A group of visual effects artists has dropped their effort to challenge film subsidies in countries like Canada and Great Britain, citing a lack of money to pursue a legal strategy that would force U.S. officials to pursue trade action.
One of the leaders of the effort, Daniel Lay, author of the VFX Soldier blog, wrote that “some members of our community donated money to help fund the effort, but most did not.”
He added, “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.”
He wrote that the group, Assn. of Digital Artists, Professionals and Technicians, was able to raise only 2% of total legal costs.
Lay also added that reluctance to support ADAPT might also have been the result of “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.”
A goal of the organization was to address the flight of work to other countries offering huge tax breaks to lure visual effects work, which has been battered in California as studios and producers move work to locales offering generous tax breaks. One recent prominent example was Sony’s decision to move its Imageworks headquarters to Vancouver.
Lay and Scott Ross were among those promoting the idea of seeking trade sanctions against such countries via a legal action that would force the U.S. government to impose a tariff on countries that hire away business by subsidizing labor costs.
The group was successful in persuading California lawmakers to include language in AB1839, the legislation that expands the state’s film and TV production incentive, urging Congress to pursue a strategy of trade sanctions. But the legislation did not include any funding for the legal effort.
ADAPT had been working with the Washington law firm of Picard, Kentz & Rowe, which specializes in such trade efforts.
The idea of trade sanctions has been opposed by major studios, which in the short term benefit from lower labor costs. In 2005 the MPAA warned that such sanctions could hurt exports and affect ongoing trade negotiations. Two years later, when the Screen Actors Guild and other locals demanded the U.S. trade representative take action against Canada, the rep refused.
The ADAPT effort would have been a legal move that would essentially force the U.S. trade representative to take action.
Lay wrote that although the law firm waived its customary fees, viewing the legal action as a potentially landmark case, it had agreed to an arrangement in which about 40% of the donations would be returned to donors.
“Scott and I are extremely disappointed in this decision,” Lay wrote. “It brings to end years of works in hopes of trying to give the VFX industry a fighting chance. While we are upset that many chose not to help fund the effort, we want to thank those that did, and apologize that we couldn’t make it to the finish line and make history.”