Log on to Facebook or Twitter this morning and you might find fellow film fans with green-screen avatars. It’s a sign of solidarity for the current war that is brewing behind Hollywood’s studio doors between smaller, independent visual effects houses and the major movie studios who normally employ them.
The debate heated up on Sunday when the popular effects house Rhythm and Hues won an Oscar for their work on Ang Lee’s beautiful Life of Pi. While accepting the Oscar, the winners from Hues were played off with that offensive Jaws music … right as they were trying to draw attention to the VFX protest that was happening on the streets outside the Dolby theater, hosting the Oscars.
That snub has enraged people both inside and out of the visual effects industry. HitFix columnist Drew McWeeny, who was caught up in the most recent Hollywood writers’ strike in search of equality, elaborates how dangerous this schism can be for the blockbusters audiences adore. And the Web site BeforeVFX illustrates what scenes from movies like The Muppets, Total Recall, John Carter and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland would look like without solid effects work.
Rhythm and Hues filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a few weeks back, despite recent work on Pi and James Cameron’s Avatar. THR reports today that the German visual effects house Pixomondo, which won the Oscar for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, had to shut down offices in London and Detroit “citing the need to cut costs.” The studios appear to be finding new ways to send less money to smaller effects houses, even as tentpoles make up the bulk of Hollywood’s business. This battle seems to be rapidly escalating, so keep reading to see what kind of resolutions might be reached in the near future.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.