Rhythm and Hues' Life After Pi: This is How Movie Magic Dies

Rhythm and Hues' Life After Pi: This is How Movie Magic Dies

"You know, we run this company for the people," says John Hughes, "and then to hurt them so badly ..."

If you were paying attention to the Oscars this year, you may have noticed hundreds of special effects artists picketing the ceremony. It's the second year in a row this protest has happened; last year many of the protesters were employees of Rhythm and Hues, the company behind Life of Pi, which took the Visual Effects Oscar in 2013. Rhythm and Hues declared bankruptcy 11 days prior to the ceremony. The documentary you're seeing here is its story, Life After Pi. This is how a special effects studio dies.

It all comes down to chasing tax incentives. Jobs and money are being siphoned off to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, forcing special effects companies to open up expensive subsidiaries in those locations to compete. Except the money never stays in one place since everyone's offering bigger and better tax cuts, forcing those same companies to shut those subsidiaries and start chasing after another tax incentive locale. "You essentially have a trade war occurring," says Daniel Lay, a special effects veteran. Many VFX professionals want to see duties levied on these subsidies, to lessen the impact of the subsidy race.

It doesn't help that the industry operates on fixed bid contracts, though the work itself is fluid. The studio can change its mind at any time, demanding extra work without offering extra compensation. "The shots change dramatically," says John Hughes of Rhythm and Hues, "easily half of the shots that we bid could disappear and be replaced by other shots." Part of the problem is that the VFX industry doesn't have anything like a guild or union, leaving it exposed to strong-arm tactics, particularly over budget and costs. It lacks lobbying power, or any real representation, despite being a major part of the industry. "Without us," asks Lay, "what do you see on the screen?"

Perhaps that will change. Daniel Lay and others have formed an organization, ADAPT, to challenge these subsidies. Only time will tell whether it will succeed.

Source: Gawker

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Karloff:

It doesn't help that the industry operates on fixed bid contracts, though the work itself is fluid. The studio can change its mind at any time, demanding extra work without offering extra compensation. "The shots change dramatically," says John Hughes of Rhythm and Hues, "easily half of the shots that we bid could disappear and be replaced by other shots."

That actually reminds me of what game developers have to go through as well. Like the the demands that fuckface George Lucas made of LucasArts:

The project moved on slowly until George Lucas became heavily involved with its direction, much to the initial delight and eventual ire of the team. They embraced his idea to make the protagonist a new bounty hunter, but often had their work derailed by Lucas suddenly changing his mind or demanding significant alterations to the script and the game's tone.

One of Lucas' most crushing curveballs came weeks before the game was announced. He didn't want the protagonist to be a fresh face; he wanted it to be Boba Fett. Without any working Boba Fett assets ready for the announcement, the team members who unveiled the project to the press during 2012's Electronic Entertainment Expo, had to play dumb. They lied when asked directly about it, unable to mention anything about the iconic bounty hunter being the lead.

Source

(It's a fascinating article by the way, like one time when dear old George tried to force his devs to name a game's antagonists 'Darth Insanius' and 'Darth Icky.' I'm not fucking with you.)

Part of the problem is that the VFX industry doesn't have anything like a guild or union, leaving it exposed to strong-arm tactics, particularly over budget and costs. It lacks lobbying power, or any real representation, despite being a major part of the industry. "Without us," asks Lay, "what do you see on the screen?"

Woah, don't mention 'Union' in front of any conservatives around here. Gets in the way of capitalism, y'know.

This is very interesting. I had no idea that things were this bad in the special effects industry. It's pretty depressing stuff.

What makes them so special that different rules have to apply to VFX than car industry or steel industry. Both had powerful unions but they only had back the tide of reality for so long. The truth is that if you want the jobs to stay in the US then you are going ot have to get paid less. The car plants in Detroit have largely gone and the heavily unionized work force no longer has jobs. The less well paid and less unionised workforce for Toyota and BMW US car plants still have jobs.

The problem has been that a digital effect is not treated the same as a "Good" in the international import laws. Digital goods are still being struggled with by lawmakers. The MPAA has traditionally been doing as much as it can to keep digital work done offshore from being treated as imports to avoid import fees.

Ironically, it looks like the VFX artists might have gotten a very powerful weapon in the form of a recent filing by the MPAA, which said they want to classify finished digital products as goods, in order to curb foreign bootlegging. However, it is very easy to apply this same logic to digital effect work.

This article does a better job of explaining it: http://pando.com/2014/02/25/revenge-of-the-nerds-how-tech-geeks-found-a-secret-weapon-in-their-fight-against-big-hollywood/

i wish i was rich enough as to buy the company and open up a door to video games.

imagine what we could do with their skills in the gaming industry.

albino boo:
What makes them so special that different rules have to apply to VFX than car industry or steel industry. Both had powerful unions but they only had back the tide of reality for so long. The truth is that if you want the jobs to stay in the US then you are going ot have to get paid less. The car plants in Detroit have largely gone and the heavily unionized work force no longer has jobs. The less well paid and less unionised workforce for Toyota and BMW US car plants still have jobs.

LOL. An american worker can never compete with the wages being made in other countries. We can simply not be paid low enough to compete. No one is going to work 12 hour days for $5. An even if worker would work for it it still wouldn't happen. Because the safety and environmental laws we have, joke though they are, still make it too expensive to manufacture here compared to countries that are more than will to let companies kill workers and obliterate their environment.

Trying that nonsense doesn't do anything but put us on the road to slowly starve ourselves to death. The only thing we can do is prevent companies who exploit workers from profiting from it.

Of course that will never happen as those companies have all the money and power and don't need to get millions of people to work together to get anything done.

RA92:
Woah, don't mention 'Union' in front of any conservatives around here. Gets in the way of capitalism, y'know.

You know what else gets in the way of capitalism? Governments offering bribes to companies that outsource to their country. Which is what, ultimately, these subsidies are. Anyone who truly values the free market would be opposed to that sort of thing and support the import taxes that this organization is calling for.

Steve the Pocket:

RA92:
Woah, don't mention 'Union' in front of any conservatives around here. Gets in the way of capitalism, y'know.

You know what else gets in the way of capitalism? Governments offering bribes to companies that outsource to their country. Which is what, ultimately, these subsidies are. Anyone who truly values the free market would be opposed to that sort of thing and support the import taxes that this organization is calling for.

Import taxes would piss off major trade partners like Canada. You usually don't want to piss off major trade partners. The United States could offer subsidies as incentive (bribes has such a negative connotation) for studios to stay locally.

Raziel:

albino boo:
What makes them so special that different rules have to apply to VFX than car industry or steel industry. Both had powerful unions but they only had back the tide of reality for so long. The truth is that if you want the jobs to stay in the US then you are going ot have to get paid less. The car plants in Detroit have largely gone and the heavily unionized work force no longer has jobs. The less well paid and less unionised workforce for Toyota and BMW US car plants still have jobs.

LOL. An american worker can never compete with the wages being made in other countries. We can simply not be paid low enough to compete. No one is going to work 12 hour days for $5. An even if worker would work for it it still wouldn't happen. Because the safety and environmental laws we have, joke though they are, still make it too expensive to manufacture here compared to countries that are more than will to let companies kill workers and obliterate their environment.

Trying that nonsense doesn't do anything but put us on the road to slowly starve ourselves to death. The only thing we can do is prevent companies who exploit workers from profiting from it.

Of course that will never happen as those companies have all the money and power and don't need to get millions of people to work together to get anything done.

Really so why do Toyota have 6 car plants in the US and why does BMW have 20% of its worldwide manufacturing capacity in the US. Why do the they exist if American workers cant compete on price?

Steve the Pocket:

RA92:
Woah, don't mention 'Union' in front of any conservatives around here. Gets in the way of capitalism, y'know.

You know what else gets in the way of capitalism? Governments offering bribes to companies that outsource to their country. Which is what, ultimately, these subsidies are. Anyone who truly values the free market would be opposed to that sort of thing and support the import taxes that this organization is calling for.

i don't like it because it's a huge race to the bottom, and it's something that can even happen not just between countries but also provinces/states. Like not too long ago the entire Rock Star Vancouver studio in BC, Canada closed up shot and moved to Quebec on the other side of the country because that province offers game developers crazy tax incentives.

Though for film Vancouver is pretty massive in the VFX industry. It's not just a matter of tax breaks but you also have a massive skilled work force here. Lots of movies are filmed elsewhere then brought back to Vancouver for post production.

It's funny how the people who get payed millions too much to mumble on screen, direct them, and write crappy drafts of shitty screenplays are apart of unions and guilds when the many people who are just as important at making a (possibly) successful film don't have any job security. And also, getting into those guilds pretty much means your successful enough to only need its protection in an industry wide issue, so they aspiring movie makers in any field still don't have any power until they got excellent connections to those that are swimming in money.

Just like how there should have been limits set on the difference between the wages of the lowest paid worker in a company and the highest paid executive ages ago, the SFX industry should have gotten it's own union long ago. But, like the wage issue, the greedy movie execs and their puppet politicians already probably had power over them. Now instead of sending hired thugs(including the militia like 56s-60s coal companies), they just look for tax incentives in other countries and out source everything but the pretty stars.

With all the sub par movies coming out in the past 5 years, I think Hollywood needs a serious reality check. If only there was a way to import those hilarious Bollywood action movies without hurting the people in Hollywood that really need whatever money they can make.

RA92:

Karloff:

It doesn't help that the industry operates on fixed bid contracts, though the work itself is fluid. The studio can change its mind at any time, demanding extra work without offering extra compensation. "The shots change dramatically," says John Hughes of Rhythm and Hues, "easily half of the shots that we bid could disappear and be replaced by other shots."

That actually reminds me of what game developers have to go through as well. Like the the demands that fuckface George Lucas made of LucasArts:

The project moved on slowly until George Lucas became heavily involved with its direction, much to the initial delight and eventual ire of the team. They embraced his idea to make the protagonist a new bounty hunter, but often had their work derailed by Lucas suddenly changing his mind or demanding significant alterations to the script and the game's tone.

One of Lucas' most crushing curveballs came weeks before the game was announced. He didn't want the protagonist to be a fresh face; he wanted it to be Boba Fett. Without any working Boba Fett assets ready for the announcement, the team members who unveiled the project to the press during 2012's Electronic Entertainment Expo, had to play dumb. They lied when asked directly about it, unable to mention anything about the iconic bounty hunter being the lead.

Source

(It's a fascinating article by the way, like one time when dear old George tried to force his devs to name a game's antagonists 'Darth Insanius' and 'Darth Icky.' I'm not fucking with you.)

Part of the problem is that the VFX industry doesn't have anything like a guild or union, leaving it exposed to strong-arm tactics, particularly over budget and costs. It lacks lobbying power, or any real representation, despite being a major part of the industry. "Without us," asks Lay, "what do you see on the screen?"

Woah, don't mention 'Union' in front of any conservatives around here. Gets in the way of capitalism, y'know.

The funny thing is that a guild or union is a natural consequence of capitalism. It is not only employers who get to leverage size, employees can band together to jointly negotiate wages, compensation, and working conditions. It is actually people who work to diminish the ability of workers to unionize who are trying to limit market forces.

rhizhim:
i wish i was rich enough as to buy the company and open up a door to video games.

imagine what we could do with their skills in the gaming industry.

likely very little. they specialized in big screen special effects, which means detailed prerendered scenes coupled with real footage. You know, the kind that takes an hour to process 1 second of the film, but since its pre-rendered you cant watch normally later. This is useless in games since it needs to be rendered real time and all digitally in 3D. No doubt they woudl be better than somone that doesnt know how FX works of course, but they arent some videogame creators.

 

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