Visual Effects Artists Drop Effort to Challenge Film Subsidies

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.”

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content