Hear This Uninterrupted Statement from “Life of Pi” VFX Winner

[original video link of Oscar speech removed by Vimeo]

Last night during the Oscars, the Academy organizers interrupted Life of Pi winner Bill Westenhofer’s speech just as he was about to address the crisis in the visusal effects community. The timing of the cut-off may not have been coincidental, as Variety’s David S. Cohen pointed out on Twitter:

Hollywood’s desire to silence the animation/vfx community is made more poignant by the VFX industry demonstrations that happened earlier on Sunday in Hollywood. Westenhofer supervised the visual effects of Life of Pi at Rhythm & Hues, which has already declared bankruptcy and is among the studios hit hardest by the recent industry turmoil.

Westenhofer spoke backstage at the ceremony with animation journalist Bill Desowitz, where he explained the message he wanted to deliver to Hollywood:

“At a time when visual effects movies are dominating the box office, [the] visual effects companies are struggling. And I wanted to point out that we aren’t technicians. Visual effects is not just a commodity that’s being done by people pushing buttons. We’re artists, and if we don’t find a way to fix the business model, we start to loses the artistry. If anything, Life of Pi shows that we’re artists and not just technicians.”


  • http://animationanomaly.com/ Charles Kenny

    He was allotted less time, that was all too obvious. But he shouldn’t have beat around the bush so much. If he had just come right out and said it at the beginning, the mic would still have been cut and it would have been all to obvious to everyone what was going on. As it happened, the Academy can play it off as a speech that went on too long.

    • Nick

      Why do you want to blamed the victim for not saying it sooner or quicker when he was obviously not given the same amount of time to talk? The thing is 90% of the jokes from the host, programs from the organizer and speeches by the presenters is boring like hell. They surely can cut those by 5% and give the time to the winners at the stage.

  • Spencer

    No respect. No respect at all.

  • Jamil

    I think it’s time for a VFX Artists strike …only then Hollywood would straighten up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/hanping.zhao Hanping Zhao

      Haha Yes I would be interesed to see that. 2013 will be the year of the greenscreen films. :D

    • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

      I wonder how that would turn out. So many movies today are heavily dependent on VFX. A movie like Life of Pi, or many modern action movies, superhero ones, in particular, probably wouldn’t have even been made in a world without VFX. A major VFX artists strike would halt the production of a LOT of movies.

  • Joe

    Congratulations for Mr. Westenhofer and his colleagues for Life of Pi taking the Oscar.
    However I felt Mr. Westenhofer should of cut the “thanking” and spoke more about how visual effect studios are being taken advantage of. As Hollywood is pumping out more heavy visual effects features, Studios like Rhythm and hues result in waste of recourses, unpaid overtime/midnight work, and low wages. What puts a nail in the coffin is that many of their work are not done here but overseas (India, China) because it’s cheap. Isn’t odd that Dreamworks Animation laid off 500 talented artists and then announce that the studio is planning to open theme parks in Russia? Artists are in need and demand of better representation to avoid getting bamboozled by Hollywood Studios.

    • Klyph14

      Agreed. If your going to make a statement you can’t bury it behind thanking the guy who made a wave tank for you.

      • alok

        Its called gratitude.You thank the people who made it possible for your victory. Had it been a Marlon Brando who sent a statement to be made on his behalf,the academy would have given it all the time there was.

  • Lauren

    It’s disgusting how little time the filmmakers receive as a whole; this awards ceremony is for them, not for extravagant renditions of Chicago. I’ll stick with BAFTAs, for now.

    I hope the employees of the studio get back on their feet.

  • http://twitter.com/ChriSobieniak Chris Sobieniak

    This is why I don’t watch TV.

    • shadypotential

      because you cant afford one

  • Tom

    That bit when he was cut off made me so angry, and heart-broken at the same time. Their speech time did seem suspiciously cut short. But in retrospect, it may have been better to start out with that part.

  • david Vallone

    Wow.. very sad indeed.. Playing part of the Jaws theme music “Shark Attack moment” and then cutting him off.. No coincident there. Hollywood putting the bite!! on commentary of the state of industry for sure..

  • mee

    “Sorry
    This video does not exist.
    vimeo”

  • Michael

    Part of conspiracy: Robert Downey Jr was cut off from intro to VFX artists by Samuel Jackson in the “interest of time”. It was awkward.

  • Pedro Nakama

    It’s a shame he was cut off since the host is from the animation industry.

  • david Vallone

    Forced to take the video down off the site?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002011987824 Nou Chee Her

    Whoever decided to use the Jaws theme should be fired! Did DDL not get almost 4 minutes on his speech, why can’t others get half the time?

    • bigbadballoon

      Can’t lie – I enjoyed the Jaws theme. I liked it much better than the annoying “here’s some classy music to get your @$$ off the stage”. Jaws is at least a bit humorous. But yeah, others should have been granted a full 60 seconds – especially considering some people only used about 30.

    • JohnnyHaze

      Almost everyone was “fired” after that night. We’re like plumbers, taking what we can, when we can, for various clients and for various durations.

  • Jason

    The main point is R/H is bankrupt for creating an award winning artistic masterpiece. Hollywood wants everyone to think that VFX is just hitting buttons when it clearly isn’t. Your quibbling over ‘award time’ is juvenile.

    • lucascott

      His point is very valid. How do we know that it is a flat one minute for all winners and he was cut short rather than perhaps they were told the winner would have 40secs so be brief.

      And if they want to get a message out there then get it out there. Talk about what they do on social media etc. hijacking a awards show for any political discussion is not cool.

      And wasn’t the whole point of the backstage thank you cam for folks would stop the vomiting out of dozens of names. I mean really, saying thank you to all the members of whatever doesn’t have to mean saying everyone’s name. Sometimes it feels almost like product call outs on TV shows (which they did several very annoying examples of with the Samsung, google etc)

      • Jason

        His point was that David Cohen has no argument. That’s a oversimplified false statement.

  • Brian K

    It would have been nice if Ang Lee would have mentioned the effects crew in his acceptance speech.

    • smith

      In Hollywood nobody thanks the people below them.

  • disgusted

    That, my friends, is the middle finger of Hollywood. FIGHT BACK VFX! This is a direct attack. BECOME LOUDER! This just sums it all up. Thanks for a hard work! Take your award, get in line for unemployment, and zip your lip before we get annoyed and kick you out of the industry!

  • bigbadballoon

    Horrible lack of respect all night. Eat your heart out, Rodney Dangerfield!

  • bigbadballoon

    Lost a few points of respect for Samuel L. Jackson. Cutting off RDJ was bad enough but the phrase “…superhero can’t even open an envelope…”. Nick Fury is as much a “superhero” as James Jonah Jameson.

  • wgan

    I can’t help but wondering take away VFX how much Life of Pi left?

    • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

      A cute Indian guy sitting on a boat and yelling at nothing.

  • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

    The video has been taken down, I didn’t get to see it…

    Anyway. I really hope this issue gets more attention. Give the cause some more public support. The average moviegoer doesn’t really realize how many people work on CGI effects and how much work it takes, they think it’s all done on computers so it can’t be very hard. But these people are artists, they do work hard and they deserve a decent salary.

    What I find especially ironic in all of this is how Hollywood is so dependent on VFX these days. A lot of movies will use their cool CGI effects as a selling point, (Life of Pi is one of these films) so up until the Rhythm & Hues bankruptcy I had always assumed that the VFX studios were doing okay. So many movies today wouldn’t be possible without VFX, is it too much to ask to give them some respect,recognition, and good work treatment?

  • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

    People are arguing, though, that the bidding wars between studios are going TOO low. R&H and other studios bid low because that’s the only way they can get business, and they decided that low pay is better than no pay. If that’s the case, then the problem DOES lie with the industry as a whole rather than individual companies.

  • lucascott

    Rhythm and Hue is a poor choice for playing the hero since much of their issues had nothing to do with runaway productions, Hollywood farming out to non US companies etc but rather their own poor money management and so on

    And I don’t blame them for cutting him off if it was intentional since that was not the time nor the place for politics.

  • FriendlyHollywoodExec

    There’s nothing to worry about guys. I’ve visited one of your factories once and they look really fun!

  • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

    Pretty much. That bias towards celebrities instead of actually recognizing cinematic accomplishment is one of the reasons I stopped watching the Oscars. Now I just read a summary to find out what won Best Sound Editing, which is the de facto Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, or War/Spy Picture category. Because those aren’t REAL movies. Anything with Batman or James Bond only deserves technical awards.