VFX Artists Say Visual Effects Is Hollywood’s ‘Redheaded Stepchild’

The MCU's Thanos using the Infinity Gauntlet to destroy a moon

Visual effects artists speak out against their mistreatment in Hollywood despite the growing need for CGI in many mainstream blockbusters.

VFX artists are speaking out against Hollywood’s treatment of specialists who focus on CGI.

Per Vulture, many VFX artists have taken to describing the trade as the “redheaded stepchild” of Hollywood. In the past year, 90 percent of all films required visual effects, despite the harsh conditions for workers in the field who stated they are overworked, underpaid, and often given little to no direction, having to render entire sequences from scratch. This is especially true of Marvel’s superhero films and series.

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The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees [IATSE] represents over 150K craftspeople across the entertainment industry, but not visual effects artists, given the relative youth of the trade. There are approximately 32,000 – 117,000 VFX artists spread throughout the world, competing against one another for contract assignments from Hollywood studios. These jobs reportedly sometimes require 18-hour workdays, seven days a week, for up to three months. The compensation for the harsh working conditions can sometimes be as low as $1,300 USD per week. Marvel’s Disney+ streaming shows require a particularly heavy workload from VFX artists. While the average Marvel film contains approximately 1,600 VFX shots, the average Marvel streaming show needs 3,000 VFX shots.

The History of VFX

The modern visual effects market is relatively young in comparison to other trades within the entertainment industry. The creation of the VFX field is attributed to George Lucas in 1975, with the formation of the first visual effects house in the modern era of filmmaking, Industrial Light & Magic. ILM is responsible for the visual effects in such franchises as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park. When Lucas first founded the company, he approached Douglas Trumball, VFX artist on 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Trumball was already committed to working on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Trumball recommended his assistant John Dykstra join ILM. Dykstra worked with Lucas to assemble a small team of artists, engineers, and students to film the visual effects for A New Hope, released in 1977.

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The visual effects industry has experienced rapidly changing technologies in its almost fifty years of existence, including new techniques like photogrammetry, the use of non-contact electromagnetic radiant sensors, and real-time compositing, layering multiple image sources into a single frame. While some production houses employ VFX artists on their staff, like Netflix, DreamWorks, and Nickelodeon, most VFX workers remain contract-based employees. ILM and Lucasfilm were both bought by Disney in 2012, resulting in five new Star Wars films and four new streaming series. With several CGI-heavy films on the release schedule for 2023, including Dungeons & Dragons, The Little Mermaid, and The Meg 2: The Trench, the demand for VFX artists continues to grow.

Source: Vulture


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