ADAPT Legal Effort On Subsidies Ends

For the past year, Scott Ross and I (Daniel Lay), as well as others that cannot be named, have been lobbying the Visual Effects industry along with others to support the formation of ADAPT, a trade organization as well as a legal case that would penalize the studios that take advantage of subsidies and as a result, harm the domestic VFX industry and its workers.

We organized demonstrations, participated in industry panels and national media interviews, and met with industry colleagues in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver.

Additionally, we enlisted the services of Picard Kentz & Rowe, a Washington DC-based law firm that specializes in cases such as this, to help us build a case for the anti-subsidy duty effort (CVD). They met with various facility owners and worked with economists to help measure the impact of trade distorting subsidies. They also conducted meetings with key personnel in the International Trade Commission, US Customs & Border Protection, and the US Department of Commerce. These meetings helped lay the framework for the case as well as gauge what challenges might lie ahead.

It is important to point out that these government agencies completely understood the threat that subsidies were to the VFX industry and they were receptive to a trade case being made.

In fact, they were amused to see the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) argue (to these very same agencies) that digital transmissions were no different than tangible goods, and that the MPAA was seeking to create rules for US customs to stop digital piracy at the border.

We were also tasked with creating the legal paperwork for making ADAPT a non-profit trade organization. This would allow us to establish a bank account so we could accept donations to pay the law firm for the work that would be ahead of us.

We worked hard to lobby the State of California as well as various politicians, to help pay for our legal effort, but fell short, as we were only able to get vocal support from the California legislature in the recently passed film subsidy law AB1839. After all, we, as opposed to the MPAA and the Studios had no lobbying funds nor a trade association to help persuade lawmakers to take up our cause. Without government support , there was now additional pressure to raise funding from our industry.

Some members of our community donated money to help fund the effort, but most did not.

We suspected the reason for this was due to how rapidly the industry in California collapsed as work moved to Canada. This left many out of work without money and others being forced to move to Canada. Others were able to take advantage of the recovering economy and move into other industries which made them reluctant to help an industry they probably would no longer work in.

On the other hand, the reluctance to support ADAPT might also have been our inability to rally the troops or fully explain what we were doing and how much it was going to cost. And finally, and hopefully incorrectly so, it might be that the VFX community is more bark than bite and that the VFX industry  is unwilling to take a stand and be proactive in righting the wrongs of the industry.

Whatever the case may be, after months of campaigning, we were only able to raise a minuscule amount, which would only cover 2% of the total legal costs .

The only donor money spent was to pay the monthly website fees.

It’s important to point out, that none of the travel costs associated with our lobbying efforts were paid by any of the funds donated. In fact, Scott and I have received no funds, remuneration or any expensed items whatsoever from donations. All monies spent beyond the website fees were borne solely by Scott and me.

As the fundraising continued, Scott and I started to become concerned that ADAPT would not be able to pay the law firm for their work. Some were reluctant to donate unless we divulged how much the case would cost or report case details back to them. While we understood their concerns, we were concerned that the Studios would take advantage of any information we would report about the case. Case in point, two major US Studios were already in talks with law firms to prepare to refute our case. The Mayor’s office also wanted to meet with us to find out what was going on, though his representatives were former MPAA employees.

We also considered slashing membership dues to increase donations, but given that the amount raised would only cover 2% of the legal costs, it was hard to believe that lowering dues would get ADAPT to where it needed to be. We decided to continue to lobby for more support from the industry with more meetings and interviews to see if support would grow. Despite that effort, there has been very little growth in support.

After careful consideration Scott and I have decided to dissolve the organization due to insufficient fiscal support.

The question now is what should be done with the funds we have already received?

Scott worked very hard with the law firm to considerably lower their fees. The law firm was extremely interested in the case and slashed their costs considerably. They did a lot of work without any payments from ADAPT and even dipped into their own pockets for the work they did with outside consultants. The total amount of money raised does not cover the amount owed for the work Picard Kentz & Rowe has already done. It barely covers the law firms out of pocket costs. Picard waived their customary fees because they felt that this would be a landmark case that would significantly impact case law on digital goods.

While we could give the law firm all the funds raised, Scott, the law firm, and I were concerned that it would be unfair not to return a portion of the money to donors.

Last week the law firm came to an agreement with us for payment that would allow us to return about 40% of the donations back to donors. Over the next couple of months I will be writing checks and personally mailing back partial donations to donors. I will also immediately suspend any recurring payments of any members of ADAPT.

Scott and I are extremely disappointed in this decision. It brings to end years of work  in the hopes of trying to give the VFX industry a fighting chance. While we are upset that many chose not to help fund the effort, we want to thank those that did, and apologize that we couldn’t take it to the finish line and make history. We also want to thank Picard Kentz & Rowe which put so much risk, capital and effort to try to resolve the VFX subsidy issue.

Respectfully,

Daniel Lay

135 Responses to ADAPT Legal Effort On Subsidies Ends

  1. pixelogre says:

    Sad to hear. A win for the big boys.

    Was there ever another kickstarter like there was for the feasibility study? I mean I for one never heard of any fund raising so missed out on any attempt to give.

  2. animcoop says:

    Wow, is this decision final?

    Is there no eleventh hour in which the community, given one last chance to chip in or let the effort fail, could breath new wind into the sails?

    • animcoop says:

      Frankly, I’d prefer you openly divulge exactly how much you need to raise – despite any edge it might give our opponents – and give the community one last chance to rally to get us there than let the effort come to an end.

  3. SoldiersFriend says:

    Please.. ‘I didnt know where to give….’ Are you a 5 years old? You know how to post on vfxsoldier yet you dont know how to send an email to the man and ask his for his paypal?
    Everyone is shouting ‘something has to be done’. Yet when someone is brave enough to come forward and sign under a right cause everyone turns back. This is very essence of human nature, unfortunately perfected in this incredibly backstabbing industry isnt it (hey London how are you hanging in there boys?) ?
    On another note, this is what is happening when money is mentioned. Its better to get ripped off, work long hours miles away from your family, being bullied by producers rather than spend 50 dollars each for a right legal effort.
    Well done everyone because of what just happened there may be no vfx industry for you to work in anymore and this quite soon…

    • pixelogre says:

      I have given money to the cause as well as support it in many ways including walking in the Oscar protests. So spew your vitrol on someone else.

      My point was that the majority of people aren’t going to just contact someone and send money to their paypal particularly when there is a large sum of money involved. They want to see a total, how much it takes to get there and where their hard earned money is going. That’s why I was asking if there ever had been another kickerstarter to raise funds? The initial study raised funds pretty quickly. I know you are angry as many of us are but throwing anger towards one another does nothing.

      Ofcourse I didn’t mention it before but thanks to Daniel and Scott for their hard work and determination.

  4. VFX Sailor says:

    This is truly a sad day. Thank you, Daniel and Scott, for all of your work on our behalf.

  5. Andreas Jablonka says:

    As an early member of ADAPT I feel sorry this has failed to gather more attention. I think its a testament to how broken our industry is that not more people came to a global support. RIP is guess. thank you Scott and Daniel for your work and let us supporters know if there is anything else we can do.

    • Lonely says:

      Lol, “global support” to fund something that would leave them without work? I have a feeling that the reason why the funding was not reached was because most people did not agree with the aim. just a thought.

      • Vancouversnotsobad says:

        Exactly my thoughts and many people I know.

        The problem is that most of the industry people are not from Cali anymore. Out of all the people I know, id say 10% are American. So, basic math tells me that 90% of industry folk are from all around the globe, and that is probably why it failed.

        On another note, I have a lot of respect for my fellow industry peeps, but I find Daniels post too directed in a way that places cali vs the rest of the world, especially canada. I’m canadian, and I moved to vancouver and am very happy here.

        Sure it sucks for California, but my government is creating jobs here and that’s fine by me. We pay taxes for those subsidies, so until the people have a problem with it, it’s completely fine for us to be able to stay at home and work instead of leaving out countries.

        But, I do get Daniel and Scott’s point. Had I been from Cali I’d push for it as well.

      • Vancouversnotsobad says:

        Oh and we’re paid very well if people are wondering. With OT and benefits. Just depends who you work for.

  6. Tiamet says:

    Yes, thank you Daniel! I wish that there was ever any hope with this case, but the Carlyle group just does not lose. If we got strong enough we would have been facing remote controlled car and plane crashes and military force. What chance did we have when the U.S. military industrial complex bought both the Foundry and Getty images?

  7. That sucks man, thank you Daniel and Scott for your efforts. I’m heartbroken because I still work in VFX and have skin in the game…. But we aren’t completely beaten yet. Are we?

    • phoebius says:

      Beaten by our colleagues who refuses to organise and work like nuts on 15$/hour. They beat us. Everyday…

    • Earl Grey says:

      But we aren’t completely beaten yet. Are we?

      I’m not sure VFX artists have a “we.” No trade association, no union, no legal action, zip.

      To those reading this: save 10% or more of every paycheck. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I suspect we’re all going to need ca$h in the bank to survive it.

  8. Frankie says:

    Daniel,
    How much exactly would still be needed to finance the 98% left in order to start the process?

  9. lois says:

    What about another kickstarter campaign? When your soo close there is no need to give up now.

    • VFX Sailor says:

      Daniel and Scott formed ADAPT to avoid doing a kickstarter. The legal requirements for the CVD case required the formation
      of a non-profit, and kickstarter takes a big cut.

      ADAPT was the kickstarter, and people didn’t contribute.

      • animcoop says:

        I think the point isn’t kickstarter specifically, but some form of fund-raising that gives contributors an idea of how close to the goals they are.

        There is a psychology behind this stuff we can’t ignore. Whether we like it or not, successful campaigning requires a combination of hope, the possibility of success, the real threat of imminent failure, an easily shareable message, and (if NPR is any example) annoying the crap out of people until they do the right thing.

        Crowdsourced fund-raising platforms (LIKE kick-starter, Indie-go-go, or whatever platform you chose), provide those things.

      • Joe VFX says:

        @animcoop: I agree with the point about the psychological factor, and expressed this thought to Daniel over the last year, however you have to realize the flip side. It would also be a huge blow to morale to have an old-fashioned fundraising “thermometer” on the web site and for it to always be sitting at a low percentage. Even if a bunch of people donated generously, it could have done more damage than good. The numbers to pull off this effort were always going to be high, and the number of people who are ever going to contribute is going to be low. (See my long post below.) No corporate or government sponsors would ever contribute and go up against the MPAA. This isn’t traditional fundraising that you could hire a fundraising expert for. (And how would that person be paid?) This is a very, very specific and possibly even unprecedented situation. The numerous stories about CVDs from Daniel’s posts and the legal study all, to my knowledge, involved major corporate or US government sponsorship of the CVD.

        I do think that if there was any hope, if would have been with a kickstarter-style threshold amount — i.e., donate $500 but get all of it back if the amount doesn’t cross the threshold. ADAPT could have done this directly, but again there are pros and cons of doing this. Revealing the amount could as much be a psychological blow as a psychological help. And also the fundraising would almost definitely have to be ongoing. Court cases go on and on and on. And people who donate a large sum of money are unlikely to be happy about doubling down unless they knew they were going to have to in the first place. This helps explain why ADAPT went for an annual fee rather than a flat one-time amount.

      • animcoop says:

        @JoeVFX. Yeah, some good points.

        And, I don’t mean this as a criticism of Daniel or Scott, because what they’ve done has been an incredible sacrifice for which we should all be quite grateful: but I think the frustrating thing is that the pros and cons of how the money is raised don’t really matter when you have nothing to support.

        We can point fingers and talk about apathy and complacency, but if we’ve learned anything in the age of the internet, it’s that people tend to rally around an imminent crisis.

        In this case, no one had the chance because the community at large had no idea Adapt was considering pulling the plug. For all VFXSoldier’s 10k twitter followers knew, everything was going just fine.

        I’m not blaming Daniel, but facing the cons of crowd-sourced fundraising seem pale in comparison to ending the fight.

      • Easy says:

        A 5% cut is huge?

        Here’s the thing. People know and trust Kickstarter. So if it cost 5% who cares as long as you get to the goal?

        With Kickstarter you stand a much higher chance of attracting the attention of people who are outside of the industry and take advantage of the fact that it has a HUGE user base who are already registered and simply have to click to donate.

        $1,485,308,715
        total dollars pledged to Kickstarter projects

        77,474
        Successfully funded projects

        7,725,386
        Total backers

        2,318,520
        Repeat backers

        For fuck’s sake:

        6,911 backers gave this clown $55,492 to make potato salad. POTATO SALAD. He only asked for $10 and it’s not like people line up to spend an evening looking at his bowl of potato salad like they to for big VFX films.

        You were never ever going to get that money from the VFX community alone. It’s sad, because you guys were a penny wise, pound foolish.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Kickstarter only allows for for creative projects so that left us with indiegogo which charges 7-9%.

        Indiegogo campaigns have a time limit which makes it hard to raise money for a 1.5 year case. You could either break the campaign up into little chunks or have one massive fundraiser. Both have obvious caveats.

        The key issue is this: Scott Ross negotiated a steep discount with the law firm to do this case. Given this we couldn’t disclose how much we needed as their competitors would know.

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Also people on kickstarter will donate to get something specific. This was a legal case to help VFX artists and companies. It’s a technical issue and I doubt the masses would have been interested.

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

  10. Berkyjay says:

    I’m one of the ones who migrated to another industry (Medical sciences). What I’m amazed at is the reluctance of friends in the industry to follow me. My company keeps looking for good artists and offers steady work and normal 8 hours shifts. But it’s like people in CG and VFX are too afraid to leave the reservation.

    It’s a shame though what’s happened. At this point I don’t even think the industry will ever get back to where it was. I always felt that it needed to collapse before it could be rebuilt. But now I feel that the studios have completely co-opted and marginalized VFX/CG.

    But your efforts were still supported by those of us who escaped. Medical sciences can be a bit dry. 🙂

    • anon says:

      mind passing on that info? There are many vfx eager to get out of this shitshow.

      • Berkyjay says:

        I’ll have to post up a contact once I find out where inquiries should be sent to. But here is the company:

        http://www.viscira.com

        The Animation department doesn’t have the open positions posted publicly yet, but we’re looking for CG generalist types and creative leads. Maya and Modo experience a plus. The main office is in San Francisco. The work pace leans towards commercial type work with quick turnaround times on projects. But 90% of the time it’s an 8 hour day.

      • Berkyjay says:

        Please forward all employment inquiries to:

        animation@viscira.com

    • contessa12 says:

      How do I get in touch with you–very interested in your experience in the medical sciences.

  11. sdfds says:

    Maybe another reason it didnt work was because people did not agree with the mission you had?

    • phoebius says:

      They don’t agree with something that could have improved their lives?
      Hm…Workers are afraid of losing jobs that any normal being on this planet would not accept.
      Workers don’t know exactly what they want.
      They might want to work long hours and being payed like crap. They accept anything, all humiliations possible from the part of these crap companies, but they don’t agree with the mission soldier had?
      Common, seriously?

      • nonnymouse says:

        Folks can agree that VFX workers want change, but disagree with the approach.

        I thought the lawsuits were too ambitious to begin with. The lawsuits would be opposed by the studios and the governments providing the incentives. Both those entities have deep pockets and huge legal teams. Even if the lawsuits had succeeded, the governments would have just worked with the studios to change the incentives so they wouldn’t qualify as illegal subsidies. This has happened many times in other industries.

        For example, the government can offer an interest-free loan to the studio as an incentive. Then, in the next round of incentives, they can forgive the loan. Like off-book accounting, there are a myriad of ways they can legally work around the intent of law.

        The fact that many vfx artists want a certain result doesn’t mean they agree with a particular approach. What if someone proposed establishing a buy-in pension fund where all the money was used to buy lottery tickets? If you don’t want to contribute, are you aginst pension funds? No, you’re against wasting your money.

        I appreciate that Daniel and Scott made efforts to help others. their hearts are in the right place. I just don’t think their strategy was a winner.

  12. TORCH says:

    Daniel, Scott. you guys not only tried to do the right thing but put your entire lives into it, finances, etc. To commit 100% to a beyond worthy cause is rare and something you should both be commended for. Thanks, guys. I still believe the huge spark you’ve created will not be for nothing but stand as the first big step in needed change. You did not fail, you fought for many you knew and many more that you did not. You planted a seed. Soldier On…

  13. jonavark says:

    Dan. Very respectable, classy letter. Honorable choice you’ve made. I am sorry to see your efforts did not yield your intended results. Regardless of my take on any of this. It isn’t over though. Take a break. Opportunities to change things will present themselves.

  14. contessa12 says:

    I too am perplexed as I responded for the initial call for money to do the feasibility study but DO NOT recall being asked for more money for the study, nor an estimate of the total fee involved to the DC based attorney.
    What is needed is a professional fu d raiser for the enormous effort to raise funds.
    Your efforts are appreciated, I thank you both. This should. It be abandoned but rather another effort to raise the money necessary for a legal decision.
    Very sad that this has been abandoned.

  15. Rodrigo says:

    I knew this was going to happen. When no other solutions were presented ADAPT was one the few initiatives that tried to fix the industry, and instead of donating to the cause most people criticized the project in a non constructive way ridiculing the organization. If this didn’t worked nothing else will, so prepare for the worst.

    Mentioning Union in a conversation could bring laughs even doubts about your intelligence, the phrase “a union doesn’t fix the problem” is a common trend, sad and disgusting.

    WE deserve this, WE deserve an industry crash, WE deserve being treated poorly, something really bad needs to happen. The VFX artists are the worst, no other industry have so much bigotry and selfishness, even bankers in Wall Street cooperate between them.

    Shame on you.

  16. Joe VFX says:

    As much as this saddens me, if you run some mental exercises it’s hard to imagine any outcome where enough money could have been raised. I think the ultimate problem is exactly what Daniel says: the remaining US vfx industry has been so decimated that there aren’t enough people left to fight. The only way this could have worked is if the companies themselves were joining the effort at the corporate level. Sure, there are expats who would likely donate, but the fact is that a lot of US citizens have simply left the industry or are still unemployed and not in a good position to donate. The non-US companies have home-grown a large proportion of their workers from their own citizenry. And a lot of the people who were working in the US but followed their companies to Canada/London/etc. were not American in the first place, so would also be unlikely to donate. Despite the fact that this effort would benefit the global industry by stopping the “race to the bottom” (even if the work didn’t return to the US, the economics would be more fair), let’s face it — the only people who would ever donate would be American citizens.

    Let’s run some hypothetical numbers. I can’t imagine that the legal fees would be any less than $500,000, and they would likely be higher, but let’s start with $500,000. To raise that much we’d need one of these (or obviously any amounts in-between):

    – 500 people donating $1,000
    – 1000 people donating $500
    – 5000 people donating $100

    The first one is out. Getting anyone, let alone 500 people, to donate $1,000 towards anything is extremely difficult, assuming they could even afford it. The effort might not pay off for 3-4 years, with a high chance of failure at that, so it would be a huge financial risk for something that might not go anywhere.

    The last one is also out, since there are nowhere close to 5000 people in the US vfx industry, excluding feature animation. (I think it would be possible to get some donations from Pixar/Disney/Dreamworks folks, but I think the overall percentage would be low since their jobs are not yet threatened by subsidies. Threatened by cheaper foreign labor? Yes, but ADAPT doesn’t help with that.)

    So what about getting 1000 people to donate $500? That’s still very, very hard. The main vfx houses still located in the US are:

    – ILM in SF
    – Sony in LA
    – DD in LA
    – Method in LA
    – Tippet (very small as far as I know)
    – Scanline in LA (also very small as far as I know)

    I apologize if I have missed any, but to my knowledge these are the main vfx houses in the US still landing big-budget Hollywood shows. And most of them don’t land work directly, but rather do a token percentage of the work awarded to the non-US offices.

    The number of workers in all those places combined, including managers, network/IT/support, etc., might be around 1000-1500 people, assuming generous estimates and including project hires. So we would need close to 100% participation of people donating $500 to do this. Asking someone to donate $500 is NOT easy, let alone asking every single “eligible” person to do so. I think even a best-case scenario wouldn’t see more than 50% participation, and even that is generous. Also consider that every one of those companies except for Tippet has a very large non-US presence, so you could expect those companies to actively not cooperate (if not downright punish) when it comes to employees trying to organize every other employee to donate to this cause. In the far back of my mind I could see a scenario where the funds were raised, but let’s not forget that Daniel doesn’t even work in vfx anymore, and you’d need a “Daniel” within each company for this to be even remotely feasible. Have any such people stepped up to the plate since this all began? No, none that I know of. There have been some very great contributors, but none truly rallying the cause to the point that hundreds people would donate $500 each because of their individual efforts. And again you’d need someone like this in each company.

    And even all that assumes $500,000, which could be low, maybe even many times low. The suit could drag on for years and might need refresher donations every year or two. You start realizing why ADAPT was asking for $500/year.

    I can understand the complaints that Daniel and Scott should have given people “one more chance” to join in, but I think they saw the writing on the wall. They were hoping their efforts up until now would catch fire, but they didn’t. Given how much investment of time (not to mention personal expenses) they would be looking at to go it another round, with very low odds of success in hitting the target donation, and with the law firm beyond the limits of what it could afford already, it is completely understandable that they came to this conclusion.

    Thank you Daniel and Scott for your efforts.

    • VFX Sailor says:

      It’s not just CA people who are the victims of the subsidy chase. Many have been forced to move to Vancouver or London to keep/find a job. Other people in London had lost their jobs to Canada. They had an incentive to get subsidies under control.

      I can understand people who had put down roots in a subsidized locale not wanting to contribute, but that doesn’t cover all the people who had moved there.

      The other folks you need to count are workers at DWA, Pixar and Disney. DWA is obvious, since they are getting ready to lay off 300-400 people. Disney may be more stable for now, but they are able to hire/fire for each project because they have zero competition. Pixar is the most stable, but the same principle applies to their artists. Their salaries are much lower than they would be if VFX in CA had not been decimated by subsidies.

      There are thousands of workers who have been negatively impacted by illegal foreign subsidies, but less than a hundred of us tried to do something about it.

      Very sad.

    • VFX Sailor says:

      I just read your paragraph about Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks. You don’t seem to realize how much studio hopping between the anim houses and vfx houses used to happen. It’s the same skill sets, and workers used to jump back and forth all the time, and within Sony between animation and VFX projects. The artists at all those studios have been impacted by subsidies, if not because of lack of job security, then at least by suppressed wages.

      • Joe VFX says:

        Yes, very true, but you’re still fighting a major psychological battle: of the people who tend to go back and forth, while they are in feature animation they tend to think of themselves as “safe” and are much less likely to donate. As soon as they realize they aren’t safe it is already too late. They have already been laid off and aren’t in a great position to donate anymore. Perhaps there is room right after a big layoff, like the one supposedly about to happen, to find willing donors in the remaining ranks of the employed. But that takes a great deal of organization. We can’t count on Daniel to do every single thing for us. Like I said, it would take a “Daniel” within Dreamworks to really make it happen. Has there ever been hint of such a person?

        Again, I’m just speaking realistic terms here. Ideally a large percentage of people in feature animation would donate, but in practice we know that it isn’t going to happen. Hats off to anyone in feature animation who DID donate.

    • Jon Meier says:

      If fighting subsidies is dead, then creating IP is all thats left. For those that call to leave the industry….you should go. For those that WON’T leave the industry…..create something.

      Back in the 80’s there was a large LA vfx shop owned by Robert Abel. One day, the employees came to work, and found the doors locked. The company had closed over night.
      A small few of those employees gave a sigh of despair, collected their thoughts, and opened a tiny vfx shop in the basement of a dentist office in Culver City. The employee who put it together was named John Hughes. The company…Rhythm and Hues.
      You gotta be kidding me if you can’t find a way to learn from that. Sure, the times are different, but back then…..some economic factor KILLED Robert Abel’s company.
      I think when the Vfx service work dried up in LA, that became our opportunity to form small groups like John Hughes did, but instead of selling vfx shots to the studios, develop and sell Movie Ideas, Tv shows, Web Series. Cartoons with Merchandise potential.
      Own this industry. Graduate from the last paradigm, and enter the new one.

      • Ace says:

        Great point.

      • nonnymouse says:

        I think you’re on the right track, but at the same time, it’s kinda like saying “it’s time to form a band and make a hit album!” People who do not create IP for a living vastly underestimate how difficult it is to create something with significant market value.

        Also, IP is a crowded market. There are many competitors pitching their movie/TV/Web/Cartoons. Many of them have established track records and years of experience. Getting that first deal could take a very long time.

        It’s still a good idea, but you need to go in with your eyes open.

      • Jon Meier says:

        @nonnymouse
        Actually. We make hit albums every day. People ADORE our music (vfx imagery).
        The band manager is keeping all of the money from the hit albums.
        You need a new Manager, but you also need to get his lyricist in your new band (who is also getting screwed out of the album money)

      • nonnymouse says:

        @Jon Meier, there’s a huge difference between making shots and creating stories. Making IP that makes money is very hard.

        There’s a skill set for creating IP that takes a long time to learn. Even successful veterans like J.J. Abrams have their share of failures.

        I’m not saying not to pursue it. I’m saying don’t do so lightly, and don’t expect it to be easy.

      • animcoop says:

        @JonMeier absolute imperative.

        @nonnymouse I can appreciate caution, but I think we’ve all worked in this industry long enough to recognize that creating IP will not be a simple task.

        I think we should be doing everything within our ability to encourage each other to go for it, not discouraging it by perpetuating fear about taking that risk.

        Yes, it will be hard, but it will be worth it. We don’t need to treat passion, vision, and optimism as a form ignorance. Failure may be a greater likelihood than success, but the alternative is being an eternal slave to the system and going down with the ship.

      • JonMeier says:

        I understand your concern, I can’t deny that it’s valid.

        I don’t think there is anything easy left in this town. Most people jumping into content creation “may” fail. But you may have to fail before you succeed. It ain’t gonna be easy. This future is ONLY for those who are willing to risk investing on something that may fail.

        The whole point I’m making is that we can’t demand jobs. We likely have to create them. If you come at it from an employee perspective of “that doesn’t sound easy” well then you are right. It’s gonna be HARD. And risky.

        But you don’t have any easy work, or easy choices do you?
        Let’s stop looking for low hanging fruit. It’s gone.

        *I’ve heard this quote spoken by many, and it never loses it’s resonance with me:

        “If you can be convinced NOT to make movies……let yourself be convinced not to make movies”

      • TORCH says:

        Great Message, Jon.

      • animcoop says:

        @JonMeier

        “This future is ONLY for those who are willing to risk investing on something that may fail. (…) Let’s stop looking for low hanging fruit. It’s gone.”

        Brilliant. Spot on!

    • Dani Sukiennik says:

      This is a painfully good analysis, Joe.

      What makes it even bleaker is the fact that both relative giants Sony and DD have unfortunately moved most of their VFX operations to Canada.

      Thank you Daniel Lay and Scott Ross for all your hard dedicated work, please let us know what else can we do to help.

      Dani Sukiennik.

  17. fourforfore says:

    This is no surprise. People have no freaking money. I am not sure what anyone is fighting for at this point. The corporations have far bigger weapons aka $$$$$$. Also, as much as the efforts of Daniel and Scott are appreciated, I have to ask, isn’t this the same Scott Ross who was a co-owner of DD when “Titanic” was made? People worked 80 hours a week with no overtime, or weirdly structured deals where the hourly rate at 40 hours stated on tax documents and contracts was false so the State would not know people were working a minimum 50 hour week without OT. People were actually working a 50 hour week at a lower hourly rate, and any overtime was at the same low rate. I remember doing an interview with Scott Ross about this very fact, so I did not sign a contract, and never worked at DD. Titanic went on to make a billion dollars. Of course I know that it went way over budget, and Cameron borrowed huge amounts to finish the project. But after it became a megahit, and the banks were paid back, and Cameron & DD made a fortune, did anyone get bonuses?

    I know this was a long time ago and has nothing to do with what’s been going on the past 10 years. But many people who worked decades in VFX that now have no money and no pensions and nothing but a pile of screen credits on “cool” movies simply don’t have $500 to donate to a pipe dream.

    Thanks anyway guys.

  18. Scott Ross says:

    DD made a fortune on TITANIC? really?

  19. Marcus Pun says:

    Thank you Dan and Scott for fighting the battle.

  20. Scott Ross says:

    and we falsified tax documents? really? Get real.

  21. Marcus Pun says:

    Heh, 444, I think if DD made a ton of money we would not have had to worry about the legal. Scott could have footed the bill.

    Back to the lemonade stand…..

  22. Rah says:

    This is a tragedy for those of us still in the industry. It’s even more tragic that we didn’t see and hear about this every single day.

  23. Tim H says:

    Yeah DD did not make money on titanic in fact I remember someone posting that is lost money year after year for a very long time.

    The main issue was ADAPT seemed to focus only on one thing. SUBSIDIES. It also alienated most not from LA with Daniels constant bashing of everything not LA. We all got sick of it and realized was not there to help most out of Cali.

    Number one reason I would not support ADAPT is because Daniel was a founder and I do not trust him or what he was really fighting for. At every opportunity he attacked anyone who did not hold his viewpoint.

    Leaders lead by listening to all viewpoints and not dismissing anyone especially if the manner that Daniel consistently does. Heck his last blog post was encouraging people here to dig up dirt on fellow co workers who might have been breached in the sony hack . This is not the way I expect leaders to be.

    • Cowards says:

      Hey, I’m smarter than you, let me tell you how it all should be done. It’s a fact and I know it. Any person with a high school diploma knows this. I’ve work in the industry for a long time, and let me give the real story. You should read a book every once in a while.
      Number one, I wouldn’t support a person that is willing to rat on his friends, but I would support a person that talks behind the back of his coworkers.

      Tim, you sir, are a standup dude and should be commended on your deep intellect and hard work to make the vfx biz a great place.

      • phoebius says:

        Tim does not care about VFX.
        He was saying that Soldier is not a great leader. So Tim, he will be ready at any time to do ( what?) in order to change something inside vfx, and follow someone who will be build based on his criteria/descriptions of being a leader.
        Tim is explaining us why ADAPT didn’t work. He sits in his chair ( same chair from where he was watching Soldier’s actions since the beginning) and now, at the end he conclude: “This is not the way I expect leaders to be.”
        Well Tim, world is so packed with guys like you. You need a leader? For what?

    • Earl Grey says:

      Number one reason I would not support ADAPT…

      There were only two things VFX artists could do to improve their lives: sign a rep card and donate to ADAPT. I don’t agree with every word Dan ever wrote, but I donated to ADAPT regardless.

      I just got a new job. Now I gotta sign that rep card…

    • James B says:

      You nailed it. The PiDay townhall alienated international artists right off the bat. The focused bashing of artists outside of LA lessened after the first 6-12 months or so. Even the most gung-ho workers outside of the USA had no interest in supporting what largely felt as an anti-international movement – especially in the beginning.

      Would the movement have done better if they made a better appeal to internationals? Or on unionization? A discussion on how to decentralize production from the LA hub? On visa issues? Who knows, but my hat’s off to Daniel and everyone else who put immeasurable effort in. I may not have agreed with everything said over the last few years, nor usually on how it was said, but I applaud the efforts of everyone.

      It’s a sad day to see that the global enthusiasm sparked by PiDay fizzle out.

  24. Cowards says:

    I read this with some sadness, but also with no shock at all. It’s always been about the complete lack of a cohesive community that doesn’t support one another. It’s always been about the culture of animation and vfx. The “I’ve got mine, you get yours” attitude was the demise of this industry a long time ago sadly. ‘I’m smarter than you”. It even persists in these posts.
    The studios knew about this embedded culture and used it to their advantage, time and time again.

    I’m not sure how any of that could ever be changed with the general apathy of the industry. Other professions in Hollywood knew early on, that you can’t change Hollywood, but you can Unionize and at least protect your livelihood for years to come.

    We were all COWARDS! At every turn, there were plenty of opportunity to make REAL, TANGIBLE, statements, like organized walk outs. Instead, we wear green shirts and walk on Hollywood Blvd, and post green avatars on our facebook pages. WEAK!

    We should all be shamed of ourselves. We did this to ourselves.

    Canada is next.

    • phoebius says:

      You’re right. But you know, as I know, that if you are BRAVE – you are blacklisted.

      Again and again I am struggling with the fact that there is no alternative to this miserable industry.
      Every day I see people who, although they are not working for several months or even years,they are still on Linkedin pressing the “Like” option every time a despicable company as MPC is posting a fart of a job.
      Those who are working are afraid to say anything just because they know they will be out in no time.
      VFX is not what it was in the past. Corporations like Carlyle Group are involved. Governments (Canada/UK/AU) are involved. Big MAFIA is there as well. How do you expect to solve this? Being BRAVE and walk out? Schools are providing every single day hundreds of juniors, MPC has a meat grinder named ACADEMY, and you expect that some of these criminals will pay any attention to what so ever?
      You saw what was the response of MPC on 600 negative posts on Variety. NONE!
      Anyway, I have no idea how soldier would have managed to grab enough money and create ADAPT –
      30% of us are unemployed, 20% blacklisted ( same thing), 30% juniors and the rest supervisors and HR’s who don’t want any change inside the industry.

  25. fourforfore says:

    Ok sorry Scott. It was a long time ago and does not matter anymore anyway.

    • scottross996 says:

      thanks for the apology BUT words matter and when people say
      stuff it adds to the mythology and ultimately becomes a reality.

      I ran DD v1.0, and I am proud of what we did and how we did it. Again, for the record DD lost money on TITANIC… lots of money because of the business model and the director ( Not DD’s fault).

      We paid people on a 50 hour guaranteed week ( the last ten at time and a half). We never falsified any documents when I was CEO ( I can’t speak for Textor’s reign). I never missed a payroll. And once and for all, after Cameron left, DD MADE MONEY… not lots, but we were profitable. After I left, Textor’s DD lost tens of millions almost every year. Looking at DDMHoldings, DD v3.0 seems to lose millions of dollars per year as well.

      I sold DD almost 9 years ago. The business has changed. I’ve worked very hard ( with no remuneration) to help the industry during those years… I did so because VFX was my life for over 2 decades…. and I deeply care about the industry and it’s workers.

      I’ve tried every possible door. No one seems to be willing to change. I’m done. I wish you all good luck.

      And 444, watch what you say… words are powerful.

      • TORCH says:

        Everything Scott is saying is true. The concept of Cameron making money = DD making money is a joke. Cameron is so completely overt in needless changes that he can burn the profits out of any VFX house, as I understand was the case on Titanic. Scott is one of the good guys and has gone above and beyond in this industry. Well done, Scott. Everything good comes back as it will in your case. I wish you the best, man.

      • Dani Sukiennik says:

        Dear Scott,

        I’ve been admiring your and Daniel’s efforts form the sidelines and regret donating too little to ADAPT.

        I wish it was not over and that there was some more urgent call for action, as I too, was under the impression that ADAPT was doing it’s thing, and well, and that Daniel might post something in case it was derailing and needed help. Yes, the VFX community is poorly organized and many are broke or displaced or demoralized (or some combination of these).

        Another idea to consider, that you may have already so I’m sorry if it’s old news, is to lobby the California Film Commission (http://www.film.ca.gov/Incentives.htm).

        Commentator ‘VFX Joe’ here, estimates $0.5M needed for ADAPT’s initiative. Not sure how precise his estimate is but even if it is ten time that at $5M, it is a drop in the bucket of the CFC’s proposed $330M/year for 5 years: a $1.65B budget (!)

        We all understand it would make more sense to have ADAPT finish their job then to get California tax money participate in the global race to the bottom of VFX state.

        So could CFC be convinced of that -or- do the 6 Hollywood studios have such strong grip over CFC that we stand no chance of lobbying our extremely logical case to the California government ?

        Thank you,
        Dani Sukiennik.

        (Scott, can I please have your email to discuss this further?
        I’m trying to connect via linkedIn. I’m: sukiennik (at) gmail . Thanks)

  26. bd3d says:

    As an artist who wanted and tried to build a life in LA, but ultimately failed and ended up chasing subsidies to Canada, I am deeply saddened by this news. The cvd effort was my one remaining hope that balance might someday be found in the industry.

    Because regardless of where we live and work, as artists today it is the fear of change in subsidy politics that most hinders our ability to settle down and have stable “normal” lives. That is as true in Vancouver as it is in LA, or anywhere else. LA fell, but Wellington or Montreal or London could be next – we won’t know until it happens.

    When I was young I loved the idea of going to Hollywood to work on movies. That dream inspired and motivated me, and to eventually succeed was hugely fulfilling. I don’t think it was a bad thing for Hollywood to be the epicenter of vfx – and salaries for all artists (worldwide) were higher while that was still the case.

    Subsidies have contributed to lower salaries for artists. At the end of the day, that’s really all that should matter to any of us. The new epicenter might be London or Vancouver, but only if we learn to market ourselves within a given market will we see our rates increase.

    I thank everyone involved with Adapt for their efforts. My hope now is that Scott and Soldier have some other plan up their sleeves, of which this move is only one step.

    However, I also agree with those comments here that Adapt wasn’t particularly adept at fundraising, and wasn’t transparent enough in intentions or how funds were being used. In my opinion there is no realistically conceivable way that in a full-fledged legal battle any effort funded by artist donations could ever have stayed ahead of the studio’s corporate lawyers. The name of the game for corporate lawyers is billable hours, and they would have drawn proceedings out indefinitely given the chance. In the Silicon Valley anti-poaching case for example, which took years to settle, the lawyers received $81 million.

    I’m also somewhat offended by Soldier’s suggestion that artists didn’t do enough to support Adapt. Many of us have already paid our dues to the industry, and should be permitted a clear conscience. Others simply don’t have the means. For Adapt to have succeeded financially would have required much much deeper pockets than ours.

    • Not a Towel Thrower says:

      You are correct. Unfortunately, any non profit organization that has a specific financial goal needs to let contributors to their cause know what the goal is and how much is being raised. Without that, contributors are left in the dark and can’t get a handle on what needs to be done for the cause.

      On the other hand, by not disclosing the financials it might have bought ADAPT time thinking they’d get a touchdown with a Hail Mary pass.

    • Jon Meier says:

      Here are my thoughts to anyone who is a displaced vfx transplant. If you are stuck in Canada, make the best of it, and pressure your Vfx company to develop Cgi content. TV Pilots, for instance may be subsidizes by the government, as to some degree is a noble use of government subsidies for Entertainment Industries. This creates content that normally would have never existed. Actual Job Creation.
      *This isn’t theoretical. I personally know very talented people who have done this.

      If you can succeed in creation of a Tv or Web series, then you have succeeded in creating content branding for your company.
      This is huge because you’ve done 2 things.
      1) brought in extra cash for a company already stressed by competing against another company for very little profit.
      2) You demonstrate to investors that a Vfx House can produce content themselves. (hopefully you connect with an audience)

  27. Pierre Grage says:

    I have only the greatest respect for Daniel and Scott. While the global VFX community may not all agree with ADAPT’s strategies, at least Daniel and Scott did something and we can be all grateful for that. Both of them donated a lot of their time and efforts to help improve the global VFX industry. I hope this is just one of the many battles lost in the war over the VFX commodity. Its time that we are all start to cooperate globally and stop attacking each other. Who does such disunity help anyway?

  28. nonnymouse says:

    An another alternative VFX business model to consider: VFX as an investment.

    If a VFX house partnered with an investment bank or venture capital firm, they could offer to co-finance/co-produce major tentpole movies with a studio.

    It would work like this:

    The VFX house would do all the shots for a major blockbuster at no upfront cost to the studio. In exchange, they would agree on a set value for the work as a whole, and treat it as a cash investment in the film, with a first-dollar gross recoupment. That means the VFX company gets paid back from the first dollar, just like the big movie funds and Tom Cruise.

    When the movie makes $1 billion at the box office, the VFX house shares in the spoils. Artists get bonuses. Everybody wins, and gets to fight another day.

    The i-banker or VC is the financial backing for the VFX company. They put up the money for the work, but are paying the raw cost, without a profit margin for the house. So every dollar the backer invests, they are getting $1.50 of investment credit in the movie. The backer and the VFX house split the revenue when the film makes good. If the film fails, the VFX artists have already paid, and the backer is the one taking the loss.

    The trick to making this happen is convincing the backer that you can get the money out of the studio. It’s worth considering.

    • Pierre Grage says:

      Nice idea but Hollywood’s creative accounting methods can make a grand slam look like a disaster. But even if — what do you do in case of a real flop? A film studio diversifies its risk by publishing ten or more movies. A VFX studio can’t do this so easily.

      • nonnymouse says:

        The creative accounting argument is kind of spurious, because capital companies like Legendary and Relativity have gotten financial definitions that brought them real profits. Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie get their proper share, as well. The more valuable you are to the project, the better the deal you get.

        In case of a real flow, the capital backer takes the loss, but the VFX artists have already been paid for their time. I would imagine the backer would want to pool the projects they were backing, so the big hits would pay them back for the losers.

        This business model requires the deep pockets of a Wall Street fund or wealthy individual. I’d never suggest this as a cash-flow based solution.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      @nonnymouse

      you do realize your suggestions are tried and failed right? vfx shops investing into tentpoles for backend points? naive. look at r&h, dd, framestore… you dont know what yo are talking about.

  29. Earl Grey says:

    I wish to thank Scott Ross, Dan Lay, and others who tried to improve the lot of VFX artists worldwide. I am grateful for your efforts.

  30. anon says:

    ………in other news……………

    “Big job cuts coming at DreamWorks Animation”

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/dreamworks-animation-planning-layoffs-764726

    The beleaguered movie studio DreamWorks Animation is embarking on a round of sizable layoffs, potentially involving more than 15% of its employee base.
    A person with knowledge of the plan confirmed a Los Angeles Times report that the cuts “are expected to include animators, story-board artists and other production personnel and support staff.”
    DreamWorks employs about 2,200 people – the Times said more than 350 are likely to be laid off.
    The company last suffered layoffs in early 2013.

    • Frank N. Stein says:

      Unfortunately there is no where to go in LA for all the laid-off Dreamworks people. Most will have to leave town if they want to stay employed. I know! Katzenberg can easily fully fund the ADAPT legal effort. We know how Jeffrey stands up for the little guy by holding all those Obama fundraisers. Surely he can donate to the cause.

      Jeffrey?

      • Earl Grey says:

        Most will have to leave town if they want to stay employed.

        You don’t think these Dreamworks artists could move into video games, visualization or television VFX?

      • VFX Sailor says:

        Ha! Jeffrey loved the subsidies because they eliminated his main competition for labor in LA — the VFX industry. The more VFX shops that went under — DD, R&H, Sony — the more leverage his people had in negotiating with his employees. And the more they got screwed.

        If it came down to a fight, DWA would have been firmly on the side of the MPAA.

      • TORCH says:

        Concur with VFX Sailor 100%

    • pixelogre says:

      Artists are always the first to go. Don’t worry about too much middle and upper management, they are fine. *Waves hand* These are not the droids you’re looking for…

      @Earl Grey – sure there are maybe a few positions available, but not 350. Most will need to be generalist and will be working on 2-3 week contracts. Forget your 18 month with benefits animation guild job.

      • Earl Grey says:

        Forget your 18 month with benefits animation guild job.

        You make a good point — any non-union work will not count towards the 839 pension benefits. Argh.

  31. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    and we are very very divided.

  32. Not Surprised says:

    It’s incredible that people are still afraid of unionizing. A quote from someone I know about unions, “They’ll just take money out of our pockets.” It’s pathetic. Now that this legal effort is over, VFX artists will still continue to get screwed. Right now the work is in Vancouver. Great. All of those artists against unionizing and for subsidies because you have a job right now, good for you. You make me think of the people that are out buying SUVs and big trucks because gas prices are incredibly low right now. Not thinking about future consequences. It’s just a matter of time until subsides in Vancouver goes away and people are left moving again.

    I work in the VFX industry and live in LA. I’ve accepted my no benefits, sick/vacation, unsteady working life, and am actively working to get out of this shit hole of an industry. I was there when DD went bankrupt and was there when R&H went bankrupt. What’s amazing is, STILL, the reluctance for people to want to join a union, or fund this legal effort, or become an ADAPT member, or really do ANY SORT OF CHANGE AT ALL to attempt to begin beneficial change for workers in the VFX industry. Then, on top of that, still hear bitching about all the jobs going out of the country.

    I agree with whoever said above that artists deserve this. The vast majority of artists can’t stand together for a positive change for the collective whole. This is another win for the studios. So enjoy the no healthcare, no vision, no dental, no sick days, no vacation days, the poor working conditions, the incredible, and unacceptable, amount of unpaid OT, and the continued chasing of subsidies. Because unless people start thinking about the future, show some fucking spine, and stop being so god damn selfish, this shit will never change. In fact, it won’t ever change. So get used to it and stop complaining. WE are the problem. WE can change it but choose not to because we are cowards.

    • VFX Sailor says:

      +1

    • VFX_Boom says:

      Yup, the biggest problem right now in VFX are the artists. We get kicked in the teeth, and what do we do?….we give a bloody smile and say “Thank you, may I have another.”

      I thought the artists would finally learn to stand up for themselves, once again, the artists have (not)spoken. We get what we deserve.

  33. Muse says:

    So is this also the end of this blog then?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Maybe? I don’t work in the industry any longer and it’s time for me to move on to better things.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

      • Lonely says:

        Ding dong the witch is dead.

      • Nic D. says:

        Daniel, why dissolve ADAPT? Couldn’t you guys pass the torch to a group of people willing to keep up the good fight?
        Maybe not necessarily in the same direction but in some shape or form become a guild/union or simply a stronger more proactive voice than the VES currently is?

        Adapt, right?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        The issue is more legal but adapt was registered as a non-profit business league. There are bylaws we need to fulfill to keep the organization going and also filing IRS tax returns. All that will cost some money just to keep the organization going. Given the low response and the fact it would cost Scott and I to continue we figure it would be cost effective to dissolve the organization.

        Which is a good thing to point out. There is talk about co-ops, worker organizations, etc. All these actions cost money. Scott and I put our money where our mouths were and it wasn’t cheap. I just hope that others who talk about their solution realize it costs money and it’s work.

        >

      • animcoop says:

        “I just hope that others who talk about their solution realize it costs money and it’s work.”

        You and Scott got further than anyone else has to a solution for the VFX community, and I stand along with the community in expressing my deep gratitude and sadness seeing it come to an end. I can’t even comprehend the incredible personal/emotional toll this has probably taken on you guys.

        For my part, I recognize the enormous financial risks and implications of any new endeavor, especially the kind I’ve been advocating for.

        The one advantage we have in the pursuit of democratic, worker-owned production houses is that several of them could get off the ground independently with different takes on the model, leadership structure, and financing while requiring a smaller group of participants than something like Adapt. At this point it’s just about raising awareness of the possibility. We’ll see where we can take it from there.

        Regardless of what is next for the industry, we still have a lot to learn from what you guys accomplished.

      • Earl Grey says:

        Maybe? I don’t work in the industry any longer and it’s time for me to move on to better things.

        Even if you end this blog, I request that you leave it up as a valuable resource for the next generation of VFX artists. They deserve to be warned.

        Wishing you success in your future endeavors.

      • Muse says:

        Regardless of your eventual decision, thank you for all of your time and effort.

      • Ever thought of writing a book? Could make for some informative reading for those in the industry, and thinking of getting into it. I could become required reading for students..

        There’s plenty of gold in these blog pages.

  34. Proletarian says:

    Thank you, Daniel and Scott, for everything you have done. Things never would have gotten this far without your leadership and tireless work.

    To echo some of the comments above, now that you have the community’s attention again, is there any chance you would consider reviving the campaign? I think there are many people who would be willing to give now that they know that the whole thing will disappear if they don’t contribute.

    I believe that many VFX artists were complacent about this effort continuing because we didn’t know how urgently our money was needed and how exactly it would be spent. Since we didn’t receive the kind of aggressive email and social media solicitations for cash that we’ve come to expect to when an organization is asking us for money, and no warnings about falling short of the goal, we didn’t know there was a financial problem until it was too late.

    It’s also a big ask to get people to commit $500/year or $50/month to something as abstract as a potential trade court lawsuit, especially when there haven’t been any recent news updates about it. I appreciate the risks about transparency mentioned in Daniel’s post, but since the worst case scenario is coming to pass anyway, what do we have to lose now?

    This CVD legal strategy was one of the biggest sources of hope I had about the future of our industry, so I’m crushed to hear that it is ending now. I am grateful for your efforts and you have been true leaders. I just wish you would give the wider VFX community another chance to keep this going before closing the door on it completely.

    • Nic D. says:

      I agree. If we’re asking people to pay up, maybe we can group together and offer services too?
      The VPG was starting to do that, the Freelancer’s Union somewhat does that too Maybe we can offer something different than just the CVD and re-gain popularity with the non-LA world by offering what the VES can’t?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        You could do that but your going to need to hire people to work full time. Your going to need to get funding and it’s not cheap. Many point out that the VES doesn’t do much. Yet even for that organization, they spend about $2M a year:

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

  35. artefactvfx says:

    Government is a weapon, but not one that can just be picked up by anyone, only those with money and power. That’s why I was always skeptical of this approach. Even if you raised the money, there was no way it was ever going to work. The studios are too powerful and the courts would turn a deaf ear to even the most blatant legal contradictions.

    The only way out of this is to stand up and start making films ourselves. VFX artists are the ones who should be making movies, not directors, producers and corporations. We need to stop laboring for VFX sweat shops and giant corporations that churn out garbage movies.

    My personal solution has been to operate my own one man studio with the ultimate goal of creating films myself. This has worked very well for me because I’m a generalist and I’d be happy to hear from anyone who has a similar interest.

    • VFX Sailor says:

      I don’t think you’ve really been paying attention to the legal case. This wasn’t a situation where the side with the most money wins. The legal principles were on our side, and the MPAA had already surrendered the most difficult part of our case — that of defining digital files as products.

      It’s great that you have a path forward yourself, but the defeatist attitude of the poorly informed is one of the main killers of what could have been a winning case.

      • Artefact VFX says:

        That’s exactly my point, the legal principles would have been ignored. You’re under the illusion that government will obey it’s own rules, and it doesn’t. It simply interprets them to serve the powerful with blatant disregard for justice.

        I don’t have a defeatist attitude at all, I’m moving forward constructively.

    • TORCH says:

      Very smart way to go for those that are so inclined. Concur.

      • VFX Sailor says:

        I can understand having the attitude that our CVD case was destined to fail if we had to rely on Congress or the President. The reason I thought we would win was this was purely a legal decision, and had been won by many “little guys” against corporate interests in the past. We didn’t have to buy politicians. We just had to prove our case. To imagine that the judges at the International Trade Court would have been bought by the MPAA is defeatist.

        The other reason for optimism was that the court would have had to share with us the legal reasons our case didn’t meet the standard, and we could have redressed those shortcomings. The judges could not have just said “no” without a legal justification. That was another reason to be hopeful.

        I think a lot of people used the “it’ll never work” excuse to justify to themselves their own apathy and inaction. If you read the feasibility study and kept up on the legal developments regarding digital files and their status as “products”, you knew we had a shot. The only thing that stopped us was ourselves, our apathy and defeatism.

  36. […] VFXSoldier (Daniel Lay) and Scott Ross formally announced an end to ADAPT, a valiant attempt and last-ditch effort to slow or reverse the collapse of the […]

  37. Nzvfxworker says:

    I think what Daniel, Dave rand, jablonka, etc, utterly fail to realize is quite simple. You lost this fight the day you made it about California vfx workers versus the world. Period, end of story. Whether it was against Canada, India, New Zealand, London, etc. It doesn’t matter. You allowed this site, the dialogue here (and in the news) to divide rather than unite our industry. You made straw man arguments to support a pre-determined outcome (bringing the work back to CA), that you were NEVER going to win. If you somehow got tariffs against Canada the work would just go to China or India. It was an unwinnable, myopic attempt to change global economics. And you did it in a way that turned people in the industry against each other rather than against the underlying practices and problems within the industry and business model. I’m sorry, but people shouldn’t be holding this site or you up as a savior. We should be asking why anyone got behind you in the first place.

    • Lonely says:

      No! You’re wrong!

    • Sheila says:

      I’m curious about your lack of empathy. You’d feel a hell of a lot different if a major film industry started in NZ 100 yrs ago and within a few years you lost all the VFX work to this new Hollywood due to some political scheme. CA VFX workers had every right to attempt to recover the devastating loss due to breaking the world trade agreement. The problem lies in the fact that everyone is bowing to Hollywood and fighting like puppies for the nipple. Until VFX artists realize that the only viable and long lasting model is one that moves away from these political schemes that feed ONE monopoly.

      Right now your warm an comfy with work from the USA based on your countries dissolution of labor laws and some free handouts for the Americans….but don’t fool yourself, it’s all a house of cards as along as you worship this golden calf that is Hollywood and not a true and self sustaining local industry.

      When NZ was refusing to raise the subsidy to please the Americans you were all doing the same thing as the American artists…petitioning your government to make it happen for you.

      Admit it…you are no different in this equation. There’s your solidarity.

    • VFX_Boom says:

      I feel the artists in NZ developed a very “tunnel Vision” approach to what was being written and reported. This lead to the NZ based artists to to dig in and make it about California vs the rest of the world, when technically it was California (Non-VFX subsidized) vs the heavily VFX-Subsidized world. One day, maybe, the folks will see how the subsidies ultimately ate the the entire VFX industry from the inside out.

      I’m not sure how much further we can devalue ourselves, but I await it eagerly now…………

      • VFX Soldier says:

        VFX Boom: agreed. The California vs The World was a straw man argument made by people who feared losing their subsidies. Now I get to wait and say “See? This is what I warned you about subsidies.”

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

    • bd3d says:

      Couldn’t we all just agree that anything that leads to lower rates for artists is bad?

      Surely getting paid more is something we could all agree is good, and worth taking a stand for?

      Subsidies have contributed to lower rates for artists – all artists, everywhere, worldwide. That’s all that really matters. Doesn’t matter where you live or work now.

      But the studios are based in California. The work comes from California. Therefore the battle has to be in California.

      That is what this is all about.

    • Earl Grey says:

      We should be asking why anyone got behind you in the first place.

      When Weta forces you to migrate to its Montreal branch, you will have your answer.

      • phoebius says:

        they don’t care. They work like nuts and don’t care any more. Sheep going to slaughter house.

    • scottross996 says:

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” — Upton Sinclair

      I always admired Upton Sinclair.

      LA WAS NEVER THE ISSUE….

      SUBSIDIES CREATING UNFAIR RULES AND ADDING MONEY INTO THE COFFERS OF BILLION DOLLAR MOTION PICTURE STUDIOS WITH NO ADVANTAGE TO VFX FACILITIES WHATSOEVER.

      THE GOOD NEWS IS MPC, WETA, FRAMESTORE, D NEG GOT THE WORK (though they got it because of subsidies and then hired from around the globe and built world class vfx facilities because they got the work),

      THE BAD NEWS IS THEY TOO DONT MAKE ANY MONEY. WHAT HAPPENED IN LA IS ALREADY STARTING TO HAPPEN IN LONDON… DNEG SELLS TO PFW…? ANYBODY WONDER WHY? BECAUSE THEY HAD TO…. CASHFLOW

      HAS ANYONE TAKEN A LOOK AT FRAMESTORE’S FINANCIAL STATEMENTS? MPC’S?

      WHAT HAPPENS WHEN BRITISH CITIZENS GET WISE TO THEIR GOVERNMENT PUTTING MILLIONS OF POUNDS INTO US STUDIOS?

      What will happen to WETA? BECAUSE AVATAR 2 GETS DELAYED A YEAR..

      AND CANADA? ANYONE SEE DD v3 ‘S FINANCIALS? IMAGEWORKS?

      You guys don’t get it, subsidies will continue to ruin your industry. ON A GLOBAL BASIS.

      IT WAS NEVER ABOUT LA…..

      NEVER.

  38. Nzvfxworker says:

    Lack of empathy? Hardly. I am empathetic to the thousands of vfx workers trying to make a living in a very tough industry, in a global economy. I’m sorry, but of the myriad of problems we face, bringing the work back to Calfornia out of some misguided sense of entitlement is not high on the list. Fighting outsourcing and global economics is a waste of time. It was the wrong approach. We should be focused on fixing practices within the industry and making it a better, more sustainable business. Suing governments and pitting CA artists against the world is and was a Colossal misstep. You can say it’s a house of cards and talk about free handouts and unfair competition until you are blue in the face. Ask the U.S. auto workers how that went. Ask the computer and Television manufacturers how many of those jobs are still done in the US. Ask 2d animators how South Korea is doing 20 years after taking all of the 2d animation jobs using “unfair” practices and cheap labor. Globalization has nothing to do with what’s “fair.”

    • VFX Sailor says:

      Obviously you haven’t been paying attention to all the winning CVD cases that Daniel has pointed out. And, you’re conflating “cheap labor” with subsidized labor, which is another rhetorical device for those who want to muddy the waters and set up straw men.

      I don’t blame people for defending their subsidies. But, don’t pretend that what you’re doing is anything but self-interested. Defending the status quo is great for you, but terrible for VFX as a whole.

      I’ll say it again. There are plenty of displaced people in subsidized locations that want to go home. Americans have been forced to move to Canada and the UK. Native Brits in London have lost their jobs to Canada. People in Vancouver are losing out to Montreal and Toronto. The cycle of displacement that depends on they whims of politicians is terrible for any VFX artist who wants to settle down and raise a family.

      And, I have zero guilt about “stealing jobs” back to California that were stolen from here in the first place.

      • Earl Grey says:

        I don’t blame people for defending their subsidies. But, don’t pretend that what you’re doing is anything but self-interested. Defending the status quo is great for you, but terrible for VFX as a whole.

        “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” — Upton Sinclair

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Quote of the year right there.

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

      • John Smith says:

        well said VFX Sailor!

      • scottross996 says:

        “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” — Upton Sinclair

        I always admired Upton Sinclair.

        LA WAS NEVER THE ISSUE….

        SUBSIDIES CREATING UNFAIR RULES AND ADDING MONEY INTO THE COFFERS OF BILLION DOLLAR MOTION PICTURE STUDIOS WITH NO ADVANTAGE TO VFX FACILITIES WHATSOEVER.

        THE GOOD NEWS IS MPC, WETA, FRAMESTORE, D NEG GOT THE WORK (though they got it because of subsidies and then hired from around the globe and built world class vfx facilities because they got the work),

        THE BAD NEWS IS THEY TOO DONT MAKE ANY MONEY. WHAT HAPPENED IN LA IS ALREADY STARTING TO HAPPEN IN LONDON… DNEG SELLS TO PFW…? ANYBODY WONDER WHY? BECAUSE THEY HAD TO…. CASHFLOW

        HAS ANYONE TAKEN A LOOK AT FRAMESTORE’S FINANCIAL STATEMENTS? MPC’S?

        WHAT HAPPENS WHEN BRITISH CITIZENS GET WISE TO THEIR GOVERNMENT PUTTING MILLIONS OF POUNDS INTO US STUDIOS?

        What will happen to WETA? BECAUSE AVATAR 2 GETS DELAYED A YEAR..

        AND CANADA? ANYONE SEE DD v3 ‘S FINANCIALS? IMAGEWORKS?

        You guys don’t get it, subsidies will continue to ruin your industry. ON A GLOBAL BASIS.

        IT WAS NEVER ABOUT LA…..

        NEVER.

    • Stateless says:

      Look. That’s not what it’s about and it’s disappointing you think it is. ADAPT was Cali-centric in the sense that the studios are all based there and for the CVD mechanism to work it had to be tackled at ground zero. The more lucrative work that facilities can get from say, wealthy Indian or Chinese studios, the less leverage the US studios would potentially have but right now it’s what six clients, all based in Cali.

      Are you saying if the work goes to Weta it’s “being outsourced” from Cali at bargain prices? And if it wasn’t Weta it would be China I would have thought you would have a higher opinion of the work that you’re doing. I know that’s not what you mean but that’s how it reads. It doesn’t make sense on slightly closer analysis.

      How about you invert your own straw man argument that ADAPT et al was campaigning to bring the work back to Cali and look at what it’s really about: your own fear that work will leave NZ. Back in the day, no-one was threatened by Weta per se, or vice versa. People bid for work on a more even playing field. But now PJ/Cameron and the studios hold NZ hostage for more government cash with the annual threat of pulling upcoming mega projects. Do you know why? Because of larger subsidies offered in other jurisdictions distorting the market globally. This is what gives the studios leverage to pit jurisdictions against each other.

      Keep in mind ADAPT/Daniel/Scotts etc were always against Cali subsidies so your argument falls apart right there. I would have thought that Weta could win the work based on the artificially lowered $NZ as well as the fact that they are the darling of many film makers. But of course that’s not enough any more to compete with Vancouver.

      • Scott Ross says:

        great work, on time at the lowest price…. that’s what should win the bid.

        Not subsidies, not corporate welfare, not buying jobs.

        That is how business should work.

        In CA, NZ, UK, CND, China, AUS, India.

        Everywhere.

        ADAPT was never about CA.

        ADAPT was about saving the VFX business.

        everywhere.

        good luck.

      • Artefact VFX says:

        The plan of action was flawed because it did nothing to challenge the fundamental business structure of artists working for these big, awful studios and production companies. It’s a fact of life that there are two classes of people in the world, those who own businesses and those who don’t. People who don’t are always going to be second class citizens. No court decision or legislation will ever change that. VFX artists need to make their own films.

  39. joeRandom says:

    ADAPT ending, and redwood city dreamworks studio closing. The future sure looks bleak for vfx artists and animators.

    http://www.cartoonbrew.com/business/breaking-dreamworks-animation-will-shut-down-pdidreamworks-studio-over-500-jobs-will-be-eliminated-108161.html

  40. […] the same week that ADAPT announced an end to its legal effort, DreamWorks Animation announced the closure of PDI and the shedding of 500 jobs. Sad news and you […]

  41. Don says:

    I’ve worked in VFX for 8 1/2 years. I’m British, and I’ve done 5 years in London and 3 1/2 years in LA, all at the big studios. Subsidies isn’t the problem. Distribution of wealth is. Subsidies are a symptom, they exist because companies need to coax as much work to them as possible to keep them just about in the black. If distribution of box office wealth were more equal to the vendors which create the work that generates these huge takings (i.e. the VFX facilities), companies would not have to suck up any and all work they can get their hands on just to survive, they could turn down work as they already have a full plate, allowing a natural flow of work to other vendors around the world.

    As it is/was, facilities ramp up to accommodate any and all work they get offered, because they can’t afford to ever turn work down. Then of course they have to lay people off. Better distribution of wealth would encourage a natural flow of projects to all vendors, as they could afford to keep staff on at quiet times, turn down jobs when they are already busy, which would then go to other facilities. This would also allow facilities much more time to spend on making the whole vfx process/pipeline/tools more efficient, which as we all know, is another money-sucking massive inefficiency of this industy, at virtually all facilities.

    California had other problems on top of that. Basically anyone mid level or above at the big studios was earning ridiculous money, some just for donkey work. I managed to save a huge amount of money while in LA. It was a gravy train, that had to come to an end at some point. I can’t imagine the cost of the wage bills at places like DD and Rhythm for anywhere between 400 and 800 people every 2 weeks, versus their profit margin.

    • TORCH says:

      A lot of truth there and in many cases even worse. The studios and networks keep VFX houses working very hand to mouth, doing anything possible to ensure that the house does not have a high profit margin if any profit margin at all. This is literally the job of the production executive, to ensure that they are paying as close to actual artist wages as possible. This then leaves the VFX houses in an instant cash flow problem the moment that particular project is over, creating a desperation to do anything and everything just to stay in business. I know many of the people on this blog have this feeling that the VFX houses are part of the problem, but the reality is you’ll rarely find one that is not struggling financially beyond paying salaries.

  42. Kate says:

    During all of this I kept wondering why no one talked about FTAC. Same issue. Same demise. Too much power and money at stake and none of it on your side.

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