In an open letter to its membership, but also addressing the State of California and the industry at large, the Visual Effects Society has issued two calls to action. The first is a plea to Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature for an immediate expansion of the California film tax incentive program, including a “focused approach” to specifically protect the visual effects and post production sectors. The second is the organization of a VFX Congress to be held sometime in the next few weeks, “to allow all artists from around the world to share their concerns to find common ground on the issues that face us today.”
The letter was triggered in part by recent events including the bankruptcy of Rhythm & Hues (even as its VFX supervisors picked up an Oscar for visual effects on Life of Pi), the September bankruptcy and later buyout of Digital Domain, and the recent layoff of 350 staffers at Dreamworks (the first in the studio’s history). The plight of visual effects houses in the U.S. has been much on the minds of industry denizens of late, with a high-profile protest outside Sunday’s Academy Awards in Hollywood and a coordinated social media campaign in which individuals replace their profile pics with green screen.
While some are calling for an end to foreign subsidies that lure visual effects work to other locales, the VES acknowledges that it has no control over outside programs, and can only seek to strengthen California’s film tax credit program (which it calls “woefully inadequate”) from within:
The amazing irony is that while 47 of the top 50 films of all time* are visual effects driven and billions of dollars of profits are generated yearly, the actual people who create the work are becoming an endangered species in California. In short, Hollywood, the birthplace of all this art and commerce, is quickly becoming the land where creative dreams die on the vine and pink slips for dispossessed artists are being issued at an alarming rate.
In addition to urging members to write to the governor and state legislature regarding the situation, VES Executive Director Eric Roth sounded a note of hope for the coming VFX Congress: “Together we can make amazing things happen.”