Time Magazine covers Hollywood’s VFX Sweatshops

Rebecca Keegan, the author of a biography on James Cameron, The Futurist, and also a Variety and Time magazine correspondent, writes a mainstream media article that’s thin on any new substance but covers the main ideas behind the VFX Fairness debate for Time Magazine. Read the whole piece here.

“Fundamentally, visual effects is a crappy business,” James Cameron told me … “You don’t make much of a margin. A good year for us was 5%. Sure, we were doing huge volume but at a low margin.”

Also listen to a podcast of an interview Rebecca Keegan on her James Cameron biography with Lee Stranahan here. VFX issues start around the 13 minute mark.

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  • this is the take-away from the article for the individual artist:

    “The changing nature of the work could alter the balance of power too: being a gifted designer is becoming more important than being a technical whiz.”

  • “being a gifted designer is becoming more important than being a technical whiz. Says analyst Alan Lasky: “The minute you see one of these movies not make its release date due to this capacity crisis, then you’ll start to see some interesting changes in the industry.” Who knows? Maybe someday an effects artist will even get star billing.”

    that last paragraph is kinda confusing, he is talking about being a gifted designer is having more significance, yet the next sentence talks about how a vfx wizard could have top billing for a movie, unless he is refering designers as a vfx wizard, it just sounds confusing. anyone?

    • I think what the first quote means is that having artistic ability increases an individual effects artist’s leverage. The second point is a larger one that once VFX providers stop meeting all of the deadlines and requests of the movie studios, they may be able to gain some leverage as well and negotiate from a position of power, possibly getting more recognition and credit, etc. It’s not 100% clear, but that’s how I read it.