While the film Life of Pi won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects last night, it was not exactly the happy occasion as one expects. Rhythm and Hues, largely responsible for working on the film, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is neither receiving largely the respect nor the help that they need and thus many VFX artists gathered to stage a protest. Myself, and many others, in honor of those artists, have changed our profile pictures to a neon green (in association with green-screening).
When VFX supervisor, Bill Westenhofer attempted to give his speech last night, was rudely cut short by the orchestra playing the ominous music of Jaws right when he was about speak of the plight of the VFX industry. It may just be bad timing but, as others have pointed out, he was cut off very abruptly and precisely while other award winners have gone overtime without any problems.
As mentioned, an issue of the VFX industry is the high overhead in creating the visual effects and maintaining the facility but a very low margin. The VFX houses just hope to break even and not, as more often than not, lose money. The issue has further escalated as jobs are gradually outsourced outside the country mainly due to subsidies that the outsourced country may offer. Creating jobs outside in other countries may be great also but again, many times what happens is that small studios are quickly set up for that one project and then after the project finishes, the studio close down again.
Another worrying aspect to this predicament is what that means for us students. People who have just graduated or will be graduating soon will be competing against all these very talented people from Rhythm and Hues and from Dreamworks.
For anyone looking for some more details on the issues of the industry and the exact details that the protestors are arguing for, there's a great post over on Reddit. The VES, supporting the visual effects community, have written open letters about the current situation and they are a great read. Definitely stop over at vfxunion.com to read more details on what the artists are organizing for!