Visual effects teams not getting recognition they deserve in film industry
Few things make me reach into my wallet and happily give money to a cashier, but a movie theater ticket is one of them. I do not splurge on eating out or shopping, but movies are my weakness for entertainment, and this year especially will exploit my love of film.
I revel in anticipation for “Iron Man 3,” “The Great Gatsby” and “World War Z.” While the actors in these films are well-known favorites, the visuals are largely what get me to fork over $8.50 for a night at the theater.
Visual effects have been taking over cinema the last few years. For an example of this kind of awe-inspiring animation — if you can call it that anymore — just look at the 2013 Oscars lineup. One of the clearly more visually stunning films, “Life of Pi,” snagged four golden statues, and no one can deny it was because of the VFX that dominated the film.
Or maybe some can, since the VFX community has risen up to protest unfair treatment after neither the cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, nor director, Ang Lee, of “Life of Pi” thanked the VFX team during their Oscar speeches. Plus that hefty movie theater ticket cost never reached the VFX studios.
Not only did the film’s creators forget the VFX team, but when VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer was accepting the best visual effects Oscar, the academy cut his mic time at about 45 seconds, while Miranda talked for almost a minute. Many assume this is because Westenhofer was about to address the VFX protests that have been taking over Hollywood when the shocking “Jaws” tune interrupted his speech.
Chances are most do not know about the discrepancy between VFX studios and other film contributors, which just magnifies their point — the visual effects community is not getting any love from the film industry.
The VFX company Rhythm & Hues, which did the effects for “Life of Pi,” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” also nominated for a VFX Oscar, has recently had to file bankruptcy, a shocking move considering the films grossed more than $1 billion in the box office.
Visual effects are a new art that filmmakers might not appreciate yet, but they will when the next Avengers movie does not have a Hulk. Some of the largest-grossing films would be nothing but green screen without the VFX team putting their magic into a movie, something directors like Lee should appreciate since “Life of Pi” would simply be a guy on a boat without Rhythm & Hues to add the ocean and tiger.
Granted, if the VFX community is serious about getting the recognition and money they deserve, they need to get organized. Without regulations and a union, there is not much that VFX studios can do right now about the unfair payouts from box office hits. But, in conjunction with the visual effects community getting their act together, fans of films like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy or “Avatar” should support the studios that make these films possible.
With all of the big-budget movies that will grace theater screens this year, it will be hard not to notice how much influence VFX has had on modern entertainment. After satisfyingly walking out of “Star Trek Into Darkness,” I will be sure to thank the visual gurus that made it possible for Captain Kirk to sail through space just one more time.
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