UK Film Subsidies Cost $3.4 Billion

Lots of VFX news today. I’ll wait for more details to come out and let the dust settle before I comment. In other news, it’s pretty rare to get international governments to provide oversight of their subsidy programs and disclose their costs. The UK has been a particular tough nut to crack.

Recently the UK House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts did a critical report on subsidies paid through tax expenditures. Interestingly, the costs of the film subsidy offered in the UK is singled out for it’s runaway costs which have been $USD $3.4 billion over a decade:

The data published by HMRC did not compare the actual costs of tax reliefs with
forecast costs. When a revised form of film tax relief was introduced in 1997, officials had
forecast it would cost £30 million in the first three years. However, its costs rose
significantly, and reached nearly £700 million by 2005–06. It took ten years, at a total cost
of over £2 billion, before HM Treasury and HMRC amended the relief to bring down the
costs. A significant proportion of the costs incurred in film tax relief had not fulfilled the
purpose of the relief, or the intention of Parliament. HMRC told us that it had taken a
series of steps, from 1997 to 2007, in which it had put in place various restrictions for the
relief, and that it had introduced each restriction after considering the policy perspective.
However, it had not been Parliament’s intention that the excessive cost of film tax relief
should have been allowed to continue for so long.

One of the things I’m often surprised about is how little oversight there is internationally on film subsidies. While states in the US engage in the subsidy race, there is usually better oversight which leads to volatile changes in the state subsidy being offered. We’ve seen this in New Mexico, Michigan, Florida, and currently in North Carolina. This is why I’ve reasoned that VFX often avoids state subsidies while physical production utilizes them. Film shoots usually last a few months and leave quickly. VFX projects usually take longer and involve trying to get huge teams to move with a big flow of work. Not a good strategy to bring it to a state that might lose its subsidy the next year.

Soldier On.


148 Responses to UK Film Subsidies Cost $3.4 Billion

  1. I would argue that New York and Louisiana are stripping what little VFX is left in Ca.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      Your not wrong but if Canada and the uk did not have subsidies it be a small portion only.

    • QualityVSquantity says:

      Actually I would argue that it isn’t. Perhaps by some small fraction because the shows that NYC/Louisiana get are small. These shows aren’t the type that are affecting ILM, DD, Sony, Scanline, and Method. It’s a different scale of competition.

    • jay_gould says:

      @ spline….

      NYC and Lou are stripping minor jobs from a California corpse that was gutted UK and Van…..I can’t stand people who fence with facts

      • matteobject says:

        NY & Louisiana (and Georgia) are taking a lot of principal photography jobs, but not much in the way of Visual FX work simply because the BC subsidies are so outrageous, nobody would bother to set up shop anywhere other than there.

      • Well then, when your company relies on ‘minor’ work to fill its coffers, I would think the distinction is important.

      • jay_gould says:

        @ spline

        Do me a favor and dont lecture me about the importance of distinction.

        I spent 6 months out of work due to the UK and BC subsidies. That’s 6 months of my life savings gone….and then I had to move everything up to Van at my own expense…….so excuse me if i have no sympathy for a few commercial guys still clinging on to the Venice beach dream.

        Until NY and Lousiana subsidies can shut down a 500 man R&H facility….. a 500 man DD facility….another 400 at Imageworks and and another 200 at Dreamworks…..dont bring up the state motherfucking subsidies….(especially if you havent had your life ripped open by them) State subsidies mostly effect production not VFX.

        Some of the guys up here….still have families and houses back in LA…….and see their families 2 or even 1 weekend a month. So until your commuting 1,500 miles to go to work and see your family…….dont bring up the bullshit state subsidy arguement….

      • FiBlue says:

        Can you not be so offensive towards whole country populations? I didn’t take your job just because I live in the UK. Maybe you should look at blaming your own country’s companies instead.

      • polyphemus says:

        Jay is right. State subsidies haven’t impacted VFX to the degree of live action production work because BC’s subsidy so so god damn lopsided, no one wants to compete to it. Soon as you mention it to a state or city politician, they shut up and turn pale at the suggestion.


        Why not? Your government has decided to get into distorting the industry, we can’t do anything about the government you guys elect. The only thing we can do is move our government into action.

        Feel free to turn down work from US studios if you don’t want complaints from Americans.

      • polyphemus says:

        I’m sorry I said that no one was crazy enough to attempt to compete with the cash giveaway that BC is doing.. except for Ontario now apparently with their “eat BC’s lunch” comments coming from their film lobby group.

        Sound business plans my ass.

      • jay_gould says:

        well said Polyphemus

      • FiBlue says:

        Pft. polyphemus. get over it. Everyone in the UK and everywhere else is working just as hard as jay_gould

      • polyphemus says:

        Yeah, don’t worry, you’ll get a chance to visit “beautiful” Vancouver, maybe you’ll even get a chance to make overtime for a change.

        Everyone is going to get fucked on this, US or UK, until the Canadian taxpayer wakes up.

      • matteobject says:

        I like the part where he thinks this has anything to do with how talented or hard working the artists are.

        The studios don’t give a shit, they want their kickbacks and they’ll force you to move to Vancouver to get them, just like they did with LA.

      • Steve Windham says:

        “I spent 6 months out of work due to the UK and BC subsidies.”

        Woah woah woah. STOP.

        Did you not send a demo reel out in SIX MONTHS? Talk to a recruiter? Update your resume?

        Maybe you should take a glance in the mirror before you start tossing blame around so casually.

      • minoton says:

        Steve, point being that there was no work to be offered in L.A. Regardless how many demo reels and resumes one sent out, the stock reply was “Are you willing to relocate to Vancouver?” For many people, that is not a desire, or a practical option. So folks like myself hoped (prayed) that something would turn around while rainy day savings held out and the poaching would stop.

      • polyphemus says:

        @Steve Windham

        It’s dead in LA, hard to move to another country when you got kids in school and a mortgage. It’s pretty much dead stateside unless you got a direct contact or a rehire.

        Plus I know a dozen or so really talent VFX guys who would be unable to get a work visa due to a past minor infraction on their criminal record. That bar fight in college coming back to haunt you 20 years later can be a shock when you arrive at a foriegn airport.

        Not everyone wants to go to Vancouver.

      • reynoldt says:

        Don’t start bar fight then, and don’t have criminal records, that’s the basic law if you wanna go to other countries.
        Not everyone wants to go to LA too.
        it’s global industries now, the big US studios have investors from outside US, including China and India, so stop talking like it’s yours only.
        And for people who hasn’t been able to find work(even in Vancouver/London) stop blaming the subsidies, if a person who’s from smaller and faraway countries can find work, so should you(assuming you have similar skill levels) if not,face reality and refine your skill like everyone else.

      • Steve. says:

        “…on their criminal record.”

        LOLOLOLOL. Yeah, certainly sounds like someone ELSE’S fault.

        Thanks for the biggest laugh of the year.

    • ubaysafi says:

      I would like to ask one import question. Is the British VFX industry rising even though there are less job opportunities.

  2. argon says:

    which “had” been. It was re adjusted in 2007/2008

  3. VFX Drifter says:

    Why no blog post on the Prime Focus buyout of Double Negative? What dust are we waiting on to settle? Prime Focus with backing from Macquarie Capital (Australian), Aid Partners(Chinese) and Standard Chartered Private Equity(Singapore) paid money to Prime Focus to buy out the majority share from Double Negative.

    Digital Domain was bought out by Sun Innovation(China) and Reliance MediaWorks(India).

    R&H was bought by Prana(India).

    So correct me, if I am wrong, but it does appear that a good chunk of Hollywoods VFX Industry is being relocated further eastward. In other words the industry that is left and not in Canada is heading to Asia.

    Kind of big news right?

    • jonavark says:

      Not really big news if you’ve been paying attention for the last twenty years. Of course some people are stuck in the past with fantasies about work returning to California, thinking that subsidies are all that matter. Meanwhile, as the years go by and this blog continues beating the same dead horse, the landscape changes radically. Yes. The work will be moving eastward as everything else has. It’s no different than any other skillset.

      But I am sure the UK and BC are touched by concerns about what their tax money is spent on. Yeah.. they’re very grateful.

    • minoton says:

      Of the companies you mentioned, which ones have actually moved? Prana and PF were already based in India. DNeg will remain in UK and open a facility in Vancouver (I guess that would be east for them). As near as I can tell, DD and R&H actual production facilities are still in Vancouver. Actual ownership may be based in Asia, but the jobs have not moved there.

      • polyphemus says:

        Does DD and R+H count anymore… a few dozen people, even if they land a big show who are they going to get to do the work?

      • jay_gould says:

        Serious can we put tombstones up and bury the corpse of DD and R&H as companies…….(unless someone can give us an update otherwise)…….

        Partly what is nice about this website is you get important industry news here……for the next blog update… cool to get an assessment of the players these days…….i still am wondering were all the movies that used to go to DD, R&H, SPI are now going?

      • matteobject says:

        DD are managing to land contracts, they might still come back, albeit mostly in Vancouver, but I’m pretty sure R&H are fucked.

        SPI movies will still go to SPI because they’re still operating, but it seems that the bulk of the work these days is going to MPC & DNeg.

        I don’t think DNeg made any particularly bad moves, they’ve just been fucked by the nature of the industry, they were the last London house to jump on the Canadian film subsidy bandwagon, but I think this move will end up pushing MPC & Framestore to start shunting more staff to Canada.

        Everyone seems to be forgetting ILM in this shuffle who are having a banner year with work lined up until about 2020, so unless Disney go full retard and sell them off, they may weather this better than anyone.

      • matteobject says:

        … and yes, there’s always Weta, but they’re about to be up to their ears in Avatar sequels, so that’s going to take them out of the picture for the foreseeable future.

      • polyphemus says:

        Best part about R+H is them trying to hire people back, even though they still owe them a ton of money from the bankruptcy.

        The software division should survive if they get enough customers.

      • Ortiz says:

        It definitely looks like a combination of MPC and Dneg has been picking up slack the last few years with, to a limited extent, framestore. These however are not stable or long-term viable firms in their own right so there will be another leg downwards to come in the near future. PF/Dneg is doomed. PF management style has failed dismally in vfx for a decade. It probably sounds good for finance-alpha males making powerpoint presentations in oak offices at Sydney/London/Dubai but just hasn’t worked in practice.

        Dneg have been hemorrhaging cash for years since they started chasing big budget vfx productions. £8M loss last year and -£2M assets is not a winning formula (although who knows whether owners have been draining the firm in preparation for a fire sale). So, neither partner has succeed in getting a formula and now jump on the same finance-guys off-shoring business model that everyone else chases (Canada, East, slash wages, chase subsidies, blah, blah).

        MPC the group went bust around 4 years ago and really don’t pull a healthy revenue. They are still at the mercy of the media processing and technology arm of Technicolor – the breadwinner – and that entity still has the fundamental market issues it had a few years ago. Just like Kodak/Cinesite at the same time. The market formats are still changing and they are still not equipped. MPC will crash and burn probably next.

        Framestore have limited ambitions. They have mostly relied on character overspill work, not so much mo-cap and virtual actor innovation but traditional keyframe style animation. They are not a very innovative company and mostly still rely on commercials revenue. Infact, that £27M write off they made into a holding company “framestore Animation”, after despereaux, would easily have been enough to sink any company. It was conveniently allowed to be written down in the UK by Companies House and the Revenue service, leaving quite a few small business hurting in the aftermath.

        They are all chasing the exact same business model so it’s difficult to see what differentiates them from the same market they are chasing. They seem to have given up on developing inhouse technology as a competitive advantage, all using the same off-shelf technology with a few tweaks. Maybe its the way finance houses just think. Linear projections on charts based on past market data, just like the mortgage subprime bonds disaster a few years ago that almost caused financial meltdown worldwide. It feels like the same people are pulling the strings in VFX now, slashing and burning with dumb assumptions until the whole thing collapses and they apply the same business model to another project. Maybe to medicare or back to housing finance again. You know that firm backing PF was a big player in the mortgage subprime market before in went into meltdown.

        Agree that DD and RH are pretty much gone. Having a few dozen people sitting mostly in Vancouver working on personal projects or web surfing allday isn’t a viable business. Apparently the plan is to keep shop-front offices open there in North America until big projects can be performed over the wires to China/India but with so much competitveness and no commitment to innovation, hoping cheap labor and client acceptance of working over wires will workout, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It could all be blown away overnight anyway by innovation in another firm, where it wipes away the need for lots of cheap labor. Where would you rather send complicated VFX work at the moment? Scanline or DD/RH?

        Seems the best position to be in now is commercials firm with a loyal client base or firms that make their own productions and still invest in technology. Weta, Disney/ILM, maybe Dreamworks as they seem to have a plan for actually developing a chinese industry, not just offshoring english-language productions. It will continue to be rocky for a few years yet and the bulk of L.A. vfx has probably left for good, tbh. Not that many state officials see that as a disaster. Look at the last decade. Socal has been the world center for information and mobile computing innovation. That has been a far higher revenue boon than vfx so hence why little appetite from Socal politicians towards it.

      • jay_gould says:

        Hey guys thanks for company updates…..glad to see some vfx artists know the time of day

      • Ortiz wrote:
        “These however are not stable or long-term viable firms in their own right so there will be another leg downwards to come in the near future”

        A clairvoyant! I wish I could predict the future with such arrogance.

    • matteobject says:

      The ownership is moving, the companies are not.

      Companies are going bankrupt and getting bought out by Asian firms with, in some cases, highly questionable finances.

      The people doing the work are still located in North America & Europe.

    • Dave Rand says:

      R&H had a huge presence in India…..had.

      It is important to remember that the future for VFX does not include some finite growth ceiling or will follow some definitive pattern in that growth. It is unlike any industry that many try to compare it to. It’s not gadgetry it is artistry. Every major shop I’ve worked in had a dominant majority presence of international talent…because that is what it is still about…talent, and the pace at which we are giving birth to geniuses may not keep up with the demand for them.

      All the most successful projects I’ve worked on in my 21 years in this business have one very common thread with few exceptions. They were built in human space…not cyberspace.

    • Out to lunch says:

      “Why no blog post on the Prime Focus buyout of Double Negative?”

      Oh, man. I’m guessing the owners simply decided to cash out and figured “screw everyone else, we’re not going down with the ship”.

      If Namit runs DNEG like he does Prime Focus, they are in for one hell of a ride.

  4. contessa12 says:

    If you step back to see the forest from the trees, you see how the film I dusty has snookered several states and countries until they finally wake up and see that they indeed get little out of this deal. One by one the dawn is rising and they see it’s just not worth it for them. Some of these organizations will get some to relocate to China or India but that too will be temporary. As soon as they can they will dump you a d send you home. The artists will find other outlets for their creativity and the films will suffer (some already do). The “suits” think we don’t see it but even some novices notice the decline in perfection. Hollywood will push this to the edge of the envelope until they can’t any longer. Our politicians have to weigh what is more important; donation money in their pocket or keep American working here and be part of the solution to a healthy America. Although “global” is the new term to kick around–don’t be fooled into thinking that China can and will kick your asses from here to Mongolia if they choose to. And, that is their history–they rope you in, steal your technology, manufacturing know how etc and then kick you out and do it without you. You have a contract? Ha ha ha- take that to the bank!

  5. LAskyline says:

    You’re comparing a defunct subsidy program, created in the last century and then killed and replaced in 2007 by a British government that was subsequently voted out of office half a decade ago, to the current $1.5billion a year system of US film and TV subsidies. Are you arguing that the volatile deadlock politics of US State governments is actually better for the industry? Have you tried that line on the crew caught up in the New Mexico Imageworks debacle?

    • jay_gould says:

      1.5 billion US subsidies….where did you get that figure from? (and how much of that is VFX subsidies vs film production)

      • LAskyline says:

        It’s an easy figure to find, just google it. Here’s an article from the Economist in 2011 stating the total value of US film&TV production subsidies in 2010 as $1.4billion.

      • LAskyline says:

        Here’s a breakdown of the 2010 figures by state – go down to appendix 1 at the bottom of the article.

      • jay_gould says:

        Holy shit …thanks for the links

      • matteobject says:

        Louisiana, New York & Georgia have gone the whole hog when it comes to buying work from California (they accounted for more than half the $1.5bn in 2011), but none of them particularly subsidize visual FX – IIRC New York only budgets $8m of the $420m for FX work.

        There’s a couple of small studios around New Orleans & Baton Rouge, and I think Method opened a studio in Atlanta to chase the Georgia subsidies, but by and large it’s all principal photography that’s getting stolen.

        US State subsidies are incredibly fickle, Louisiana’s are already incredibly unpopular, all it really takes is for some loudmouth radio host to take them up as a cause celebre and they’re done.

        Personally, I’d rather they all scrapped them, it’s not like New York is just around the corner, it might very well be the same country, but it’s as far from Los Angeles as London is.

      • matteobject says:

        (sorry, to clarify, New York is as far from Los Angeles as it is from London).

  6. Hehehehehe says:

    Interstate subsidies arent as big of a problem for displaced Californians. Sure, you have to move, but if u are already in the country and are a citizen/resident moving to another state is relatively easy from a legal standpoint.

    Good luck trying to get a job right now in Vancouver unless you are a BC resident or an American who filed taxes last year as a resident. And even IF you get a job, I hope you enjoy getting paid $20-$35 per hour (or even $15 if its MPC) when you would make $45-$50+ per hour in LA.

    • Blurt says:

      Was working in Van a few months ago, not American or BC resident, MPC paid me $45 a hour even if you take into account their sneaky “10 hour working day” could’ve stayed on but decided to keep it to a few months as I planned. So you’re either a shit negotiator or very replaceable. Plenty of other people like me doing it as well. No one owes you a wage, you have to ask for it or be worth it.

    • jay_gould says:


      Im having a very different experience up in Van than you are. I see every shop is packed up here. Im getting LA wages and getting great health care. But maybe its because I see alot X-LA guys up here……who are vets and can command a price for their experience.

      Our biggest problem is the stability of Vancouver…..not the wages…nor the city.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        how can stability ever been an issue in vancouver? you have your own industry, own canadian film making and the subsidies are really just to lure productions, they won’t be needed for ever…
        stability my ass

        besides 45$USD is NOT an LA rate for a vet….

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        senior compositor offer for MPC was 30/hour, straight from the recruiter. So let’s say you are not a shit negotiator, how can you jump from what they offer you (30/h) to 45/h? I think is bullshit! Or maybe you are the only one who get payed 45/hour but as you see, you are not there any more.
        And having 8h work/day is not a privilege is normal. So tons and tons of people working for MPC were ripped off working 10 hours/day and being payed 8. I don’t trust that company at all.

      • jay_gould says:


        I was making the point that it is VERY unstable up here.

        None of the LA guys have their suitcases unpacked. I was also making the point that X-LA guys seem to be making competiative wages.

        On the other hand…..the canadian locals are in the low $30 or $40hr………The US VFX guys seem to know the game better and demand to be paid what they are worth…..

      • minoton says:

        jay-gould, do you know if they are getting paid in CAD or USD? If they are getting paid $45 CAD, then they are currently only making $42.15 USD. If they want their US rates, e.g., $45, then they should be asking $48 CAD.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Ok fair enough

      • jay_gould says:


        seems like most people are being paid Canadian. We are not in Kansas anymore.

        Seems like US based companies are making out 2 fold….one paying people in Canadian (which can range 5-15% currancey difference)….and 2 US companies no longer bear the financial burden of health care…and social securtiy.

      • minoton says:

        jay_gauld, you’re right. This is something I’ve been saying for some time now. Once the (delayed) employer mandate gets closer in 2015, companies are going to be looking for ways to get around it. Since the large VFX facilities can’t get around the less than 50 employee limit, their only recourse is to pack up all jobs and send them to Canada. As for rates, anybody considering working in Canada (or elsewhere) but not intending to move there, should definitely download a currency conversion app and do your math when you set your rate. You can put it in the foreign currency, but make sure it equals what you want/need in US currency, because when you send money back home to the spouse, or bring it back to the States, right now you’re going to take a conversion hit. And don’t forget that any institution or online service is also going to charge you a fee to make that conversion. This shouldn’t be such a big deal in BC because, hey, the gov’t covers 60% of VFX labor, right?

      • blurt says:

        @peter Greenaway No, YOUR offer as a senior compositor was $30 an hour. There’s no set rate. Maybe you aren’t worth as much as you think you are? “senior” and “mid” are stupid anyway. People think they get 5 years on a syfy channel show under their belt and they are “senior compositors”. You’re a good compositor or not so good.

        The idea that you are entitled a certain amount of money is ridiculous, neither MPC nor anyone else is in the business of paying more than they need to to get a certain set of skills. If you can’t get it….well.

        The 10 hour day thing is a bit nasty, but really just effects overtime payments, which you don’t get at all in some places!

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        “The 10 hour day thing is a bit nasty” – ok dude…

      • Steve. says:

        “I don’t trust that company at all.”

        Then don’t work for them.

      • jay_gould says:

        @ Steve

        tit for tat….
        If everyone refused to work for them then there would be no more company….

  7. Argon says:

    $3.4 billion over a 10 year period looks like a great investment to me when it’s making it an industry worth about $7.8 billion per year in 2011 and has now grown even more to a combined creative industries worth of around $120 billon per year in 2014

    If you read the report the subsidies was adjusted down around 2008 while the industry kept growing.

    Not knowing what the subsidies are today, a $340 million investment pr year might have been excessive but not very high when you see how much growth and income it generated for the UK back then.

    • matteobject says:

      You’re rolling EVERY Creative industry into the film subsidy.

      The $3.4bn only applies to film, it does not include video games, for example, which are a whole separate industry.

      Added to which, it also makes the usual assumption that all films are only ever made in the UK because of the subsidy (so it claims credit for all films made there) and it inflates the numbers with things like Tourism, because we all know nobody would bother visiting London if they hadn’t seen the last Bond movie.

      Lastly, of course, it doesn’t prevent the takeover of heavily subsidized studios by foreign corporations, as we’ve just seen.

      So what, exactly, is the subsidy paying for other than being a fairly ineffective jobs program?

      • argon says:

        I’m not rolling every industry into that number.

        in 2011 the film industry was worth about $7.8 billion pr year.
        compared to the subsidy spend which was $340 million roughly pr year in previous years.

        The latter article (if you bothered to read any of them)
        includes all the industries.

        The headline: “UK Film Subsidies Cost $3.4 Billion”
        is typical headline news reporting where the actual facts are
        not as dramatic. Would you be reacting as much if the headline said “UK film Subsidies cost $340 million, industry generates $7.8 billion”

      • tough says:

        Based on the last independant study from 2012 the uk subsidy returned 12 ponds for every subsidy pound.

      • matteobject says:

        Yeah, I’ve heard that kind of thing before, Mike Gatto made the claim that California subsidies returned $19 for every $1 spent, but any study not actually funded by the guys who directly benefit shows the exact opposite.

    • Dave Rand says:

      The MPAA commissions lots of studies. Hey look …they used the same guys, Oxford Economics. WHAT a coincidence!! Google is amazing.

      Fact is if subsidizing worked so well, if Market Socialism worked so well, why don’t these countries subsidize every successful endeavor? Hollywood is a sexy story, it makes politicians look larger than life….allowing them to buy votes with their constituents own money.

      Case in point how to buy the vote of all the NRI’s (non resident indians) that have moved to your voting pool….and you can do it with their own money!!

      • Dave Rand says:

        Market socialism experiments have failed miserably over the a last century, causing trade imbalances, artificial economies, stiff lying real growth and innovation this is one of the main rasons why 150 nations signed the World Trade Agreement…to put an end to actionable subsidies…. Google “actionable subsidies” This is the foundation of our legal effort. Stay tuned.

      • Steve. says:

        “if Market Socialism worked so well, why don’t these countries subsidize every successful endeavour”

        They basically do. Ever heard of the defence industry? The Agriculture industry? The health care industry? The automobile industry? The clothing industry?

        None of these would exist the way they do without current state-funded apparatuses.

      • minoton says:

        @Steve, are these local industries being supported by local taxes, or have these industries been relocated by sending local taxes to foreign based entities, such as, say, major film studios?

      • Steve. says:

        Uh, YES. That’s exactly what it is. It’s sending money to Lockheed, Monsanto, GM, Health Insurers, Goldman Sachs, etc. etc. etc.

        If you think that the VFX industry is the only industry that receives direct government support, then you have no idea how the economy works. The only difference between now and the VFX industry 20 years ago, is that it’s now large enough that governments actually care about it. End of story.

      • minoton says:

        @Steve, you don’t seem to understand the difference between a LOCAL subsidy and a FOREIGN subsidy. You just gave perfect examples of local subsidies, those paid to industries that reside in the same locale as where the taxes are collected from that ultimately fund the subsidies.
        Foreign subsidies is what is going on with VFX. Governments of one (or more) countries are sending their tax payers’ money to the American studios (not the VFX facilities) to dictate where (i.e. relocate) the jobs are going to. The VFX facilities are told by they studios if they want to even bid on a show, they need to do the work where the studio is pocketing the subsidy money from. There are international trade laws in place to prevent just this situation from happening, to protect nations from economically harming one another.
        What these governments need to do, if they are set on subsidizing movies, is to spend their tax payers’ money in their own country building their OWN industry, that is their OWN studios and make their OWN movies. Who is the UK Disney? The Canadian Universal? 20th Century Fox? Paramount? It doesn’t seem that they feel they can compete on that level of content creation, so they poach that work from elsewhere, sending their constituents money out of the country and giving it to rich corporate owned studios in America who don’t need it. Sorry, but until subsidies stop distorting the market, it’s a never ending story.

      • Steve Windham says:


        Lockheed Martin. American Company. Canadian government SENDS THEM MONEY.


        American government. SENDS MONEY TO EUROPEAN BANKS.

        Almost all governments. SEND MONEY TO MONSANTO.

        This is happening everywhere, in every major sector. VFX is now become a major sector. GUESS WHAT HAPPENS.

      • minoton says:

        Okay, fair enough. So are you saying you are for it, or against it? I don’t see any of those other businesses you mention totally uprooting and relocating their entire business to Canada the way the VFX facilities have.
        And leave the ad hominem attacks in the toy box. You don’t help your case by acting childish.

      • King of Mt. Pixel says:

        Unfortunately the MPAA has created an environment that makes creating the next “Canadian Universal” practically impossible. Do your homework on that issue.

  8. Earl Grey says:

    Ask not what your country can do for you
    Ask what your country can do for Warner Bros

  9. vfxSoul says:

    Said it from the start. UK VFX have positioned themselves in the most expensive European city around and they will suffer for doing so. Now that Vancouver offer better Subsidies for VFX work, everyone is treating this as a chance to save on resources and this means reducing their size in London which I am sure will happen at DNEG now. The smart VFX studio who still wants to work in the UK will setup shop outside of London keeping just a networked front of house. This isn’t a game of look who’s got the most fancy London spot (Something more prominent in ad vfx perhaps). No one cares, its about the work produced and at what gains to the company. Not to mention it will also benefit all artists/technicians over 30 who lets face it are the more experienced ones and not looking to have a good time in town. Double win and the only way to keep this industry afloat in the UK.

    • matteobject says:

      London’s in the same place Los Angeles was 2 years ago, expect it to suffer the same fate… but, of course, this isn’t about subsidies, as we’ve been told repeatedly, those ONLY affect American artists.

      • vfxSoul says:

        I don’t think Londoners are being ignorant to the truth about subsidies and what could happen if they go, but rather they just don’t like how this blog positions itself. It acts not for the international scene, but in trying to get the work for the USA. The recent actions to change the law in the USA to charge those who seek subsidies abroad is a clear reminder of that fact. There is no international support, because the blog isn’t interested in that. They simply post about the international issues because they want to show that the current (non USA) vfx scene isn’t working.

        Funny thing is I think the majority of the artists and technicians in London are foreign anyway… so go figure.

      • matteobject says:

        What, exactly, have non US effects artists done in order to effect change in the industry? Have London or Vancouver unionized while the ball was in their court? Has anyone done anything at all?

        California has been bleeding jobs overseas to subsidized locations for years, in order to correct that there are only two avenues available, push for CVDs to counter the subsidies or push for subsidies of our own.

        Either way, non-US VFX workers are going to get screwed because they go back to being far more expensive than the workers in the same zip code as the movie’s producers.

        What, exactly, would you like Californian artists to do? Fall on their sword in order to show solidarity with the guys who took their jobs?

        … and US VFX teams are no less international than VFX teams elsewhere, I’ve worked on both sides of the Atlantic and the best people come from all over the planet.

      • minoton says:

        You’re not getting it. Getting rid of foreign subsidies will help everybody, everywhere. Again, no one has said all work will go back to L.A., except those people who fear all work will go back to L.A. When governmental subsidies are neutralized at the U.S. based studio level, the work will no longer be sent where the subsidies come from, but will be sent to where the studios will get the best work for the amount of money they want to spend, whether that is in the UK, BC, L.A., or wherever. The only reason the comments in the Comments section may seem ‘anti-foreign’ is because it’s the foreign subsidies that have been used to relocate the work. We’re not calling for military action or anything. Just a removal of foreign subsidies from the equation of how to award visual effects work.

      • minoton says:

        In case you missed this, The Onion hit the nail on the head:,35706/

      • jay_gould says:

        Thanks for that response matteobject….well said…

      • vfxSoul says:

        Come on guys. You know very well it won’t become whose best for the job, but whose closest to the studios. You said it yourself so naturally you are in effect removing the international scene from that equation. You want a world where there is no import/export and we simply and sadly (the uk used to rule in the industrial world until they thought it cheaper to subcontract) don’t live in that place anymore. Technology has changed and people are abusing it and always will.

      • minoton says:

        Right. That’s why in the 80s and 90s the majority of the work, and the majority of the best projects, stayed in L.A. I don’t know how ILM survived . . . .

      • vfxSoul says:

        Exactly my point Minton. Look how ILM has had to move too.. its not the same playing ground.

      • minoton says:

        ILM has expanded, not moved. Why did they expand where they did? Subsidies. The studios told ILM if they wanted to get the work they were losing to subsidized locations, they needed to be in those locations. How is that a stable business model? It’s not.

        Again, check out the Onion satire piece on shifting work to the Himalayas. There’s truth in the underlying message of that piece. “Go where we tell you, at your expense.” How many more effects facilities have to crash because they can’t afford to keep up with the whims of governments one-upping each other in subsidy offers? No one has yet answered the question, if these governments have this money to burn, why not build their own Hollywoods? Why not subsidize local production companies and locally produced projects? Where are the other Bollywoods? The fact is, it’s deemed much easier to suck dry what somebody else built.

        It seems like the basis of the arguments ‘for’, is: That’s the way it is. That’s always been the argument of those who hold some sort of unfair power or advantage over others.
        Women don’t deserve the right to vote. That’s the way it is.
        Workers don’t have the right to unionize or rights in the workplace. That’s the way it is.
        People of a different color can be owned as property. That’s the way it is.
        That’s the way it was, until . . . it wasn’t.
        Governments will waste tax payer money sending it out of the country on unneeded corporate welfare. That’s the way it is. For the time being . . . .

        Subsidies are an unfair economic advantage that violate WTO laws. That’s the way it is, until people like Daniel/VFX Soldier stand up and fight for what’s fair and right for everybody.

      • Earl Grey says:

        @vfxsoul – You know very well it won’t become whose best for the job, but whose closest to the studios.

        If what you say is true, wouldn’t that sword cut both ways? That is, a California VFX shop would not automatically be the first pick for a British film?

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Most British flicks ARE made in the uk. That’s why Harry potter is on the map. It was forced to be made in the uk and thereby spawning a whole industry in soho.

  10. jay_gould says:

    Funny (true) story.

    Like 10 years ago my buddy was working at ILM. George Lucas and the producer where talking loudly while walking through the parking lot during lunch. George exclaims loudly, “Do you know what the problem with this industry is??!!!” ….rethorically he adds… “Look at the company parking lot…..too many fucking BMW’s!” said George.

    Mr. Lucas unfortunately refers to the artists that work for him as making too much money.

    Part of the problem with this industry is the heads of the US big six studios…..people bitch at the UK workers, the UK bitches at BC workers and everyone bitches at the US vfx guys. The real enemy is the Robber Barons running this industry who are as ruthless as John D. Rockefeller and Randolf Hearst of centuries past. Unions rose to power along with strong labor legislation from FDR during the great depression…..unfortunately its all been undone.

    This Price fixing case (and more importantly some of the companies you now work for)…… are taking money from your families mouths.Whats worse is that these CEOs control our government’s legislation on labor laws, film laws, film subsidies, tax policies, international policy concerning movie revenue and IP control)

    would love to hear what the Union has to say about this……..

    • minoton says:

      Thanks for posting! This is getting juicy.

      • jay_gould says:

        I believe 2 studios on the list are Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar are union shops.

        A man named Katzenberg got together with his friends and said everyone of the vfx workers……will make $10,000- 30,000 less per years (especially when OT is involved)……..and black listed people…. colluded to drive down salaries……and controled worker demand….

        they even have their own billinare club…..

        Jeffery Katzenberg is a scumbag….

        alog with Bob Iger, Ruport Murdoch, Mike Bloomberg,Steve Balmer, Steve Jobs etc…….

        Whether you UK, BC, or LA…..the reason for the industry chaos comes from these people….

        also what is the current Union position on this case?

      • VFX_Boom says:

        Let’s not let Ed Catmull of the hook. ………………

        From: Ed Catmull

        To: Cook, Dick

        Sent: Sun Jan 14 2007

        Subject: Zemeckis


        Regardless of what John thinks about motion capture, we have a serious problem brewing.

        The HR folks from the CG studios had their annual get together in the bay area last week. At that time, we learned that the company that Zemeckis is setting up in San Rafael has hired several people away from Dreamworks at a substantial salary increase….

        I know that Zemeckis’ company will not target Pixar, however, by offering higher salaries to grow at the rate they desire, people will hear about it and leave. We have avoided wars up in Norther [sic] California because all of the companies up here – Pixar, ILM [Lucasfilm], Dreamworks, and couple of smaller places – have conscientiously avoided raiding each other.

        At the very least, I would like the kind of relationship that Pixar has with Disney in that people cannot be considered to move back and forth. However, even raiding other studios has very bad long term consequences [i.e., drives up wages and hurts profits—M.A.]

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Outch! Is that legit?

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        I had not. Damn that’s really shady! Thanks for the link!

  11. jay_gould says:

    @ VFXboom.

    Yeah there should be a list of these CEOs for us to throw darts at…..

    coincidentally when all the CEO pay scales started to Jump into $10million + bonuses….funny we started seeing strategic layoffs…and salary fixing….

    I guess my point is…people can yell at Daniel Lay for the CVD case…..but lets not shy away from the truth……that the Big Six are using A.L.E.C. type law firms to pre-write legislation for dumb politicians. The subsidy money laws are getting written by the US studios and being implemented across other countries through Chris Dodd and the MPAA…or the use of other orginizations like “Partnership for a New American Economy”.

    Subsidy legislation are a just a handfull of things the studios are utilizing to control the labor costs of movies…….

    I hope Daniel brings more light to the US companies that are involved in this salary fixing…bad enought the can force us to Vancouver… they want another $10-30K of my salary.

    Im surprised more people aren’t pissed off by this story..

    • polyphemus says:

      Price fixing isn’t just limited to the Bay Area.. it happens all over, really bad in London, I had one hr rep tell me don’t bother to shop my offer around to the other studios on SOHO, they got a “deal”.

      All it takes is one player to not play by the rules and the whole thing gets blown out and we get a wage war.. good for us.

      It’s funny to see the Bay area studios and the feature animation guys have these deals but have no qualms about cold calling people at their desks at DD or R+H back in the day.

      • jay_gould says:

        This is just my opinion….but making me move to Vancouver sucks……I calculated it costs about $5,000 expense to move…plane tickets, first month rent deposit, furniture etc…

        but when some unseen corporate overlord decides everyone should be making $10,000-30,000 less every year…..i think that is a bigger issue than the CVD case…..

        (but thats just me)

        That 10-30 K is what i could be saving every year for my pension. I really would like to know what the unions are doing about this? You want me to join a Union ….then take on the corporate bosses like the old unions used to do…….

        I think this case is a put up or shut up moment for Unions…

      • PolarisSoup says:

        very true polyphemus, the only thing that differentiates the studios in London is the project you will be working on, its more common these days to swap your job for a better project than a better pay packet. Its not right though, what with wage-fixing and unpaid overtime VFX is just a mess. Where I am right now I am contracted to 6PM if you head for the door anytime before 8PM you get the “You slacker” look.

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        what to do with your “better project”? Where to go? ILM, Weta? and then?…

      • vfxmafia says:

        Funny…after my second interview with ILM…the recruiter asked me what my rate was. I said listen this is my “LA” rate……which i added i would be willing to negotiate. As soon as i told her my “LA” rate….i never heard from them again…

        Just curious if this Salary fixing scam had something to do with the way the ILM recruiter acted. If the emails extend to the top CEO…then it would be logically implemented through out the recruiting and HR dept….

        Hope working on Star Wars was worth it to everyone… just made $30,000 less then i did this year……

      • VFX_Boom says:

        Sadly one of the main reasons this industry is in the crapper because it’s FILLED with idiots happy to make $30,000 less a year to work on garbage like Star Wars. Like it’s gonna make them a better person, let alone get them laid. Until everyone take a basic economics class and learns how to use a calculator, we will always be screwing ourselves and the person next to us because of that shit.

        But, hey, “It’s my dream job!” – said the lowest paid worker in the company.

  12. scottross996 says:

    Just read Ed Catmull’s book on Creativity. Found it extraordinary. He helped build a great company… and then this? Damn, is nothing sacred anymore?

    • vfxmafia says:

      This salary fixing scandal……is the biggest thing that has happened to labor in years…this is not mearly utilizing subsidy money….this is criminal acts to defraud labor.

      There is alot of talk about unions on this website. Why did everyone fill out a union card at everyshop they go? Well its to fight this type of shit………..

      These are american companies, American CEOs, and all of them are in California. I really would love to hear an offical statement by the Union on this one.

      Why is no one going to jail?
      Why is the union silent about this?
      What is the trade group’s official position on this?

      If the salary fixing thing was fixed…..we ALL would be making 5-20% more money per year….which i would happily give %5 of my annual salary in union dues to anyone who could fight this shit

      John Lassiter is involved in this.
      George Lucas is involved in this.
      Steve Jobs was involved in this
      Ed Catmull is involved in this.
      Jeffrey Katzenberg is involved in this.

      You want to know why kids are making $12 hr in this business? Its because of them. These are the same people who brought you subsidies…..

      Welcome to the largest wage-fixing cartel in American history

      • vfxmafia says:

        And if your a VFX company since 2005 when this started and you were NOT involved. You should be sueing these people for creating an manilpulated monopoly and collusion.

        A clear violation of the Sherman Antitrust act…..

      • King of Mt. Pixel says:

        Isn’t a union the workers version of salary fixing? “Pay us X or we are going to shut down your factory or movie set”? If that’s the case the AFL-CIO and Teamsters are actually the largest wage-fixing cartels in American history. Many union film workers are lucky and work above scale, but most union members in the US are forever locked into a salary cap that some union boss decides is appropriate. It breeds a stale workforce when there is no incentive to out shine your competition. It should be the governments role to protect workers uniformly, not a necessarily union member paying a bunch of management to do it for them with union dues.

        And if you think this is the first time media moguls have colluded over an issue you guys are more naive than I thought. They do it ALL THE TIME. What do you think goes on at Paul Allen’s retreat? Badminton?

      • vfxmafia says:

        @king of Mt. Pixel

        This has to be John Textor right? How’s Tupac working out for ya??

      • vfxmafia says:

        I hope the unions “pursues” something.

        I don’t even care if the Union joins the class action lawsuit or files another for beraking the Anti Sherman Trust Act.

        Shit I would be happy if the Union followed up with Justice Dept. All i care about is that someone goes to jail. Especially Ed Catmull. (or better yet I’d like to see all the pixar ILM dreamworks employees get back pay that they lost from the collusion.

  13. Charlie says:

    All of the London VFX houses are in this fix-wages-thing.

    They more or less openly admits to it. They always know your previous salary and they always offer you a minimum. If you try to leave your current company during a show to join any of the others, you’ll always get ignored by the recruiters.

    Then, like magic, when your current contract has ended, they happily reply to your emails.

    Framestore, Dneg, MPC, Cinesite, ILM, yes I’m talking about you.

    • Peter Greenaway says:


      • jay_gould says:

        @ Pete…

        Where do you want people to work if the whole fucking studios system is on it?…and every fucking douche bag billionare CEO of the big 6 is in on it.

        I feel bad for every ILM guy out there who has been working since 2005 for $10-25K less than me…….thats a $250,000 you would have now for a down payment on a house……Ferrari….or maybe a retirement fund.

        (but wait you saw star wars as a kid and you are a quarter of a million dollars lighter)

      • jay_gould says:

        and the UK guys….

        you must be poorer than the ILM guys. I figure you guys are earning at least %30 less per year.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        With no overtime and rates if 250/280 pound per day I’d be found dead working in London….

      • jay_gould says:

        if this doesn’t unite VFX artists from around the world. I don’t know what will.

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        …just do not work. If all of them are charlatans, change and do something else.
        I am doing something else. No more film and no more trouble. Pick something else to do. Are you waiting until a senior will get 15/h?
        Pretty soon if the race to the bottom continues.

      • jay_gould says:

        @pete greenway

        Pete your just full of catch phrases and self-help advice. I dont know if your personal career experience is relevent for everyone.

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        “personal career experience” take care of yours buddy. Soon will come to an end. Forget about others, just go and spend your short life in prison cells and forget about others.

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        and you talk to unite vfx people around the world? with your ego I bet it’s gonna be hard….

      • jay_gould says:

        @ pete

        Pete in one of your earlier posts you said you are no longer in the film biz. So why do you comment on this blog if you are no longer in VFX? (Seams like the dream)

      • Peter Greenaway says: you want me to shut up?
        You want all of us who are left outside to shut up?
        All the uncomfortable people, the ones who are asking for right and fair compensation, they should shut up according to you, jut because many idiots accept to take their places and work like nuts for peanuts?
        Are you still working these days? I prefer to do something else until normality will be back, until then, at least I am free to post my comments here from time to time, am I, or not?

      • jay_gould says:

        @ pete

        Pete I think your misunderstanding my posts. i was responding to your comment that “people should just quit the business”.

        Its not that simple for some people. After spending 20 years in the film business doing one thing or another, it is hard to find a profession where you make as much money as in VFX. (with out going back to the University)

        I am on the top part of the pay scale, so i take salary fixing very seriously. I was kind of hoping for more pressure and coverage for this story.

        The only choice for right now fro me is stay in the industry and fight. The thing that pisses me off ….is it doesn’t seem like the Union or the Justice department are going to do anything.

      • Peter Greenaway says:

        how do you fight? Do you stand up when an abuse is obvious? Are you against unpaid overtime? In case you are a supervisor, (since you are in vfx for over 20 years, like myself) are you telling workers to leave after 8h of work? Are you under 50?
        For me 53, it was impossible to compete with idiots starring in front of the screen for 12-15 hours/day. I am not doing the same amount of money, but at least I have a life.

      • jay_gould says:

        @ Pete

        Best of luck to you and your career. Sorry to hear your out of work.

    • . says:
  14. urizen says:

    ‘if this doesn’t unite VFX artists from around the world. I don’t know what will.’

    And now we come to the heart of the matter.

    And the answer isn’t pretty:

    ‘I’ve go mine, Jack.’

    And from far away on high in the clouds of creativity, a faint faint sound- ‘Ca Ching!’

    • got_mine says:


      Maybe your right. I have worked for many companies over the years but never could get into Disney, Pixar, ILM, or Dreamworks…..the offer was either too low or when it came to my rate they wouldn’t get back to me.

      (so this scandal doesn’t effect me for the most part)…..but I can only do so much….I can’t be angry for them. It amazes me more people aren’t pissed by this.

      at some point people need to stand up for themselves….because “I have gotten mine”, I get my day rate, i work on decent projects, and i have planned for my retirement. Its called being an adult.

      • urizen says:


        (But as we see in this mess, and far bigger and more important messes past and present, there are many different kinds of adults in the world

        -as they are called).

  15. , says:

    what needs to be leaked is any copy of a vfx industry blacklist………that will be fuel for the union

  16. VFXRANGER says:


    From a recent news article from KDLG.ORG:

    “On how the Bassett family tracked down a Chinese knockoff in China

    There’s a dresser that’s just come on the scene [in 2001] in the American market and it’s a Louis-Philippe [style] dresser. It’s wholesaling for $100 and [John Bassett III] can’t figure out how the heck [the Chinese company is] able to sell it. “They can’t be making money,” he says. He has his engineer take it apart and deconstruct it piece by piece and price out the pieces. And he knows they have to be “dumping,” which means selling it for less than the price of the materials.

    So he sends his son Wyatt, who is kind of his head business guy, he sends him and a … translator, who is a family friend, to Dalian because the stick on the back only says “Dalian, China.” It doesn’t say exactly which factory it’s from. And he sends them off to do a secret spy mission. They’re pretending that they’re looking to buy — but what they’re really looking for is that one particular dresser.

    They find it after days and days of searching. They finally end up in this remote section of the province, almost to the border of North Korea, and they find it there. … The gentleman running [the factory] actually meets with them and he has this very chilly one-on-one dialogue with them that’s all translated. But the guy says, basically, “Close your factories.” (Bassett’s got three factories left at the time.) “Close your three factories and let me make all of your furniture for you.” …

    The translated word, and John [Bassett III] remembered it very well, was “tuition”… “This is the tuition of [China] being able to capture your market share. We’re going to sell it so cheap and with government subsidies — we’re going to be able to make all of your furniture for you.”

    They ended up driving them out to this furniture industrial park, out in the country and there [are] just stacks and stacks of timber. … When [Wyatt] saw all that Russian timber laid out they knew [the Chinese] were serious. And they knew they were going to war.

    Ring a bell? Does it kind of look like the USA VFX industry has been knocked off?

    I have been telling friends for years that VFX is leaving the USA like everything else….and have been called a “Conspiracy Theorist” for stating the obvious. Americans have kind of gotten used to being told how good globalism is and to stop whining about foreign countries using subsidies to take those jobs. So It’s ok for foreigners to buy off Hollywood and very bad for Americans to complain about it. So basically, being a quiet serf ==GOOD. Rebelling against corporation masters selling off you and your own==VERY BAD. Some of you non-Americans are going to complain I am being Pro-American. Fine. Your jobs are next. In 5 years I want you to look back and remember I told you the End Game. The End Game being to cut those high salaries out of VFX production. Combined with Technology gains, you really should start planning for a new career. The Studios are cutting deals with the same country known for pirating American IP and selling them for pennies on the dollar. All of this is nothing but a SELLOUT.

    The nature of the problem is very simple… Obscured by a bunch of pro-globalism nonsense about how good it is for American to allow their jobs to go to places with long hours, crappy worker rights and low wages.

    — People will do to you what you allow them to do to you. —

    Whether you are American, British, Chinese or Indian…stop buying into this crap that you need to sell yourselves out in the name of globalization so very rich guys can get 10 times richer.

    • reynoldt says:

      buy off Hollywood? check who actually funds all these vfx movies for the past 2 years.

    • says:

      “Does it kind of look like the USA VFX industry has been knocked off?” — Huh? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT???How does the VFX industry belong to the US!

      • minoton says:

        No need to be so touchy. Unless I’m not catching some sarcasm on your part, I’m sure VFXRanger is referring to the USA component of the VFX industry, as opposed to the UK VFX industry, the BC VFX industry, the NZ VFX industry . . . . .

    • . says:

      a good salary for a Chinese factory worker is $70 per month
      a good salary for Sandra Bullock is 70 million dollars per film

      capital is being sucked out of the middle classes, I just watched Inside Job and Meltdown which examine the reasons behind the financial meltdown in 2008

      every 7 years or so another collapse repeats

  17. myComment says:

    Who does Katzenberg think he is the bald twat! Works his slimy way up at Disney and then creates a factory system and controls it behind a mask of deceit. Then pours money into the governments pocket to make sure he isn’t slapped. That’s commercialism in a nutshell for you. If you are all sick of these companies and their behaviour. Leave, join forces, find backers and beat them at their own game, only play it fair and you will last longer.

  18. whoa says:

    Any news on the CVD? Its been a year since we got our legal recommendation. Is anyone still working towards this?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Yep. The blog has been quiet because we are finalizing things for ADAPT’s fundraiser launch. We have been in talks for a national in-depth report on our effort. Our law firm has and continues to do work on the case. I’m looking into organizing a Siggraph panel in Vancouver. I’ll update when I can.

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