If you watched the 85th Academy Awards this past Sunday, then you may have caught the extremely awkward presentation of the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
Why was it so awkward?
The winners – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan de Boer, and Donald R. Elliott for Life of Pi - decided to thank the visual effects company Rhythm & Hues, which had been one of the major collaborators on the film’s stunning visuals. In their speech, they announced that the company was suffering from “severe financial difficulties”. They didn’t get much further, as the theme from Jaws crescendoed, drowning out their voices. Eventually, they were escorted off the stage. This transgression electrified the protestors who had been outside the Dolby Theater all evening. What were they protesting? The growing disparity and gross lack of equality between major Hollywood studios and visual effects houses.
According to Cinema Blend, in the last year, Rhythm & Hues (which had also contributed to Avatar), as well as Pixomondo (Hugo) have had to either shut down their offices or file for Chapter 11. As Hollywood studios rely more and more on tentpole franchises and blockbusters backboned by millions of frames of visual effects, they have begun seeking cheaper solutions outside the box, outside the country, and most disturbingly, far outside the bounds of fairness.
Visual effects houses are filled with artists; champions of computer generation, animation, pre-visualisations and hundreds of other skills that link together the supply chain. The entertainment business relies upon them. Like the recognition and support the writers sought during their strike a few years ago, these men and women deserve the same.
The only requisite for supporting the VFX industry is to enjoy movies. Without visual effects, Hollywood would be a very different place. Help call the big Hollywood studios to the discussion table by changing your Twitter or Facebook profile pictures to the green square below. It’s important that the business model and relationship studios have with the VFX industry be changed for the better.