The latest entertainment industry conference was held in Stuttgart, Germany last week. FMX, which started as a local biennial gathering for students, has grown into an annual "must-attend" meeting for anyone interested in animation, visual effects, games and interactive media.
Two notable speakers at this year's conference were visual effects supervisor and recently re-elected chairman of the Visual Effects Society Jeffrey Okun, and former LucasFilm executive, Digital Domain founder and latest visual effects industry blogger Scott Ross.
Jeff Okun's presentation was titled VFX Politics. Reading a description from an attendee, Mr. Okun describes the rampant nepotism and personal agendas within the vfx and film industry as well as the general insanity that takes place on set during the making of a feature film. In keeping with his direct manner of speaking, Mr. Okun ends his presentation with the following warning:
“What only matters is what ends up on the screen. Nobody will ask you whether everybody had a great time or you barely made it out alive.” ... "[A]lways be aware of the agendas and politics of the people around you."
Scott Ross' contribution to the conference was a report on his views of the current state of the visual effects industry and where he foresees its future. He restated his views on the non-viability of visual effects studios due to unattainable profits, high cost of vfx artist salaries, overseas tax incentives and outsourcing. His solutions center around studios following the example of Pixar and Dreamworks in capitalizing on full ownership of content.
The article points out:
“The VFX community are the people driving the box office, and the film studios know it.”
[Mr. Ross] then points out that on a list of the 20 biggest box-office movies, one is CG animation and 19 are blockbuster visual effects films – and there’s only one really bankable ‘film star’: Johnny Depp. The next 20 entries feature two CG animated movies and 17 VFX movies.
After digesting the two points of view offered from these industry veterans, the option of collective representation for visual effects artists becomes abundantly important. Mr. Okun points out the Industry Is Crazy and doesn't much care about you. Mr. Ross points out VFX Drives Sales and vfx studios need to be desperate in their strategies to stay viable.
The contract achieved through collectively bargaining with visual effects artists through the IATSE would help protect against the insanity that is prevalent in the visual effects world. By delineating workplace standards and providing portable health and pension benefits, visual effects artists would construct a shield for some of the Crazy Mr. Okun describes.
We have argued that signing an IATSE contract could be a cost savings measure to a visual effects studio. Having recently been shown that studios will find necessary funds to complete visual effects when necessary, a union contract with contributions for portable health and pension benefits may now also be a line item cost that vfx studios can add to help shore up profits, thus addressing Mr. Ross' viability concerns.
The IATSE will not be the golden key to solving the problems highlighted by the two presenters or that are prevalent in the industry today. We will be a large factor in providing a stable, healthy and long-term industry to the artists who strive to succeed within its ranks. We feel this is an important factor in remaking the industry and invite all artists to take part.
Contact Jim Goodman, VFX Organizer for IATSE