VFX Artists In Hollywood And Gaming

I’ve been completely glued to this story about how visual effects (VFX) artists are combatting globalization, compensation, and their lack of a union.

Reddit has some insightful comments about this. In 1974 if you wanted Harrison Ford as the star, then there was only one way to get him - by getting HIM. But today, the Visual Effects are the movie stars. So for the first time ever Hollywood can outsource their “talent” and have bidding wars for work. And there’s no VFX Union because computer VFX talent is global, unlike an actual human actor which can’t be ‘replaced’. It’s globalization, monopoly, and it’s destroying the industry, jobs, and families.

KCRW has an incredible interview about the “behind the scenes” of it all. Here’s the direct mp3 link.

Movie Studios also set us these fake corporations to purposefully lose money per film for a few reasons (taxes, payroll loopholes, etc.). The whole thing is bizarre. More about that in this Edward Jay Epstein interview by NPR. Like, when a movie star claims to make $20 million, they actually only make a fraction of that, and the rest is based on contingency - which they rarely ever see. This is done on purpose, because they care more about inflating their salary to the public to create the impression to other studios that they’re making money, therefore the actors can stay competitive in negotiations.

So here I am, saying once again “How can Rhythm and Hues go bankrupt after their movie was a hit and won an Oscar?! Why has it gotten this bad? One reason is that the VFX houses are always crossing their fingers for a new client directly after the previous one is finished. It’s more like living paycheck to paycheck rather than having a cashflow positive influx of never ending work.

You can see how that line of work is deadly in a bidding war, because then it’s a race to the bottom. How do you keep the lights on and continually pay 700 people a salary between projects? The difference is that a high-end album can be recorded for a fraction of what it cost 30 years ago (and there were more of them), whereas a high-end movie or videogame can cost $250 million. This economic scale doesn’t allow independent filmmakers to just ‘reject’ the big studios… yet. The NY Times goes into detail about this.

There are so many other industries that VFX artists make a good living at (commercials, online videos). The work may not be as challenging, but since the beginning of time there has always been a compromise between work and play. I’m just blown away at the realities of what goes behind the scenes in the arts.

I imagine a lot of my followers are Deviant Art-types. Artists from all backgrounds, but more eclectic and adventurous (and quite intelligent too!). You should read this.

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    Rhythm and Hues deserve better, seriously I doubt there are many studios that can create animals and the special effects...
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