Life Of Pi Life Of Pi
Artist RightsEvents

VFX/Animation Industry Will Protest at the Oscars Tomorrow

What better time to protest Hollywood’s woeful treatment of animation and visual effects artists than on the film industry’s biggest day—Oscar Sunday. Tomorrow afternoon, between 1pm and 4:30pm, there will be a demonstration at Hollywood Blvd and Vine Street demanding more equitable treatment of animation/VFX artists. The event organizers have also rented a plane that will circle the Oscars between 3:30 and 4:30pm carrying a banner urging a VFX union. Over 200375 people have already confirmed their attendance on the event’s Facebook page.

The instigating event of this renewed interest in artists’ rights has been Rhythm & Hues’ bankruptcy, which makes little sense considering that the work R&H produces is among the best in the industry and responsible for a significant portion of Hollywood’s profits:

Life of Pi (Fox) and Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal) together grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide. Rhythm & Hues Studios, the company that brought Richard Parker to life and created the bulk of the visual effects for these two Oscar nominated films, has just declared bankruptcy. Many of the artists who worked nights and weekends to create those effects are out of work and unpaid for weeks of work (including nights and weekends) on new tent-pole films for the same studios, Fox and Universal. It’s time for change!

A round-up of protest coverage can be found on VFX Soldier.

  • If VFX companies unfortunately are already having to bid at minimum … why can’t they negotiate for a percentage of the profits on the backend? Nowadays the VFX are just as much a main part and selling point of quite a few movies.

    • Dude

      I don’t have a TON of experience in this, but I’ve turned down a few Hollywood contracts in my time. The reason why they won’t give percentage points that actually mean something is because of studio accounting practices, in my opinion. Consider the leaked accounting for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which claimed the studio lost money:

      I once talked with someone from a studio who basically said a lot of films are made under temporary studio names. They make the film for X amount of dollars. Then they pick a big studio to distribute it like Paramount or Universal or the like. Then, as if by magic, the distributor appears to make amazingly stupid decisions that waste all, if not more, of the profits from the movie. Some might think these funds are being funneled to parts of the distributor, leaving the small studio on the hook and eventually filing for bankruptcy to hide profits, but that would be HORRIBLY cynical, wouldn’t it? :)

      tl;dr, There’s a reason actors, directors, and producers get paid up front. All of the accounting done after a film’s release is pure fantasy. Animators need higher initial salaries, not percentages.

      • I totally understand the cynicism and in this business it’s good to have a bit of it! Some actors do go the percentage points route tho … the most notable one that I can think of that has to do with VFX is Keanu Reeves who ended up giving up some of that profit to the VFX artists.

        Now, that really should have been the studio doing that as the visual effects in that film is what majorly helped to sell that movie.

        I just think if the VFX companies are already bidding at minimum why not throw in a profit sharing clause or two. It’s a roll of the dice like being a part of making any movie, but they don’t seem to be getting anything else. But of course, in a perfect world they should really be getting what they need to run the company and pay decent salaries in the first place.

  • brett

    Has anyone done a thorough look into how R & H was handling its money? It would be helpful to know what kind of overhead they were carrying, how much the executives were taking home, how much debt they had taken on over the years, and for what reason etc. Was this really a case of those corporate Hollywood fatcats not paying enough, or was it internal mismanagement of resources?

  • Shazbot

    Awesome!!! I’m rooting for you guys. Kick some arse!

  • Victim of its own ambitions.
    Does anyone remember a 2D animators?

  • Protest, eh? I do support the cause. Rhythm & Hues is such a talented studio, I was very surprised when it closed down because I didn’t realize that these special effects artists were getting the short end of the stick. So many big Hollywood movies today rely on their cool CGI effects and often use them as a selling point. Especially the movie in the image, Life of Pi, where critical praises of the special effects were used in so much of the marketing. I always assumed that these artists got good treatment because a lot of movies today really rely on them. Ended up learning that wasn’t the case. It looks like the closing of R&H is riling people up, and forcing more of them to notice this problem. Hopefully the future will be better for these artists, yes?

  • Deaniac

    Aaaaand with that, Life Of Pi won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Hoooo boy.

  • With Almost every single Hollywood movie reeling on visual effects It sad that the artists don’t get the money they deserve.

  • Well the market is changing. You have to be a jack of all trades now. Always learn more than one skill.