Thursday, March 14, 2013

What's the Solution ...

(Now with Add On.)

To the visual effects conundrum? Here's a few ... offered by various stakeholders:

Viz Effects Trade Association. Former visual errects honcho Scott Rossis reaching out to the heads of the major visual-effects shops to try to persuade them to create a trade association. ...

"What's prevented it from happening in the past, is that each one of the visual-effects facilities have it in their heads that there is not enough work, and the enemy is the other facilities, so the concept of sitting down at the table with the enemy is hard for them to get over,"

Union Organizing "The visual-effects artists are at the lowest point downhill where the trouble has rolled due to a broken business model," Organizer Steve Kaplan said. "One thing that needs to be done to staunch the downward flow is to form a union as a barrier to abuses of overtime and benefits and to establish certain minimums and standards in the work place."

Values.... "It's about changing the value proposition - and that's not to be confused with asking filmmakers to pay us more," said Mark Driscoll, president and co-founder of Look Effects, a 100-person shop that has worked on "Black Swan" and "Warm Bodies." "There is plenty of money being spent. I think it's more about discussing what our relationship is to the ownership risk and reward on a film."

Subsidies. "Adding say half a billion or a full billion to the film subsidies in California would bring a flood of jobs back to the Golden State, in the long run it would perpetuate a race to the bottom, which dismantles any hope to have a booming growth industry based on talent and branding rather than political whims and charms," Dave Rand, a visual-effects artist at Rhythm & Hues, said.

What the industry is going through is slow-motion destruction. Studios are going out of business. Countries and states are seeing which of them can throw the most money at visual effects projects, the better to lure them to their geographic location. Visual effects artists, pushed to the wall, are demonstrating and holding mass meetings.

What emerges at the end of the death spiral? I could see a landscape of fewer key suppliers. And maybe Disney finding a way to make its new effects shop ILM work for the Mouse's live-action tent-poles. Parts of the industry might have union contracts, while other parts not.

But I don't see Chinese and Indian studios dominating the business in my lifetime. It's next to impossible to have a grip on quality when your main focus is being the low cost provider. It's like taking monastic vows while running a whore house: the two things aren't compatible. In twenty years of close observation I've never seen that particular formula work.

Add On:

Unionization and the creation of a trade association topped the priorities at a visual effects biz town hall meeting Thursday in Los Angeles where hundreds of VFX professionals gathered to discuss the state of their troubled industry. Despite calls for solidarity within the global community and a general sense of accord, a tense volley of boos erupted halfway through the panel when Visual Effects Society rep Mike Chambers took the mic and mentioned the organization’s call for larger California subsidies made in an open letter last month. In the letter the VES had announced plans to hold a VFX Congress, which has yet to materialize. “What are you going to do?” shouted one audience member to Chambers, who had no answer for his group. ...


metroeast said...

I agree with you Steve.

The industry is in the race to the bottom now. It seems like the studios see this coming and are snatching up the the VFX shops that can support their future projects.

If studios are only interested in going for the cheapest provider and not see the quality of the work as valuable, then let them get what they pay for. Their customers will tell them how they feel about them with the box office receipts.

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