December 17, 2013

What’s Really Going on Behind the Scenes of Visual Effects?

Piece of the Pi
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The late, great Rodney Dangerfield could never get any respect.  Apparently, the small visual effects companies in the film industry can’t get any respect either.

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, took home four Oscars, including “Best Visual Effects.”  This is a prestigious honor for the video effects company, Rhythm and Hues, who now boast their 3rd Academy Award in the year of their 25th Anniversary.  What a nice way to celebrate the silver anniversary of a company, right?

So why has the visual effects company that was the best in the past year recently file for bankruptcy protection?

It’s simple, yet surprising.  The video technicians are not getting the appreciation that they deserve.  That’s because there are effects companies in countries like India and China that can offer similar quality effects for a fraction of the cost.  There are also lucrative tax subsidies from countries like Canada and the United Kingdom.  Basically, Hollywood is outsourcing the visual effects industry.

But the real salt in the wound of this situation is that very few people know this is even happening.  Approximately 500 protesters rallied outside the Dolby Theater during the Oscars.  They made some buzz, but in a room full of stars, no one really seemed to care about the men and women who work behind the scenes.

Just as David fought Goliath, the little guy is fighting the industry.  To raise awareness for their struggle via social media, visual effects workers are putting up flat green images as a representation of what their films would look like without them: blank green screens.

I don’t think this will be the end of the visual effects industry in the United States any time soon.  That being said, its future isn’t nearly as bright as the stars that get all the glory in Hollywood.  Think about that the next time you watch a movie with a superstar actor.  Take the time to read the credits, there’s a lot more that goes into the production of a film than the common moviegoer would ever know.

By Kevin Cardoni

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