We received an email today from Jeff Barnes and David Ebner, announcing that CafeFX/ComputerCafe have decided to shut down. This comes after a downsizing earlier this year. It saddens us here at fxguide to hear the news of their closing and wish everyone the best.

The outstanding company has worked on a number of visual effects films over the years and has a great resume. Articles here at fxguide covering their work include ones on Shutter Island, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra and a podcast covering the series John Adams.

The actual announcement from Jeff Barnes and David Ebner follows after the read more....


Announcement from Jeff Barnes and David Ebner

After 17 years in business, CafeFX/ComputerCafe has decided to officially close its doors. The current economic climate and global marketplace have made it unrealistic for us to continue to deliver the highest quality visual effects work, which has been our hallmark, at a competitive price and a sustaining profit.

With a resume of over eighty award-winning feature films and hundreds of commercials, music videos, game trailers, ride projects and broadcast opens, we are very proud of what

we have achieved over the years. We end our company's relationship with the industry we love with pride in our contributions and our heads held high.

We want to thank our many clients for their friendship, confidence, and support in the multitude of groundbreaking projects awarded us over the years. We would also like to thank our competitors, who always kept us on our toes by pushing the envelope. We have watched your work on the latest films with a mixture of awe and envy, as you continue to exceed industry expectations and thrill audiences around the world. You have our utmost respect.

We want to thank our families and advisors who have stood by us and have given their patience and understanding on how to stay sane and viable through these turbulent times in our industry, our state and our country.

But most importantly, we would like to thank our staff and all the incredibly talented people that have come through our doors. You are CafeFX. Your hard work, dedication and passion are what made us such a great studio. Because of you we were able to accomplish the impossible over and over again. Words cannot truly express how much we appreciate all

that you have done to keep us successful for so many years. We will especially never forget our core staff, who helped to make CafeFX a unique and magical place, and who have

now become life long friends and colleagues. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts,

you are an exceptional group of people.

We will see you soon.

Jeff Barnes and David Ebner


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  • anonymous

    How many artists will be left unpaid for their final weeks work this time around. Feeling sorry for a corporation that screws artists over on a premeditated basis like Asylum did is beyond reprehensible, but rarely mentioned. Shame on all of you.

    If you at Cafe FX have fully paid all your staff and freelancers, please mention that in the press release or follow up comment. As that would be a welcome change.

  • Tyler

    Anonymous, I see your point.

    There is another view, which is perhaps the artists would be supportive of a last-ditch effort to try to keep a house open even if it meant risking a couple weeks without pay. A lot of these types of decisions go down to the wire and until the brink everyone is working hard to see if they can pull off a saving effort and hoping that their work home won’t die. I hear a lot of people saying it’s hard to find enough VFX work right now so risking some time to save a house that is your home might be worthwhile.

    Of course this is something that should be discussed with the artists to make sure their on-board with the plan, since it’s their time to risk and not the owners.

    I have no idea if CafeFX paid everyone to completion. If they didn’t, I have no idea if they had conversations with artists about this type of scenario. I can see a situation where they might have to decide who they could trust to talk to, because if you’re working desperately to keep a company open, everyone knowing this can make the downfall a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Bottom-line is running a business like that is very hard to do and an incredible balancing act, especially when there are such hostile macro forces against you such as now. I don’t know the guys at CafeFX and I am not in their circumstances, but as an owner at another post house I know I agonize over decisions that effect my people and I stress more about the impact it has on them than I do myself. I imagine it’s much the same for a lot of owners.

    You don’t have to feel sorry for the owners of companies, they made the choice to risk. But there is a lot of pain that goes with seeing your dream crumble after so many years of building it, often compounded by personal bankruptsy and/or uncertainty for your own future. Weighed in that balance, losing a couple weeks wages for an artist who doesn’t have to carry the massive debt load and stress and anguish is honestly small potatoes. It may be small potatoes multiplied times many more people, and I’m sure in some cases there are artists without a proper financial cushion for whom losing a couple weeks’ wages is a minor disaster. I’m just saying, if I had to pick whose shoes to be in, I’ll take the artist’s with the lost wages over the owner who lost his business any day of the week.

    • dg

      Agreed.

      The thing is that I really think the business model in place at most (to not say all) vfx companies simply doesn’t work anymore. Specially for the mid-size not so big ones which most often don’t have a really strong financial backing and yet share some (or even most) of the costs that the huge ones have.

      In a few years we will probably end up with a few — really few — huge companies and a lot of small boutiques scattered all over the globe.

      For me it’s becoming more and more a question of “produce or die”. Otherwise the chances are that the math for them will be (2+2)-4=0 if not worst.

      Ok that I’m not on the North America or Europe, the numbers and the scales are different. But they are certainly proportional so I’m assuming the issues are basically the same in most places.

      Perhaps things are different in India but I would say that the math they have in place there won’t hold for much longer either.

      • BlueCollarCritic

        Sadly the whole “there will be just a few, 2 to possibly 3, companies/corporations/houses left in the field of within the next year or 2” is very true and applicable to amost every field and industry outside of government and security (i.e. prison guards, private security) because of the economic downturn.

  • dg

    With the above said I would like to congratulate everyone that helped build and maintain CafeFX over the years. It was a great company that did exceptional work and it’s always sad to see something like that go.

    Best of luck to all the staff and the owners.

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  • Dear all artists who are unfortunately affected by economic downturn and global recession, it is sad to see that this kind of business model seems not to work any longer and that even high-profile company are having a hard time to cope with the current situation, BUT in the light of globalization it will give companies in other parts of the world the chance to grab some business from overseas and build good relationships with Western counterparts.

    That wages and expenses in the West are too high and budgets for movies exceed expectations of what one would consider as ‘normal’ indicates where our Western socities finally have gotten themselves into. The same for the overheated real estate bubble here in China,… no wonder that market consolidation takes it’s toll and the industry will have to learn to re-adjust to new rules and players who are from Asia and elsewhere.

    Hollywood will crumble one day and Asians are buying out companies over there, it is just a matter of time. Some say the world get’s a bit more fair and the wealth get evenly distributed, which by the way isn’t a bad thing either, but of course will kill some of the smaller companies who are not able to operate globally in order to cut costs.

    • mike beckman

      “Some say the world get’s a bit more fair and the wealth get evenly distributed”

      -if you’re searching for “fair” in a global marketplace you’re never going to find it. The concept of “redistribution” is nonsense. The free market will never evenly spread things out on its own; the paradigm may shift, but merely into a new area complete with its own fortunes, failures and so on.

    • Anonymous

      If you call aggressive undercutting, and paying your employees a poverty wage ‘fair’….

  • pixelmixer

    “Hollywood will crumble one day…”

    Wishful thinking?
    Not so sure that’s going to happen anytime soon.

  • wow

    As a motion designer and future VFX artist, my only hope is technology continuously becoming cheaper and indie films being produced pennies on the dollar. Was it just me who jumped for joy when ‘Skyline’ was made for 10 million dollars by Hydraulx and more than doubled that in the box office. How about the movie ‘Monsters’ by Gareth Edwards (who directed, shot and did the VFX post work), also being made on a tight budget under $500,000 and pulling in over 1.5 million dollars (wikipedia).

    I believe that will be the new business structure of the future. It is not necessary gorilla, but it is lean and super effective. It is also fueled, by independent and individual funding and donations and it might just be released on the web and not the big screen. Producing a spectacular TV/web mini series, short film or full feature is more than a dream it is a reality and with a great story and proper planning, the ‘Skyline’ is the limit. I know I am painting with broad stokes and limited supplies, but the point is that I have read more creative brainstorming on this site and others like it to know that the creatives in this industry can produce better stories than what Hollywood puts out most times.

    All and all, we (you: VFX artist and me soon to follow) have to take the industry back for ourselves (you guys first, I will join you shortly). Get rid of the suits, abusive deadlines and decreasing budgets for bigger WOW which truncates creativity and most importantly, story.

    Let us all grab our wacom boards, matrix action figures, banana skirts (don’t lie, we all own one) and make a stand by making our own films… but you go first, I am right behind you! Hopefully, if there is a worthy industry still around.

    • business school

      well… if you make 1.5mil from 500,000, that means you barely made even. You need to share 1.5mil with theater and distribution company.

      Also if is was not their own work, ‘Skyline’ would cost more than 10mil.

      Yeah, “Technology continuously becoming cheaper”, but the budget is becoming A LOT smaller.

      • anonymous

        Hah! business school. love the name man. glad to hear you talking some smack. if you could break down your knowledge of film gross/net profit more, that would be great.

  • mike beckman

    lean and mean. Nothing beats the super-efficiency of the Gareth Edwards model: If the position of the CG building in the background will result in a prohibitive amount of roto….then move the building. Ha, I love it:)

  • andreas jablonka

    CafeFX was great to work for.its sad they have to close after all.my deepest condolences go out to all people in Santa Maria.

  • CafeFX was truly a great collection of talent. What I’ve writing here are only my thoughts. I’m far from being any kind of expert or accomplished fx shop owner, but I have sat through five heartbreaking closings of shops like CafeFX that I loved being part of over the past 15yrs. I’ve become a migrant worker in search of a home.

    Our dynamic fx world will evolve rapidly trying to meet the expanding need for digital imagery. It’s my observation that the evolution of truly talented artists is not going to keep pace with this expansion. Right now I’m sitting at my work station surrounded by at least 12 different accents in the distance I can toss a paper clip. A revelation to me of the difficulty of finding talent. You can not teach talent and it’s the foundation of this industry. Although many shops are closing the fx industry is expanding like mad.

    It’s not just about content for movies any longer. It’s become the way we communicate at the deepest levels world wide.

    China and India each have middle classes bigger than all of the US. Eventually they will be trying to create content for their own masses and scraping for the talent to to that as well, as will all evolving nations.

    Building sky scrapers without a locked down blue print would never be considered. However, what we build is often far more expensive, and yet what the current business model resembles is a more like drawing on a bar room napkin, and some are willing to fix a price to that. The expectation to make money and be in fair play simply can not exist, it only promotes brawling between both parties. The excuse that it is simply just the way it has to be done can no longer fly as the golden rule.

    The artists need to take a stand as they often take the fall. Don’t be afraid to speak up and put your name on it. Without you…nothing happens.

    In an industry were billions of dollars are changing hands some of that money should be available to the those with a plan and the willingness to demonstrate that we are no longer in a bidding post production environment but we ARE production.

    The rest of the set figured this out decades ago and I’m confident we will to. It amazes me how up and coming directors allow themselves to be spoon fed their dailies from the black box by a creative hierarchy on a bi-weekly bases.

    It’s not being on the set. It’s like directing a movie from your iPod with a bad wifi connection.

  • H.Wang

    The longer I work for this industry, the more irritated I feel everyday. Unstable job positions, work outsourced to overseas, long hours in sunless rooms, potential chronic health problems, little time for family and social life…; had I known that creating cg art came with this freaking package, I would have chosen med school or farming. For those who are thinking about getting into this field, understand what you are getting into; for those who are in the field, know where you will be in the next five to ten years.

    • Adam

      I am pretty much as new to this industry as they come. A year ago the limit of my knowledge was a vague understanding of after effects and the concept of greenscreen.
      Since then i have been studying vfx and hope to begin a career in it all soon enough.
      And you know what i have heard more than anything in the last year. Pretty much word for word your comment. And you know what, i can’t help but just think why? Why are so many people whining about the working conditions and so few people actually doing something about it? I find it particularly ironic that your post comes directly after one by Dave Rand, who is actually putting himself out there to better the whole community.
      So to put it bluntly, if you don’t like it, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Start talking to other people who are disgruntled with the current situation, find people who are trying to make the working situation better, start lobbying the owners of vfx companies to change their bidding systems and business models, cause clearly that don’t work at moment.
      Start making a constructive noise, not just a bunch of hot air.
      I do apologise if this sounds quite harsh, but i sincerely believe that the only people who actually have a right to whinge about a scenario are the ones who try to change it for the better, but even then it never actually helps anything!

      • Bryan

        Wow, Adam. Extremely well said.

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