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Old 09-03-2013, 03:25 PM   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim_311
The vfx industry would be much better off and much more stable if the subsidies didn't exist. Our work would be valued and priced as it should. As it stands now Studios/Producers are becoming accustomed to the discounted price of VFX because of subsidies. It will all come crashing down eventually. In the meantime it forces tons of artists to become even more nomadic then we already were.


I won't argue the destructive role subsidies and tax incentives have had on the film industry. You missed the point entirely.

I have a house and I have settled down, and I have refused to move despite great offers elsewhere. Los Angeles is my home, end of story.

At first I was very upset about subsidies, but over time I realized that there was nothing I could personally do about them. The governments and players that make those decisions are so far removed from the people on the ground that there is no sense in losing sleep over something outside your own personal control.

All I can do is vote in elections and write letters to my local officials. I can't control what the UK, EU, New Zealand, Australia, British Columbia and Quebec are going to do, and I don't care to waste my energy thinking about it, nor should anyone else in my opinion.
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Old 09-03-2013, 03:37 PM   #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim_311
And I wonder what your current view regarding unions and a trade association is currently?

Before trying to out VFX Soldier and getting holy hell for it and vanishing from the internet you had changed your tune about unions it seemed and thought some sort of group representation was a good idea.


You have it wrong. I didn't disappear from the internet. I disappeared from the blogosphere and the anonymous world of arguments that exists in that arena. I have always associated my own name, my own work, with everything I have ever posted online. That's one of the things I have always liked about CG Talk, and a main reason I keep coming back: discussions are moderated, most users use their real names, and there is a sense of civility to the process. I feel like here I can have actual discussions as opposed to anonymous mud-slinging.

Also, I later learned the true identity of VFX Soldier anyways, and I have kept that to myself, and will continue to do so. Turns out it was someone I knew and gave career advice to. There's no benefit in outing him or anyone else online who is anonymous, but I have since chosen to stay out of that arena indefinitely. I loosely read his and other blogs and lately his focus on subsidies has really lost my interest all together. He doesn't understand the world economy and just how powerless we are, and the notion that a U.S. trade law firm is going to do anything about it completely ridiculous.

To your other question; I support both the idea of a trade association and a union for VFX. Both are needed, in my opinion, and would be great to see happen. I was involved in helping Scott Ross try to get a trade association off the ground, but I didn't get any traction, and I felt like I couldn't further help the cause.
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:14 PM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by -dc-
I won't argue the destructive role subsidies and tax incentives have had on the film industry. You missed the point entirely.

I have a house and I have settled down, and I have refused to move despite great offers elsewhere. Los Angeles is my home, end of story.

At first I was very upset about subsidies, but over time I realized that there was nothing I could personally do about them. The governments and players that make those decisions are so far removed from the people on the ground that there is no sense in losing sleep over something outside your own personal control.

All I can do is vote in elections and write letters to my local officials. I can't control what the UK, EU, New Zealand, Australia, British Columbia and Quebec are going to do, and I don't care to waste my energy thinking about it, nor should anyone else in my opinion.


I didn't miss the point. I guess I just failed to make the point that without at least awareness and some sort of basic effort to change things they never will.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

So to simply put our heads in the sand and say "oh well" will for sure do no good. While all the efforts and meetings and talk could possibly lead to something. Change wont happen all on its own. You have to talk and try.

And I think you're a little insulated from the impact being that you're on the supervisor level. Most artists would call you an above the line person. For your average artist the impact of these subsidies and buying of work by various locations is much harder than on someone like you I feel...and I say that with no malice. Im just saying I think you feel it less then we do.
 
Old 09-03-2013, 04:17 PM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by -dc-
You have it wrong. I didn't disappear from the internet. I disappeared from the blogosphere and the anonymous world of arguments that exists in that arena. I have always associated my own name, my own work, with everything I have ever posted online. That's one of the things I have always liked about CG Talk, and a main reason I keep coming back: discussions are moderated, most users use their real names, and there is a sense of civility to the process. I feel like here I can have actual discussions as opposed to anonymous mud-slinging.

Also, I later learned the true identity of VFX Soldier anyways, and I have kept that to myself, and will continue to do so. Turns out it was someone I knew and gave career advice to. There's no benefit in outing him or anyone else online who is anonymous, but I have since chosen to stay out of that arena indefinitely. I loosely read his and other blogs and lately his focus on subsidies has really lost my interest all together. He doesn't understand the world economy and just how powerless we are, and the notion that a U.S. trade law firm is going to do anything about it completely ridiculous.

To your other question; I support both the idea of a trade association and a union for VFX. Both are needed, in my opinion, and would be great to see happen. I was involved in helping Scott Ross try to get a trade association off the ground, but I didn't get any traction, and I felt like I couldn't further help the cause.


Yes...you disappeared from what was a decent internet presence to basically nill after all the flack you got trying to out VFX Soldier. Why you even cared or tried to do it to begin with is beyond me really.

Anyways....Do you think there will ever come a point where VFX studios stop viewing each other as blood enemies and start talking to each other about the common good?
What do you think stands in the way...or...what do you think it will take for VFX studios to finally come together? If ever...
 
Old 09-03-2013, 04:54 PM   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim_311
And I think you're a little insulated from the impact being that you're on the supervisor level. Most artists would call you an above the line person. For your average artist the impact of these subsidies and buying of work by various locations is much harder than on someone like you I feel...and I say that with no malice. Im just saying I think you feel it less then we do.


Well you're certainly wrong there, I feel the impact of subsidies as much, if not more, than others.

VFX Supervisor jobs are more scarce now, especially with facilities offering up top Oscar winning supervisors for projects for free just to get the work. I have to compete with free labor.

On top of that, I have to be willing to pack my bags and fly out on a moments notice to go wherever a project is filming.

I have no benefits, no guarantee, no contract that says I'll be employed indefinitely. Directors fire people for having their cell phones ring on set. You can get fired for being in the way of the DP. You can get fired for a facility failing to deliver work when you don't even work at the facility. It's a tough gig.

"Above-the-line", just so we're clear, are people who get residuals. VFX Supervisors get a day rate, and we work 12-18 hour days sometimes. No union. No overtime. No benefits.
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Old 09-03-2013, 05:03 PM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim_311
Yes...you disappeared from what was a decent internet presence to basically nill after all the flack you got trying to out VFX Soldier. Why you even cared or tried to do it to begin with is beyond me really.

Anyways....Do you think there will ever come a point where VFX studios stop viewing each other as blood enemies and start talking to each other about the common good?
What do you think stands in the way...or...what do you think it will take for VFX studios to finally come together? If ever...


That's in the past, what's the point in bringing it up? I tend to overreact. It was a mistake. I moved on a long time ago...

To your question about the VFX studios...

The answer is no. That is one thing I do get to see as a VFX Sup is the ruthlessness and cut-throat attitude facility owners have towards each other. They love to see each other fail and falter. Facilities will pick up scraps of work off a doomed facility. It happened to R&H when the studios pulled shows from them during bankruptcy.

There is no mercy, and they are in business to win. They will do whatever it takes to win. Unfortunately the only way this current race to the bottom ends is with more studios closing due to bad money management.
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Old 09-03-2013, 05:27 PM   #52
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In your estimation do you foresee the subsidy situation changing either near or long term?

Are we as artists/industry perpetually doomed? Stuck in a downward spiral over ever lowering budgets/wages? Constantly relocating and living out of suitcases 3-6 months at a time till a project ends and have to relocate?

Is there a way to pull out of this nosedive we're in as far as quality of life goes?

/end "sky is falling" rant
 
Old 09-03-2013, 06:11 PM   #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim_311
In your estimation do you foresee the subsidy situation changing either near or long term?

Are we as artists/industry perpetually doomed? Stuck in a downward spiral over ever lowering budgets/wages? Constantly relocating and living out of suitcases 3-6 months at a time till a project ends and have to relocate?

Is there a way to pull out of this nosedive we're in as far as quality of life goes?

/end "sky is falling" rant


Hey I know how you feel! It does seem like the end of the world when all the jobs in your area leave. LA is like a VFX ghost town right now. Yeah, there are people still here, just a whole lot less.

The subsidy situation isn't changing. Also, don't forget that artists are being paid LESS to move to places like Vancouver. The people I know that went there all are on lower rates than they were making here in CA. Ironic considering the cost of living is higher there.

When I was at Sony I remember going to lunch with a friend of mine, Kevin Hudson, a modeling supervisor. He announced to us "Well...I'm moving to london!" And we were all floored. "What the hell is in London?" They had just been awarded a bunch of shows, and so it began...what followed was a mass exodus.

Same thing with Avatar. I went to lunch one day with Andy Jones (also at Sony) and he said "I'm moving to New Zealand, this is the one!". He wanted to win an Oscar. He did. Hundreds of artists were employed to work on that show.

The VFX world has been turned upside down on it's head over the last decade, there is no doubt about it.

If you want to stop moving and living out a suitcase, then just refuse to move anymore. If everyone would just settle down and pick somewhere to live then this wouldn't be an issue. If you ask me, subsidies are just a catalyst. The real problem is artists are pushovers who will move and take pay cuts just to work on a film. It's ridiculous and causes the work to be undervalued and artists continue to look like pathetic nomads desperate for work.

A director once yelled at me "I don't understand why I can't have my notes addressed by tomorrow, can't you just render it faster?!?!" and my response was "The computer isn't doing the work, there are human beings involved and they need time to adjust". His reply: "Oh...should I say hi?" We followed that up with a conference call to the artists.

People don't understand VFX. The few that do...well...they tend to abuse us. Everyone understands the DP's job- he has to light the set and shoot the film. The editor has to cut the footage. The actor has to act. The director has to make a bunch of decisions. The art department has to build all the sets, the special effects crew has to blow them up, and the sound dept has to record everything.

VFX is wildly misunderstood across the industry. The human element has been so far removed that most people won't even acknowledge us. There's a reason we're at the bottom of the credit roll and it may be another decade or two before a new crop of film makers comes along that respects our craft. Until that happens, we just have to suck it up and keep doing our best work.
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Old 09-03-2013, 08:33 PM   #54
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Excuse my complete ignorance on this, but does everyone seriously not have health, dental, vision, retirement, life insurance, short-term dismember/disability benefits at their jobs?

Do only senior long-term staff get them or does no one get them?

Last edited by sentry66 : 09-03-2013 at 08:45 PM.
 
Old 09-03-2013, 08:40 PM   #55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sentry66
excuse my complete ignorance on this, but does everyone seriously not have health, dental, vision, retirement, life insurance, dismember/disability benefits at their jobs?

Do only senior long term staff get them or does no one get them?


Seriously...we dont. We're all temp project hires. You get paid what you get paid then kicked out on your butt as soon as movie is over.

Not even senior. Only the rare "staff" person gets benefits...If that...lots of people are "perma-lance"

The x-factor for all this in the US is what will happen when Obamacare takes effect and all the mandates for employer health coverage come about.

But no vacation/401k/etc benefits.
 
Old 09-03-2013, 08:49 PM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim_311
Seriously...we dont. We're all temp project hires. You get paid what you get paid then kicked out on your butt as soon as movie is over.

Not even senior. Only the rare "staff" person gets benefits...If that...lots of people are "perma-lance"

The x-factor for all this in the US is what will happen when Obamacare takes effect and all the mandates for employer health coverage come about.

But no vacation/401k/etc benefits.


wow, how is even allowed? That just amazes me. Even 19-year-old McDonald's managers can get health benefits at their jobs. I can understand if it's all freelance/contract work - and I guess that's how most of the industry operates these days, but large companies not offering health benefits to long-term staff is rather shady.

Doesn't sound like there's a lot of long-term viability in the film industry. Insurance costs later in life are absolutely insane and not having insurance can easily bankrupt a person and their family. I hope Obamacare does come through and offer a decent option.

Last edited by sentry66 : 09-03-2013 at 09:12 PM.
 
Old 09-03-2013, 09:15 PM   #57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sentry66
wow, how is even allowed? That just amazes me. Even 19-year-old McDonald's managers can get health benefits at their jobs. I can understand if it's all freelance/contract work - and I guess that's how most of the industry operates these days, but large companies not offering health benefits to long-term staff is rather shady.


Oh yeah, this is the normal MO for all film jobs. That's why the rest of the film industry is unionized. They get pensions, health care, etc. We get jack squat AKA nothing.

Fortunately my wife has an amazing job with full benefits (ie: normal). Without that I would've been screwed a number of times. Most people just live without any benefits. That's the sad reality in VFX.
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Old 09-03-2013, 09:51 PM   #58
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sentry66: understand the economics of the film (and to a degree game) industry and it will hopefully enlighten you:

The source of revenue for films are fans and patrons on theatrical release. This is accompanied by in film advertisement. Merchandise revenue does not affect the studio (Warner Brothers) or vendor (Rhythm etc.) on the day of release. It does however help WB and it's partners make up losses later.

Where does the money come from to take on these big films? From Wall Street hedge funds (Relativity, Legendary etc.) and from the studio's previous revenue (FOX, WB, and the like will reinvest their revenue to create more content.)

A film is often seen as a singular entity legally. Let's assume this case since it more often than not represents how production is treated.

WB and partners form '301 Inc.' to handle the entire creation of the sequel to 300, called 301! Assuming the movie has been greenlit, WB and partners loan 301 Inc a large amount of money. Producers match funds with tax incentives, product placement, and point deals with vendors, actors, directors etc. That is: 301 Inc has a loan to WB and partners already, so any money 301 Inc earns in ticket sales goes to WB and partners first, then on a point (percentage) system to actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, and most recently vendors. You can see this with Prime Focus who recently invested into the new Sin City film.

Understand this relationship: 301 Inc is already in debt and it has promised profits to a lot of people. How did those people get those profits? They have the talent, the star power (name,) and most likely the money to negotiate for them. Why do vendors (Rhythm, etc.) not invest in films? They have been, Digital Domain with Ender's Game, PF as mentioned earlier, Rhythm with Yogi Bear. Remember though: they usually have to pay for the effects themselves; Digital Domain was paid and received points on Ender's Game, but if you read John Textor's post you'll see their fee for doing the work was greatly reduced.

Now 301 Inc only has a finite amount of money to use to make this movie. Why? WB and partners don't want to take too many risks in this climate. Why? No one buys DVDs, most people rent or Netflix, and piracy hurts. Why? Because the system of selling, booking, and getting movies into theaters is antiquated in a digital world. Everyone is moving to digital distribution: Disney signs with Netflix, Netflix and Amazon create their own properties for international distribution, iTunes is the #1 digital store world wide. However the whole industry isn't there yet. Look at the fiasco that happened with Alice In Wonderland when Disney wanted an accelerated release schedule for the DVD/Blu Ray. Theaters were angry.

Ok so we can't earn money really quick because of old ways of releasing a movie. Where does the money come from then? Releasing it theatrically. Again, merchandise and other forms of income aren't related to the actual creation of the film and the people working in it, so let's stay focused.

301 comes out. 301 does poorly in theaters, twitter kills it, RottenTomatoes gives their first ever -1% review. The movie made no money.

No directors, partners, WB, no one sees their money back, it's a complete failure. WB takes a loss, directors, actors, etc have worked on a film for 18 months and earned nothing.

Then it comes out on DVD/BluRay and it's a surprise hit. People love it, WB and partners get their loan back plus other hidden 'fees.' Somehow, directors, actors and others with points also get a check after all these fees.

Fantastic!

... what about the VFX artists?

Well we've been out of work for 6 months by this point. You see, 301 Inc only had a limited amount of money to spend on vendors. It made them compete hard to see who would do it at the lowest cost. Vendor VFX Inc was given only 20 million to do the effects. But the producer wanted the work done in Canada because Canada will send the Producer (NOT the VFX company!) a check for giving Canadians work. Vendor VFX Inc hires a lot of people in Canada, a few in the US and maybe some key personnel in LA to manage the studio (WB) in person.

In the US, Vendor VFX Inc has a small budget for artists locally. They post an ad and are flooded by people. The high supply of artists drive down the costs of hiring them. They hire a few people, but only have enough money to do maybe 2-3 months work in the US. Vendor VFX Inc tells you they will hire you either as a A) pre determined end-date W2, B) Through a third party so they don't have to pay unemployment costs, taxes or anything else. If you're lucky to be on a W2, then you have to work for 90 days to get health insurance, but the job ends in 60 days. Damn. If you are hired through a third party, then you can file for unemployment, but you deal with a third party firm (like YurCor) and not with Vendor VFX Inc at all. Vendor VFX Inc pays third party a 'fee' who then pays you (after they take out their fee from your paycheck.)

Then you're fired, let go, or if lucky rolled onto the next project. If you're rolled on, you may be asked to take a month or so off so you're not seen as a fulltime employee.

Why?

Because Vendor VFX Inc only has a small amount of money left over after producing the VFX. This is called margin. From this margin we remove A) utilities B) taxes, lawyers C) your snacks in the snack machine D) the founders/owners getting paid E) any other administrative stuff (like copy paper!)

Vendor VFX Inc has no more money at the end of a show (the movie 301, the sequel to 300) to pay you. They cannot afford health care except for a few key employees/seniors. It's not that they don't want to, trust me, every vendor owner I've worked for is genuinely interested in the artist's health. It's just they cannot afford to.

Anyways we're let go, 301 comes out in theaters 6 months after we were let go (standard in my experience at least) and makes no money. 3 months after that, it is a surprise hit on DVD sales. I've been out of work (or found a new job) because it has been 9 MONTHS! since I worked on that film.

For all I know:
  1. Vendor VFX Inc declared bankruptcy (and forfeited their points on 301 to creditors)
  2. WB and Partners love the work that Vendor VFX Inc did so much that they asks them to do work again on another film, so they begin rehiring people 9 months later.

Obviously I'm glossing a few things:
  1. The changes the director will keep making to the VFX until the money runs out on their budget
  2. The fact that the money hasn't been paid to the VFX Vendor Inc because they can't charge for changes, so they may already be in debt
  3. Or it just hasn't been paid period, WB and Partners will stretch you thin because you'll keep working, the financing runs out, partners pull, options expire, whatever.
  4. That Vendor VFX Inc could very well make money from 301 the movie, but may not see that money for almost a year or two after it was released. I as a VFX artist see no benefit.

Movies take years to produce; 18 months is a tight schedule. Movies don't make the money they used to, but there are new avenues opening up for profit, it will take some balls to do this on a tent-pole scale. By the time the film comes out. Why such delays and crappy restraints? Because that's how it used to be. Why so many changes? Because as artist's we're never satisfied. Why do I get no health care or benefits? Because there is extreme downward pressure to make a movie cheaply; producers will find ways.

Wait! I heard other people have health care, like grips etc! Yes they do. Grips and the like have unionized many decades ago and have reaped the rewards of working in a union on a large number of films. Those points we talked about earlier? Grips, camera ops and everyone else in physical production unions earn those points, those points go to the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plan. Even if some fail, most will overall make money in aggregate over a long period of time.

That's how they have benefits.

I don't want to argue for or against unions in this post. I just want to point out how the whole thing is set up.

I will say this though: the pressure to make movies, I imagine soon games, as cheaply as possible for the greatest reward is definitely in the up swing. This is compacted by changing revenue streams for the studios. I know we like to demonize them, but they're losing money and investing what they have back into new films. GE could rarely make NBCUniversal profitable; I'm sure Disney relies more on merchandise and parks than their films too.

Entertainment is this funny business that once in a while makes money, but rarely does. In the long run you either keep at it because you're mad or you're in love with it.

I happen to be in love :P

Last edited by daraand : 09-03-2013 at 09:59 PM.
 
Old 09-03-2013, 09:55 PM   #59
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So given what's been going on, what are the possible outcomes?

1. VFX artists eventually move to India or China so they can continue to work in their field.
2. VFX people take similar jobs in other industries and let India and China handle film VFX.
3. Unionize, but since VFX can be outsourced unlike physical film crews near hollywood sets, VFX would still be outsourced to India and China.

Is there a 4th option I'm not thinking of? What other scenarios (or combinations) are there?

Sounds like things are going from bad to worse when people have to start actively moving every 3-6 months to find work in their particular field. To be honest, it sounds like things are dying off in the local Hollywood or even United States VFX scene with outsourcing being the writing that's on the wall.

Are most people in denial or is something else going to happen soon? Even Obamacare won't stop the fact that the jobs are still 3-6 month projects being given to overseas studios.

Last edited by sentry66 : 09-03-2013 at 10:13 PM.
 
Old 09-03-2013, 10:01 PM   #60
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Well laid out David
 
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