problem is the management and business acumen of PF (that could be connected with the cultural issues of higher Indian castes).

    It will do nothing for Dneg as PF will impose the same business model that has consistently failed for PF. All just plates spinning using investor funds, debts and tax breaks. Dneg cannot carry on as-is, so obviously PF are assuming that changing dneg management practices to PF practices will change things for the better. As explained, it won’t. So Dneg will go “puff” within 2 years when creditors and angry investors catchup with reality.

  6. VFX Truth says:

    I do apologize Soldier, Dave Rand and all the other blowhards but YOU are saying the industry should all come back to LA by carelessly speculating companies like DNeg will go bust and the industries woes are all due to tax incentives. R&H did not go bust because of tax incentives, they kept too many expensive staff with no work. That’s called bad business.

    The truth of the matter is that there are too many VFX ‘artists’ in the world, with thousands more being trained up yearly. There are too many companies in the world, with more opening all the time. The days of artists getting the stupidly big bucks — anywhere in the world are long gone.

    Get used to it.

    By the way if individual countries want to add tax incentives they can and will and do … by the way the US are one of the worst offenders.

    • polyphemus says:

      Besides the fact that John Hughes was trying to get everyone who would listen to move to R+H Vancouver asap.

      And who has at pretty much every company/financial meeting laid the blame on UK/Canadian subsidies, and that the Indian studios wasn’t enough to compete with dirt cheap labor.

      R+H Failed for a number of reasons including subsidies.. anyone who believe tax credits/subsidies didn’t have a bearing on R+H going bust is in dreamland.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      This has and always will be a total strawman argument. I’ve been one of the biggest activists against film subsidies here in CA, other states, and abroad.

      I have record. Look it up.

    • Earl Grey says:

      The days of artists getting the stupidly big bucks — anywhere in the world are long gone.

      Depends on the industry. At least one “3d Animator” earned $6000/week for a 40-hour work week at a Local 839 shop last year, in addition to getting three pensions + health insurance on his or her 839 contract.

      Looks like the 839 animation studios are still willing to pay top money for top talent, even if the VFX shops are not.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Important not to forget the 10-week paid bonus to Walt Disney Animation employees who are also animation guild members. Lots of VFX artists there from Imageworks, DD, and Rhythm.

        I even posted my pension checks from last year.

        Everyone is entitled to their opinions I guess. Just think it’s important to show some facts.

      • polyphemus says:

        I think the people who think the big money is gone or the big rates are gone are buying the line of BS coming from the company they work for or is unwilling to do what it takes to earn top dollar in their respective field, or someone who cannot negoatiate, and has to tear down others.

        Especially if they are not exposed to their jobs finances… just look at the general ignorance on the numbers behind the “tax credits” as a case example.

        TAG is great if you can get a job at a union shop, starting salaries at 28-29$/hr right out of a school? No wonder the juniors at DWA/Disney don’t want to step foot into the rest of the industry.

        I know a few junior artists were upset at getting locked into their rates for 3 years with the latest contract but after looking at the state of pay for their experience level anywhere else that wasn’t a union shop they stayed put.

      • tough says:

        comparing Walt Disney to vendor based VFX is stupid. They are very different.

      • matteobject says:

        There’s no fucking way anyone’s getting paid $150/hr just for animation unless it’s a super short term emergency gig, that’s $300k a year.

        Someone’s either lying, or didn’t read the fine print and put down the most they earned during a week of heavy overtime, $6000 isn’t uncommon working an 80 hour week.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        my guess is the reported 2 weeks bill period or monthly 300 per week is still 75$/hr and anim supe level, monthly would be 37$/hr and thats mid level and normal.

      • matteobject says:

        $75/hr I can believe, but that’s not $6k/wk, someone screwed up their numbers and now people are taking them as gospel.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        as i said 75/hr per week is 3000$. maybe they get paid biweekly.,

      • polyphemus says:

        My guess the $6000/week is someone listing overtime hours.

        With the old dreamworks contracts, they had overtime baked into the rates at 45/50 hours a week, regardless if you worked them or not. In 2013 it was ruled illegal in CA to pay people like that hense everyone getting raises to offset the difference plus backpay in 2013.

        Unless we’re talking about someone who is a director/animator on the scale of “Glenn Keene” or one of the 2d animator holdovers from the 1990s when salaries were pretty up there for rank and file animators.

      • Earl Grey says:

        My guess the $6000/week is someone listing overtime hours. …

        Unless we’re talking about someone who is a director/animator on the scale of “Glenn Keene” or one of the 2d animator holdovers from the 1990s when salaries were pretty up there for rank and file animators.

        The wage survey is for 40-hour work weeks. I suspect it is the latter situation.

      • matteobject says:

        You’re still relying on someone accurately reporting their salary, compare it to the other roles around it, 3D animators are far from replaceable, so I don’t buy it for a second.

        There is no way someone in a role as common & competitive as “3D animator” is getting $6k a week without overtime, not unless they’re really a department supervisor who still thinks they’re an animator and that’s a stretch.

        Even then, look at the median income, which is around the 2.1k/week mark which equates to $52.50/hr, which sounds far more reasonable – if it were more than one idiot incorrectly reporting his best week, the median income would be a LOT higher.

      • polyphemus says:

        Half the people I knew at Dreamworks reported overtime in their survey. They got paid for 45-50 hours when they worked 40 hours. So they put down the higher rate, not recalculated to reflect the extra hours [which would technically be correct after payroll corrected the wages upward in 2013].

        Don’t forget there is a few holdovers from 1990s animation at Disney and DWA where a wage price war happened and you had animators pulling in quarter of a million dollars to keep them from leaving to the other side. These days most of those people are gone except for people who are supes or directors or in the story department. In which case they are misclassified possibly on the survey.

        Hell for all we know someone threw in a bonus payment in as well.

    • WackATroll says:

      Seriously, another one of you trolls to wack? Demonizing any artist who dares stand against the giant, spouting the exact same baseless straw-man bullshit to defend an illogical, uneducated, unsympathetic, blind-eye position and advocating the adoption of your helpless slave mentality.

      It’s getting old.

    • minoton says:

      R&H found it hard to bid competitively against companies that could lower their bids by 58.4% of their labor costs. Also, if a studio awarded R&H a show, they required R&H to make up the amount of the subsidy the studio was not getting by not awarding the show to a facility in a subsidized location.

      • fxing says:

        r+h has/had a facility in vancouver

      • minoton says:

        True, but it wasn’t very large at the time R&H went under, and didn’t open until near the end for R&H. It was a last ditch attempt to win work after what I previously mentioned had already taken it’s financial toll. R&H BC was just too little too late to have any kind of impact for the stability of the company. R&H’s last shows were already in-house at the time their BC facility opened. When upcoming shows were pushed, so was the anticipated income and R&H found itself with a cash-flow problem.

  7. Dave Rand says:

    My response to the quote in the article above

    “..makes me wonder, if Britan and America were to switch would you guys be kicking up such a big fuss?”

    Would be this statement:

    If Englshwood had worked over 100 yrs to establish a brand name in the film industry, and a VFX industry started here in California soley dependant on Englishwood for work by a system that involved handouts going directly to Englishwood from our local taxpayers, a system that ultimately would keep Englishwood dominant in the film industry and the VFX industry, and never allow Hollywood to flourish on it’s own….yes I’d be dead against that.

    I ask my local government to finance our own local growth so that we could begin buildig a brand the world would be respected worldwide.

    • Dave Rand says:

      I then I’d learn how to type : )

    • tough says:

      I would ask my government then to restrict the release of your movies then Dave. Hollywood would die without foriegn box office. Hence why every studio is desperate to gain market share in China, India and all the other nations.

      • Earl Grey says:

        Hollywood would die without foriegn box office.

        …and, apparently, foreign VFX shops would die without Hollywood projects.

        Dave Rand’s right. I’d rather see British taxpayer money fund British productions, instead of STAR WARS and CAPTAIN AMERICA.

  8. VFX Truth says:

    Sorry Soldier but do you really think the British government would be paying out to the studios if it wasn’t a creditable situation, the same with the BC government. Look at the British government lauding the next Star Wars standalone film being shot at Pinewood yesterday.

    I also hate your complete distortion of figures, the BC system is a rebate system, so pulling the 60% number is completely false. Every film is audited for qualifying labor and those auditors are real tough – as they should be – the actual percentage of rebate is based on the labor used, so in reality the percentage given back to the studio is usually in the 25% – 30% range.

    Please do not associate the teacher’s strike in BC with this either. as that is just stupid.

    ALL VFX artists should look at teacher’s wages and realize that is what the going rate for wages is in the real world. I cannot believe someone is bragging about getting $6K a week … how sustainable is that ???

  9. VFX Truth says:

    The 60% is the MAXIMUM you can claim … no-one is getting that. It’s called a rebate because the amount of qualified labor is audited after is it spent, the auditors are very very thorough.

    It is a complete red herring as the maximum amount you can claim on every dollar spent is 38% which is achieved by a combination of provincial and national credits.

    You do lie, spin, whatever figures or studies you choose to back your argument but of course you have to now as the truth is that this is your career now.

    You should change your title from VFX soldier to VFX politician, as that is what you’ve sunk to …

    • VFX Soldier says:

      If a VFX artist has established legal residency in British Columbia the production can claim 60% of that person’s wages for a government subsidy.

      You disagree and claim that it’s 38%. Please show everyone how you arrive to that conclusion.

      On Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 12:11 PM, VFX Soldier wrote:


    • minoton says:

      Sounds to me, if it’s not taken, you need to change your handle to VFX Denial. You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. The volumes of links, articles, reports, stats reported here and other blogs are the real vfx truth. If you can produce the same amount stating otherwise, I’m sure everyone here would love to read them.

    • BCIT Boy says:

      The truth hurts the spin doctors.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      Dude even if the figure is 15% it gas the same distorting effect. Acknowledge that or get out of the way.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Man, fuck Fox. Fuck Warner Brothers. And fuck Dreamworks. And fuck any other greedy fuckers at the other studios that I forgot. Fuck ’em all.

  11. VFX Truth says:

    Here you go.

    When adding your figures remember the maximum labor percentage you can claim is 65%.

    These guys are used by the studios as well.

    The point of TRUTH is that you deliberately distort these figures by saying 60% giving the impression that studios are claiming 60% but the absolute MAXIMUM rebate you can claim in BC is 38% of the value of the contract.

    The other point is that NO-ONE is getting that either, as it’s a rebate system but that doesn’t give you your politician sound bite does it !

  12. VFX Truth says:

    And your file as highlighted below shows your lie …

    You cannot claim for more than 65% labor on any tax claim, change your 100% to 65% and the result is 38% … which is the absolute MAXIMUM labor percentage allowed.

    Try to understand the rules of the rebate before continuing to spread your LIES.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Where in that image does it say 65% is the limit?

      Again, calling me a liar isn’t going to help when you realize there is no 65% cap for US productions.

      Here is the BC PSTC. No 65% cap:

      Click to access cit_010.pdf

      Here is the BC Dave Tax credit. No 65% cap.

      Click to access cit_011.pdf

      Could you provide me a source to your 65% claim?

    • VFX Truth,

      You can claim 100% labor if, no BS, 100% costs was spent on BC labor.

      The limits you mention ONLY apply to the domestic content incentives and only then when you are talking about the FEDERAL incentive. Only that program limits your labor credit to 60% of total costs, less provincial assistance.

      Please use the FIBC calculator and you will see how this plays out and why the producer still gets 58% for every dollar they spend on BC VFX labor.

  13. Vfxguy says:

    Who gives a fuck about prime focus?

    • VFX Truth says:

      Please go and ask anyone who has made a claim … the maximum labor that the BC government recognises is 65%, which is a 38% rebate … which NO-ONE is getting anyway !!!

      Any company that is using more than 65% on a visual effects contract will be going out of business anyways !!!

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I have. We also spoke to studio side producers who both agreed with the 58.4% claim. Nobody mentioned a 65% cap until you came on my blog. We specifically asked the BC government if there was a cap in my post and it clearly shows them saying there is no cap.

        Sometimes no cap actually means no cap.

        I’d be more than happy to relay the information you claim to know but if you say there is a 65% max labor rule you need to cite the source. (and not call me a liar of course) 🙂

      • Most recently, I personally discussed the VFX rebate with a senior producer on a major film that did VFX in BC (and elsewhere).

        We would love to have him explain why you are absolutely mistaken to clear this matter up (again) in a public forum. If you really do want that embarrassment, I would love to make that happen for you. I admit, I take perverse pleasure in doing this now. It’s gotten so ridiculous.

        If you want to take me up, please email me at Better yet, call my direct work line tomorrow at 213.977.8636 and we can conference him together. Or, better yet, if you are in LA or will be in the near future, we can go see him together (assuming he is in town). Lunch is on me. No 60% needed.

      • Tazzman says:

        No one is buying your load. You are constantly shown to be wrong Truth.

    • Also, who gives a fuck about Prime Focus? Probably the 4,500 people they employ in Canada, China, India, the US and the UK. Also, the governments of those places, many of which offer generous subsidies and compete for their business.

      Definitely not people who would waste arguing on the web when they are factually incorrect, even when shown proof they are wrong.

      2+2=4. But how can you argue with the person who insists its 5?

      Take care buddy.

  14. SkullAndBones says:

    VFX Truth is obviously incapable of reading comprehension or logical thought. Apart from the “65% cap” falsehood, let’s examine this statement of his:

    “The 60% is the MAXIMUM you can claim … no-one is getting that.”

    VFX Truth, although it may be hard for you to understand this, the following two statements can both be true:

    – The Canadian/BC government (combined) pays for approximately 60% of qualified labor. Or, as VFX Soldier put it in a blog headline: “FACT: Government Pays 60% of British Columbia Resident VFX Salaries”. This statement is TRUE.
    – Studios with VFX work in BC receive rebates on the order of 30% or sometimes more of their overall vfx costs. This statement does not conflict with the previous statement. Why? Because yes, not all employees qualify as BC residents (although this is less true for some facilities than others, and becoming less an issue over time as the workforce settles in BC), and because not all of the costs in a bid are for labor anyway.

    There, that wasn’t hard. Was it? No one is saying “studios get 60% back of their overall costs”. On a related note, why do you think there is such a push to do work in Montreal? Because of that handy rebate of theirs that gives back 20% (previously 25%) of ALL costs, not just qualified labor. When combined with the other rebates available there, this pushes the average overall rebate in Montreal higher than the average overall rebate in Vancouver.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Great point. I just don’t understand why is there this outrage about 60%. If you support subsidies you should be loud and proud about that.

      However what they tacitly know is that 60% is way too much. I mentioned this figure to an economist at the Milken Institute panel and he immediately said: “That’s not sustainable and will not last.”

    • VFX Truth says:

      But SkullAndBones that is exactly was VFX politician is doing … he is insinuating that the rebate is 60%. He goes on TV in Canada, or the UK and stirs the pot. To what end ? Gloating that PF London is downsizing is not right even for a politician.

      My main point is that the visual effects industry is over saturated, world wide. There is no way 3000 artists in London is sustainable, as it wasn’t in LA.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Okay. The bullshit is getting thick. I asked you twice to show me government documentation that there is a cap on labor expenses for the 60% subsidy and you haven’t shown it.

        You’re embarrassing yourself. I’ve provided direct evidence for you. Even your own evidence supports my claim. You accuse me of lying and now you want to change the subject? This is laughable.

        Provide me with one shred of reliable evidence that the government of BC mandates labor expenses be capped at 60%. Go ahead.

        I have my record. You have yours and so far it’s looking pretty bad for you.

  15. Surely the point here is that the Studios are making tons of cash from all these rebates/ incentives, most of the big studios are based in LA and have in the past, before the tax incentives etc. favoured LA based VFX houses.

    Things have changed dramatically in the last decade, technology has made it possible and even easy to work remotely or with different parts of a company spread around the world, this alone opens up possibilities to use things like cheap labour and now governments and investors have got involved they can distort the market for financial gain, we all know what these people are like, they don’t think long term or consider sustainability.

    So back to the Studios, who owns them?, I’m willing to bet that they are ultimately the same people who gain from other aspects of the “investment”, what I’m getting at is that the whole setup is no better than the shitty games the banks played, and no matter how absurd the figures are, and how many companies get burned on the way certain people will be guaranteed a fat payout.

    What are we doing about it?, squabbling among ourselves about the size of the subsidies and what effect it’s going to have, marvelling at the mess the industry is in, and all the time the “investors” who may or may not have political connections are collecting the cash.

    Somewhere these folks are all laughing their cocks off.

    Or am I mistaken?

  16. Pulsifer says:

    I have no problem with any country supporting it’s own indigenous film & TV business with tax credits and rebates. If France, or Canada, wishes for example to foster the production of French-language programming produced on their territory, I whole-heartedly support them. Where we part ways is when they go after MY business, and force me to either become Canadian, or leave the business I’ve been working in for thirty years.

    You all understand that the point of the structure of these rebates is to strand costs on the production side, while providing a government imprimatur for the studios to siphon out investor capital, that otherwise could be called fraud, right? Saving money is not the point – sending something to India simply hastens the day when a royalty check to a net-profit investor must be cut. Send it to Canada, and the kickback goes to the studio, leaving an ever-higher net profit wall on the production side. A vastly more comfortable an arrangement for the studios.

  17. exVfx says:


    I have been out of the vfx industry for just over a year. I am british and have only ever worked at British vfx companies. Dneg, Framestore, PF, MPC as well as a ton of smaller ones. The only thing I would say to any of them now is to go and royally fuck themselves! Low wages? FUCK YOU! shit hours? FUCK YOU! threats? Go fuck yourself!!! We as digital artists are completely abused and the bottom line is that in every place I have worked the top brass are all absolute shit at negotiating and planning rates, time etc… Yes we all know subsidies are a major issue but at the end of the day we cannot do a single thing about it. Nothing will change that fact.

    I am so glad to be out of the industry, I’m on a permanent contract now making 35k per year, 28 days holidays, pension scheme, subsidised travel and many other “family” benefits.

    I’m really sorry but I couldn’t give 2 shits about the state of the industry in the US, UK, Canada, NZ or anywhere else. The vendors are being held over a barrel by the studios scrounging over the subsidies here there and everywhere which like I’ve said before will never EVER change!!! Don’t make the mistake in thinking you can make a difference and wasting your lives.. This battle is lost….

    May I lastly say that the death of PFL would be a great thing. They treat many of their mid-senior artists like shit (don’t get me started on the newbies) and to a man, have the worst HR and management I have ever seen. As for dneg, from what I hear from close friends they are absolutely fucked, which is unfortunate because I loved my time there…. 😦

    Soldier on… Don’t soldier on, I didn’t and I’m all the better for it.

    • Rob says:

      Sure, you can always switch fields and take a major hit in your wage and probably not do what you really enjoy.
      But is that really satisfactory? I’ve spent years becoming a skilled professional in this field and I want to be treated like one. I don’t see why university level educated specialists in any other field should be better off than anybody in the VFX industry.
      And I HAVE spent quite a lot of time thinking about trying something else. But it’s always tied to losing lots of time and money. While working in a field I don’t really enjoy. So at least for the time being, I’ll soldier on.

    • Thomas says:

      I am with Rob on this one. I am glad you have 8 extra holidays and a pension, but I rather look after myself and earn twice as much as those 35k a year. The “trick” is to not work for the big facilities all the time as they will push your rate down.

  18. Annoyed says:


    Please apologise to VFX Truth.

    He has very graciously shown you that you are WRONG about the 60% figure, and has even given you the link that PROVES that you are a LIAR!!!

    Yes, it may only apply to Candaian produced content, but that is IRREVELEVANT!

    As we all know, Canadian productions are what are really at issue here in the discussion of VFX work being sent around the globe in a destructive race to the bottom in which literally nobody wins. Please stop trying to confuse the situation by conflating what’s important and throwing in Hollywood movies.

    If I am a producer making a Canadian film, say for example 1971’s “Mon oncle Antoine” (My Uncle Anthony), the maximum I can claim back for labor works out at 38%. I know somebody who’s dog used to go to the same Kennels as a guy who knew someone who worked as a finacial advisor on that project, and if you have the decency to ask him (even though you don’t know who he is), you will see that you are mistaken… I mean a LIAR sorry!!

    I am even happy to give you my phone number and you can call me on that nuymber at my office and we could go for lunch and stuff. I’d rather do that than just post a link or briefly explain why you’re wrong, it’s much easier that way.

    Sony Imageworks did not just announce that they are relocating their entire headquarters, laying off hundreds of staff, and moving to a multi million dollar building that doesn’t exist yet, to employ new staff who haven’t been hired yet, because of a subsidy on resident vfx labor. They are doing it because they like skiiing and Poutine.

    Kindly apologise to VFX Truth because he has made you look very, very silly.

  19. Boe Jangles says:

    VFX Soldier – I commend you for a valiant throw of the stone as David faces Goliath. You are not only up against 6 studio majors, but the deca-billion media conglomerates that overlord the studio divisions.

    Let’s look at the following example (subsidies aside)

    Sony ($75 billion sales in 2014) -> Sony Pictures -> VXF Soldier (maybe 10k in an offshore savings account?)

    For every dollar you have, Sony has 7.5 million times more to take you on anytime, anywhere.

    This site is like a Somalian pirate boat throwing harpoons at a US Aircraft Carrier – that doesn’t want you in the way.

    I hope this post will spur you on ever further, so you can board that carrier and one day scream out “I’m the captain now!”

    • Easy says:

      Every 6 months it’s the same thing. Subsidies aren’t 60%! Yes they are! Back and forth 10x and it always ends with this kind of statement.

      • Boe Jangles says:

        Money = Leverage = Aircraft Carriers. I learned this in my Entertainment Business Management 101 course I recently attended at Vancouver Film School (I’m looking for some subsidies for my tuition as we speak).

  20. Paul says:

    The problem is that most if not all people supporting D. Lay and bitching about the system secretly believe to death that 100% of the vfx jobs should, must and actually belong to Los Angeles.

    You want a level playing field? Fine there you go! No more subsidies nowhere. Then what? How much percentage of the jobs would “come back”, 10% – 20% at most?

    Please prove or explain how a level playing field would bring the situation to where it was 10-15 years with 100% of the jobs lost actually being reinstated right here in LA.

    • minoton says:

      “The problem is that most if not all people supporting D. Lay and bitching about the system secretly believe to death that 100% of the vfx jobs should, must and actually belong to Los Angeles.”

      Please show your polling data for the above statement. I could just as easily ‘claim’ that all people in subsidized locations fear that 100% of the work would return to L.A. if they didn’t have government subsidies shoring up their ability to get work. But my claim is only as true as your claim . . .

      “You want a level playing field? Fine there you go! No more subsidies nowhere. Then what? How much percentage of the jobs would “come back”, 10% – 20% at most?

      Please prove or explain how a level playing field would bring the situation to where it was 10-15 years with 100% of the jobs lost actually being reinstated right here in LA.”

      I don’t know. Nobody knows how much work will return to L.A., if any. The data is just as apparent as your claim that “all people” want “100%” of the VFX jobs back in L.A. What the people in L.A., and in the rest of the U.S. just want a fair chance to compete for VFX work based on the merits of the facility, regardless where it’s located. Who wants to get into a a 100 meter race with someone who has a 60 meter head start? Who wants to compete for an artist position against someone who’s rich father is willing to pay the boss 60% of his kid’s salary just to hire his kid and make him happy, irregardless of talent? In America, there is a car race, the IROC (International Race Of Champions) where all drivers are supplied identical cars. Whoever wins, wins based on better driving skill and abilities over the other drivers. Level playing field.

      It’s not a matter of turning back the clock 10, 15, or any arbitrary number of years. It’s about making TODAY as fair as possible. Digital Darwinism. Level playing field. Maybe some facilities will relocate back to L.A. if the studios no longer dictate where the work has to be performed just so they can soak up some tax payers’ money. Maybe some will decide to avoid the oncoming (delayed) Obamacare employer mandate in 2015. I don’t know. My Magic Eight Ball is a toy. But all the supporters here ask is to eliminate market distorting subsidies. I understand peoples’ fears. They fear losing what other people feared losing 10, 15 years ago. And as long as subsidies exist and countries continue to top each other, there will always be that fear.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      After setting VFX Truth’s straw man on fire another straw man argument is made up.

      Do me a favor and google my name and “ab 1839” the current subsidy bill in CA. You’ll find that I have been opposed to subsidies in the newspapers and I’ve also attended two city hall meetings criticizing film subsidies.

      Where’s your record?

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      there you have it, nbobody does claim it will go back to 5 years ago. id argue 20-30% would come back to LA as the directors and studios are here and as you saw with JJ he likes doing his movies here. the rest has to be done where the workforce is. by now we displaced 3000 vfx workers from LA to vancouver and london. so of course thats not going to trickle back. and if they are happy with a new home they should stay employed. but the studios should chose to do effects at say scanline vancouver because they want scanline not because they want cheapVfxVendorX

      • Earl Grey says:

        the rest has to be done where the workforce is. by now we displaced 3000 vfx workers from LA to vancouver and london.

        6000 VFX workers are now working in London alone, according to a December 2013 article.

        Another “advantage” that London has over California is overtime legislation. In California, unpaid overtime is illegal. In London, employers don’t have to pay overtime as long as the employee’s average pay doesn’t fall below the national minimum wage.

        Unpaid overtime (aka: underpaid artists) is one way London VFX shops will continue to underbid California VFX shops after the subsidies end.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        You are correct earl grey so let’s help those poor souls unite and join Bectu and get paid overtime like the rest of the Vfx world!

  21. My name is MUD! says:

    I moved to London 10 years ago to get ahead in the industry and then eventually return to LA. Eventually I had to stay because all the work left LA. I hate it here. I would kill my grandmother to move back and work in LA…or anywhere else.

    Why is everyone bickering? The bottom line is we are asking for a level playing field and having a stable job, just like every other profession. No one can sustain moving around. Its that simple. And why should people be forced to move?

    It starts with the Studios raping everyone, and the trickle down. Fixed Bids? What a joke?! Somehow that has to stop. Or does it start with us, the victims? Of course we cant just all go on strike, but we have to stand TOGETHER on this.
    Stop working OT for free, stop letting your bosses belittle and scare you into working for low wages. Stand up for your profession.

    Thanks Daniel Lay for having BALLS!

    • Charlie says:

      You get raped either way.
      Refuse to work OT and you get raped.
      Refuse to take a low paid job and you get raped by the rents in London.

      Every time I’ve gone to a job interview here in London, either at MPC, Framestore, Cinesite, Dneg, they always seems to “know” your previous salary. Not sure if this is illegal practice, but they never hire artists from each other during projects or starts biding against a competitive company.

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