VFX artists speak out against unsustainable working conditions

Lowest bid profit: Codega’s article describes how the bidding process creates problematic issues at all stages of production. Marvel, like almost every major production company, rents out studios to do VFX work for them. And like most commissioned work, the company is accepting offers from multiple studios. It is in the client’s best interest to achieve the lowest possible price while ensuring quality work. According to one source, the studios are so eager to land deals with Marvel Studios that they keep underbidding each other’s bids and end up with a final number that only allows them to break even, if at all.

Too many cooks: Several artists and engineers feel that when working with Marvel, too many “bosses” are in control of every part of the pipeline. “I’ve seen entire sequences being taken apart by someone who shouldn’t even be part of the feedback process. Why are you getting an opinion on this?” said one respondent.

No place for artistry: While many of those interviewed in the article had fond memories of working on Marvel projects, everyone agreed that the initial shine is long gone. The pride many of the artists felt in seeing their work topping the box office and influencing cultures around the world was shattered by a seemingly endless workload and a total disregard for artistry.

Impossible schedules: One artist recalled an occasion when his studio was still receiving instructions from Marvel about concept art for a scene that was almost finished. “Even up until about last week, they weren’t sure what this gigantic set piece would look like. We were still doing concept art,” he said. The concept art should be one of the first parts of the work to be nailed down. But the announcer argued: “Various parts of this sequence have already gone through the entire pipeline. You have lighting renderings, effects simulations, matte paintings and animations.”

Just amazed? Marvel is the main culprit, but by no means the only culprits. It’s the sheer volume of VFX work that Marvel Studios commissions that makes it an easy target, but there are plenty of big production companies slamming VFX studios and exploiting VFX workers. Other productions mentioned in the play that have fallen into disrepute for the problems they caused the VFX teams are among others Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Game of Thrones, and Life of Pi: Shipwreck with Tiger.

But today the big villain is Marvel. Summarizing the general consensus, one respondent stated: “[Marvel] is the worst example of many problems in the industry. It would be one thing if sometimes it was really bad and sometimes it wasn’t… But it always seems to be the same with Marvel… they tend to be as bad as they can get, and they’re consistently that bad.”

Big picture: Without mincing words, the article and those interviewed claim that the VFX industry is on the verge of collapse. They also agree that, more tragically, people’s lives are already falling apart. Workers miss important family milestones, sleep in their offices, and sacrifice their weekends to save their jobs. Something has to change, the article argues, if the film industry is to continue making films of the quality and quantity that audiences expect.

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