Magazine article Screen International

Cause and Effects

Magazine article Screen International

Cause and Effects

Article excerpt

With Hollywood VFX companies in trouble, the industry is looking at its business practices and the need for a lobbying body.

The debate over the VFX industry's future went public at February's Academy Awards, when hundreds of VFX artists protested near the ceremony venue and Life Of Pi visual effects Oscar winner Bill Westenhofer tried at the winners' podium - until he was silenced by the music from Jaws - to raise the subject of the effects industry's financial woes.

Since then, Hollywood's VFX community, with input from its international counterparts, has been debating ways to escape the financial instability that has caused deteriorating working conditions for artists and pushed two major effects companies - including Life Of Pi lead Rhythm & Hues - into bankruptcy (Rhythm & Hues has since re-emerged under new ownership). The fixes mooted could have implications for the worldwide effects industry.

The most recent proposals come from The State Of The Global VFX Industry 2013, a report commissioned by the Visual Effects Society (VES), an honorary professional group with international membership. In the short term, the report advocates the development of industry standards and best practices as well as business training for VFX professionals and management. Effects industry practices, says the document, "have not evolved and don't reflect the realities of modern production".

The report also suggests the adoption of alternative pricing models. Instead of fixed-price bids for effects work, facilities could move to a 'cost-plus' model, so they are compensated for changes not covered by an estimate, or a 'four-walling' model, where the client pays to use a percentage of a facility for a set period.

'Non-US facilities are confronting all of the same issues in terms of business organisation and bidding'Ken Williams, USC's Entertainment Technology Center

Incentives remain a hot-button issue in the US, since they have helped build effects industries in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and caused many US facilities to move effects work to overseas branches.

But the US industry is split on how to respond. Many industry professionals call for the elimination of all subsidies to create a level worldwide playing field. …

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