The Oscars always bring a lot of media attention with millions of people staring at their TV screens to find out which movie or animation won the best pictures award, or which celebrity is being honored. This year was no different, but what most people do not know is that another event was happening just outside of the ceremony, an event most mainstream media did not even talk about. This secondary event was much less glamorous, in fact it was an industry protest by VFX people. These are the workers who provide all the special effects to modern productions. From post-production editors to animators, 3D modelers, lighting artists and so on, most recent films would not look anything like what we see if it were not for these crews working behind the scene to add the VFX to the plate.
Yet despite the lack of media coverage, these people were intent on getting their message out, and since the Oscars, the protest has been picking up some steam, with a lot of people across the industry joining in and causing ripples on the net, in social media and in blogs. The main argument that the VFX experts want to convey is that right now, the industry is in a crisis. Many workers are underpaid and overworked, with deadlines being very aggressive, forcing special effect crews to work long hours for far longer than the actors stay in front of the camera. Yet the result of all their hard work barely gets mentioned in the credits, and the Oscars focus almost solely on the finished film and the actors, not the many people who worked behind the scenes to make it happen.
This protest started in the shadow of Life of Pi, the movie that won an award yet was produced by a company that went bankrupt just a day after their product was nominated. Over 250 employees of the firm Rhythm & Hues were out of work due to this event. The simple truth is that the VFX industry is not getting its share of the successes. Profit margins are less than 5%, overseas competition is fierce, and the turnover rate is insanely high, with companies having to fire staff constantly between productions, leading to a very harsh lifestyle. This is one of the rare industries where highly skilled professionals are required in order to do a high tech and complex job, yet they are barely better off than some of the low pay careers in the food business. Protesters want this fact to be known and they want the industry to change, which is why they went out and protested at the Oscars. This led to many trade publications talking about it, and even some high ranked executives answering some of those comments. Whether this will lead to any real change in the VFX industry is unclear, since many of the problems that it faces are hard to solve.