The team at McClatchy has released Hollywood’s Greatest Trick, a 25 minute online documentary covering the turmoil in the VFX industry. McClatchy is a conglomerate which publishes 12 daily and 18 community newspapers across the United States, including the Miami Herald and Star Tribune in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The documentary is released on numerous McClatchy sites and aims to reach a broad non-vfx centric audience. There is a written article with a lot of detail as well:
Sohail Al-Jamea, graphics producer, and Ali Rizvi, video producer, (both with McClatchy) spearheaded the project which looks at the vfx industry and its relationship with the big studios. “This is a project I’ve been wanting to do for a long while,” says Al-Jamea, who used to be a freelance vfx artist in New York City. “When I moved to New York…I was quite shocked at how the industry was. Long hours, no guarantee of getting paid on time or getting paid at all,” he relates.
With the resources of McClatchy behind the project, they started filming during the summer of 2016. The team interviewed various individuals in the industry, including Scott Ross, Daniel Lay (VFX Soldier), Lee Berger (former President of Rhythm and Hues Studios), Mariana Acuña, Jordan Bateman (B.C. Director of Canadian Taxpayers Association), and David Yocis (international trade law attorney).
The documentary covers industry tax models, the fixed bid model, artist struggles, as well as efforts to change the current situation. “One thing we couldn’t talk about…we tried to reach out to the big studios and none of them responded to us,” says Rizvi, “and I’m kind of disappointed, naturally, because we wanted to be fair.”
They also covered the situation in the United Kingdom where they spoke with Joe Pavlo, who has been very active in the drive to unionize. Rizvi refers to the UK as a “glimmer of hope”, where he says approximately 20% of the artists are part of the BECTU trade union.
Due to its mass distribution, the documentary aims to expose this issue to a wider public. Rizvi worked hard to make the themes of the problems in the industry visible to the layperson. “Why should someone care about [an artist] who makes a large amount of money…relatively speaking…complaining about what seems like on the surface to be nonsensical issues..and it’s not really about that,” says Rizvi. “There’s a larger picture. There’s a theme of abuse…just unprofessional attitudes by these huge [studios] that you would expect better of….it’s pretty terrible.”