As we write, hundreds of vfx artists are gathering near the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood to protest subsidies and the state of the VFX industry, most in particular – the working and employment conditions of VFX workers. The concern is not that this group of highly skilled professionals are worse off than say factory workers; the central issue is that the process of awarding work and thus where work is being done is not being decided based on merit, but based on government subsidies and incentives that are warping the marketplace.
Listen to our fxpodcast live from the protest – fxguide’s Mike Seymour talks to Jeff Heusser and John Montgomery direct from the protest line in Hollywood.
UPDATE: Photos in this story were posted direct from the camera as they were shot on the day of the protest. We have tweaked those in Lightroom and added additional photos to this flickr set:
Last year’s initial protest was dramatically underlined by Life of Pi winning the VFX Oscar, while the company that did the majority of the work faced closure and massive job losses. The success of that protest is being echoed by a huge turnout this year.
Of course the millions of dollars being spent on subsidies are not being paid to the workers, or even the companies that employ them. Studios are enjoying the benefits of states and countries willing to pay millions to have the next blockbuster film or post done in their district. No one expects the studios not to seek these massive handouts, they are completely within their rights to get the best deal possible, but at the same time, the studios themselves are not unprofitable. The most financially successful films in terms of box office at this year’s Oscars are those in the VFX category, followed by Feature Animation. Next year, the greatest film studio gross profit will certainly come again from the films made by same vfx artists who are forced to travel and follow the race for subsidies and who rarely now have long term staff positions.
It is also not as if there is a body of research to show that subsidies work. Clearly, on a per film basis, they work, they attract the films to the location with the best subsidies. But if the point of government subsidies is to generate an independent long term stand alone film industry employing hundreds of skills IT professionals, then the aim is not being met.
The protest in Hollywood is not seeking more payouts, nor trade wars – it seeks a level playing field where projects are awarded on merit and families can settle down rather than more constantly chasing the next remote funding location.
2:45pm – Now well over 500 people strong and in the rain, reports of people still arriving – delayed by the rain.
2.20pm – LA time
Daniel Lay Interview: (VFX Soldier – recorded at 1:45pm on the streets of LA).
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1:30 pm LA time: Original interviews below.
Jeff Heusser met up with one of the people who has been protesting today in LA in the rain, Jesse Mesa Toves, who’s black and white cartoons have been widely referenced in the lead up to today’s event. Listen to the interview below.
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You can see more of Jesse’s work at: facebook.com/VeeEffVex
Many people have been involved in this protest and fxguide has been covering this for some time. ADAPT has been central to the discussion and they published this info graphic explaining their point of view.
More updates constantly throughout the day.
Spirits are good – even with the rain.
Unrelated to the VFX March protest, we wanted to also post this image from the Dolby Theater where the Oscars are being held today.
Sarah Elizabeth Jones died doing the job she loved earlier in the week. The second camera assistant from South Carolina was killed on set Thursday while filming Midnight Rider. Her friends and the film community are rallying to remember Jones in a movement called Slates for Sarah. Here is one such supporter.
Let’s not forget film making is a collaborative effort and we are all in this together.