“You’ll find I’m full of surprises…”

Posted: February 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Deadline Hollywood Daily linked this article from the MPAA about the record breaking, 2010 world box office and tossed in a barb about the Hollywood guilds for dramatic effect.

When I read the article, what I see is that VFX laden and computer animated films dominated the 2010 box office.  Period.  End of story.

This isn’t new – that is the way it has been for my entire career.  Effects movies = Money.

We, as a craft, have substantially more power than the studios would lead us to believe.  India, China, Singapore – today, none of these places have the infrastructure to fully assume the role of any major stateside facility.  Outsourcing will continue to happen – regardless of the actions of the stateside vfx community, but a wholesale export of vfx production is not an area the studios are willing to bankroll.  I still see a robust vfx market for the US – even with a union.

Studios don’t want to be in the vfx business – VFX production doesn’t make them any money.

The actual product of vfx artists however, makes them a LOT of money.

The rest of the Hollywood guilds know this and have begun to act on it.  They aren’t blind to the fact that the lion’s share of movie budgets  go into our pocket.  Virtual sets, augmentations, digital makeup, post-3D, cg characters – we’re pushing out what were traditionally, hands-on crafts in every area of production.  What is shot on-set is just another element for us.  Big films are build in post.

We’ve busted the traditional system of the Hollywood crafts.  They are having a difficult time, passing their hard-fought bit of studio leverage from this generation to the next.  Most of that power has been channeled to us, but we’re too splintered to do anything with it.  We are just a mob of individual artists, lacking a unified voice.

The studios fear us.  They know they have been on borrowed time.

Behind closed doors, I assume they have a plan for how they will react to us at the bargaining table –  if not, they are drafting one now.

IATSE needs us.  We represent and possess some of the power they lost.  We need them, because we’ve proven we don’t know what the hell we’re doing when it comes to dealing with the studios.

IATSE, WGA, SAG, DGA – all of these guilds are attempting to negotiate their future business arrangement with the studios.  New media and non-traditional distribution are huge question marks for all involved – except us.  We’re too far removed.  In fact, at an IATSE meeting a few weeks back, it was mentioned that IATSE’s ‘big issue’ right now is piracy.


I guess that piracy IS an issue for you when the secondary market sales of productions fuel your health care and retirement.  VFX is so completely mercenary, only bragging rights and pride in the work even dictate that care if a movie is even released, let alone makes any money for anyone.

IATSE and the rest of the guilds must have realized that if VFX were organized, our ability to ‘print money’ for the studios, can be converted directly into leverage.  It is leverage that assures  their retirement and health care is funded – and from this, we would also benefit.

There is a lot of fear in the vfx community.  We’re afraid to rock the boat in any way.  I’m coming to grips with the reality that perhaps we’re not the ones that should be afraid.  This isn’t about us vs the vfx shops that employ us.  They are in the same boat we are.  Its about vfx artists and the studios.  It is about us and Hollywood.  We deserve  similar deal and benefits that the rest of the crafts rely upon.

It is time for us to start discussing our options.

  1. vfxinsider says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Every sees it but our peers. How do we motivate them to to take minimum action?

  2. Jimmy Goodman says:

    The IATSE is assembling a team consisting of Local 600, 700, 800 and 839: together we have years of experience and hundreds of members; many of those members are working in VFX and silently praying to rejoin the industry pension and health plans. We are working hard to make this happen.

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