FOR THE LOVE OF FILM: VFX vs. Hollywood

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Instead of writing my usual column this week I decided to talk about the recent visual effects (VFX) situation that came to a head at the Oscars. I hope you find it informative.

If you watched the Oscars this weekend you may have noticed something that has turned into kind of a scandal. No, not that Seth MacFarlane did exactly what everyone figured he would (people who are upset the maker of Family Guy and Ted told childish and inappropriate jokes are the same people who complain about snow in the winter), instead I mean that Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi won Best Visual Effects and then got it’s acceptance speech cut short. Some of you probably laughed when the Jaws music started playing but you need to realize that these people are out of a job and just wanted to have their voice heard. Most acceptance speeches went on double, even triple, the length theirs did without even getting a cue to wrap it up.

This fucker had quadruple the time and did not even thank the team that made his movie. Stay classy, Ang Lee.

Across the street at the same time all of this was going on was a protest. Over 400 VFX employees were out to shine some light on the fact that they are all at a very high risk of losing their jobs. Hollywood practices have made studios do everything they can just to turn the most profit and now that includes outsourcing VFX work to places with cheaper labor forces and tax incentives for the studio. The production houses want more work for less money. This has led to long hours and a large amount of unpaid overtime that was not covered under contract. This might seem like just the way business goes, but these people are artists. Without them we would not have beautiful visuals that win awards, instead we would have inferior VFX that is created fast and without much attention to detail. All of the sudden we go from Jurassic Park to something like this:

I can’t believe I have never taken an art class either.

Some people have taken to social media with this crusade. You may have noticed profile pictures being changed to a blank green square. This represents the green screen that would be seen without VFX workers. It is a great show of solidarity and support for the VFX industry and will probably cause…well nothing. Let’s be honest, when was the last time changing some pictures on social media changed anything? If you answered “never” you are correct.

Pictured: the amount of fucks anyone gives about your social media campaign.

Much like with the auto industry there is no shortage of people willing to just buy cheaper foreign products but what will happen when movie studios start buying from Kia instead of Chrysler? A lot of break downs. Thousands of people are going to be out of jobs just because some studio wants to spend even less money to buy themselves an Oscar. Greedy practices are soon going to destroy lives, and that is not hyperbole. It has happened time and time again with outsourcing in different areas of work and the results are always the same.

Coincidentally, being stuck in the middle of the ocean with a tiger is a fitting metaphor.

So what does this all mean? First and foremost it means a change is going to happen. Either VFX workers will find a way to get what they want (and most likely deserve) by unionizing, or VFX will continue to get outsourced and go the way of traditional animation. No matter what happens Hollywood is definitely in for a bumpy road ahead as this all gets sorted out and hopefully cinema will not suffer too much as a result. I can tell you one thing, though, Life Of Pi could not have existed without these VFX artists and the fact that they are being ignored is a sad state of affairs indeed.

 

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