What Is Happening With VFX Artists and Why Twitter Profiles Are Becoming Green?
Last Sunday was the Oscars ceremonies and in the mix of the usual ‘Buzz’ going around funny gossips (i.e. anything related to Jennifer Lawrence) and sad gossips (i.e. anything related to The Onion), came out the VFX growl. Or at least it tried to.
Until editor Rachel Alison pointed it out, I had no clue that vfx artists were planning to go on strike during the Oscars to protest against a major problem : vfx have become indispensable and omnipresent in filmmaking and visual storytelling in general, and yet, companies are struggling to stay afloat because they are paid ‘peanuts’ and asked to work on crazy schedule. VFX are a little bit like Newspapers, always expected to do more with less, the only difference being that vfx studios hour of glory lasted about 30 seconds.
People are slowly starting to realize how collaborative filmmaking is and that if the director is on the top of the chain and leads the project, he or she couldn’t do much without the creative inputs from the cinematographer, the editor, the production designer etc. So it feels like there is an even longer way to go before the the vfx artist, who is often seen like the guy who spends days on building a fake something that lasts one nano-second on screen and thus not given much credit for anything but being a ‘geek’ is seen like the artist he or she is. A good movie can’t be made by one artist and hundreds of technicians. It is a preconceived idea but also a lie maintained by those who benefits the most out of this misconception.
As you might have noticed, vfx are everywhere now, including in TV shows, and it is because vfx artists are doing a great job that we -filmmakers- can let our imagination go wild to tell the stories we want to tell, and that we -the audience- can enter and connect with stories we love.
If you have a twitter account you might have noticed that many profile pictures have turned green. If you were wondering why, it is to show support to the vfx community. You don’t need to be a vfx artist to feel concerned and want to support the cause; I do believe that caring about every departments in filmmaking is the only way to make better movies, or at least to make movies without being miserable.
Many people have written excellent articles about the situation and I decided it made more sense for me to share the resources I felt were interesting and useful than to write a giant recap. So, without further ado, below are the resources to dig deeper and better understand the problem with vfx:
2 – February 22: The Hollywood Reporter announces vfx artists are planning to go on strike during the Oscars ceremony.
3- February 24: Rhythm and Hues wins the Oscar for Best Visual Effects!
- Bill Westenhofer, representing Rhythm and Hues, is silenced during his speech and prevented from raising awareness about what is going on. Read Peter Hartlaub’s excellent piece explaining how that happened.
- Phillip Broste, Lead Compositor at R&H writes an Open Letter to Ang Lee to express his frustration. (Lee won Best Director for Life of Pi but forgot to thank the vfx team. He did thank the guys who filled the pool with water though.)
4- February 25: Twitter Profiles turned green and the Tumblr beforevfx opens. Before VFX shows behind the scenes of movies you’ve probably watched, when the green screen is still behind the actors. It’s a pleasant reminder of the place vfx has today in visual storytelling.
5- And to conclude, a very well put together recap named “VFX protest at Oscars: Hundreds of visual effects artists are gathered right down the street from the Oscars to protest missing pay, layoffs, bankruptcy, unpaid overtime, etc while the movies they make possible bring in record breaking money” that hit gold on reddit and explains why things escalated that way (no incentives and no union being two elements to help answer that question) and where vfx artists are now. [Both links thanks to @CinemaShock]
So yes, vfx artists haven’t joined forces yet to write down on a paper their 10th commandments, and many things (everything) are still pending, but the first step is to create awareness and spread the word. Check.
Let’s see how things evolve and in the meantime, you can download make your twitter profile green to show support to the vfx community by downloading the green screen below: