"Black Widow" "Black Widow"

Workplaces left and right are shutting down in order to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Yet the vfx industry is lagging behind. For a number of reasons, notably the constraints imposed by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), many studios have yet to send all their staff home.

The Visual Effects Society, the prominent global organization representing the industry, has called on employers to take faster action. It has also collated technical advice from professionals on how to work from home — the document can be accessed here. Below is the society’s statement in full:

At this time of crisis, supporting the health and safety of our global visual effects workforce is of vital importance. Many visual effects practitioners are still hard at work at studios and facilities around the world, when they might prefer to work remotely in this difficult time. Municipalities worldwide have been enacting stringent public health protocols to help curb the spread of Covid-19, and that includes strong guidance for employees to work from home, whenever possible.

The Visual Effects Society wants to encourage all employers — large or small — to grant permission for their employees to work remotely during this unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. We understand the concerns around security to protect proprietary work product, but right now is the time for the utmost flexibility towards vfx artists and all practitioners as we try to figure our way through this crisis. Many companies are trying to take action, and we are optimistic that studios and vendors can find and enact workable solutions.

To aid this transition to remote work, the VES Technology Committee has issued best practices and guidance for working from home, culled from studios, vendors, and facilities. The recommendations are designed to help the vfx community by providing technical solutions to common problems practitioners may encounter in preparing and adapting to work from home workflows, acknowledging the security and technical issues involved.

Many production artists have contacted Cartoon Brew to express their frustrations about unresponsive employers. Meanwhile, others are getting in touch to confirm that their studio has transitioned to a work-from-home setup. In any case, vfx hubs around the world, such as Montreal and London, are being subjected to ever more stringent curbs on life. Increasingly, the question of whether to send staff home is becoming a matter of government (not studio) policy.

Last week, we reported on a petition started by color supervisor Mario Rokicki to encourage vfx employers to let staff work from home. The petition is currently nearing 10,000 signatures. In the latest update, posted on Saturday, Rokicki said:

Our petition was mentioned in The Wall Street Journal and LA Times as well as Fxguide and many other sites. Hollywood studios are listening.

Many vfx facilities around the world are in the process or sending people home to work remotely. What was unthinkable a week or two ago is becoming a reality for many of us. We ask Hollywood studios to keep revising contracts and slow down delivery schedules to give vfx facilities time to set up secure remote work technology. Pulling out shots will cause closures that decimate artist teams which will be needed when on-set productions restart.

(Image at top: Marvel Studios’s “Black Widow,” whose release has been delayed due to the coronavirus.)

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