An interesting read.
Sad for the industry though.
Ever just woken up and gone "shit, does the world around me exist"?
I think royalties would be a fair answer. Even if it's a small cut. These effect shops should get a share of the spoils and use it as an incentive for artists to do a great job.
These big ass movies are becoming more lack luster, because these guys have to phone it in. I seriously have no idea why anybody lines up and pays for them. Outsourcing to India or whatever will only dig the hole deeper. Then it'll be a bunch of miscommunication on top of exhaustion on top of unfair working conditions.
they'll do it when people show some self respect, as long as you have a Deviant art mentality in the industry (I'll do anything, you don't have to pay me) then it won't change. You can only have unfair conditions when you have people willing to be exploited. This is all self inflicted. When we worked overtime we had insurances for paid leave and other forms of compensation. There were no situations of working for free; my bosses put their money where their mouths were and paid salaries if they had to, if a milestone was late. They never asked people to work for free for a whole project or projects and frankly no one would have been stupid enough to do it anyway they would have taken the lay off and collected unemployment for 90 weeks if need be.
Look, the truth of the matter is the VFX industry has ALWAYS been unstable. Companies that do nothing but services (sheds tear) end up not becoming what they dream of as the services business is like heroin, once you get on it, it's hard to get off, and the ride always leads to a downward spiral. The markets will always be competitive and prices will always go down...ask the illustrators who can't make a living doing print anymore about that...but there are a billion more opportunities now that we have potential for things like kickstarters, viral marketing, and actual OWNERSHIP of intellectual property. Those who own their work win...that is how it is and how it will always be.
As far as the hubbub in vfx, just a few years ago we lost a few big houses and then avatar came and studios ramped up again....animation has been the same, think back to the glory days of the thirties when even shorts were gorgeously animated and then look at the shit that came out in the seventies that reused the same cycles over and over. The industry has its ups and downs. Video games is no different. There were two quarters from winter 2008 to spring 2009 in which very few games were getting signed and I watched ten percent of my clients just up and disappear. But then came along the iphone, itunes, android marketplace, kickstarter etc...and you see someone come along and create a simple product like minecraft and it takes the world by storm. For those who strive to be the best at what they do, who keep an eye on the industry and where it is going, and are always looking for opportunities, they exist. That is fact. Just keep at it.
For those who strive to have their own product, who are creating their own revenue streams, whether its prints or books or digital content or..or...or....once you get enough of those and a good promotional buzz going you can make it without having to rely on others. Andrew Jones is a perfect example of that. Just gotta keep building every day. Success and failure are hand in hand, sometimes every other day it feels like. Worrying about working on others products, is in the long term, a waste of time and energy. My former studio I created shipped designed hundreds of hit products...but while I was leading it, we never shipped our own games...which was the whole fucking point. Still that is one of the things I consider as a failure of my own. Had I focused on low cost products which were high quality, I'd have had an entirely different business and a far better chance for the big back end payoff. Services is just a job...and everyone knows in every industry that jobs come to an end, and layoffs or closures occur. One must have ownership of their own revenue streams and look for ways to be independent...that is the only way to long term success in my mind.
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You've owned a studio which puts you in a rare position compared to most people. Could you comment about working for free or companies asking their employees to work for free for a whole project because the bid didn't cover operating costs. Any thoughts on those practices? Any ideas on how to get out of this hole the industry and its worker have dug themselves into?
To answer that dpaint, I think that running a business is hard, and at times companies can can projects for no good reason and leave the studio who worked on that project without funds. If the company has no hope for work or investment and no funds and is still keeping staff on, then that is a problem and the employees have the ability to file complaints and or sue. Businesses do things like that in every field..not just the vfx industry.
I always refused to do free tests, as companies do that to build their pipelines and get ideas rolling at the expense of others, but there reached points where I had to do so. The reason I refused is my past studios had the work and record to back it up, as we created and designed the processes that are used for remote production across the entire games industry today. There was no company like MB back when we started and companies didn't even have contracts designed to do that. We had to help Blizzard and a host of others write their agreements and structure the deals back then. Now everyone has them. There are times when I have asked for tests from artists as I was not sure they could deliver. In that case, I would do it again. The way to do it is, if they like the test and you pass, then you get paid. If you don't pass, you don't get paid. I would always ask for a real production asset they needed (or assets), so that we werent making crap they weren't going to use...and if we nailed it, which we would, then they were ahead of schedule. I rarely if ever got a no there.
I have less of a issue with free tests when it is a new company/project. If it is someone whom successful delivery was made, then that is just not acceptable. The reality is many companies get burned by studios who knocked off the biz model of my prior studios and pretended to be able to do the things they showed in their portfolio. I had that happen with a company called OF in China, where they claimed to be able to build 3d environments, we tested them on some items, and when it hit scale full production they turned in environments with floating stop signs, brick textures on windows, and the same textures across the rooftops of chunks of the city. I actually asked if they could have created the 3d models and textures with procedural code as doors would show up one meter tall and windows would show up as five meters tall, and things like parking barricades would be in front of garage doors, or a house being built atop a parking garage, or a giant drainage pipe being attached to the side of a multi story building top. This company had done work for many huge companies, and when we finally sent in people to see the production we found out they were sending it to studios outside their own and had no experience. They got fired from the project and were nearly sued by the publisher, and I had to mediate the whole damn thing...I was managing five production studios, five CEO's and hundreds of artists on that project and it was a nightmare dealing with that company. Even though the test went great the production did not. Point is...even with full due diligence and tests, the studios get burned and that's what creates the free testing portions of things....and rightly so.
My feeling is that the VFX industry is in no different shape than it was four years ago. The fact of the matter is companies which solely rely on services for others, and do not own their own IP, are eventually doomed to competition and the business moods of others. The only way forward that I see is through IP ownership and true independence. Is like renting a house...if the owner wants to sell it and tear it down, the renter is out on the street. The VFX and animation industries, as well as games, are always up and down and if I really look at whom is most successful in the business, and I mean truly successful, every single one of them own their intellectual property.
Last edited by Jason Manley; February 28th, 2013 at 09:17 PM.
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