The First ever ‘VFX Protest’ organized on Oscars Day at Hollywood L.A., on Sunday, 24th February, 2013.
Oscar Awards day is much awaited event for all movie lovers. But 2013 Academy Awards came with the greatest twist than any Animation and Visual Effects movie – the world witnessed the first ever VFX Protest of its kind. Around 483 Visual Effects Artists gathered for demonstration near Oscars. The ‘Green Ink’ has spreaded on the streets of L.A.
All these VFX Artists are ‘Real Super Heroes’. They are the executioners of all Hollywood’s block buster movies by putting endless efforts of days and nights, leaving family on backstage, sacrificing holidays and special events – just to make the movie ‘a great visual experience’. But, on reality grounds – they are powerless.
What is actually going wrong with US VFX Artists?
The VFX Industry in US is suffering from Unfair Subsidy System and high Tax Incentives. This is the reason for studios’s shut down / bankruptcy. Visual Effects Artists in US are losing their jobs. Most of the jobs are getting outsourced to other countries like India and China for cheap labor. So, he/she has only two options left:
- Migrate to other counties to get appropriate wages
- Stay in US only but accept low wages
Following is the list of only major studios who suffered in current break down. There are tons of small scale studios that are even not get noticed.
- Disney Pixar: Canada branch closed – leaving 100 artists unemployed in October 2013.
- DreamWorks Animation, California: Laid off about 350 artists because of less revenue generation of ‘Rise of the Guardians‘ in July 2013.
- Rhythm & Hues sold to Prana: The studio behind ‘Life of Pi‘ who won 4 Oscar Awards including ‘Best Achievement in Visual Effects’ got bankrupt and took over by Prana in March 2013.
- The Mill: The Mill closed down its TV VFX division in March 2013.
- Pixomondo: Winner of VFX Oscar Awards 2012 – closed down its London and Detroit branches in February 2013.
- Digital Domain: Known as one of the biggest VFX post production studio and having James Cameron as a lead founder – declared bankrupt and sold to Galloping Horse, China (70% stake) and Reliance Media Works, India (30%).
The root of the problem:
Unfair subsidy system is the main culprit, not the outsourcing.
The US CVD (CounterVailing Duties) is not helping the in-house VFX Studios to sustain in the market. So, indirectly they are forced to move out to the countries which offer huge subsidies – and they are doing it. You cannot blame any studio for this – they can’t harm their business module just to be in US. VFX (Post Production) work is completely digital. It can be executed from any remote place, anywhere in the world. What you require is handful of skilled artists, essential softwares and good infrastructure of machines. So, US VFX Studio are migrating to other countries where they are easily save millions of dollars every year – and this money they are using for extensive R&D and other infrastructure development. All these triggers to change the US policies.
If any VFX companies remain in US, they have to underbid to get the work. On a chain reaction, they are not able to generate profits. Because of this all the VFX Artists are paid very less compared to their hard work put in the movies. They are not getting their ‘pie’ from the gigantic profits the movies are making. – And all this is due to unfair US Government Subsidy System.
The countries that are giving huge subsidies to VFX Studios:
Some countries are providing huge subsidies, near by 30% of the operating costs, to the production houses. The studios are saving lots of money due to cheap labor rates and medical benefits out of US. The list of major countries are as follows :
- New Zealand
- Sony Pictures Imageworks, Fox Studios, Digital Domain (now called as Digital Domain 3.0), BaseFX are already shifted to China
- ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) have their production branch at Singapore
- Disney, TraceVFX have their production branches at Mumbai, India
And here comes the major turning point which gave fuel to the VFX protest :
‘Life of Pi’ won the Oscar Award for ‘Best Visual Effects’. Bill Westenhofer went on the stage to get the award. He started with thanks giving speech. When he attempted to address the bankruptcy of R & H and the current problems of VFX artists in US, his mic cut off. What we all listened is just this – “Sadly, Rhythm & Hues is suffering serious financial difficulties now. … I urge you all to remember …”
Second protest got organised at DreamWorks Animation, California on 26th November, 2013 during Barack Obama’s visit to the studio.
Below are the collected various pics of this VFX protest from various social media sites. All images belongs to their respective owners.