Vancouver Stories

I flew to Siggraph in Vancouver to attend an ADAPT Q&A with Scott Ross. While I didn’t count the exact number of people there about half of the 100-seat room was filled. I gave an overview of the anti-subsidy duty legal effort we were pursuing and then we answered everyone’s questions.

Throughout the trip and at the meeting, I had a chance to meet all kinds of people across the spectrum of visual effects. Given how critical I have been of Vancouver’s VFX subsidies, I was a bit surprised to see how receptive people were to what we were trying to do. I also had a chance to people’s stories which you might be interested in reading about.

At the meeting one participant was an artist visiting from Australia and said that while he enjoys living in Australia, he considered the subsidy race as having a negative impact on the industry. I also met a software engineer from Pixar who became concerned and supportive of our effort after attending a Life After Pi screening at work.

Later on that night as I stood in line at a bar for a Siggraph party, a few BC artists recognized me and wanted to shake hands. They also had a few questions about the legal effort. One artist was working in Vancouver but originally from London. He said he was trying to get out of the industry so he could go back to London. I asked why since there seemed to be a lot of work there. He told me he had a child he wanted to take care of.

That night I got into a cab and the driver asked why so much VFX was being done in Vancouver. “The government pays 60% of the (resident) salaries to producers in the US” I explained. “That’s ridiculous. They don’t do anything like that for the IT industry here.”, he responded.

The next day on the subway I ran into a senior US VFX artist of 25 years. I asked how he was doing as he was looking for work. He said while he never made big commitments like owning a home and was relatively mobile, it was tough having to find homes that he could give his two dogs away to.

At the airport I got an email from an artist who CC’ed me on an email from the VES. Apparently his membership was due and replied to inform them he was taking a break from VES membership so he can give to ADAPT.

Soldier On.


13 Responses to Vancouver Stories

  1. whoa says:

    “Apparently his membership was due and replied to inform them he was taking a break from VES membership so he can give to ADAPT.”

    … as more people should. The VES had more than enough time to act but their political impotence has resulted in 0 action regarding the subsidy race; THE most pressing visual effects related issue. Meanwhile ADAPT has made its position clear and is just chomping at the bit to spring to action. The acronym is fitting – ADAPT… or be left in the CG dust.

    • Peter Greenaway says:

      VES membership is 200. I will gladly give this 200 adapt, but adapt membership is 500.

      • Keep in mind that you can donate what you can or can want Membership is an attempt to make monthly payments easier, etc but it’s not like there’s a magazine or special benefits, (at least not yet)

  2. Andreas jablonka says:

    I’m curious if you had a chance to talk to the bc ves chapter. They are very protective of their subsidies.

    I hope that the ab bill about to pass will show an impact simply to bring more people on our side against ALL subsidies. Once bc or London feel a taste of the ” let’s move stuff to where the money is” they might understand our plight better.

    For the record: no I don’t want or need all work coming back to LA. I want it to go where it’s warranted. And sometimes that is LA, sometimes Wellington, etc

  3. No yet sold on anything says:

    The big question I have is .

    Is your expectation that if and when subsidies are removed it will have no effect on the dollar value spent on making these movies?


    If NO where will the extra funding come from to pick up the shortfall the studios will now have without the various government basically providing direct investment in these films. The money will have to come from somewhere and as a business most studios would not want to tie up anymore capital as they currently do. This is based on various studies on Economic business with cost to profit ratios.

    If YES what effects are you expecting? Less films, cheaper films, facilities bearing the brunt and lowering costs due to increased competition.

    I am not scare mongering but highly curious if you have though of the complete ramification we MAY face if and when this source of studio funding is removed.

    As I see it we may then be on a level playing field but one which is far smaller and with more players on the pitch which by design will follow the rules of supply and demand and cause all involved to lower prices to compete which in turn will be passed onto US the artists by lowering rates.

    I am not looking for a fight but have people thought of how this may actually affect the VFX landscape with how studios maybe forced to make movies in the future, especially when most are wary of investing in these kinds of ventures.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      @ not yet sold
      Studios make profits from Vfx tentpoles. The subsidies make them cheaper and give you guaranteed loans. If they go it takes more cash to make em. But from a business standpoint it’s still not feasible to stop making them at all as you still profit from them.
      I don’t think they will make less movies for that reason.

    • minoton says:

      Studios have operated without subsidies in the past, and will do so in the future. But if a government is willing to throw it’s tax payers’ money at them, who are the studios to turn down free money? Why wast your own money on indecisive film making when you can waste a tax payer’s? And then charge that tax payer to see the final product of their ‘investment’?
      Spending more money on a film is not necessarily a good thing. It just gives the director and studio more room to be indecisive until they finally have to commit to something going into the movie. Studios have always wanted to bring costs down on production. Subsidies allow them to not have to worry about that.

  4. Tent pole movies are where the studios make their big money. Studios will continue to make them because they make a lot of money, even calculating the cost to pay it all instead of having governments fund a portion.

    Now in Superman 32 they may only be able smash 5 city blocks instead of 10 city blocks because the studios maybe be a little more cost aware. Free money in many cases means more casual view of costs, especially when it comes to vfx. Many films have studio changes from executives that cost the film millions of dollars. After all the talk about the need to lower bids it’s usually wasted to some extent. No subsidies means they have to be more responsible with the none they have.

    The shows most likely to be affected will be those that are estimated to be borderline profitable films. Where the studio estimates they will make $x and it costs them $x-y dollars. The less money to be made especially taking into account no subsidies, then the more likely the studios will pass. Keep in mind these are in the mid-$10’s million range where the studios have already bailed on for the most part. Today they focus on below $10 million and $100 million+ films.

    And without subsidies they may spend a little effort dealign with marketing costs since tat’s what’s been skyrocketing and that’s one of the key reasons they don’t make mid-level movies. (i.e. it costs minimum of $30-40 million+ to market a film)

  5. Hanging Out @ Milanos says:

    Who exactly were you expecting to be able to show up for a 3:30pm meeting on a weekday when Vancouver is crazy busy right now?

  6. Rob says:

    “… after attending a Life After Pi screening at work.”

    Really? Guess he didn’t talk much to his artist co-workers then? Because I found Life After Pi to be pretty tame and holding back on how things are done in the VFX industry. IIRC, long hours weren’t even really mentioned (maybe in vague, motivational side notes like “people are incredibly dedicated”, designed to make people feel good instead of angry about their exploitation) and generally relatively little about the general pressure. I remember comments of people who worked at R&H who felt like that documentary was a bit of a mockery because it portrayed it as if the management that tried to squeeze the last out of artists really is the victim. While I don’t know whether that’s true myself, I have seen this sort of thing happen at other studios, so I at least feel that it’s plausible.

    • moonlightkiss02 says:

      That’s because it was an r&h manger who help make the film and get those interviews. She wasn’t about to make herself, her colleagues or her boss look bad. Yes, it was incredibly tame but it’s mildness probably helped the artists not look like dumb suckers, which we are. I was there in that meeting when John Hughes said we wouldn’t be getting pay checks but not to worry. If we were union there would have been a walk out. There would have been strikes and an up roar. Instead we milled around being sad and stuff. Then less than 72 hours later most of us were let go. Even then people were just sad but they should have been mad! But we aren’t organized and none really knows what to do. It’s sad we can’t even help our selves or work together.

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