VFX artists demand 'piece of Pi' during Oscars
MANILA, Philippines - Although “Life of Pi” has been showered with accolades this awards season — including Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Director — its visual effects artists are not happy.
On Oscars night last February 24 (February 25 Manila time), more than 450 people gathered outside Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to demand better treatment for visual effects artists. The protest was held as stars walked down the red carpet.
In early February, Rhythm & Hues Studio Inc., the effects house behind “Life of Pi,” filed for bankruptcy. That same week, the company was forced to lay off 254 of their 718 employees.
All this despite the fact that the team had won a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for their work on the visually-stunning Ang Lee movie.
The company is also behind the amazing effects of such highly successful films as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hunger Games,” and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”
It even won Oscars for its work in “The Golden Compass” and “Babe.”
Protesters demanded a “piece of the Pi” and carried banners with statements like, “Will matte paint for food.”
The street march was accompanied by a chartered plane circling overhead with a banner that read: “Box Office + Bankrupt = Visual Effects vfxunion.com.”
Watch Zoe Ball interview the "Life of Pi" visual effects team at the BAFTAs in this video:
Visual Effects Society executive director Eric Roth said in an article on The Wall Street Journal, "We're the ones who create the magic that allows billions of dollars to be generated for the movie industry and yet we're at the companies that are going out of business, how supremely ironic is that?"
According to the same article, the business of creating visual effects is losing money. One of the factors to this phenomenon could be large tax credits in Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.
Competition from developing markets with low-cost labor and new competitors with cheaper technology also play a part.
Inside the Dolby Theater, Bill Westenhofer, member of the Rhythm & Hues team behind “Life of Pi,” tried to bring attention to the plight of his company through his acceptance speech saying it was facing “severe financial difficulties.”
Unfortunately, he was cut off by the menacing chords of the “Jaws” theme song because his speech went beyond the set limit. - With reports by Pia Ranada/Rappler.com