Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here comes the POP!!

In today's Variety, David Cohen writes of an impending "tipping point" in the film making biz.

A link to the article is here.

In the effort to try to organize visual effects, many have said that the addition of the union will be the harbinger of doom for vfx studios in Los Angeles. The argument continues that the addition of the costs of unions will be the straw that breaks the VFX Camel.

From what Mr. Cohen writes, it seems that camel's back is breaking just fine on its own. My heart reaches for the artists who have to toil without the benefit of a collectively bargained set of workplace standards or portable health benefits. It still seems to me those benefits would be well appreciated.

Note:Following a request from Daily Variety we have replaced the quote from the David Cohen article with a link.


Dave Rand said...

Excellent post Steven. I can only comment based on my experience.
It's my observation that post production is now really production and needs to be treated that way if it is to be profitable. The single greatest money making force in the history of film is the stunning digital imagery we create, yet fx houses are falling like dominoes. This should not be happening when the films being made go on to reap hundreds of millions of dollars. Since production help, folks on the set, are getting paid by the hour, the decision maker (usually the director) has to be present. They have to be on that set in person and with a megaphone. If productions were bidding on most of the work the director could stay poolside waiting for the footage he ordered to be brought to him so he could laugh at, yell a people, and order re-shoots until it was done to his liking. Of course this would never happen today, but it is pretty much what happens in the VFX world every day! In my mind organization of labor may force this practice out of VFX work to the benefit of everyone, not just the artists. Yes, the decision maker will be force to watch his paint dry sometimes but the directors I've worked with have enjoyed it and saved money. lots of money. The bidding process is killing the artists, the shops, and the studios.. Lately, what is making this even worse is the new trend to combat the narrow or non existent margins. I'm speaking about the NEW bidding model that includes massive expansion and contraction of labor. Training and retraining migratory workers to work on multiple branded pipelines. This is not a solution either, and costs even more. All of this makes so many of us vfx artists feel like the child in the fable "The Emperor's New Clothes" It's the bidding process that needs to be pointed at, not the artists, and this illusion can be lifted. If the choice of letting the weight of this bad planning is removed from the back of the artists and the shops, a better plan can be woven into place. Something that brings reality and clarity to all.

Dave Rand

Anonymous said...

Great post, and great response, Dave. I would quibble with this one sentence, "The single greatest money making force in the history of film is the stunning digital imagery we create" but the rest of it is spot on. Something has to change, and fast, or this is all going to collapse.

Floyd Norman said...

When I was a kid I loved special effects and purchased every book I could find on the subject. It was pure movie magic.

Over the years, I've come to hate this business and the corrosive effect its had on movie making. And, don't tell me that those who are doing the work are loving it Because I simply don't believe it.

Anonymous said...

And, don't tell me that those who are doing the work are loving it Because I simply don't believe it.

I work in VFX. 90% of the time it does not feel like work to me, because I enjoy using the software.

That said, the 10-hour days and unpaid lunch hour do not leave me with much leisure time, and I'm on my own for health care and retirement. This wouldn't bug me so much if I didn't keep running into co-workers struggling with medical issues they cannot afford to treat, older artists who have nothing saved for retirement, and artists who do save for retirement but know nothing about investing. Then there are the compositors working 16-hour days and on Easter Sunday.


Maybe I should apply for a job at Dreamworks.

Anonymous said...

Oh look. Floyd with another one of his overly-positive posts.

Anonymous said...

Oh look. Someone bashing Floyd.

Anonymous said...

Floyd: Get off my lawn!
Me: Stop being grumpy you old man! Things are better than you think!
Nosy Passerby: Yeah, get off Floyd's lawn!
Me: *rolls eyes*

Anonymous said...

Seriously though: Get off his lawn.

Anonymous said...

And I'm called a brown noser? Pot, meet kettle.

Anonymous said...

The industry won't change. Until there is a major meltdown on some film. Sadly, I'm hoping that happens. As the article says, we needed a forest fire to make way for new growth.

Anonymous said...

"My heart reaches for the artists who have to toil without the benefit of a collectively bargained set of workplace standards or portable health benefits."


Steven Kaplan said...

What I also find interesting ...

this essentially kills the "VFX Unionization is too costly@!!" argument. When push comes to shove, the studios pay to get the films done.


Anonymous said...

Yup...that's a pretty accurate description of Sony's work flow.

Steve Hulett said...

I've deleted the off-topic political comments.

This thread is about visual effects. Let's stick to that.

Vfxartist said...

Great post Dave Rand.

I'm really dissappointed by Mr De Faria's comments, as they struck me as being quite disconnected from the realities of our business (Vfx) and what the audience demands. It reads more as a failure of their ability to manage their shows and do their jobs. Meanwhile Vfx has continually absorbed these shortcomings. I've seen simp,e green screen heads it's become face replacements or re-lights.... Was that bid on? I've seen full on plate replacement and CG augmentation... for stereo delivery!!! Was that bid on? Do these guys even know what it entails to complete these films or do the just read "the Secret" and just "positive think" it to it's deadline?

No one factors in the human cost. "11th hour changes"... The irony of that statement... People working through the 11th hour to complete the mistakes made way upstream. Mr. DeFaria says it's the studios that take all the risk... Buts it's the artist that take the hit to their bodies and lives ALL THE TIME.

Now with the "success" of skyline, Vfx companies want to all have production companies and get into the content game.. Great! But the same bad habits will exist: compressed deadlines, indecisive directors, and the overall kicking the can down the road with no lessons learned.

The industry has to grow up and not rely on the speculation game that hollywood plays with blockbusters as a solution to the business model shortcomings. We need a trade organization formed by proper business people, not former glory day Vfx bosses, and, yes, we need a union to push back against not just the unrealistic demands of Vfx vendors, but the studios that drive them... unfortunately into the ground usually.

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