Moving Picture Co. Finds Valuing Artists is the Best Effect

mark benson moving picture company

Moving Picture Co., Technicolor’s visual effects company, has managed to fly high without losing sight of crucial details, notably its people.

CEO Mark Benson believes the company has benefitted by embracing “the collective ego over the individual ego” while still maintaining the recognition of individual talent.

“We don’t want to be commoditized to the point that our creative ambition becomes a challenge,” says Benson.

In 2004, when Technicolor acquired MPC, they were “bursting with ambition to grow,” says Benson. Since then the company has been ascending toward the top tier of vfx studios, taking larger portions of more and more prestigious projects. In 2012, Guillaume Rocheron collected a vfx Oscar for the company’s work on “Life of Pi.”

MPC’s head of film production, Christian Roberton, says that while the company has production facilities in Hollywood, London, Bangalore, Vancouver and Montreal, they work together as one company. “Each location operates in the same fashion so that work can be handed off seamlessly,” he explains.

Looking ahead, having the backing of Technicolor gives MPC a stable foundation its competitors might envy.

“We’re moving to take our brand into a super-competitive market with confidence of not just our talent, but the technological innovation to deliver,” says Benson.

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  1. joepavlo says:

    A few weeks ago it was all smiles in MPC’s London compositing department as the talented team posed for photographs with their well deserved Oscar statue. This week, the same comp team has been notified that they will be made made redundant and replaced with low paid student labour subsidised by government grants.

    http://vfxforum.org/2017/04/londons-vfx-race-to-the-bottom/

  2. Ross says:

    A repulsive company who have managed to screw over ever creative soul thats walked through there doors. The only people left are the poor juniors and sad lost employees who have been tied to their desks. The work being spat out is terrible and undeserving of any ackalades.

  3. Jimbo says:

    Hi

    I was at MPC a while, and was around when this article + responses broke.
    Was never going to comment, but now feel compelled to add a little clarity / perspective on some points mentioned.
    A few years late to the party, but better late than never !

    I was in TVC, so can’t comment on Film. Nor can I compare MPC Film to other London houses.
    This just what I do know.

    TVC / Film different dynamics. Different management, different business.
    TVC & Film management report to Mark Benson, who in turn reports to Technicolor.
    TVC management & Mark treated me well over the years, had my back during tricky periods, and I will always be thankful for that.
    127 Wardour (reception, sky bar etc) – TVC building. TVC London activity wholly within this building.
    Film (apart from screening room) is now next door. With own new reception.

    Refurb : 127 Reception / Production. Warranted – 1st thing TVC clients see. Front of house.
    Refurb after 15 yr period is fair I think?
    TVC clients expect contemporary look&feel.
    VFX like any other client-facing business in this respect.
    Btw, all artist floors have been refurbed to some extent over the years too.
    The CG floor has had a *total makeover.

    Sky Bar : client meetings, and where clients can wait / chat before or after seeing work. Some like to work quietly there. So yes, priority = clients, not employees. For MPC TVC client-base, this is a big plus.
    Several big VFX houses have a space like this. Those that don’t wish they did ;)

    Banksy : he was involved in a job at MPC back in 2000. Did this artwork for *free. MPC didn’t pay a penny for it.

    Budgets : was never directly involved in this, but obviously there are many different budgets in a business, and a big VFX house is no different. Not 1 pot of money, but several.

    Of course I’m aware of the nature of today’s VFX industry, and the challenges facing artists.
    Please believe I’m not commenting on anyone’s posts here, just clarifying a few points that have been mentioned.

    Cheers

  4. ravi says:

    nothing has even changed an inch .mpc as a brand we are crave to work for but the environment is disgusting .they had been such illegal practices of contract bonds for academy luckily which has stopped now.the leadership team needs a shake they feel they are gods and have been taking artists for granted.If any one has a job offer from mpc suggest you please first read the online site views like glassdoor to see what the employees have to write and say .we are just treated like a bunch of slaves.thread – dude be aware you be tracked and sacked for being so honest but I totally agree the lady who was the hr head was so dignified and had substance when equated to the new lady she seems to be a b*****h might go well for mpc .low payers when compared to the other players in the market .A good place if you just want mpc on your resume for a year or two and hop .

  5. mehek says:

    reading the thread seems so funny.the company has a solid roots but unfortunately nobody understands the ground reality Robertson has to state each location is same I mean seriously do you mean it. employees specially in the Bangalore location are disrespected the senior leadership is a bunch of jokers.mpc wasn’t like this neither are their values but the people at the senior levels are spoiling this due to their politics. Potential leaders example a lady in hr heading and few leads in production don’t survive due to the favoritism and biased approach of seniors like gm and hop’s .the gm’s role seems a joke he is actually a puppet of the hop and hotechops.no crew forums will help unless we have a strong leader to look upto .hope mpc can have its old charm .

  6. Igravin says:

    Really? Not as big a scoop as you make it sound like, someone just wanted to spice up the post a bit…It’s quite fun to be honest. If people got a bit less offended now and then the world would be a much better place.

  7. Paul Evans says:

    The problem really hasn’t gone away.

    • Jackadullboy says:

      It appears comments threads in Variety achieve precious little. That said, things appear to have moved on a little, and people are starting to fill in anonymous BECTU surveys… It’s a step in the right direction!

  8. Perico says:

    U.K.-based trade union BECTU (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) has recently reached out to MPC, asking for trade-union recognition for the film compositing department at MPC which is made up of an estimated 135 employees. That would mean that legally BECTU could bargain collectively on behalf of those employees on points including overtime pay.

  9. Jeremy says:

    How’s it working out for you guys nearly a year on? Things getting better or worse? Did the studio do anything tangible about it? Did you?

  10. Anonymous says:

    just thought I would put in my 2 cents…

    MPC is by far the worst studio Ive ever worked at. Completely unorganized, low pay, junior artists being promoted to mids and seniors because nobody wants to work there. We would get CG releases the day that the shots were supposed to go for final (out of comp). I worked almost 100 hours a week for 3 months, mostly due to lack of organization and bad pipeline and show template setups (or lack thereof). I worked there for 6 months and I will never… EVER go back. I feel bad for anyone new who is trying to make a career at MPC, its a bad way to go. This is coming from someone who heard about what it was like at MPC before I went there and though “it cant be that bad”. It is.

  11. Admiral Akbar says:

    Its pretty clear MPC is breaking immigration law in Canada in preference of foreigners who are willing to work for less than the going rate.

    • vfx07 says:

      Hi
      I have just finished at MPC and I have to say that having a lead (with not much experience and a lot of influence) bully me from the second week, made it hard to work there. I am technical with an engineering masters, and they’d say things like i’m not technical, using bullying tactics to push artists to work harder etc.

  12. dragongreen2014 says:

    Are all departments in the London office the same? I turned down a job in their New Business team because of the hours and pay and thought it was a massive mistake (especially for someone still trying to break into the industry). But reading these comments and those on Glassdoor are sobering… Also, GMB is a general union that might help.

  13. Pissed Off MPC Worker says:

    I actually work in the main entrance of MPC within view of a Banksy and Mark Benson’s office.Firstly if you guys heard what they say about artists it would make you all want to leave, secondly I get pissed off when I hear the there’s no money line yet I’m within view of a huge Banksy and there’s just been a huge refurbishment right where I’m sat

    • Former_MPC says:

      You don’t have to hear them to know what they say. Signing a contract with MPC is like signing a contract with the devil himself. I can recommend all new starters to by a HUGE bottle of lube and loosely fit trousers, you’ll need it. Over…and over again…

      • John Sullens says:

        Ir hoy work there then you should know the story behind that Banksy painting, it’s not like they’re spending many on expensive art pieces or anything, that hasn’t anything to do with what’s being discussed here. Also, renovating the building is part of keeping clients impressed, as effective as good advertising.

  14. Tom Jones says:

    just got an email from them: they are “expanding” their department, more like “replacing people that left due to low wages and horrendous working conditions”. if everyone boycot MPC for 6 months to a year, they’ll have to pay a lot more to get people in, that would be something good at least. everyone, just hang on and don’t go there!!!

  15. zuk says:

    I really don’t think the management have any idea of how bad shows are getting because of the underbidding and under-resourcing. Or rather, I don’t think they care. The amount of stress and unpaid overtime Shows require are literally ruining peoples health and burning them out.

  16. Jdog says:

    Well this thread is getting lively again. crunch times back for those summer movies?

    You would think that with less time, higher client demands and massive under bids that MPC would at least hire more seniors and sort out their dreadful technology. most of the leads don’t understand the pipeline, nevermind the 80% junior staff. Good luck getting higher quality work under those conditions! I guess the plan is still to burn out every last man and woman

    I would have thought Christian was at least a good enough businessman to realise his plan is a false economy

  17. vis says:

    MPC = worst workplace on earth.

  18. Jackadullboy says:

    Are you a troll..? Because ranting incoherently like this is achieving precisely nothing. You are not helping the cause, and may actually be hindering it…

  19. conthesofa says:

    Interesting to read back through this now that MPC London have laid off 150 artists without warning. They really valued those artists didn’t they.

    JUST REPEAT MAYBE YOU GUYS CAN’T READ. THEY LAID OFF 150 ARISTS. THEY DO CARE!!!!!

    • vis says:

      The whole industry is collapsing. The crooks are working hard to finish it. I wonder what about the morons working hard these days hopping that something will ever change…

      • vis says:

        there are lead roto paint in Montreal with no/less experience, there is a lead compositor who was dealing with couple of shots before in several second hand shops in Montreal who went bust ( mewbreed and modus for exemple) and mainly he is animator, and so on…I can give you tons of these exemples. And real leads or seniors are avoided by them cause they are too expensive.

      • gandalf says:

        I highly doubt they’re making juniors into leads

      • Steven says:

        gandalf: so how do you explain that 90% off all seniors have left that sinking ship? Why is Tarzan being postponed? Could it have anything to do with the fact they’re making juniors into Lead Artists?

      • vis says:

        …wait! they are hiring big time now. So they fired 150 but hire now? Hey MPC dude…they are hiring. and firing…

      • gandalf says:

        the industry is NOT collapsing, MPC had to lay artist off when their clients push or delay movies. it is out of the hands of MPC. they are a business if there is no work they are not going to pay them to sit and pick their nose.

        so please stop spreading your uneducated opinion.

  20. conthesofa says:

    Oh but no Roberton keeps putting pressure on people in management meetings saying film studios are not making money and that’s essentially why we have to fire seniors, hire more students and sending work to India. Not 40% 60%. Roberton loves %%%% signs. What a bully and a liar.

    Where are these viruses of the industry going to be fired by Technicolor. You are an embarrassment to the industry, though I have to say that compared to Dreamwork owners who decided to close an entire studio you might appear as angels. Angels with pretty dirty hands though.

  21. mr boogyballs says:

    so when is any vfx company is London going to pay overtime??? Can’t believe people are ever working for free when the MPAA is making billions!!! every hour of work MUST be paid!!!

    • vis says:

      Workers are desperate…the situation cannot stand any longer. All vfx will explode soon.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Sources, please..?? What are you on about. ” Workers putting up with poor conditions ” does NOT equal “vfx industry about to explode”.

        The demand for vfx is not going away, and the basic economics of it is that, for a given quality of work, Studios will always aim for the lowest price they can achieve.. This is rational market behaviour, believe it or not.

        Now, what needs to happen is for artists to get their heads out of their arses, take the long view, reject unsustainable working conditions. And: STOP…WORKING…FOR…FREE

        You might then find that the vfx facilities will be forced to schedule things properly… Act like slave labour and you’ll be treated like slave labour.

  22. Mark Benson says:

    look ive been waiting for this bloody meatball wrap from pret for an hour! wheres my wrap!!! ive waited so long my lattes gone cold.

    • vis says:

      you’re so funny Mark. And you know? If I were you, I would have abused the morons even more. They ask for it. They love to be abused. Good job crook!

  23. vis says:

    Everybody is back to the desk, looking into the monitor 60h/week and asking why nobody will care about them any more. A sad industry with sad and lonely people.

  24. vis says:

    …just received a job offer from MPC. Is in the spam folder now.

  25. vis says:

    What is the reason that some comments bounce back? Did the crook in the picture told you to delete some comments?

  26. roundhead says:

    Interesting to read back through this now that MPC London have laid off 150 artists without warning. They really valued those artists didn’t they.

    • vis says:

      ..meanwhile more talented people, considered in the past as normal and serious ones, are coming in Montreal to prostitutes themselves as leads ( to be lead in such an abusive place is a shame) for this company. So they fire in London and hire in subsidies locations. Is this for real? Is this a company that has any future? or perhaps is only a hit and run type of business…Crooks!

    • really!? says:

      scored!

  27. vis says:

    ..toked years to build such a bad reputation. Still people working for them. I wonder why?!

  28. Jackadullboy says:

    You don’t make a criminal change his ways by shouting “asshole”.

    • vis says:

      so… what you suppose us to do?

      • Jackadullboy says:

        “This option is not available”
        … Oh.. Right… Care to explain why??

        What does it mean to say that the option of doing something else IS available, then..?

        It seems your standards for the achievabllity of something are rather high. It sounds like you’d much rather come here and idly heckle from the sidelines…
        Whatever floats your boat…

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Not working for them is a given. Voting with your feet is the first step.

      • vis says:

        This option is not available…try more.I would recommend to start with: DO NOT WORK FOR THESE CROOKS! Just search for a decent company. If there is none, change the industry.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Unionise

  29. vis says:

    …seems like the crooks are not paying attention of any comment here. They just simple don’t care. Keep going guys.

  30. dampignouf says:

    MPC = Moving Picture Circus

  31. vis says:

    not worth to go to your office…waste of time.

  32. ruboq says:

    They no longer care about the quality as they’re barely able to get shows out on time, full stop. Management really doesn’t care about quality of artistry at this point.

    As for this initiative to get feedback and improving communication across sites, not sure how thats going to fix the masses of overtime required, underbidding, poor recruiting image , accelerating loss of talent and junior-dominated staffing.

  33. vis says:

    meanwhile, the dumb fat pig still smiles in the picture…

  34. Knickerz says:

    Quick question: I have a feeling a lot of the comments is directed towards the film department, but does someone have ANY info regarding their advertising division? Interested in knowing about MPCNY and MPCLondon. Anyone with some insight?

    • colourfilms says:

      Quick reply: I worked for the advertising division for seven years at MPCLondon, and found them fair and rewarding employers. I felt I was part of a team who were delivering a really good product.

      However I really feel for those who worked in the film department at MPC and felt they were taken advantage of, and reading so many comments there can be no smoke without fire. All I can say is something that it has taken me years to learn, if you hate it walk away, there will be other opportunities. If you want to hang on and suck up the crap because this feature could be the next Star Wars and will skyrocket your CV that’s good too, but really it’s your choice.

      This feature won’t be the next Star Wars.

      There will always be a job to go to, and they will treat you just the same as MPC

    • explodus says:

      They have cute girls in MPCNY. For a geek in counts and just for that, I like the place there… but wait it’s NY! Let’s get rid of MPC and keep the girls…

  35. Former_MPC says:

    So the Jungle Book is being delayed!? Wonder when they’ll make that official for the public.
    From what I’ve heard the All Star Junior Team can’t make it look nearly as good as it should.
    But no worries, just throw more juniors on that fire and hopefully it will come out done.
    Meanwhile artists and production at other studios in Soho are laughing behind your back MPC.
    You’ve been digging your own grave for a long time now, is it deep enough yet?

    • Johnny N says:

      “Meanwhile artists and production at other studios in Soho are laughing behind your back MPC.”

      While working as much overtime and with contracts as short and unpredictable as the ones at MPC…

    • toq says:

      The Framestore Jungle Book is delayed, don’t know about the Disney one.

      • marick says:

        “I’ve seen dailies of JB at MPC…looks no where near as good as the animals from Life of Pi.
        They just can’t seem to get it right.”

        Of course not why would they? Years of Roberton and his mediocre and incompetent lackeys (head of VFX, CTO, head of production and co) negative influence on MPC will lead this company to the gutter. That’s what happens when your only skill is in making money and that you have a fundamental disinterest for the film making process both from an artistic and technical point of view. People leading this company do not have what it takes to make the work look good because they simply don’t know. They spent years at MPC fighting to keep their 6 figures salaries and creating the culture of mediocrity that is now inhabiting this place. They sure have it takes to make money but then let them show you how they will suck the business dry leaving hundreds of people unhappy and potentially un-employed at the end.

        Just wait Mr Roberton, Just Wait (if you know anything about films, you show know what film this is referring too?)… or do you actually know anything about film at all…

        And selecting 20 employees int the company to report to the management what doesn’t work in the company is not going to make any difference… and yes I know what happens in your shit place dude because I work there.

      • vis says:

        @Jackadullboy
        I know but we have to dig further, don’t you think?Get rid of this junk named MPC!

      • Jackadullboy says:

        @vis

        Saying it, however often, does not make it so. Sorry…

      • vis says:

        ..this is the end of MPC…

      • rashim says:

        I’ve seen dailies of JB at MPC…looks no where near as good as the animals from Life of Pi.
        They just cant seem to get it right.

  36. Vfx artist says:

    MPC Vancouver, is hemriging good artists, most pf their senior crew has left, they are feeding hard of jr and fresh meat out of school now. Not only with artists on the box but production too. They hire people to organize shows straight out of high school in one case. If they dont change their way the world is gonna see in the lack of quality of work the do. Ligjting and comp are made up about 80% junoirs. It makes things incredibly hard for others when they do this becAuse there is not many people there to support them. god bless the remander senior staff because they are getting all that responsibility dumped on them. The compnay is literally run by an invisble hand. MPC vancouver feels more like high school then a proffesinal work enviroment. Michelle grady, christian roberston and many others are snakes and sooner or later MPC needs to cut their grass before its full of weeds and you need to complety destroy it.

    • remy says:

      Sadly, all true. Mass exodus on all levels. Lost their core talent. A handful of senior staff and leads remain, struggling to manage a much larger rotating roster of juniors and new staff. A ridiculous pipeline and systems that are constantly falling over. A business model that now relies on and expects excessive free overtime to meet ridiculous underbids/uncharged client demands. Very high turnover of production staff with very little experience often means a lack of knowledge, show organisation, planning or any clue as to what should be happening. Morale at an all time low. Not a single word said about the situation or this article.

    • Gogo says:

      Greg bulter is also very rude person IMO

  37. vis says:

    “Moving Picture Co., Technicolor’s visual effects company, has managed to fly high without losing sight of crucial details, notably its people.” LOL!!!!

  38. former_MPC says:

    News from within, MPC are now trying to re-hire a large portion of those they kicked out earlier this year by offering much higher salaries. I guess this is good in some way but at the same time it tells you how desperate they’ve become. MPC still have a horrible working environment for those who don’t bend over and fall in line. I just wish more people could grow a pair and just boycott that place.
    I speak to a lot of vfx students and I recommend all of them to think twice before signing a “contract” with places like MPC.

    • vis says:

      it’s a trap. They don’t want to spend more money. They try to hire some people on short term, until they will find some solutions. Do not go there!

  39. Peter Shakes says:

    Most people here still don’t get it, and keep commenting as if this were an MPC only issue…

    I can assure you there’s loads of MPC employees perfectly happy with their jobs, who have always been treated right. There’s also a couple departments that gets it pretty bad, but those departments get it bad at MPC, DNEG, CINESITE, FRAMESTORE, etc etc. They’re all the same.

    Once again, this is an industry-wide issue, it’s not a problem exclusive to MPC, it has to do with the clients more than with the facilities, and unless we stand against it ourselves, it’s very unlikely the VFX companies will do so themselves, as that would be biting the few hands that feed them.

    A large scale VFX strike would probably help much more than bitching online, but it will have to come from the workers.

  40. vis says:

    I wonder if all the MPC recruiters know about this. In case they do, what kind of people are they? How can you be a servant for a such abusive workplace?

  41. Rec says:

    I wonder how many Variety articles generated 600 comments and what would it take to merit an investigation and a follow up article.

    • Jackadullboy says:

      A successful unionization of the workforce might garner at least some media attention as it has a relevance beyond tue esoteric world of vfx.

      Does anyone know what came of that BECTU meeting on Nov 18th. Any traction?

      • Harry Tuttle says:

        Visual Effects Christmas Party!
        Monday 8th December
        At The Nellie Dean – Soho
        From 6:30pm
        Come and chat about the Union with people from BECTU and your fellow London Visual Effects workers
        All are welcome!

      • Jackadullboy says:

        @anonymous I think I detect a certain anipathy toward the Union’s ’cause’ in your statement. Care to elaborate, thereby adding to the debate in a healthy and constructive way? Will you not be at said party? Does it clash with the MPC one?

      • vis says:

        “for their cause” ? it should be yours as well…you troll!

      • @VFXUnionUK says:

        Follow @VFXUnionUK for updates in the coming weeks

      • Anonymous says:

        They will have a VFXmas party next week which I guess gets down to attracting more members for their cause.

  42. Gelli says:

    Is MPC having any success with their recruiting tours in second world recruiting tours?

  43. MPCWork says:

    All the low-paid juniors on 25k they’ve hired to replace the seniors will be kicked out when the project ends anyway rather than use that time to train and time manage properly for the next project, all will be left last minute and another recruitment drive to overwork and underpay the new batch.

  44. i speak the truth says:

    MPC is attempting to put a sticking plaster over a huge gaping wound. Watch the quality of work suffer as many mids and seniors have enough of being overworked and underpaid, and leave.They will be replaced by inexperienced juniors also overworked and underpaid, who through having no representation, will put up and shut up, until they get enough experience and go elsewhere.

    The whole business stinks. The whole vfx industry is dictated to by the evil cartel of Hollywood studios, and the London studios in particular not only bend over and take it, they actually ask for more of the same.

    Can you see the Studio executives relocating to Montreal, or India or China ? No me neither. Funny that.

    Unionise or kiss your future goodbye. Think what happened to LA will never happen to London ? It already is.

  45. jen says:

    Management called a meeting for the week after the article, then cancelled that meeting. Nothing more was said, situation was never even addressed. No suggestion of improving things. Back to normal.

    If it wasn’t clear whether artists were valued before, it’s pretty clear now.

    • Jackadullboy says:

      Well, there we go. All blowing over…

      To be honest, I was surprised to hear a meeting was called in the first place.

      It really is down to the artists. So, folks, what’ll it be?

  46. john_vfx says:

    Can someone from inside MPC post an update ? I can’t believe they are pretending nothing has happened or simply just moved on…

    • Former_MPC says:

      A meeting was held but only with the Supervisors. They were probably asked to keep their low paid minions at bay. Now business is as usual and last week fresh meat was delivered in the shape of 10+ juniors to the London film office. Rumor has is that MPC have raised the salary for a selected few that they can’t afford to loose. So glad I rejected their offer to re-join that living hell.

      • exmpcer says:

        A message to the selected few. Milk it for all you can, you deserve it but if you’re one of the good guys who don’t indulge in the culture of being a cunt, personally I look for a exit plan. This is a company that knowingly underpaid you until they were exposed for doing so. They don’t care. They will over work you unnecessarily while smiling because they cultivate a petty, immature, finger pointing, no growth, inefficient, gossipy, political, egotistical, backstabbing, sexist, unprofessional working environment all aimed towards an individualistic attitude. They don’t care because it helps to suppress others and lessen any chances of a union for this profession. If you’re already at the stage whereby you know your standard lines of blaming juniors, brits, french, Indians, nationality of the month, saying people are not good, cheap artists , just other people’s fault , causing in fighting, it’s probably too late for you anyway. You’re carry that attitude of toxicity to any other studio you touch, spreading the living hell. They don’t care, they’ve already succeeded.

    • Jackadullboy says:

      You must learn to believe….

    • vis says:

      oh, they are busy recruiting..they don’t know about these comments here. Someone tell them! Poor guys, they are such amazing projects and they treat people like shit. Soon they will find out that…

    • vis says:

      They don’t have internet access. The internet is off at MPC. Slaves are confused these days…everywhere. Same with the companies.

    • dave says:

      nothing happening at MPC. Nothing being mentioned or acknowledged.

    • alan says:

      slaves are not allowed the time to do so

  47. vis says:

    if, after 573 comments, people are still working for MPC, means they are really dumb and deserve to be exploited and abused. Good luck!

  48. John McTiernan says:

    MPC has helped to create the demise of visual effects and DNEG etc will follow the lead with their new Indian owners. What was very difficult industry to make profit in the first place is now a playground for sociopath bankers to sniff their white powder and float their egos without any emotions.

    Just go to glassdoor.com to see how well this place values the people. I’ve seen in the past how they have gathered all the lighters into the end of the room and just announced “next week, only half of you will need to come to work”.

    Technicians.

  49. VFX guru says:

    I have been reading this tremendous amount of comments and it has been interesting. I am a veteran of this business, having joined ILM in late 1990 to work on Terminator 2. Back then, it was all about pioneering VFX, about the question of “can it be done?”. These days, sadly, it is all about doing more, for less money and in less time.
    While the average shooting day on big movies has gone to 300-350k, some days even as much as 500k, VFX prices have plummeted. What was a 50k shot ten years ago, has now dropped to 5-10k.
    This, of course, this can be explained by way of an economic model. More providers of a certain goods will result in lower prices for that product. While we were doing visuals in the 90s at ILM that no one else could do, there’s now a whole lot of vendors that can do the same.
    Hence, the degradation of our work experience is very much related to the fact that the product that we provide in the VFX craft is tied to the market position that companies take.
    And I do want to make the point that VFX is a craft … so, all this discussion of artists vs technicians seems redundant to me. I myself, with three Oscar nominations and three BAFTA wins under my belt, don’t call myself an artist. I am a skilled person in my craft, just like a production designer, a director of photography, an editor, etc. etc.
    So here is my point: While there is an increasing demand for VFX, all of the providers are striving to survive and thus inherently lower the value of what the craft supplies. Meaning that they’ll under-bid and out-compete other vendors just to stay alive.
    VFX have become a commodity, something that filmmakers and studio execs can get at bargain basement prices because there are plenty of providers out there.
    Hence, the working conditions are starting to equal those of sweat shops, cranking out a seemingly generic product that could be done by many others without any regard for the craftsmanship that truly goes into what we do.
    I don’t think that unions are the answer at this point. That ship sailed in the mid-90s.

    What I do think is needed is a mind-meld amongst the folks running the big 10-12 companies because they truly control the economics of the business, whether they realize it or not.
    While this is apparently going on in regards to recruiting, as some of you suggest, it needs to be aimed at the value of what we, in the VFX industry, provide to all those big movies hitting the screens.
    So, here’s definitely a level of power that these players could exercise, rather than being entirely at the whim of their clients.

    This, of course, might take a while. Plenty of companies are closing doors here and there while others grow bigger, that’s the trend.

    For those of you who feel that you are slaving away at your VFX jobs, well, hang in there and watch as the economy evolves. It’s better than digging trenches, but I expect that isn’t what you signed up for.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love this industry, but I have seen it evolve in ways that aren’t productive to what we contribute to the movie-going experience. At the end of the day, our product rocks, so let’s make sure that it is appreciated by those who profit! As our employers should.

    Okay, let’s stopping doing more for less pay …

    • billy bob says:

      Great Response ;)
      Very thoughtful.
      I have stopped also, It helps when you are crossed Industries. You have the freedom to leave the whole Industry on that side.
      Pay is better also, so happy. Mainly for me it was quality of life. Its not worth it.
      The money is never enough.
      Money isn’t happiness also.

      That’s all I have to say for now. So please, we are intelligent people. Please make a change.
      Be smart. or become obsolete.

    • Jackadullboy says:

      Everything you say is valid, but your post is let down by the following statement:

      “I don’t think that unions are the answer at this point. That ship sailed in the mid-90s.”

      Please, please, please.. If you are going to make such a statements it needs some qualification. Not once have I seen any such qualification given for it and similar statements. If I the point is that “artists are incapable of organizing”, then simply say so and let’s consider the entire battle lost.

      Because if you can’t get people to sign a card, you sure as hell won’t ever get them to sign up to any of the other ‘solutions’ being bandied about (co-ops, walkouts, lynch-mobs, legal actions, sudden changes-of-heart by vfx facilities prompting trade associations etc etc.)

      Now that we’ve put those to rest, really all that remains is for people to keep talking, keep discussing salaries and overtime, blacklisting companies and poor practice, and actually walking away from poor contracts when it’s appropriate to do so…

      I suppose it’s possible that this is enough in itself, as long as we’re clear that this is tantamount to saying that market forces will save the day…

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Thanks for elucidating, Guru. Being in Vancouver, the irony is that, at the very time where the leverage is to hand, times are too comfortable for people to be entertaining the union option.

        And so we have the classic chicken-in-egg scenario. Essentially though, you seem to support the union concept in principle, even if the implementation seems out of reach, practically speaking.

        Would this be fair..?

      • VFX guru says:

        Okay – you are right, I should fill in some details.
        Here is my experience: After Jurassic Park opened in ’93 and grossed over 1 billion worldwide, the local 16 union in San Francisco, which had most of the ILM folks other than the CG group as their members, finally woke up and had a meeting with the entire CG department, a good 50 folks at that time.
        It was classic, a guy in a polyester suit with some side-kick next to him using a calculator to run numbers. That rep had no idea about what we did but was certain that we ought to go union, considering that even he realized that CG was the future, or was he told by someone?
        Hence, we weren’t impressed by that fellow and, we were young, and yes, somewhat reckless, riding high on top of the world seeing how JP had changed everything.
        Later then, the union did organize the CG group eventually and those who had attended that original meeting were allowed to be “grand-fathered” out, unless they absolutely wanted to join.
        At that point in my career and the way the industry was going back then I certainly didn’t see the point of joining up with folks who had no clue of our craft and seemed to be just interested in grabbing fees because we were young and wouldn’t be relying on extensive health benefits or pensions,etc. etc.
        But the union hung in there and ultimately every new person hired in the CG department at ILM was given the option to join the union or not. Then, in 2004, George Lucas got the approval to build his new facility at the Presidio, one of the reasons being that ILM was a union shop, winning out over a few other strong interests. Once in, ILM pushed the union out, which caused quite a bit of a stir.
        Of course, the strongest argument for loosing the union was that ILM continued to be the ONLY VFX union shop in the business and thus would be at an disadvantage in regards to competing with all the other companies out there.
        I would be optimistic in regards to organizing people in a place that is as centric in terms of labor force as Vancouver is, for example.
        As VFseXy below states, there is an incredible validity in regards to how important Vancouver has become to the Hollywood blockbuster business.
        And yes, there’s a tremendous amount of power residing with the thousands of folks doing all that work.
        The challenge would be to apply it is such a way that the clients don’t blow off a specific locale and take the work elsewhere … since there are a fair bit of options.

        Of course, there is a “true and tried model” in Hollywood .. the talent agency, determined to get you, the talent, the best deal…

        Hmmm….

    • VFseXy says:

      I’m not so sure the Union “ship has sailed”

      Let me lay out my argument.

      What has been announced:
      14 big budget super hero movies.
      7 Starwars movies
      3 Planet of the Apes
      2 more Star Treks
      1 Godzilla
      1 King Kong
      A bunch of high budget T.V.
      etc. etc. etc.

      Lets give an estimate of about 15 big to moderate budget summer blockbuster movies within the next 2 years. Making ~60-75% conservatively of Hollywood’s gross feature profits.

      Also lets factor in that the majority of the industry now resides in one place. Vancouver.
      Sony, ILM, MPC, DNeg, DD, R&H, Method, Embassy, Hydraulx, Scanline Zoic, etc. etc. etc.

      If there was a sudden strike next fall for all the subsequent summer movies within just Vancouver, Hollywood wouldn’t be able to pivot fast enough. Giving a lot of leverage to the Union/Workers/Studios.

      If it was Vancouver, California, and London it would be pure decimation.

      They wouldn’t be able to build up the Indian studios within anywhere near that amount of time needed to handle the workload. The VFX industry has Hollywood in their pocket, but they just are too disorganized to know it. It would be the writers strike x 50 in terms of damage done.

    • VFXcutiveProducer says:

      God you nerds make me sick!!
      Let me make a few suggestions that will help you DO YOUR JOB!
      You need to appreciate the position you are in, you are SO LUCKY!
      Why would you bill ALL of your hours to the production if you are having SO much FUN –
      that’s not helping me get this movie done.
      Also, it helps if you are british/australian, those accents are so cute and authoritative in the dark,
      just like OB1. Clients love that stuff, makes them feel like they have “the best people” on it.
      If you have any physical discomfort while you’re having fun, I don’t want to hear it.
      Damaged goods don’t help me get this movie done, and I’m going to be worried that
      you’re going to bail on ALL OF US when the crunch months come.
      And you better not take too long to do this “amazing” work,
      it doesn’t matter how “difficult” it is, it’s YOUR JOB to give the client something he’s never
      seen before, even if nobody can describe it to you. But you have to be efficient and
      cheerful, or else we’re all going to be worried that you can’t do it, and then I’ve got
      a crying director on the phone at 3 am.
      We can’t loose money on you!
      DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!

      • billy bob says:

        The Troll’s name is Andrew Innes

      • Jackadullboy says:

        How’s about you STOP TROLLING, because ALL this trolling doesn’t HELP anyone…!

      • VFX guru says:

        I think this post is a hoax … not from a real VFX executive, at least not the ones that I have encountered at the big studios over the last 25 years. But maybe you are an exec producer at a facility… and even then your post makes little sense because you constantly contradict yourself.
        The most ridiculous is of course “it’s YOUR JOB to give the client something he’s never
        seen before, even if nobody can describe it to you” (which I have actually heard in many mtgs over the years) and then concluding your post with “DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!” while no one has entirely a clue what that actually means, exec producers least of all since they generally have nearly no understanding of the technology and the creative process involved.
        Directors usually decide, in a very subjective fashion, when a VFX shot works for their movie, well, at least they ought to be the ones…
        Well, I still think that your post is a hoax, else I sincerely wonder how you got to be a VFX exec producer., wouldn’t be the first time.
        However, this is not a constructive contribution on this subject, so, either way, consider what you put out there.
        Ultimately, the VFX industry is nothing without the folks actually doing the work at the computers. The movie industry as well as much of TV has become highly dependent on VFX for their product and can’t do without it.
        That’s something to SERIOUSLY consider rather than throwing more gasoline on the fire.

      • vis says:

        hey dude..it is and it will always be confortable for crooks like you and the one in the photo above, to put people to work very hard, inducing the false statement DO YOUR JOB.
        they all do their job, but the ones who seems like they don’t do their jobs are the supers and producers, means people like yourself.
        Workers are confused and, even you are confused, this is the reason why they cannot do it right for the first time. Let me tell you a secret: every time you see someone that it’s not doing right for the first time, is just because you were not able to guide it RIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME.
        You cheat big time. But I am sure you are aware about that…

      • Koningsberg says:

        Hey executive producer
        We have a life. Outside the vfx. Dud you get that?

    • Trucker says:

      Ist that why ILM Vancouver got their HR staff straight from MPC and are now hiring truckloads of juniors and underpaying the ‘craftsmen,?

      • Arabak says:

        The problem is not only low wages and long hours. Even if the rate is good we are usually hired for a project and then let go. The contracts are also very loose, and there is no hesitation to throw it all out the window the instant some spreadsheet shows money would be saved if you’d be fired 6 days earlier.

        Moving about IS expensive. Changing apartments, breaking leases, moving stuff around (stuff like, err, family). Jump at a moments notice. Say you make $360 a day. Great. But you actually work 12-14 hours for it, not 8. And Saturdays. You’ll also be out of work for 2 months after that and have to relocate to, err, Singapore or flipping Adelaide or something. Don’t bet on getting your deposits back. I once lost $3000 like that. Oh, and pay a new one. And all the other shit like setting up accounts, transferring money, dealing with visa shit, no health insurance, taxes in every country, etc.

      • Jackadullboy says:

        Huh? No, I think you’ll find ILM Vancouver are mainly mopping up all the local seniors and paying them pretty well.. Please base your posts on fact rather than opinion. You really couldn’t be more wrong on this one…

      • vis says:

        “As I have explained before, the fact that salaries are dropping is due to the prices for their work that VFX facilities are negotiating with their clients are constantly dropping due to intense competition. ” well, if this is trend, then I think pretty soon the companies will work for free, isn’t it?
        But is not. It is only for crooks and charlatans like this VFX guru to create the false illusion that there are no money in vfx. They are. But not for artists, sorry technicians. They work for peanuts long long long hours…if they refuse, MPC Academy is there to fill the permanent demand, and since the Gov. of Canada is paying 15000 to companies for every artist trained, it is a double business. The crooks cannot go wrong.

      • VFX guru says:

        I actually have had great experiences hiring juniors and even folks straight out of school as long as their is sufficient experienced leadership to guide them, teach them what they know and thus empower them to do great work. Heck, I was once a junior when I joined ILM in 1990 and had some brilliant mentors there who taught me stuff that I could never have learned at any school. And I was never paid by the hour there, hence didn’t ever get over-time, but didn’t care because those where the most exciting years in VFX and I certainly advanced very quickly for doing great work and often taking on responsibilities that I wasn’t even paid for.
        As I have explained before, the fact that salaries are dropping is due to the prices for their work that VFX facilities are negotiating with their clients are constantly dropping due to intense competition. There are many examples in the history of the industrialized world that can be stated as examples for just this.
        On the other hand, there is a serious shortage of qualified talent in Vancouver, for example. New companies are constantly coming in and setting up facilities there to take advantage of the rebates offered by the BC government. Clients demand that they’d get those and can you imagine what would happen if a majority of Canadian tax payers finally say “Enough, spend our tax dollars on something that actually benefits us as Canadians rather than the VFX and US film industry?”
        Half the people in the Vancouver VFX industry would be out of work over night.
        Let’s hope not. So, do appreciate the fact that you, the folks doing the work at the computer, have lots of options in town. And be ready to move on in case things change, as they always will.
        Just ask all the folks that had to leave California in order to continue working in the business.

        There are two sides to every coin and I am merely trying to add some perspective to this discussion because one isn’t going to change anything by just bitching a lot about it!

  50. vis says:

    if you name them technicians, STOP ASKING THEM TO BE CREATIVE. Every single supervisor I’ve met so far, asked people to be creative. They are not creative, the supervisors, the artists are technicians, so who is the artist? Maybe the fat old crook in the image above is an artist?

    • VFX guru says:

      Hey Vis … I am curious whether you have been involved in bidding, or whether you even actually know how much your employer is getting paid for the work your are doing?
      Of course companies won’t do the work for free, that’s a silly thing to say.
      I have been very aware of shot costs as a supervisor over the last twenty years and know what I am talking about.
      I also know that profit margins in the VFX business are extremely thin, mostly around 5% or so. Rarely even during the best years of the 90s and 00s did ILM ever get close to 10% in profits. Why do you think so many VFX companies have gone bankrupt or were bought by bigger companies (like Technicolor) with deeper pockets so they can survive short-falls that result when a show proves to be more difficult (exp. Life of Pi at R&H) and then follow-up projects that were expected to come in get delayed or go to another facility. This is exactly what happened to R&H – it certainly wasn’t because they weren’t doing amazing work.
      Anyways, VFX is an extremely risky business. I worked for Digital Productions when it went under in ’87 along with Robert Abel – two pioneering companies in VFX. Didn’t get paid for the last three weeks of work either. Plus, there was really no place else to go work for a while. Nothing like today!

      If there is anyone making big bucks in this business, it’s the studios releasing VFX mega hits that make 3/4 to 1 billion in box office. However, even that is less profitable than folks not knowing the details think it is. Let’s say the movie costs 175 million to make, another 75 million to market and to put “prints” into theaters around the world. Then, the exhibitors get about 50% of the box office – they’re not screening the films for free, especially since they had to upgrade their tech to all digital and stereo projection in recent years.
      So, 1 bilion in box office turns into half a billion back to the studio – offset against 250 million of cost to get the film made and out there … so, there’s your studio profit – 250 million … extremely rare though.
      Offset against some recent massive flops like “John Carter”, “Lone Ranger” and “Battleship” … just to name a few, and you can understand how the movie business in regards to big VFX films is very risky.

      Why don’t you get a little more specific when trying to make your points rather than just calling me a crook? What are “peanuts” to you – 20 or 30 bucks an hour? And what are long hours – 10-12 hours a day for 5,6 days a week – or 14-16 hours a day for 6,7 days a week?
      What do you think someone who is fresh out of some 1 year training program and without any production experience should get paid?
      Or someone who’s been comping shots for 2,3 years and has worked at 1 or 2 companies?
      Do think these folks should really be called seniors after that little bit of experience and paid accordingly?

      Why don’t you actually illustrate your gripping by giving some actual details, as I have, to illustrate your side of the argument?
      At least then you wouldn’t just come off like a whining punk who hides behind an anonymous post and calls people crooks and charlatans without even knowing them or getting the details right????

      • vis says:

        ” I am curious whether you have been involved in bidding” not talking about bidding, you moron! Read again my posts …and again. You might be brain damaged as a guru is under-stable. Long hours in front of computer, isn’t it?

      • vis says:

        …and BTW, who’s whining here? You, maybe, saying that the companies are not making money and saying that junior should work more ( 10-14h day) for them. I am not whining. I say only you are a crook same with the one in the picture above.

      • vis says:

        If the company is not able to pay right and does not make enough profit,THEY SHOULD CLOSE. In fact as you noticed they do close.
        Done. I am not gonna spend my day here explaining to some other retard hiding behind “an anonymous post ” why all the vfx is a charlatans business .
        You tell them that if they want to be paid 60/h they have to work hard, but once they worth 60/h – no more jobs for them. And after so much work, you send them home if they want to take a Saturday off, what do you think? You don’t pay them pension plan, no OT …common guru..you are obsolete and you will go down soon together with this crap you called vfx…They pay 16000/year at a vfx school and once they start working you pay them 18/hour? If you keep people 14h/day and don’t pay OT, what are you, if not a crook?! Stop saying the studio doesn’t make money!!! THEY SHOULD CLOSE!
        Go and sell the bullshit somewhere else. Supervisor guru…plenty of big ego like you today.
        Very narrow minded people.
        “What are “peanuts” to you – 20 or 30 bucks an hour? ” This is for a senior position today, according to MPC?. Be more specific. It is not fro a junior, for sure.

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