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Re: Rhythm and Hues

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Tim Wilson
Re: Rhythm and Hues
on Mar 2, 2013 at 7:53:32 am

[Shane Ross] "Yup. Let's not do the right thing an combat the CAUSE of the issue, but go after the symptom."

As Shane's link to Deadline reminds us, this is a Chapter 11. R&H is still around, still expanding. The reorganizing is to protect them from people chasing them for money too aggressively...presumably including the artists who hadn't been paid in over a month before being let go.

R&H is going to be going on in some form, including a merger that could have the same herd-culling effect, with the same potential for current patterns to calcify even harder.

[Andrew Kimery] "There certainly is a lot of upheaval right now in part because 'good enough' knowledge and good enough tools are available..... "

Very true, and one of the most frequent topics in this forum...but for someone like Digital Domain or R&H, "good enough" is NOT good enough. It has to be miraculous, it has to be massive, and it has to be insanely fast.

The problem is that there are half a dozen companies who can deliver massive miracles on time, and about that many customers, for a dozen or two movies a year. The studios have exerted massive downward pressure on the houses because they CAN. The VFX houses have exerted massive downward pressure on artists because they HAVE to in order to compete at prices that studios are willing to pay. There's no friction to stop it.

To come at this another way, the problem isn't outsourcing. It's minimum wage.

In the Hollywood corner of the industry, that has historically been set by unions. For example, ACE has negotiated that a full time week is around 56 hours, and the minimum wage is around $46/hr. (One of you will correct me faster than I can look it up. LOL) I doubt most people reading this are working for prices that low, but that's the floor, period, no discussion, doesn't matter where your editors work.

There are obvious workarounds (shoot non-union, move productions to Canada or whatever, but even THAT trend is reversing considerably, thanks in part to a wicked strong Canadian dollar) - but by and large, outsourcing editing is irrelevant because on a Hollywood picture the wage is the wage.

There have been talks about unionizing VFX for years, for the express purpose of trying to take at least a little control of setting minimum wages...but entertainment unions' backs have been broken so consistently of late, it may be too late.

Part of the issue is, who's in the union, and who are they trying to protect themselves from? The individuals working at big VFX houses from the owners of those houses? Traditional labor/management stuff? It would be impossible to get concessions from house management when studios aren't changing THEIR practices. So would it be some kind of trade association of the VFX houses trying to push back against the studios? Not likely when there are dwindling numbers of them fighting for the same handful of contracts.

It's insane that this is happening on the heels of Hollywood's biggest year ever...and yet, in the current scheme, inevitable. When Ang Lee was asked about R&H after the Oscars, he began his answer by saying that he wished VFX cost less.

"Hey Ang, sorry we helped you earn all those Oscars. We'll try to do WORSE NEXT TIME. And can you pay us less? That'd be great." Indeed, for the 4th year in a row, the movie that won the Oscar for Best VFX also won for Best Picture.

The larger issue, and why DD, R&H and others still feel like (with all respect and sympathy) a small story to me, is that 99% of the industry IS fighting the "good enough" fight...which of course we in our 40s and 50s were the ones to start when we were coming up in the late 80s, early 90s, when we were using Media Composer, After Effects, Media 100 and UVW Betacam, most of which came along in 3 or 4 year span, and all of which had us pitching "good enough." We distrupted in a couple of years what had been working just fine for 100 years in film, and 60 years in TV. Hasn't stopped either. It has gone around and it is coming around....and around and around....

But I think that the economic impact from the pain of millions of individuals, and artists in SMBs, local TV stations, etc. is far greater than that of a couple of major VFX companies, if also a much harder story to tell. "From an individual in Alabama to a boutique in Zagreb" isn't as compelling or well-contained as "winners of the VFX Oscar."

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