It is widely acknowledged that video killed the radio star, but the video world has plenty more blood on its hands. There are a lot of things we could blame Hollywood for, but recently it has become more and more evident that the film industry is committing fratricide.

Visual Effects are a key brother in the Hollywood family. Without VFX there is no ship in Titanic, there is no tiger in Life of Pi and Avatar is just a fanciful idea. But, while every other major part of film making is supported and protected by a union, Visual Effects Artists are left out on their own.

Recently, major motion picture, Life of Pi won four Oscars including one for Visual Effects without which the film couldn’t have been made [Or it could, but not without several casualties due to tiger mauling, exposure and drownings.] However, a few weeks before the awards, Rhythm and Hues, the visual effects studio responsible for most of Pi‘s success, filed for bankruptcy.

This isn’t a new problem, half a dozen visual effects houses have shut their doors in the last three years and even more have had extensive layoffs. How are the artists behind the success of Hollywood’s highest grossing films finding themselves out of a job? Simple. Subsidizing, outsourcing, Hollywood budget pressure and blatant under appreciation.

Subsidizing, outsourcing, Hollywood budget pressure and blatant under appreciation

There is no VFX union, so the artists don’t have a single, unified voice to protect themselves. For artists on features it is normal to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week. Which, in turn, disrupts their personal lives and relationships. They literally sacrifice their life, family and health for their work and what do they get in return? Unemployment, job chasing and censorship by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Unemployment, job chasing and censorship by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

That’s right. Not only did director Ang Lee neglect to mention the efforts and talent of Life of Pi’s visual effects team as he accepted his Oscar for Best Director, but the orchestra came in rather abruptly [and with the theme to Jaws] when the winning visual effects team started to broach the topic themselves. Apparently, we aren’t even allowed to talk about the problem.

Life of Pi may have taken home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, but the real action was happening off screen. While millions were enjoying the broadcast of the 85th Academy Awards, the artists of Rhythm and Hues and many other visual effects studios stood in protest outside of the Dolby Theatre. Their tweets at #VFXProtest were more educational and passionate than anything you heard on the red carpet. It was already too late for these artists to fight for their jobs; instead they were fighting for their industry and their craft.

Whether or not The Academy wants to hear it, there is a problem. And, as brethren in filmmaking, we at SolidLine Media believe that it is a problem deserving of attention. Whether working on feature films or commercials, visual effect artists are amazing and talented creatives, they deserve to be recognized and compensated as such.

Photos Courtesy of Brie Donel on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bdonel/
Photos Courtesy of Brie Donel on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bdonel/

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