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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Visual Effects Artists Use MPAA's Own Words Against It 131

beltsbear sends a story about the struggles of visual effects artists against the Motion Picture Association of America. The VFX industry in the U.S. has been slowly dying because movie studios increasingly outsource the work to save money. The visual effects industry protested and fought where they could, but had little success — until the MPAA filed a seemingly innocuous legal document to the International Trade Commission two weeks ago. In it, the MPAA argues that international trade of intellectual property is just like international trade of manufactured goods, and should be afforded the same protections. This would naturally apply to visual effects work, as well. Thus: "[E]mboldened by the MPAA’s filing, the visual effects workers are now in a position to use the big studios’ own arguments to compel the government to slap trade tariffs on those studios’ own productions in high-subsidy countries. Those arguments will be especially powerful because the MPAA made them to the very same governmental agencies that will process the visual-effects workers’ case. Additionally, the workers can now take matters into their own hands. ... If visual effects workers can show the Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission that an import is benefiting from foreign subsidies and therefore illegally undercutting a domestic industry, the federal government is obligated to automatically slap a punitive tax on that import. Such a tax would in practice erase the extra profit margins the studios are gleaning from the foreign subsidies, thereby leveling the competitive playing field for American workers and eliminating the purely economic incentive for the studios to engage in mass offshoring."
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Visual Effects Artists Use MPAA's Own Words Against It

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  • by beltsbear ( 2489652 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @05:25PM (#46350655)

    Read the submission. It is long and the meat is at the end.

    The Obama administration refused to use laws related to subsidized imports to stop off-shoring. Now the visual artists have some real legal ground to stand on to compel the administration to stop or tariff subsidized overseas work.

  • Re:Proteccionism (Score:4, Informative)

    by Arker ( 91948 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:04PM (#46351151) Homepage
    "Protectionism doesn't work and we Aussies would appreciate it if the US stopped protecting is farmers."

    How about AU do the same? Bananas in particular are outrageous. Y'all pay many times the market rate and the Bananas while fine are in no way superior to the far less expensive products our good friends in Peru keep trying to send you...
  • by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:16PM (#46351269)

    The problem is that people are too busy trying to create companies which create millionares rather than actually do work

    Where are you seeing the millionaire VFX artists?

    While I have no doubt that the very top of ILM et al are living a reasonably cozy life, the bottom ranks - be that the modelers, riggers or rotoscopers - are almost all jobhopping between studios not because they enjoy it, but because the studios themselves can ill-afford to pay them. And they can't ill-afford them because they're too expensive, but because the studios themselves see very little in return for what is done.

    I encourage you to check out the very recently (today) released short documentary Life After Pi []. It's more of an industry look at the problems being faced, but is based on the story of the VFX studio behind the effects work in Life of Pi - the movie that so far has a gross of $609M on a $120M budget (boxofficemojo numbers) and won the Academy Award for visual effects - Rhythm and Hues, and their ultimate demise.

    It is one of several documentaries being made on this subject - along with several protest actions calling attention to the issue (if you've ever seen people's profile pictures be a blank green square, odds are they're in VFX).

    Note that I don't disagree with you - in the end VFX jobs can be outsourced, so they will be outsourced. But that is just shifting the problem of extremely skewed compensation between various elements behind a movie from one geographical location to another.

    Payment as ratio to box office performance is something that the industry direly needs - and despite popular opinions that artists should just get paid once for their work created and not charge royalties, I think the other popular opinion that Hollywood Accounting is screwing everybody but the big wigs (the heads of production studios, distributors - the actual millionaires) over could bring some reasonable debate to the floor.

  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:20PM (#46351339)

    This is pure protectionism, effectively there are people elsewhere who will do the work cheaper of better. The way to compete against this is to lower your overheads rather than trying to get the government to be your friend.

    The American VFX artists are getting the government involved because the foreign VFX artists are being subsidized by their governments up to 60%. RTFA

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @07:21PM (#46352039) Journal

    The VFX shops don't own the IP of the shit they work on any more than American factories own the brand/design/etc. to whatever they build. Work will be farmed out as usual, and only those with $BIGBUCKS$ will control the flow of work.

    The issue on the table is the current (surprisingly large, for something with no obvious benefit to the host nation) pools of 'incentives', tax-breaks, and subsidies that you can score by handling parts of your movie in various countries that are suckers like that(and even by the standards of cynics, it's a trifle surprising [] how much you can wring out of an allegedly competent nation state...)

    If the argument being made here holds, those subsidies suddenly stop hiding in magic-cultural-product-land, and start facing the same anti-dumping rules that apply to boring stuff like steel and cars(and the rules, they are numerous and taken very, very seriously).

    Doesn't mean that the VFX peons won't still be recruited from the cheapest and most desperate outfits the global economy has to offer; but they won't get all that and a tax break from whatever place they end up sourcing them.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann