Saturday, May 29, 2010

Animators Agitate for Guvmint Relief ...

... In Great Britain.

... The [British animation] industry ... is seeing talent lured overseas by lucrative tax breaks. And they complain that work is being outsourced to studios in the Far East. Earlier this month it emerged that a film produced to showcase one-eyed monsters Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the London 2012 Olympics, was produced in China ....

Their new campaign, Save UK Animation, launches in a couple of weeks' time but it is marshalling its forces ahead of the coalition government's emergency budget on 22 June. While in opposition, both parties talked of the need to support the creative industries, and Save UK Animation is compiling a dossier on the economic value of the industry to bolster its case ...

These are the times that try animation artists' souls. Outsourcing. Technological change. Downsizing of employment opportunities.

And (what a surprise!) it seems to happen in a number of countries, not just the U.S. of A.

But the problem with tax subsidies and or breaks (really pretty much the same thing) is they are almost always temporary band-aids that deliver temporary lifts in local employment and then fade away. Take for instance Canada. Our neighbor to the north has had tax subsidies for years, yet Disney animation studios have come and gone and come again. Disney Television Animation opened facilities in Vancouver and Toronto, they last three years and then closed. Now Pixar/Disney has opened a studio in Vancouver, and how long that fun factory stays open is anyone's guess.

One of the problems is that our fine entertainment conglomerates are schizophrenic: they chase talent while they also chase lower costs, and the two are often mutually exclusive. (Skilled talent has a habit of migrating to where the pay is better, which works against lower cost sub-contracting studios that want to keep pay low, the better to low-ball projects from American entertainment conglomerates.)

Then, of course, there's the problem of exchange rates constantly rising and falling. A few years ago, the Canadian looney was at a steep discount to the U.S. dollar; now it's closer to par. Twelve months back the euro was actually a strong international currency, now it's in a swoon. Added to which, tax subsidies get taken away as quickly as they're put on the books when governments are hungry for revenue.

The Los Angeles area animation industry has faced outsourcing for over three decades, yet the L.A. animation business continues to motor along. The reason, I think, is that the gravitational pull of a large and deep talent pool often trumps the ups and downs of cheap currency, cheap labor, and temporary tax breaks. Because after al is said and done, it doesn't do Disney, DreamWorks Animation or Warner Bros. a whole ot of good to make a cheap animated feature that nobody wants to see. The boy and girls who run the studios need the high grosses that quality often provides, otherwise they've got a lot of red ink ... and angry stockholders.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dont look now, but we got a whole new crop of politicians on the way in. Maybe somebody will get wise and offer tax incentive to keep animation in LA
AND
additional tax incentives for the shops to go union. Just dreaming? Seems like somethings needed to settle things down.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like somethings needed to settle things down."

Not according to Steve, here. If I am reading the posting correctly, everything in LA is just peachy. It ain't broke-no need to fix it. Why, just look at the numbers!

vfxsoldier said...

I coincidentally wrote a post about subsidies in the VFX industry:

www.vfxsoldier.com

Anonymous said...

soldier, coincidentally, the post says scant little. It would take serious movers and shakers to make headway. And of course, vfx people are welcome to guild up with us, but we are not going to do any better if they are just out for themselves. Animation is animation. Whether it be 2D, CG or directing a computer to the limitations of particular flavor-of-the-month software that appears to emit some kind of FairyDust. Or Fairy-flames. Or Flaming Fairies. hahaha...But I digress....
If as animators and animation artists, we can leverage against the individualistic separation tactics that the studios like to put over on us, then we shall have a fairer hand in all this.
And NO! 12:58 AM "Not according to Steve, here.... everything in LA is just Peachy" He repeatedly says "Its not right". You certainly dont hear that from the CEO's, and agreement from the workers who hear their crap.

Steven said...

"He repeatedly says "Its not right"."

Where?

Anonymous said...

Oh Gawd Steven...you make me work SOOOOO hard. Backwards and backwards I troll through the archives to appease you, and does this too, go over your head?:
Monday, May 24, 2010
VFX Soldiers
And so here we are, in a time of arrogant management that knows it can easily replace you if you look at a production manager funny, and lower salaries and independent contractors paying their own payroll taxes. And outsourcing that gets shipped to Timbucktoo.
But just because it's crappy now, doesn't mean it has to be crappy forever.
Go read the Soldier's blog and help him (and maybe us) make it better.
Posted by Steve Hulett at 9:28 PM
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Animation: The Over-55 Demographic
Steve Hulett said...
To be clear: I don't like it; I don't think it's right. I don't like the way things are in animation, either.
Thursday, May 20, 2010 9:12:00 AM

It nice to hear this coming from him, but things are not going to change because HE makes them change, it will happen if WE make them change. What can WE do to help?

Need I go back further? I hope not, but its there.

Now Please. Dont ever question me again. I am very busy and dont have time for much more than off-the-cuff remarks, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. They are often found upon pure and throrough knowledge based on experience and supreme wisdom.....
derived from a sense of justice and a higher power.

Steven said...

I addressed your strange tirade yesterday, but for some reason, it didn't get posted. To summarize;

I was referring to this specific posting, not the entire history of Steve Hulett's postings or opinions.

Obviously, Steve is concerned with and is personally committed to doing whatever he is able to to help solve and address the problems and situations confronting those of us who have chosen to commit our professional lives to a career in animation. After all, that's his job.

Maybe it's just me, but, having said that, he also does something that I find confusing and disturbing. He occasionally uses statistics and analysis to put a positive spin on the situation.

Individuals don't relate to trends. Trends are for investment portfolios. Individuals are either up or down; it's either black or white. A union is a group of individuals. I'm not against information. Information is useful but it has it's place.

You can take a picture of it, but you don't have to tell it to smile.

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