Visual-Effects Protest Spreads to Twitter, Facebook

Brent Lang
The Wrap
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Visual-Effects Protest Spreads to Twitter, Facebook (Updated)

Visual-effects workers have already taken to the streets outside the Oscars to protest the layoffs and bankruptcies roiling their industry. Now they're taking the message to Facebook and Twitter in a series of coordinated protests.

To show their solidarity, they are plastering their social media pages with blank green screens. It's a demonstration of what effects-heavy films would look like if there were no longer artists and designers to create elaborate digital worlds and jaw-dropping action sequences.

The color green is not an arbitrary choice. Films like "Life of Pi" and "Avatar" were largely shot against a green screen, with designers creating the backdrops in post-production.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Rhythm & Hues Studios this month combined with DreamWorks Animation's decision to cut about 350 jobs or 15 percent of its staff have drawn together a diffuse group of artists and technicians. They believe that studios' thirst for lucrative tax subsidies from countries like Canada and the United Kingdom and the cheaper labor offered in Asia are pushing more and more jobs abroad.

Its also causing highly respected California-based shops like Rhythm & Hues, which was part of the team that won an Academy Award on Sunday for its work on "Life of Pi," to the brink of ruin.

"I hope the protest will result in better treatment of VFX artists," Andrew Hawryluk, a freelance visual-effects artist, told TheWrap. "I consider myself one of the lucky ones to be currently employed, treated very well and paid on time, but there are many VFX workers out who slave away on major projects (with budgets worth hundreds of millions of dollars) for months on end with 80+ hour work weeks, no overtime compensation, and from what I gather from the community, many instances of top companies never paying workers after the projects are over and the freelancers are let go."

The online agitation comes days after roughly 400 protestors rallied outside the Dolby Theater on Sunday where the Academy Awards were being held to protest the financial turmoil many effects companies are experiencing. Their signs carried messages such as "respect for vfx" and "we want a piece of the Pi," according to a report in Variety.

Inside the theater, "Life of Pi" triumphed over the competition to pick up the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. However, the orchestra played over Bill Westenhofer, one of the members of the winning team, as he tried to make a point about the dangers that Rhythm & Hues' failure poses for Hollywood. 

Backstage, freed of the time constraints applied to a globally broadcast awards show, he was able to expound on his fears about the bankruptcy filing.

"We're not technicians ... we're artists, and if we don't do something to change the business model, we might lose some of the artistry," Westenhofer said.

Related Articles: 

DreamWorks Animation to Lay Off 350 Employees

At Rhythm & Hues All-Staff Meeting: Blunt Talk About Layoffs, Foreign Subsidies

Rhythm & Hues Bankruptcy Sends Shockwaves Through Visual-Effects Industry