Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Foreign Companies -- L.A. Addresses

Work goes out, work comes in.

Venkatesh Roddam, [now in charge of Reliance MediaWorks' film and media services business,] may be the world's most renowned outsourcing executive. But the 48-year-old native of Hyderabad, India, thinks conventional outsourcing is a bad idea when it comes to the movie business. ... Roddam, formerly a senior banking executive with Deutsche Bank, said he wants to expand Reliance's Burbank office, which employs about 75 people, and open a studio in New York. ...

Of course, a big bankroll and low-cost labor don't guarantee success in Hollywood.

Tata Elxsi's Visual Computing Labs, part of Indian conglomerate Tata, unveiled an office in Santa Monica in December 2009, citing its ability to achieve "significant economies" for its clients. The California studio hired Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek and other Hollywood veterans.

But although Tata has worked on some big projects, including "Spider-Man 3," it has struggled to retain local talent. Two of Hynek's colleagues — Tricia Ashford, the head of production, and Treva Blue, head of trailer production — recently resigned after clashes with management, said a person close to the studio who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. Tata representatives did not respond to requests for comment. ...

It's a movie we've seen a bajillion times before: Low-cost provider bops into town and makes his sales pitch. "I can cut your costs by fifty percent!" An American company bites. Then the low-cost results fail at the box office, and that's the end of the marriage built on equal parts of hope, delusion and greed.

In the decades I've been doing this, I've watched foreign animation studios rise, and then rapidly melt away competing for American box office. Because it's not enough to be really cheap, you must also produce an artistic result that somebody somewhere wants to actually see. The MacGuff studio in France (now part of the American Illumination Entertainment) is the first animation house to enjoy success in the U.S. market. (Prior to MacGuff, the watchwords for foreign produced animation was "bombs away!")

So it's understandable that foreign companies are setting up shops in the wide, deep talent pool that exists in Southern California. (Hong Kong-based Imagi tried it five years ago and success didn't follow, but the odds are good that some foreign entity will strike it rich before the sun reaches its red star phase.)

The problems for Asian and Indian companies are the same they have always been: When you're behind in the technology and talent race, it's hard to catch up. Because the sprinters at the head of the pack keep moving ... and moving briskly.


Site Meter