Monday, February 18, 2013

Mr. Lee's Sorrow

Ang Lee makes his feelings known.

Reacting to the news that the visual effects house Rhythm & Hues, Oscar-nominated for Life of Pi, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, director Ang Lee said he is “very sad.” ...

“I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business [for VFX vendors]. It’s easy for me to say, but it’s very tough. It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and development is so expensive; that is a big burden for every house. They all have good times and hard times, and in the tough times, some may not [survive]."

He continued, “I hope somehow, two things: It gets to be an easier business, cheaper, and more people can put their hands on it. Secondly, I would like to see it be used more of as an artistic form than just effects for action.” ...

Visual effects studios have had the problem of keeping their heads above the crashing waves for twenty years. The way the business is structured -- with conglomerates tossing VFX sub-contractors long knives to fight it out for the jobs -- is great for the major studios, but crappy for everybody else.

And now countries and states have gotten into the knife fight, using taxpayer dollars to subsidize effects for the film franchises of Fox, Time-Warner and the rest of the conglomerates. (It's kind of like mailing Warren Buffett welfare checks, but there it is.)

9 comments:

emon xie said...

If studios actually paid fair price for the work, and Directors were held accountable to the costs of whimsical revisions, and houses treated staff as employees rather than contract work for hire expendables, perhaps the VFX industry wouldn't be so tumultuous.

Few films rely on one VFX house or vendor, and the houses in turn contract out to places like China and India to further cut and offset costs, creating chains of interdependence that get battered like blow up dolls in a hurricane when music video quality directors try to be the next Zack Snyder and push picture locks late, rippling delays and threatening quality or consistency all the way down the line. Do the studios pay extra for revisions, wasted work, the time and a half paid out to TFT contractors to stay 100 hours a week to meet inflexible deadlines? Generally, no.

The cost to realize all the massive HD, 3D, scratch-and-sniff goodness of AAA film spectacle keeps going up, yet that has not translated into wages, sensible deadlines, or revisions of Hollywood studio practices dating back decades. Studio heads still pocket bloated wages and bonuses, mob style union heads still take their piece, subsidies keep thrashing locales and uprooting talent in that race to the bottom, and industry schools keep pumping out cheap labor at student expense to work sweatshop hours.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, this industry needs an enema.

Steve Hulett said...

^ Amen

Diablo said...

I,for one think that maybe the industry should collapse. In the end,the demand for talent will not go away. The big production companies will still need to make movies, to sell tickets,so that execs can buy their shiny toys and pay their mortgages. There's been talk of a tipping point for a very long time now, and yet somehow the situation doesn't change.

d

Steve Hulett said...

I believe a tipping point is coming.

Celshader said...

I hope it doesn't tip over onto too many artists.

Ciaran said...

Funny he mentions 'cheaper' twice...

Steve Hulett said...

So I guess we know what's on Ang Lee's mind.

Cpaul said...

You get what you pay for Mr. Lee. Perhaps next time, you can cut costs by hiring a real tiger and thousands of meerkats. I'm sure you can get what you want in one or two takes.

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