All of the highest-grossing live-action Hollywood films last year were heavily reliant on computer generated visual effects.

And yet, the key creative talents who make these films possible—visual effects artists—are one of the only groups of talent in Hollywood that lacks union representation. As a result, many of the artists are underpaid, overworked, uncredited, mentally abused, and generally work under conditions that would be considered inhumane by any other group of Hollywood craftspeople.

Debuting today, Hollywood’s Greatest Trick, a new 24-minute documentary on the plight of contemporary vfx artists, is an excellent introduction to the scope and scale of the problem.

Watch the entire film below:

(If you have trouble viewing the embed, the video can be viewed on this page.)

The video is accompanied by a richly detailed article that adds more depth to the documentary. If there’s any question about why Hollywood is dead set against the unionization of vfx artists, the following graphic from the article will answer the question: vfx artists comprise the biggest portion of the crew on most Hollywood blockbusters.


And as the documentary makes clear, the problem doesn’t end with vfx artists. Taxpayers in many regions of the United States, as well as other countries, help subsidize Hollywood filmmaking through tax credits and rebates, while receiving nothing in return.

It’s a system that is, as one person puts it in the documentary, “unsustainable.” Notably, all six major entertainment conglomerates that are responsible for creating this situation—Sony, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Universal—either declined to speak with the filmmakers or didn’t respond to their interview requests. The Motion Picture Association of America, the lobbying group that represents these corporations in Washington D.C., also declined to speak on the issue of Hollywood’s vfx practices.

Hollywood’s Greatest Trick was produced by Sohail Al-Jamea and Ali Rizvi for McClatchy Video Lab, a division of the McClatchy media organization that owns dozens of newspapers around the United States. The reporting for the piece was’ done by Greg Hadley and Elizabeth Koh.