Note: This is Part Two, Read Part One first.
Its been nearly six months since I wrote that article about the VFX industry for Medium.
What has happened since then?
The VFX industry dislocated.
VFX soldier’s planned Union/Trade Organization fell by the wayside.
Marvel/Disney in association with Sony is planning 20 some films in the next five to ten years.
PDI, the legendary VFX house – that without their skills and connections wouldn’t have made Dreamworks what it was, get shuttered.
In the same time, state governments realizing these tax credits are a waste of money and resources and states like Michigan are taking a second look at these laws.
And when VFX Soldier explained why ADAPT (the planned trade organization) failed at the middle of his missive:
Some members of our community donated money to help fund the effort, but most did not.
We suspected the reason for this was due to how rapidly the industry in California collapsed as work moved to Canada. This left many out of work without money and others being forced to move to Canada. Others were able to take advantage of the recovering economy and move into other industries, which made them reluctant to help an industry they probably would no longer work in.
On the other hand, the reluctance to support ADAPT might also have been our inability to rally the troops or fully explain what we were doing and how much it was going to cost. And finally, and hopefully incorrectly so, it might be that the VFX community is more bark than bite and that the VFX industry is unwilling to take a stand and be proactive in righting the wrongs of the industry.
And I will repeat this again as I said on the original Medium posting:
…But this was a family — broken by political back talk and aggrandizing, a system without a strong man (super producer along with action super star actor and actress) to guide franchises, the repeat game of not one — but two or three or more sequels, and a way to defeat pure animation — for it has lost its power because others wanted it to move it to something it had already done in the first place.
This is the sad truth of about Life After Pi. Good men, and women broken by a broken system built for broken and damaged people.
The entertainment industry if they don’t take its time (which as we seen with the Sony hack, never really does it) has a major existential crisis in its hands.
The crisis is worse if you understand that VFX has become WORSE in an artistic, feasibility and aesthetic point of view.
You have PDI creating the majority of the CGI work for all three of the major networks, at the time the major networks were relevant. The work is 10 – 15 years ahead of its time. Its expensive, but the expense is worth the cost.
Beginning in the mid to late 1990’s you see a move away from the CGI works as the main houses move to animation via Pixar’s success with Toy Story. The result is that there isn’t that many good VFX TV houses – the networks have their own but they are no where near what they want and not in the type that used to exist back in the 80’s and early 90’s.
As these VFX houses need money to make this films, and the Nafta/Gatt agreements opening the floodgates, the studios see a way to pay for these projects.
We also got to realize there is a campaign going on within the fans of animation promoting 3D CGI as the future of animation – shuttering the old 2D tools and studio houses in favor of digital workloads and streams. This campaign became successful as mergers, the marketplace and media’s penchant for the narrative help end the strong hold 2D had in theatrical animation. It didn’t effect TV animation until much later and towards its action side.
The crossroads have been reached. You now have three companies who hold the major 3D tools (Renderman, Maya and C 4D), and the only way work can be done is that some politician to fill quotas, or his/her ego – to get tax breaks for Hollywood studios. Meanwhile – families have to travel and be separated – the work is no where near it was years ago, and even the best work gets you bankrupt.
Why are we stunned when we go on youtube and we look for C4D or Maya inspiration, and they are doing the same things over and over again? Why are their work so listless and so lost? What’s with the high vector difficulty and minimalism wanderlust that doesn’t really do anything but say your just another hipster dude with a misguided eye for fashion and design? It’s like here’s Photoshop- after effects and illustrator; pay me this amount for my work that is not inspired!
I was a young kid amazed at the work PDI and Rhythm and Hues did. I admired how the introduced things – even if the movies were boring – at least somebody some where actually gave their heart and soul in making the network intros work. Shrek was their past work coming into the fray.
But when you have a mainstream who cant tell what dreamworks is from pixar, and the media doesn’t really care – even though the President is your best friend, there is nothing that can save you.
And maybe there is nothing can be saved from a business world view that refuses to take risks, and live within its means. It was done before.
The movie critics keep calling back to those days.
But law, market forces, ratings systems, and yes – technology has made it nearly impossible to go back.
So this is the fate of not only VFX, but of most of animation – to be used a toy for the ego’s of politicians, CEO’s – and their children.
And until people see it for what it is, and change things so that all get fair wages and better product – it just is what it is.
VFX to Hollywood and these political entities are nothing more than An Adult LEGO Set.
And nobody, yet is willing to call them out on it and tell them otherwise.