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Visual Effects Artists Protest Near Oscars

The Oscars are no stranger to protests, both on the podium and on the surrounding streets, but Sunday’s street rally of visual effects artists was unlike any other.

It’s a running joke in vfx circles that its workers rarely see the sun due to their long hours in front of computers, but they were out at Hollywood and Vine on Sunday, some 200 of them sporting greenscreen ribbons and carrying signs saying “Respect for vfx” and “We want a piece of the Pi” (a reference to Oscar-nommed “Life of Pi,” which boasts vfx from bankrupt Rhythm & Hues Studios).

Some 200-odd protesters marched at the corner as they waited for a police escort to the Dolby Theatre. But so numerous and complex are the problems facing the visual effects sector that the protesters didn’t have a single agenda, or a single goal.

IATSE labor organizer Steven Kaplan, who helped organize the demonstration, told Variety , “I hope that the world realizes that the visual effects industry is looking for change. I think that’s all that can be accomplished today, that the world looks around and sees the visual effects industry is no longer quiet and accepting the conditions they’re working under.”

Kaplan said he was concerned about the current fixed-bid business model, the movie industry’s pursuit of government subsidies and the pressures on artists to migrate around the world in search of work, and said that needs to change. “I hope the artists and the shops realize now is the time to act cohesively and act together to make that change.”

Nancy Evans, who carried a sign saying “My job was outsourced,” said she left the vfx business a few years ago because she could see it going away. “Basically I’m just really concerned that the money is not being distributed in our society, and the visual effects business is a good example of that. … If these companies are getting subsidized by taxpayer money, where is the money going? If it’s not going to artist salaries and it’s not going to the effects companies, where is it going? It seems to me that’s a continuation of expressing money from working people to wealthy investors.”

Hours before the protest, news broke that visual effects studio Pixomondo, the lead vfx company on last year’s vfx Oscar winner “Hugo,” is closing its London facility and has closed its branch in Detroit.

Internet reports revealed U.K. tax authorities have filed a “winding-up” petition against Pixomondo for non-payment of taxes, which amounts to a request that the London operation be declared bankrupt involuntarily. Pixomondo founder Thilo Kuther told Variety his company has already established a payment plan for those taxes.

 

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