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A Decision Made

I’m amused I can cause something of a controversy simply by changing my mind about something.

Almost a year ago I wrote a post which got read by a lot of people.  Over 41,000 on this website alone, never mind where it had been copied and reposted in full ( btw - not cool.  Link, don’t repost. ).  In it, I explained how I thought VFX had gotten to the point it was at, and argued the time had come for a change in the way the business of VFX is done.  Since then I’ve slightly altered my views, and I thought I should explain myself.

It’s not that I don’t think the time has come.  I think the time has come and gone.  The boat has sailed.  Elvis has left the building.  Pick your metaphor.

The labor market for VFX has only gotten worse in the past year.  We’ve been given a hard lesson in the danger of subsidies with the closing of Sony Imageworks Albuquerque.  We’ve lost a few small houses in their entirety and at least one of the big ones is in danger of folding.  And of course, Digital Domain went public, it’s CEO touting how free student labor will increase shareholder value and that we’d all be just as happy working on military simulations and medical visualization as cutting edge VFX.

All these things should strengthen, not weaken, the will of VFX artists to do something.  To bring change.  But it hasn’t, and it won’t.  In order to change to happen, you have to present a united front.  You have to stand together.  But the VFX industry can’t stand together because we don’t share common goals.

Many American VFXers want portable healthcare and pensions.  People in Canada, the UK and New Zealand don’t share that cause because they have nationalized healthcare.

Americans also want an end to subsidies.  Again, Canadian, UK, and New Zealand workers don’t want that.  Why would a British VFX artist want to get rid of the one major advantage they have?

Why would they risk having to leave home, move to a different country to find work?

Why would anyone from the EU want to risk work going to a place, unlike the UK, where they would have to apply for a visa and possibly get rejected?

Why would Digital Domain care about the furor over their school, which I’m sure  will be overflowing with applicants?

Why would the studios want to pay more for VFX work?

Why would an actor’s union support a group of people that tears apart one of it’s member’s bid to get an award that would provide more work for everyone in a vain grab for recognition?

They wouldn’t.

I stood up for what I believe in.  I argued the point in person, over email, and on Twitter.  And I’ve done so with my name attached.   I did it because I genuinely love visual effects.  When it’s done right, it is the most fun, creatively rewarding thing I can imagine doing.  And in return, I’ve been attacked on websites, had threats made against my career by a member of the London VES, and lost at least one friendship over doing so. 

No one can make change come on their own.  I ended that post with this:

Stand together.  Or fall apart.

As an industry, we’ve made our decision.

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Reader Comments (1)

Nice State of the Union David, but I believe more falling apart is on the horizon. Digital Domain is perhaps just buying some time.

Here's something small, but new; Web Design agencies are all starting to do their own mogo work and setting up separate departments that specialize in 3D/VFX. Web agencies like VML, firstborn, and 2Advanced are diversifying their services. The CG business is now openly available for the creative masses because the cost of entry has greatly decreased, and the power of the software had greatly increased. The average freckled-faced, skoal-ringed-back-pocket Joe can now buy a Microsoft Kinect, and with an SI plugin turn his dusty, ranch living room into a motion capture studio: Or he can pop onto the Web, buy Silhouette for $995, and instantly have a powerful tool that does Roto with the best of 'em.

All I'm saying is the competition from smaller studios to do small-med VFX work, or to jump in and do bits and pieces of larger VFX work is going to get brutally fierce around the globe and I'm not sure to what extent that small, but volumized influx will eat away at the larger studios.

To me the best solution may reside in diversification. Why should a studio dedicate all of it's resources to VFX alone? Are they not a house full of creative people with creative talents? Can't they figure out alternate revenue streams? Wouldn't having an alternate source of income allow a studio more leverage to say NO to Hollywood rape projects? Don't you think what Hydraulx did with Skyline on a $10 mill budget that made $21 mill in return was a good (although clumsy) step into the realm of diversification? Digital Domain may have the right idea for survival by diversifying themselves into the medical and military spaces. If you can't go up, to the left, or to the right, then you must go sideways.
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRazor

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