Monday, February 25, 2013

Rhythms of Blue


     Well, the Oscars were last night! Brave picked up Best Animation, though personally I was rooting for either ParaNorman or Wreck It Ralph to nab that title. Even Paperman scooped up an award, even if given a slightly embarrassing afterthought with paper airplanes and security guards (REALLY, OSCARS?). It was certainly a hell of a night.

    However, my primary focus isn't exactly on Pixar's (albeit predictable) win. I'm much more concerned with what is happening to the VFX industry in Hollywood. In a nutshell, 
Rhythm & Hues, the studio behind Life of Pi has filed for bankruptcy. FUGGIN. BANKRUPTCY. Now, VFX studios come and mesmerize us and go belly up all the time. But, these guys... the guys responsible for some of today's most memorable films (mostly because of their visual effects)? What went wrong? Poor business management? When a studio reaps Oscars for such an acclaimed film such as Pi and is in danger going under, isn't it time to begin asking questions? Nearly 500 VFX artists "protested" outside of the Oscars to raise awareness on the disturbing trends of VFX. Something isn't right guys.

   What's that? "Go to a VFX studio in a different country where cost of living is cheaper and where all the animation jobs are going", you say? I see what you're doin', and Imma let you finish, but let me stop you right there. Say you wanna be a 3D Texture Artist and you say "Screw Southern Cali and their RULES... Im going to muthafuggin London to work for Base Black". Well, that's not a bad idea! Go for it-DOH, now wait a minute! You better be a good enough 3D Texture Artist to be earning about $60K a year. How else are you going to afford that one bedroom apartment that costs $2,123 within the city's centre? Nah, it's cool. I'm sure your meager rent of $1755 wasn't that big a deal. God forbid cost of living isn't higher elsewhere.

"What about India? You could learn a new language and-" STOP. Just stop. Because learning a new language is insanely challenging; ON TOP of being a good enough artist to stay on top of growing technologies and competing against an older method versus a newer, you're now suggesting that I leave the country of my birth to work for cheaper wages, possibly uprooting my family, leaving my friends, just to learn a new language for a job that may or may not work out (because honestly, jobs on theatrical features last only for the contracted duration, like say a year or two)? OH YEAH, not to mention I have to learn new customs and adjust to whatever political situations are happening at wherever new place Im in?

I don't mean to sound cynical but these are the arguments people, (and a few Hollywood execs) are proposing in contrast to actually trying to fix the problem right here in our country. Not that I have anything against other countries and their wonderfully talented artists. Hell, if it weren't for them, we wouldn't have some of our greatest CGI films, sitcoms that provide in-betweens, and Anime, all of which generate large revenue through crazy franchises.
SO.... why not just build small studio factions here in the US versus in a country thatrewards cheaper work wages but still has high costs of living? Why not hire a small army of freelancers vs. a large fleet of visual effects artists? Have Producers double as Directors or Artists to help with the workload (though Im sure the best do all ready).   

The answer isn't easy. It isn't as cut and dry as COMPETE AGAINST THE PEOPLE OVERSEAS either. They deserve a shot to express their creativity for a decent wage too. But that shouldn't discount the artists who worked so hard on Life of Pi and are quite frankly, still waiting to be paid for their work. 

So by all means, make your voice heard and your thoughts known. I'll be attending the Animator's Roundtable in DC tomorrow evening. Hopefully, this will be a topic of discussion.

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