Bobby Beck: Thoughts on the industry.


By: Animation Mentor
Feb
14
2013

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 Bobby Beck: Thoughts on the industry.

I love the animation and VFX industry. And I’ll be honest, a lot of difficult news came out in our industry last week that is too difficult to ignore. This news got me thinking and even more focused that at Animation Mentor we are doing the right things to help you and this incredible industry that we all love. I wanted to share my thoughts about this subject in my blog.

— Bobby Beck

I’ve been thinking about the state of the industry a lot this week. It’s hard to see some of the most successful and talented film studios go through tough financial times. Margins for VFX shops are getting smaller and smaller as globalization becomes our reality. And for us at Animation Mentor, we feel there is an answer to this challenge — and our commitment to bring our answer to reality has become our vision and relentless focus as a company.

To start the change, we all must embrace globalization as our friend, not as our enemy. And that means understanding that the jobs are no longer going to be based largely in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, or New York. The jobs are going to be in every corner of the world and the work will be done directly from your home computer.

The world, as we know, is already heading this way — and this is a good thing. So why not seize the opportunity to live anywhere in the world or not have to uproot your family, and focus on creating the most incredible VFX and animation ever, and make that a plus for the quality of your life?

These are exactly the reasons why we are SO excited for our students as we make big leaps to make this future a reality. Remote, distributed filmmaking — where you work collaboratively with multi-discipline artists from around the world — is the future. It’s what we at Animation Mentor believe in, it’s why we’ve been working to bring the Studio School to life, and it’s just the beginning.

The future of the animation and VFX industry is abundant. Animation and VFX are in everything these days from films, games, commercials, billboards to mobile games. This work is not going to shrink any time soon. In fact, VFX and animation are only getting bigger and more pervasive.

My thoughts here are meant merely as a way to change the lens we see through and to look at the current challenges that lie ahead more optimistically. The Pixars and ILMs of the world need to exist and hopefully always will. At Animation Mentor we believe that a thriving, global workplace is something that will exist in our industry and we want to see artists at the forefront of that renaissance. This is our passion and hope for your future.

— BOOM


  • InTheIndustry

    Where did all of the comments go? There was an honest and realistic discussion going on that was making a lot of points and being shared around the studio… Wish that didn’t have to be censored and we could have an honest conversation about this.

    • RandomAnimator

      It’s very hard to believe that the disappearance of the old comments was an accident. AM just lost a ton of points in my consideration.

      • Animation_Mentor

        Hey there. We appreciate your feedback … and believe us, we
        understand your frustration and we want you to know that we’re frustrated, too.
        We are working as fast as we can with Disqus to recover and repost the
        comments.

    • Animation_Mentor

      Hey there, we just made an update to our blog, due to the process, our comments disappear for a short period. They will be back soon! We are definitely enjoying the discussion as well :)

      • cartoonsarefun

        Looking forward to seeing them, and the discussion continuing…

    • AnotherVFXGuy

      I found the comment vfx guy made in the community section (tab just above)…

      “Im not sure embracing what’s currently going on in the industry is
      the answer, at all. Forming a trade union for VFX workers and Studios to
      standardize practices within the industry is sorely needed. Doing away
      with tax incentives so Production Companies stop chasing the dollar and
      choose a VFX studio based on the quality of their work, not the tax
      breaks they can get by sending the work elsewhere. Watching the US lose
      jobs and good studios is not the answer.

      We are in a race to the
      bottom with the price competition between FX studios right now.
      Underbidding to get work by the FX Studio and lots of hours put in by
      artists, due to lack of preproduction and planning (“lets fix it in
      post” mentality) is eating this industry away from the inside out. This
      needs to be fixed before more good studios close their doors. More hands
      on involvement by the director during post production. No more client
      calls over webcam by directors viewing work once a week. They need to be
      at that studio directing their effects like they were on set.

      Furthermore if you have worked professionally you know about NDA’s
      (non disclosure agreements). Working remotely in this digital age will
      not happen any time soon. Large Production companies like, Warner, FOX,
      SONY, etc. will not allow their films and FX work to be done remotely
      where an artist can easily have access to (take) that work. Films being
      leaked early online and film piracy fears are at an all time high with
      Film Studios, they aren’t about to up that risk by letting their films
      leave the FX houses. I have worked and currently do work at a large VFX
      studio and according to our contracts with these big production
      companies the fx studios I have worked for cant even give us copies of
      our work for our demo reels. Further to this. working remotely kills the
      camaraderie that you build while working closely with other artists
      everyday. Half of why I love this job is getting to sit and work with
      fun like minded people everyday to bring these visual effects to life.

      I am all for change, this industry sorely needs it. This change
      however is not driven by any need, its driven by greed. Accepting what
      is happening is not the answer.

      Cheers
      VFX Guy”

    • Guest

      VFXGuy’s original comment is still under the community section above…

      “Im not sure embracing what’s currently going on in the industry is the answer, at all. Forming a trade union for VFX workers and Studios to standardize practices within the industry is sorely needed. Doing away with tax incentives so Production Companies stop chasing the dollar and choose a VFX studio based on the quality of their work, not the tax breaks they can get by sending the work elsewhere. Watching the US lose jobs and good studios is not the answer.
      We are in a race to the bottom with the price competition between FX studios right now. Underbidding to get work by the FX Studio and lots of hours put in by artists, due to lack of preproduction and planning (“lets fix it in post” mentality) is eating this industry away from the inside out. This needs to be fixed before more good studios close their doors. More hands on involvement by the director during post production. No more client calls over webcam by directors viewing work once a week. They need to be at that studio directing their effects like they were on set.
      Furthermore if you have worked professionally you know about NDA’s (non disclosure agreements). Working remotely in this digital age will not happen any time soon. Large Production companies like, Warner, FOX, SONY, etc. will not allow their films and FX work to be done remotely where an artist can easily have access to (take) that work. Films being leaked early online and film piracy fears are at an all time high with Film Studios, they aren’t about to up that risk by letting their films leave the FX houses. I have worked and currently do work at a large VFX studio and according to our contracts with these big production companies the fx studios I have worked for cant even give us copies of our work for our demo reels. Further to this. working remotely kills the camaraderie that you build while working closely with other artists everyday. Half of why I love this job is getting to sit and work with fun like minded people everyday to bring these visual effects to life. I am all for change, this industry sorely needs it. This change however is not driven by any need, its driven by greed. Accepting what is happening is not the answer.
      Cheers
      VFX Guy”

  • letstryagain

    > a comment from ‘thinktwice’ deleted yesterday:

    Your focus on the positives is admirable, Bobby, but I question whether your message— ‘accept these changes as inevitable, the future is sunny, enroll today’ —is really appropriate. The VFX and animation industries, and the artists therein, are increasingly struggling; fiercely competitive with globalized work, race-to-the-bottom bidding on jobs, workers squeezed by unfavourable contracts, aggressive yet unstable tax subsidies and growing numbers of new graduates and out-of-work pros competing for work.

    This environment might be ripe for attracting new students to AM with the promise of a ‘work from anywhere and be your own boss’ lifestyle, but I’m not sure that’s the reality new graduates will face.

    Even at major studios there are layoffs between projects, underpaid artists lacking health and retirement benefits, unpaid overtime and excessive hours, and the threat of bankruptcy and sudden joblessness. What hope then do globalized freelancers have of bargaining for fair contracts with studios, negotiating a livable wage and reasonable deadlines and conditions, supporting their families, looking after their health and living somewhat stable lives.

    Do we want to work in an industry of aggressive competition against each other, underbidding each other, only looking out for ourselves and our next project?

    I worry a little about students with naive hopes, sold on a promise, who invest a lot of time and money only to become graduates facing the surprise of unpleasant reality. By all means, study animation or visual effects if that is your passion, but the future of the industry does not today appear to be a rosy picture with growing, attractive job opportunities.

    And lastly, if this art is your passion and you’re hoping it might be your ‘career’, take an active role in knowing the industry, warts and unpleasantness and all. Stay informed, participate in the dialogue over improving it, don’t work for free, and when you have a chance to stand up and voice an opinion, look out not just for yourself and your next freelance paycheque, but for the wellbeing of your fellow students, graduates and artists.

  • Animation_Mentor

    Hey folks, we’re still working with Disqus on a technical solution to restore the comments. Either way, we will have the comments visible to everyone by the end of the day. Sorry about any inconveniences!

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by VJ:

    ” I agree with VFX guys points about the trade union. But the rest of what he says doesnt make sense. First of all its not just tax credits that the studios chase – its also generally lower tax and costs of living, currency exchange etc. Also its not realistic to say stop tax credits in every country and every city. I know for a fact Large studios including Sony have worked remotely with success. The NDA and cameraderie are easily fixed if you have small studios working remotely. By and Large Bobby has the right idea methinks. “

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by Kevin M. Hall:

    “Wow. I don’t want to say that this is unbelievable … so what does this mean for an aspiring animator?”

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by vfxguy in response to Kevin M. Hall:

    “I would say don’t give up. Movies will always need animation and visual effects. I would say be willing to go where the work is, but be willing to stand up for yourself as an artist. The only way this industry is going to change is if all of us as artists get together and fight for change! Im all for a more global film market! But the climate that is causing that to happen is one born out of a misplaced desire by studios to make visual effects as cheaply as possible. Just don’t look to a studio to get fulfilled creatively as an artist, you have to do that for yourself! Good Luck!”

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by Mario Reitbauer:

    “vfxguy is 1000% right about the trade union, and it has to happen globally, not only US based. London, Montreal, everywere in big studios should be a trade union.”

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by Rick Dolishny:

    “What was the bad news this week?”

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by Anonymous in response to Rick Dolishny:

    “Dreamworks layoffs, Rhythm n Hues files for Bankruptcy, etc etc.”

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by Angelo Lo Presti:

    “Well said my friend.”

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by vfxguy:

    “Im not sure embracing what’s currently going on in the industry is

    the answer, at all. Forming a trade union for VFX workers and Studios to
    standardize practices within the industry is sorely needed. Doing away
    with tax incentives so Production Companies stop chasing the dollar and
    choose a VFX studio based on the quality of their work, not the tax
    breaks they can get by sending the work elsewhere. Watching the US lose
    jobs and good studios is not the answer.

    We are in a race to the
    bottom with the price competition between FX studios right now.
    Underbidding to get work by the FX Studio and lots of hours put in by
    artists, due to lack of preproduction and planning (“lets fix it in
    post” mentality) is eating this industry away from the inside out. This
    needs to be fixed before more good studios close their doors. More hands
    on involvement by the director during post production. No more client
    calls over webcam by directors viewing work once a week. They need to be
    at that studio directing their effects like they were on set.

    Furthermore if you have worked professionally you know about NDA’s (non disclosure agreements). Working remotely in this digital age will not happen any time soon. Large Production companies like, Warner, FOX, SONY, etc. will not allow their films and FX work to be done remotely where an artist can easily have access to (take) that work. Films being leaked early online and film piracy fears are at an all time high with Film Studios, they aren’t about to up that risk by letting their films leave the FX houses. I have worked and currently do work at a large VFX studio and according to our contracts with these big production companies the fx studios I have worked for cant even give us copies of our work for our demo reels. Further to this. working remotely kills the camaraderie that you build while working closely with other artists everyday. Half of why I love this job is getting to sit and work with fun like minded people everyday to bring these visual effects to life.

    I am all for change, this industry sorely needs it. This change however is not driven by any need, its driven by greed. Accepting what is happening is not the answer.

    Cheers
    VFX Guy”

  • Animation_Mentor

    Comment by thinktwice:

    “Your focus on the positives is admirable, Bobby, but I question whether your message— ‘accept these changes as inevitable, the future is sunny, enroll today’ —is really appropriate. The VFX and animation industries, and the artists therein, are increasingly struggling; fiercely competitive with globalized work, race-to-the-bottom bidding on jobs, workers squeezed by unfavourable contracts, aggressive yet unstable tax subsidies and growing numbers of new graduates and out-of-work pros competing for work.

    This environment might be ripe for attracting new students to AM with the promise of a ‘work from anywhere and be your own boss’ lifestyle, but I’m not sure that’s the reality new graduates will face.

    Even at major studios there are layoffs between projects, underpaid artists lacking health and retirement benefits, unpaid overtime and excessive hours, and the threat of bankruptcy and sudden joblessness. What hope then do globalized freelancers have of bargaining for fair contracts with studios, negotiating a livable wage and reasonable deadlines and conditions, supporting their families, looking after their health and living somewhat stable lives.

    Do we want to work in an industry of aggressive competition against each other, underbidding each other, only looking out for ourselves and our next project?

    I worry a little about students with naive hopes, sold on a promise, who invest a lot of time and money only to become graduates facing the surprise of unpleasant reality. By all means, study animation or visual effects if that is your passion, but the future of the industry does not today appear to be a rosy picture with growing, attractive job opportunities.

    And lastly, if this art is your passion and you’re hoping it might be your ‘career’, take an active role in knowing the industry, warts and unpleasantness and all. Stay informed, participate in the dialogue over improving it, don’t work for free, and when you have a chance to stand up and voice an opinion, look out not just for yourself and your next freelance paycheque, but for the wellbeing of your fellow students, graduates and artists.”

  • Curious student

    Is it too much time and money spent on learning vfx and animation for so little money? I mean does it payback after all ? And don’t come with we all have fun jobs… fun is to have the ability to take care of your family and stoping being so worried about money.

  • Industry Vet

    Your positivity feels a tad out of touch in my opinion. Perhaps it’s to keep students enrolling in your course? I’ve watched the industry crumble around me. I can’t even count the amount of places I have worked in the past two years. I’m sitting at work right now, on yet another redundancy notice. I see absolutely no sign of the growth you’re talking about.

  • varomix DaGreit

    I know is going to be hard to make the change but Bobby is totally right about this, we need to embrace globalization, we need stop thinking that just a handful of studios will keep doing all the work, I’m very really sorry about what has been happening to all the great studios that had closed recently, big and small, but the thing is, WE ARE ARTIST and WILL keep shaping the world, either from inside a studio or at home this is not going to stop.

  • http://www.scottwiser.com/ Scott Wiser

    Bobby, I’m also all about looking forward optimistically. We can’t let all the negativity destroy our resolve to pursue our dreams. I also read much of the discussion in the comments and can totally agree on many points. So what am I going to do about it? Well, I joined the greenscreen facebook profile movement, I continue making great connections, I’m taking a class to expand my skills and creative vision, and I’m continually animating a new test to enhance my reel. If there’s anything I learned from these past 16 months of unemployment (since the layoff from my first gig at R&H, non-coincidentally), it’s that hard work and persistence will pay off not only professionally, but also personally. I feel like I’ve completely transformed as a person and will continue to work 40+ hours a week to reach my dreams. Thanks.

  • travelingAnimator

    I have to comment that as glamorous as travelling the world seems, it really isnt. I’m only a junior animator and I’ve had to move to 4 different cities in the last 1 1/2 year (including Canada). Yes, its been interesting living there, but you are basically alone in a new city making new friends that you will leave behind in a few months. You can never make any future plans or book any flights, because you have no idea where you will be flying out of in the next 5 months. I’m young and this lifestyle is barely sustainable, this is the opposite of not uprooting your family. It’s more like a vfx travelling summer camp. Come on AM let’s go green, because vfx artist/animators really need a change. Is stability too much to ask for? As my family, which I haven’t seen in forever say: The days of the fat cows are over!

  • Bobby Beck

    Yes, Animation Mentor is a business. If it wasn’t we would not exist. My passion for this industry is what drives me to bring it to a better place. I feel that we stand in a unique place to help bring the animation and VFX community together to help solve this issue. I think there are great places leading the charge (VES for one) and I stand by this 100%.

    I have been reading many of the comments, blogs, posts and have had many a great conversations with other industry folks around the industry issue and I will be posting shortly about it.

    I love making movies. I love even more helping people to reach their dream of doing this, too. Now, as we sit in a tipping point for our industry, I can’t help but think that there is something better out there for all of us. I’ll explain more shortly as I don’t think people fully grasp what I’m talking about and are misreading into my original post.

    • Dennis Jepsen

      I understand and i know your passion for helping us is huge, and we are thankful for that. If it was not for Animation Mentor i was not in this industry. I just think the way you wrote it could be misunderstood.

      Looking forward to hear about the conversations with the industry you had. Because this is a big subject at the moment and have been for a very long time.

      I love animation, and will never stop pushing my skills and get better every day!

    • letstryagain

      Thanks Bobby, I agree there is a real opportunity right now for leadership and vision to help artists build the industry they want to see.

      You and your network of mentors have a unique and critically important position with AM’s ability to influence young and new talent, and as your graduates join the industry there’s an opportunity for them to be a positive force for change.

      They need mentoring and leadership to properly value their skills, to know their rights, their labour options and responsibilities, to know the honest truth of their industry. They need guidance from people like you to begin their careers not as naive, individual commodities at high risk of being traded and devalued in a globalized market, but as active, prepared, creative participants of a community.

      I look forward to you sharing your continued thoughts!