Rhythm & Hues … gone. Layoffs at Sony, DreamWorks, and other studios. What is going on here? How can Hollywood — the industry that literally creates the most successful films of all time — be struggling so badly?
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? to name a few …
- There is no real protection for visual effects studios and artists like there is in nearly every other area of filmmaking; i.e. actors, voice talent, editors, cinematographers, grips, etc.
- Production studios want the lowest bid possible. This pits the VFX houses against each other, forcing them to underbid the work just to get the job. This, as we’ve seen, can backfire and allows VFX studios to either scrape by or, at worse, forces them to close.
- Subsidies are distorting the actual costs of VFX work. Subsidies seem to be only benefiting the major production studios and not the VFX studios or artists themselves.
SOLVING THE VFX CHALLENGE ISN’T EASY
There are many conversations, protests, and petitions happening at the moment that are pushing to create the change needed to reinvigorate the VFX industry and improve the lives of artists.
Jeff Okun, chair of the Visual Effects Society (VES), in a recent blog post explains, “It is not enough for one company or one artist or one city, state, or country to do it alone. We must all do it. VES is committed to bringing the leaders of our industry together to take a fresh look at what a sustainable business model for the most people could and should be moving forward.”
A DIFFERENT FUTURE FOR ANIMATORS AND VFX ARTISTS
While I fully support the efforts to protect the animation and visual effects industry, I believe in a different future for VFX artists. To be clear, this future does not attempt to solve the challenges that the current VFX studios are having, which needs to be solved, nor is it an attempt to replace them. I alluded to this future in a recent blog post regarding my thoughts on the industry, and feel the need to share the vision I see and am dedicated to.
Every artist I know has a film idea, or watches a film and says, “I could make a better movie than that.”
What if there was a future where artists were not merely cogs in the wheel? What if — instead — they became the wheel itself? What could they do? Could they create the next Avengers? The next Life of Pi? What if artists owned the intellectual property and could work with alternative distribution channels wherein everyone was sharing the whole “Pi?” What if working through these alternative channels gave these artists the right to receive residuals, profit sharing, or royalties on the IP? What if there was a way to do this in a fully-distributed environment that accessed a super talented global network of artists? What if these artists could collaborate easily to create their visions without the burden of funding studio overhead? What if it wasn’t the same old “work-for-hire” game? What if animation and visual effects artists own the work they create?
This is the type of globalization I was talking about embracing in my previous post. It is an attempt to see an entrepreneurial future for artists that is built for the artists and supported by and large, by the artists themselves.
Is naivety getting the best of me? I think not. We were told that creating studio quality artists, forming friendships, and establishing professional connections would not be possible to do in an online, remote, and distributed network. Eight years later, we have proven that learning, creating, and collaborating online creates some of the most incredible work relationships, friendships, and work output ever.
The online, distributed, and remote production pipeline model is scalable. We know — we’re doing it right now. Why not take this and apply it to solving the VFX challenge?
The Animation Mentor vision is to create the future of filmmaking. We are passionate about being part of an artist-driven, filmmaking community that gives artists the recognition and reward they deserve. We have been working for the last two-and-a-half years to bring this future to life. We see a different future for animation and visual effects artists. It’s a bright future, and it’s closer than you might think.
Please contact me directly if you would like to get more involved: firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Bobby Beck, CEO and Cofounder, Animation Mentor