How Hollywood is Taking Advantage Visual Effects Artists

Giant Hollywood tentpole films are the only thing driving people to the movie theater, but there is a dirty little secret that many studios do not want you to know about. With the demand for high-end visual effects going up every year, Hollywood has pitted VFX company against VFX company in a brutal battle royale competition.

Hollywood studios ask VFX companies to bid on huge jobs and the lowest bidder usually gets the gig. The problem is that many of these companies underbid what the job would really cost. They drop the bid ridiculously low just to get the job then figure out how they are going to make it happen. One of the ways they make it happen is to abuse the visual effects artists. A day of work could be 18-20 hours behind a computer at below industry norm wages and with no overtime. In many cases, they are running a VFX sweatshop. Everyone is on-board because of the glamor and credit they will get from working on a major Hollywood blockbuster.

The guys take a hard look at the state of the Visual Effects industry, in which the movie studios themselves run their “hired” visual effects studios — and the employees — literally out of business with abusive hours and under-bid prices. MPC (Moving Picture Company) Vancouver is the most recent victim, after having just finished a major re-work of the ‘Sonic’ character for the upcoming movie. 17 hour days and 7 day work weeks were not uncommon — and sadly is not uncommon in the industry, either. Nick and John also share their own industry stories & insights as well and discuss how this system runs all the way up from producers to studios — and even to countries. – Credit AsArt

The studios abuse the VFX companies with revision after revision and make deadlines that are impossible to meet. The VFX company doesn’t want to piss off the studio because without those big-budget films coming through the company they would have to shutter their doors as the veteran Oscar-Winning company Rhythm and Hues did.  The year R&B won the Oscar for visual effects for Life of Pi the company closed its doors because of the practices of abuse by the studios. Below you can watch the sad and eye-opening documentary of the fall of Rhythm and Hues.

More recently the box office disaster CATS suffered from this systemic problem that the studios have created. Because of unrealistic deadlines and horrible creative decisions of the look of the CATS cast the film went out to theaters with placeholder VFX shots. In an unprecedented move, the studio is now sending out VFX patch shots to be inserted in the films that are already in the theaters.

With a budget of $100,000,000 plus marketing expenses, the film generated about $10,000,000 worldwide on its opening weekend. This is an absolute bomb and I promise you somebody’s head will roll for this. Hollywood continues to perpetuate this insane system of abuse of VFX artists and companies because they have a crop of fresh companies and artists popping up every day.

This system needs to stop. The abuse of visual effects artists needs to stop. The abuse of visual effects companies needs to stop. This system is not sustainable. At a certain point in the future the word will get out and the crop of artists coming into this business will begin to dry up and the studios will have to find other opinions. They are currently trying to develop talent in emerging countries so they can pay even less for talented artists and leave the more established artists and companies without work. And if these artists want to work their rates will have to come crashing down to a fraction of they were paid before.

Steven Speilberg and George Lucas said that the current Hollywood system is heading towards and implosion. I do believe the Hollywood system is coming closer to implosion than many experts think. This is why artist, filmmakers, screenwriters, and any creative person needs to begin to think like a Filmtreprenuer®. Artists need to become more entrepreneurial and not rely upon outside companies or studios for their livelihoods.

In a world of no loyalty to employees and the only thing that matters is the bottom line putting your livelihood in the hands of a giant company or studio is insane to me. Working on freelance gigs is a great side hustle but artists should be focusing on creating revenue streams that they control. The world is changing faster than we can keep up. If artists do not adjust and pivot they will get left behind.


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