Sunday, March 02, 2014

The March

... With a bigger turnout than last year.

... Visual effects artists took to the streets of Hollywood Sunday.

It was the second consecutive year the green-clad protestors massed at Hollywood and Vine hours before the Oscars to draw attention to the ills afflicting their business. This year’s head count was higher than last year at more than 540.

But unlike last year, this time they had a concrete goal: to call attention to the push to use existing trade agreements to level the playing field for American visual effects suppliers.

The protestors also have some for optimism thanks to what appears to be a legal gaffe by the MPAA that finds the majors’ lobbying arm bolstering a key part of the artists’ argument.

The march, organized by the Association of Digital Artists, Professionals and Technicians (A.D.A.P.T.), began at 1:00 p.m. and drew 510 protestors before it ended, surpassing last year’s total even though many vfx workers have since emigrated to keep their jobs. ...

So what was the "gaffe" (inadvertent truth?)

In a case involving 3D printing, MPAA has filed a brief with the U.S. International Trade Commission arguing that electronic transmissions are “articles” covered by the Tariff Act of 1930. The filing specifically responds to Google’s arguments the other way.

“To effectuate Congressional intent to protect domestic industries, the Commission can and must construe the term ‘articles’ to include imported electronic transmissions…” wrote the MPAA filing, which goes on to cite ”the ITC, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the HTSUS and the U.S. Court of International Trade” as bodies that have “consistently interpreted” the word “articles” to include electronic transmissions.

The filing concludes “For the foregoing reasons, the Commission should construe the term ‘articles’ … to give the ITC broad jurisdiction over unfair acts in international trade including, but not limited to, electronic transmissions.” It is signed by MPAA senior VP and associate general counsel Dan Robbins.

“I don’t think they knew that duties could be applied to these imports,” Lay told Variety. “But the same laws that they are using for anti-piracy enforcement are used for anti-subsidy enforcement.” ...

Hard to believe. Conglomerates contorting themselves into pretzels to argue both sides of the same law.

Add On: The Times has this on the Oscar march ... and the state of California's movie industry:

...As Hollywood royalty gathers to celebrate what many are calling the best cinema year in a generation, the industry's middle class is struggling through one of the worst periods in decades.

"I still love visual effects and my craft, but it just kind of hurts to watch these films because studios have clearly gone out of their way to outsource our work," said Capizzi, a veteran visual effects technician who was among hundreds laid off last year from Rhythm & Hues Studios Inc., the Oscar-winning visual effects house in El Segundo that filed for bankruptcy protection after losing business to rivals in Canada and Britain.

For many local set decorators, carpenters, camera operators and visual effects workers, the Oscar festivities will do little to affect their shrinking incomes as more films and TV shows, and the post-production work that goes with them, are made in Louisiana, Georgia, New York, London and Vancouver, Canada. ...

Enjoy images from the Rally courtesy of Aaron Kupferman:


Sharon Forward said...

Very important post. Thank you. The truth is this: if directors of these mega-block busters would take the 20 minute drive to Stero D, et al, they could, in minutes solve problems 'on set'. As VFX BECOMES the star of these films, it is in everybody's interest to have the director there, in the room, with the animators, to make directorial decisions in the moment. No retakes. No waste. No burnout. I know a few directors of this high VFX/animation intense genre. I am contacting them with a simple plea: YOU are the only one who can keep jobs here, locally. YOU are the only one who has the clout, the picture in your head. You have to change your business/production model for this new form of film making. To you highly paid directors, the talented few that land a great gig for a year or so...please, please consider your vital role in this 'down line' artist laden and less respected part of process. Consider plight of these animator and artists that give up their nights, weekends and families, just to make a film. These people are hurting. They are (many, many of them) not only artists but mathematical geniuses. I kid you not. And they need help. They are leaving the business. They are the best, but can't make it work any longer. There is divorce, pain, even suicide happening NOW because they feel they cannot cope.

Hollywood directors, from Ang Lee to Josh Wheadon...please listen. It's not below you to take a trip to Burbank and look at the shots that the animators are creating for your film. The artists are begging you. I am begging you. Their Children and spouses are begging you. Please consider being on site. Frequently. The picture is being made there.

I know this, because my husband directed 36 half hours of CGI for Foundation Entertainment, a now defunct, but vital hub for VFX and CGI fifteen years ago. The artists and execs at Foundation thanked Bob over and over. They couldn't BELIEVE a director was on site, to move around the stations, and make decisions 'in the moment'. Permanent ones. No big deal. Bob thought it was just logical. He was the last word on the look, content and continuity of every episode. He was also the story editor, and he knew the arc of the show. Knew what needed to be featured when, and what to focus on in each story.

So, it was a brilliant match. Everyone's vision was focused and implemented with no overtime and budget overruns. The artists thanked him time and time again. The project ended, on time, on budget. No egos. Just flow.

It can be done. I know it.

Good luck to all my brothers and sisters in the 'lower ranks', suffering with lack of recognition and a paycheck. This is a very trying time for you. Keep united. Find a mentor, maybe a Spielberg, a Joe Johnston. I went to school at Long Beach State with Joe. He's fantastic. You need a director with clout who is on your side. You can do it. I know you can.

If there is anyway I can help, I will.

Keep the faith!
Sharon Forward

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