Marvel’s Vice President of Post Production Victoria Alonso was a speaker at this week’s VES Summit where she asked “where are the girls?” and called for more women to work in VFX.
In Variety’s report, she spoke about how lowering the gender gap would help bring balance to the industry. She also pointed out obstacles that make it more difficult for women to make it in VFX:
- Subsidy-induced cycles of global displacement.
- Long 16 hour work days.
- Maternity leave dampens the ability to get back to work.
While I agree with her on the problems that cause a gender gap, I can’t help but ask the same question Scott Ross asked:
Why would anyone want to encourage anybody, woman or man, to join the tumultuous VFX industry as it currently is?
I can understand the calls for more women at successful tech industry companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook but visual effects? It’s like a tobacco executive wanting to close the gender gap by encouraging more women to smoke. Perhaps there’s a gender gap because more women aren’t as foolish as the majority of men who choose to jump in the shark tank that is the VFX industry?
Ms. Alonso’s call has been warmly received in the media but it raises an eyebrow for many of us in the VFX industry and this isn’t the first time. You know I never agree with John Textor but I couldn’t help see his point when Alonso publicly called for studios to be more supportive of bankrupt VFX vendors like Digital Domain while internally slamming those same vendors with incredibly low bids:
When Victoria puts out the word to other studios that they should step up and support DD (or the next guy), ask her to do the same. She shoved a 14% gross margin down the throat of DD on IM-3 that is not enough to even cover the light bill…and she has the gumption to challenge other studios to step-up and help.
Like an oil executive dubiously encouraging everyone else to do more about global warming, Victoria Alonso is one of the few key executive decision makers in the VFX industry that is unfortunately objecting to a byproduct of her own making: Studios like Marvel and executives like Alonso have made the decisions that create an environment that she acknowledges is extremely difficult for women to participate in.
Anyone can preach platitudes but it takes real leadership to propose a policy that implements those goals and executes it. What’s amazing is the answer for Marvel and Alonso is right down the street in Burbank, California at Walt Disney Animation Studios. They continue to make great movies with huge profits while offering their work force union wages with overtime, paid maternity leave, and other benefits. Oh and they do this without subsidy-induced displacement of their workers.
If that model could be applied to the larger ecosystem for the VFX workforce you would see a closing of the gender gap as conditions get better. Marvel should be able to take some of those policies and make it a standard for VFX vendors:
- Mitigate the use of subsidies which constantly displace VFX families.
- Initiate a limit on long work hours by making overtime pay a standard across the industry globally.
- Mandate vendors provide proper maternity leave, childcare, and healthcare to VFX professionals.
Some would cry that this would put a dent in Marvels immense profits but if WDAS can do it so should Marvel. Unlike Disney, Marvel doesn’t have to continue bankrolling VFX vendors and their army of VFX professionals after their work is completed on a project. Disney carries a huge staff costs and is still able to succeed.
Ms. Alonso could actually be the first female superhero by initiating an across the board change of the VFX industry, but simply paying lip service to the issues while in a position of power will simply lead to nothing but a super zero.