Michael Dambold: Oscars shine light on visual effects industry's troubles
BY MICHAEL DAMBOLD World Staff Writer
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 5:33 AM
You may have seen a few articles about the recent uprising against movie studios causing VFX companies to go bankrupt. These are indications of support for a big upheaval happening in Hollywood. Bankruptcy, Hollywood Studios, Rhythm and Hues, and the future of our movies are all tied up into a somewhat confusing mix of emotions, business practices and the Oscars.
So what in the world is happening?
At the Oscars, "Life of Pi" won multiple awards including one for visual effects. The effects for the movie were created by the studio Rhythm & Hues, whose credits also include "Django Unchained," "The Hunger Games," "Snow White and the Huntsman," "X-Men: First Class" and the "Hunger Games" sequels.
Pretty impressive, right? It's fairly well-known that Rhythm & Hues works their behinds off, including nights and weekends.
However, Rhythm & Hues recently announced that because the firm is making so little money off of these movies, it is declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It has already laid off 200 of its spectacular workers in an attempt at reorganizing the company.
Companies declare bankruptcy all the time. Why is this different?
It's different because it's the symptom of a larger problem with the way Hollywood is treating effects companies.
During the 2013 Oscars, employees from Rythym & Hues protested outside of the event. When Bill Westenhofer, one of the VFX supervisors for Rhythm & Hues, was giving his acceptance speech for the "Life of Pi" visual effects Oscar, he was cut off just after the 43 second mark with the theme song from "Jaws."
However, "Life of Pi" director Ang Lee's acceptance speech, which lasted 158 seconds, was not cut off. Many who worked at the company felt this to be a kick in the pants from those in charge of the event and from Hollywood in general.
Rhythm & Hues isn't the only company feeling the sting. Pixmodo, the company in charge of visual effects for "Hugo," has had to recently downsize to stay afloat.
The lack of unionization in the visual effects industry means that anyone working in visual effects is at a disadvantage because they are now faced with the inability to demand better work environments due to the plethora of visual effects "artists" with half the training who are willing to work for half the price.
What we're seeing now is the industry attempting to gain ground and establish footing with the movie studios and beginning to demand better wages for themselves and others in the industry.
Time will tell as to the outcome of this. Keep in mind that your favorite movie was created by someone at these companies and that these people are fighting for a better work environment.
Original Print Headline: Oscars shine light on visual effects crunch